How Ian Turner of Nuance Communications overcomes negativity towards IT

Ian Turner is Northern European General Manager at Nuance Communications, here he discusses the challenge of overcoming negative perceptions, something CIOs come across all the time, he offers his advice.

Surviving and succeeding in the current economic environment is to say the least, character building. We all face a prolonged period of tight credit, depressed markets and slashed budgets.

Our business prospects can however be further degraded by an intangible source, namely, unjustified negative perceptions of our products or services. This is much more than a superficial image problem; it can be insidious, deep-seated and have its roots both inside and outside the corporation. If we wish to succeed, we must tackle and overcome both the causes and effects.

Changing negative perceptions about your business’s products or services is far from easy. However, managed correctly, views can be changed and success will surely follow. On the other hand, if you adopt the wrong approach or fail to take the issue seriously then sustained negative perception can become a business-threatening reality.

Reversing negative perceptions is a challenge that I have had to overcome in my career and particularly in my current role as general manager in Northern Europe. Nuance is the world’s largest speech recognition technology vendor. We meet and do business with many people who enjoy a great experience when using speech recognition technology. On the other hand, there are others, who tend to be more vociferous, who assert that speech recognition “doesn’t work”. They choose to ignore the thousands of satisfied business, government and not for profit customers around the world who benefit from greater efficiencies and the saving of billions of dollars each year. My challenge/our challenge is to bridge the perception gap because it is essential to our ongoing success. How do we do that?

Inside - Out

When faced with the challenge of overcoming negative perceptions, first, I look inside our business and not just anywhere. I ask myself if I really believe in the proposition. Can I see the business value of what we are doing? In addition, I ask if I am emotionally connected with the offering. I firmly believe that if business leaders are not committed to what their business is delivering then they are not likely to be fully effective. Even a hint of negativity in the top team will shine out like a beacon.

The second and most important step is building a team of evangelists. I recently heard Tim Smit, CEO of The Eden Project, say “kill negative people …. because they get rid of your dreams”. I doubt this was intended to be taken literally, but the sentiment struck a chord.

In order to succeed in the rough and tumble of the commercial world there is no room for passengers. All the relevant people in the company need to be fully behind the vision of a successful product offering. Only those who are fully committed should be involved in design, development, sales and customer service. This requires tough decisive action to be taken swiftly or there is a risk the project and even the business will not move beyond mediocrity.

We should also examine carefully how we present ourselves and our products. We should look beyond the messages and examine carefully the way those messages are communicated. Let us not forget communications academic Marshall McLuhan’s, “the medium is the message”. It is a given that the messages need to be simple and easy to understand, but where many organizations fall down is how they communicate those messages. If we wish to bring the value of our solutions to life to help people to appreciate what we do, and gain an adequate degree of understanding, then we must think creatively. Why just use words if you have a full artist’s palette in your hands? Think creatively – at Nuance we use a range of visual and interactive tools that are designed to assist our existing and potential clients to be better informed and hence more likely to have balanced perceptions.

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