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The Power of Powerless Communication: Adam Grant (Transcript)

Full text of Adam Grant’s talk titled “The Power of Powerless Communication” at TEDxEast conference.


Adam Grant – author of ‘Give and Take’

Good evening everyone. I’m really thrilled to be here and I want to take you back to when I was in my mid-twenties: Just finished my doctorate in organizational psychology, and I got one of these calls that everyone dreads. Which was, can you go in front of a group of people you’ve never met, and try to change the way they live their lives and do their jobs for four hours?

And it sounded kind of interesting so I said yes, and then I found out it was going to be wing commanders in the U.S. Air Force. Average age mid-fifties, several thousand hours of flying time, many had managed multi-billion dollar budgets, and bombed a few countries along the way.

And I came in knowing that this was going to be a challenge. And when I walked in I saw something that I had only seen on the silver screen in the past, which was of course my favorite character from “Top Gun”.

And just like on “Top Gun” they actually had the real nicknames. So when the guys walked into the room and it was mostly guys, they were “Gunner” and “Striker”, “Sand Dude” and “Stealth”. And that was the only thing I was allowed to call them because that was the only thing I was allowed to know about them, because the rest of it was classified.

So I’m sitting out, a 25 year old kid, looking out at the crowd of basically people my parents’ age, and trying to figure out, “What do I do?” And I knew I had to earn their trust and respect.

So I started talking through my credentials, my knowledge, and then started giving them a lot of background on how much they could learn from me. Which I soon learned was a big mistake. I got feedback forms at the end of the four hours. And they really touched me so much that I saved them and framed them on my wall. And I brought just a sample for you here:

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