The Art of Listening, for Product Stewards

An innovative business culture isn’t necessarily a positive when it comes to hazard communications. “You don’t need creative and unique ways to talk about a basic safety message in the marketplace,” says Sandra Wollschlager, manager of regulatory affairs at 3M’s Abrasive Systems Division. “In a regulatory setting and a safety communications setting, that is the exact opposite of what you need."

After conducting an employee survey, the company learned that customers found existing safety instructions difficult to understand. What followed was a program initiated by 3M to work with competitors and trade associations to standardize safety icons. “The project was prompted by confusion in the marketplace,” says Wollschlager. “What we learned is that other companies, our competitors, had the same issue, so by working together we could find ways to protect workers.”

Wollschlager will describe the program results and lessons learned during Finding Common Ground on Controversial Issues, a session at Product Stewardship 2017. The emphasis will be on how competitors worked through challenges, where they found common ground and make progress toward next steps.

As part of the presentation, Wollschlager will give attendees a controversial scenario to work through, as a way to discover tools for finding common ground. Participants will practice engaging with each other positively. “Be present. Listen actively. There’s a huge tendency to not want to hear the other person out, but if you actively listen to that person, you can start to dig a little deeper and gain a new perspective that helps both of you,” says Wollschlager.

Andrew Brown

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