There is no faster or more efficient way to transfer information to a human than through conversation. To quote knowledge management guru Dr. Nancy Dixon:

Our most effective knowledge sharing tool is conversation. The words we choose, the questions we ask, and the metaphors we use to explain ourselves, are what determine our success in creating new knowledge, as well as sharing that knowledge with each other.

So why do professionals waste so much time trying to gain knowledge through the written word? People spend hours slogging through articles, books, and web pages hoping to find answers, validate theories, and learn how to solve problems, when a short conversation with an expert would be far more satisfying.

Obviously the answer is “I don’t know how to find an expert…” We’ll come back to that a bit later. For now, though, let’s have a look at a couple ways written content misleads us and wastes our time.

First, written sources almost by definition contain outdated information. By the time an author publishes content, new ideas and perspectives are available, making what was written already stale. At the speed at which business evolves, ideas that are relevant today might be irrelevant tomorrow.

But there’s a bigger problem – writing is one-sided. As I write this, I decide what I want to tell you and in what order. I have absolutely NO IDEA what you’re interested in learning about. I don’t know your background, and I have no way to gauge how much you already know, what your motivations are, and what is important or relevant to the challenges you face.

This is a lecture, not a conversation.

Conversely, our minds process verbal interaction extremely quickly, allowing us to subconsciously determine what our conversation partner knows and what they need to know. As renowned Harvard Psychology professor Steven Pinker asserts in his best-selling book The Language Instinct, humans are innately wired for language. A child can talk and form complex sentences long before he or she can read, implying that verbal processing is more deeply embedded in our psyche than the learned behavior of reading, so it should come as no surprise that conversation is a more powerful knowledge sharing tool.

At Maven, we have built our entire business around the notion that two-way verbal communication between two humans – i.e. conversation – is the most efficient way to gain and share knowledge. By solving the problem of rapidly locating and connecting with the right expertise, we allow professionals to skip the articles and get answers the fastest way possible.