Emergent vs. Transactional Conversations

Yesterday I finally understood why I don’t enjoy most podcasts.

I was listening to the My First Million episode with Tony Robbins.

Shaan Puri is an amazing podcaster and Tony Robbins undoubtedly has incredible stories and insights to share.

So the episode could’ve been amazing.

But it wasn’t.

Shaan was simply prompting Tony.

“Now tell the story of how you worked for Jim Roth.”

“Explain what ‘I’m home honey energy’ is.

It was entirely transactional.

Shaan wanted Tony to say specific things on his show.

He had already mapped out in advance what snippets he’d love to have from Tony that can be later repurposed on TikTok.

Or at least it felt that way.

Tony did not say anything he hadn’t said or written about a gazillion times elsewhere.

This is what happens on most interview podcasts.

The interviewer does research, reads the guests book, then tries to get the guest to say specific things on his show.

At most there is a tiny nudge to explain a bit more about what you meant by X.

It’s predictable and unspiring.

The same happens in most business meetings.

After hearing from multiple people we trust that a daily standup is one the most impactful thing you can do for your business, we introduced one.

We did it daily for 6+ months.

No one liked it and I don’t think it did anything for our business.

It was 100% transactional.

“Yesterday I did X, today I’m going to do Y”.

Predictable and uninspiring.

But that doesn’t mean that all podcasts or all business meetings are bad per se.

Synchronous conversations can be magical and offer something that asynchronous ones do not.

There can be a true process of co-creation.

Insights and ideas can emerge spontaneously at the intersection of two minds when connected through a high-bandwith, low-delay medium.

This is what happens in the best type of conversations.

Late night conversations with friends, no agenda calls with strangers, but also co-hosted podcasts and certain types of business meetings.

There is no strict agenda of what needs to be said by whom.

There is room for creativity and spontaneity.

A great example of this are many of the regular My First Million episodes where it’s just Shaan and Sam hanging out.

There is little transactional stuff to go through and all they do is brainstorm ideas.

We now replaced the daily standup with a weekly bottleneck session.

There is no strict agenda but plenty of time to talk about current problems and bottlenecks.

It’s far more fun and productive than our daily standup.

Now that I’ve noticed this pattern of transactional vs. emergent conversations I see it everywhere.

It’s a great way to assess the quality of relationships.

When there are little to no emergent conversations in a relationship it’s in serious trouble.

This is true for romantic relationships, for friendships, and business relationships.

But the cool thing is that this observation immediately suggests how to turn things around.

When you want to improve a relationship, make more room for emergent conversations and fasciliate them in whatever way you can.

I still haven’t fully figured out how to do this.

But a useful first step is to move transactional conversations to asynchronous text.

Amazon is doing this with their memo meeting culture.

This at the very least creates space where emergent conversations can happen.

Would love to hear if anyone has any other tips!

Written on January 25, 2024

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