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Julian Treasure - Sound Business

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This week’s guest is the sound evangelist Julian Treasure. Julian has done five TED Talks, all of which have been viewed collectively more than 20million times. And there’s a reason for this. Julian’s message is truly revolutionary when it comes to high performance. I think it’s something we all know intuitively, if not consciously: Sound is a crucial part of our daily experience. If we are in the wrong sonic environment, it can seriously hamper our abilities to concentrate and be on our game. Conversely, if the right sound environment is available to us, it can be the secret of successful performance in any field. For something that is so crucial, it’s also something we are not particularly good at in the modern world. I know when I’m walking around London, I am constantly searching for a place that doesn’t jar my brain with noise overload. This is in age dominated by the image, and we have all become far more conscious of the the inputs we give our eyes, our taste buds and increasingly our sense of touch. But it seems we actively ignore our ears. Which, once you’ve listened to Julian preach about the importance of this sense, you will realise is madness. Julian advocates what he calls “conscious listening” and we talk a lot about that in our discussion. It’s a detailed concept, but the upshot is taking responsibility for your sound environment. Julian advises big business and institutions on their sound management. If large companies are putting a lot of resources into this, then we would do well to start actively thinking about how sound affects us. It’s also useful to think about the sounds we are putting out there. Julian’s last TED talk was on how to speak and get people to listen. In this culture of noise overload, it’s more important than ever to know how to capture people’s attention. This is especially true if you are an entrepreneur, because your messaging and your ability to inspire others are going to be a crucial part of your work. And you need to know the sounds that people listen to, and those that put people off. Julian is a mine of knowledge on this stuff. He’s also got some great insights into the challenges of the modern technological environment, and the ways we need to improve it sonically. He quotes Oscar Wilde saying our minds are often like soup bowls – broad but shallow! We have this amazing ability to compute and function with a complex mix of sound inputs, but the more sound we take in, the less good at listening we become. Julian has some really fascinating things to say about listening. It’s a skill that has become neglected to such a degree that it’s affecting our social relationships. Listening is a vital part of the human experience but it something we seem to be getting worse at with every generation. Our lives are dominated by environments with very negative sound value. Julian goes on a big riff about open plan offices, and we also talk a lot about retail environments and their poor sound choices. Most decisions about marketing and user experience are visual, but all the effort we put into these factors is cancelled out by poor foresight when it comes to sound. Big retail outlets look great, and they’ve invested in the look and structure of their shops. But as Julian says, there’s enough evidence to show that people will simply leave if they don’t like the sounds they are being exposed to. I thought it was fascinating when Julian said this is something that our forefathers were entirely aware of. I didn’t know that the large tapestries in old castles were not put up to look good, but were actually used as ways of dampening the sounds that would bounce off the thick stone walls. He also talks about how old cathedrals were designed in such a way that the sound was maximised at the entrance, and minimised towards the alter. I don’t think you can name one high street store that has thought about the effects of sound that deeply. Sound is a physical phenomenon. As a result, it’s not just something that affects us and we should think about, it’s a matter of healthIf we are spending so much time trying to look good, eat well and boost our performance, then we have to start treating our ears like we treat the rest of our bodies. The wrong sound can trigger hormonal responses, and the sound environment we are in can be the difference between success or failure. This episode is packed full of information and insights, and it will help you reframe the way you think about the sounds in your life. There’s a lot here, and Julian moves at quite a pace. He didn’t ace five TED Talks for no reason! But he’s also got a smooth, gentle, and quite hypnotic voice. I loved talking with this man – and listening to him! London Realers, kick back, shut off all other noise, and give your concentration over to Julian Treasure.

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