Communications revolution or the death of conversation?
By Peter Baily • 23 Nov 2012
We have available to us an unprecedented amount of communication channels in both our Business and Personal lives. Take a casual inspection of a typical working desktop I would take a wager that you will see at least 5 distinct channels, all of which offer a way to communicate with a different audience, in a slightly different way. But are we simply talking more, and listening less?
There has been a lot of theorising in recent years about the ‘death of email’ as a previously indispensable Business tool for timely communication. Indeed the latest and greatest in Business collaboration offerings from Basecamp, Evernote, Google, and the like all extoll the benefits of new kind of communication and sharing. So with a new forum here, and a collaboration portal there, we are presented with yet more subtly different channels in which to lay down our burden of information.
But what is the real basis of good communication? Humans are social creatures of a somewhat awkward persuasion, making definitive answers to this difficult to achieve. One way to quantify a successful communiqué would be the efficiency in relaying information, which is something that many struggle with. To quote French Theologian Blaise Pascal (albeit in an English translation):
I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.
Brevity is the enemy of time and perhaps we just aren’t very good at explaining everything through one medium.
Another way of looking at the challenge is to examine the sheer breadth of our social output. When we speak to somebody face to face, it is said that upwards of 80% of what you actually say is non-verbal. Body-language, tone, expressions and stature all provide a rich subtext which makes mere words seem akin to shouting down a cup and string when delivering an Opera. Perhaps we need 5,10, or even 20 discrete channels just to exorcise our inner urge to explain what we think, and why we think it.
Whatever the reason for rapidly growing range of communication channels, we should think of them all as part of single pipe. Imagine your broadband line as not just a small bundle of cables, but of a rich braid of threads which you and your employees, are using to weave messages which fly off to their destination. To this end there is no use in attempting to narrow or stem the tide of communication options open to us, we must instead embrace it.
But this invariably is easier said than done. I was in recent discussions with my old Secondary School where I spent many years in what now seems like a very simple era. With no Facebook, Twitter, and very few Smartphones we revelled in the opportunity to get home and log in to the (now extinct) MSN messenger in order to chat with friends. Emoticons were still novel, and as good a representation as any for the clamour to better express analogue feelings through a digital pipe. So the individual motivation hasn’t changed, but the circumstances certainly have. The School in question has an unprecedented challenge in deciding which channels to boycott, manage, or even endorse in order to make communication between School and Students work. The challenge is no different for Businesses or even individual relationships, where the same message through different channels can have a significantly different impact.
So we face an exciting time, but also one that requires action. Your staff want to communicate, and like a trickle of water through rock, they will find a way. Surely better to show them the way by installing the kind of solution which you think best fits your Business and way of working? Otherwise there is the real danger that everyone will be shouting, and nobody will hear…
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