the grass is greener on the internet

The communication gap
October 2, 2010, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s always fun to take a trip down memory lane…

I was recently asked to speak at an AIESEC gathering about what I learnt from my time as a leader in the organisation, which prompted a lot of reflection.

It’s an experience which has had a huge impact on the way I think and do business. It’s just ironic that learning to think is something you do without thinking about it.

One thing which has struck me time and time again is that what I learned went beyond getting practical experience of ‘what to do’ in the corporate world, but also the huge number of things that can go wrong.

My leadership term on the executive board of our local committee was a year; it’s an environment where you have a short time to make a lot of things happen, nobody is full-time or even gets paid and if you fail there may not be anyone to pick up the pieces. No pressure.

Three years later, I’ve never found it more true that miscommunication is one of the biggest problems – not just in business, but everywhere.

Failure to communicate, conveying an idea in a confusing way or deliberately overstating are all brilliant recipes for things not getting done or relationships being destroyed.

It’s therefore interesting that there is a rapidly-growing number of electronic tools claiming to make communicating easier. When they say ‘easier’, they mean ‘faster’ or ‘more reliable’. What they can never rectify is the fundamental difficulty we all seem to have with putting ourselves in someone elses shoes, understanding their ideas and level of knowledge, then translating what we want to say into a form that will be understood by them, ie. communicating.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, to be honest. But I’ll tell you what I’ve observed:

  • as a freelancer, I receive tasks by email regardless of whether I’m working at home or in the office. But projects move a lot faster in the office because we get to clarify things or build on ideas immediately
  • having a department work on its own makes it more productive, but also more disjointed with the reality of a company
  • the interviews I do in person lead to much more interesting profiles than the interviews via email
  • even going from one English-speaking country to another, communication is suddenly more difficult

So to go back to my earlier comment…communication, like learning, is something we tend to do (or not do) without thinking about it.

But perhaps we need to think about it more…


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