07 October 2010

Corporate communication still didn’t go 2.0

Lots of companies I know communicate like this: from boss to subordinate to subordinate of the subordinate and it goes on, until it reaches the factory and client service personnel. Still companies are surprised when the ground level doesn’t seem to understand the messages from the top, failing to act accordingly.

But is that really surprising? Have you ever played that game when you whisper a phrase into someone’s ear and it goes like this until it’s completed a full cycle? If you did you also know that the phrase passed is never the same and the message is always a bit (or a lot) distorted from the original one, sometimes being something completely different and senseless.
Eventually there is also intranet articles, which most people don’t read so much . But communication is a trick thing, I have a very practical example of how it can go very wrong even in the simplest of messages. This happened where I work: an e-mail was sent by the facility management to all employees in our building. The e-mail was only one line and it couldn’t be more straightforward than it was:

“On Thursday, 7th of October, at 9pm the water will be very hot.”
Then we sat during lunch with 5 people and this e-mail was one of the subjects. Surprisingly, from 5 people, only one had understand all the critical messages: 1) water very hot, 2) Thursday, 9th of October, 3) 9 pm. All the others understood the day the event would happen perfectly, but 2 people thought it was 9am, one thought it was the whole day on and one was uncertain about the time.

Communication is a tricky thing, but business keep insisting that cascading information is a great way of communicating.

In a word where technology is increasingly about connecting people, why not to rely on the power of the social network, instead of the power of the formal network (the hierarchy), to communicate? In a world where more and more the individual has the means to reach and interact with the masses, why do so many companies rely on the “broadcast” communication model that shaped the LAST century? What is most interesting is that on the marketing approach, lots of organizations already understand (or at least accept) this and are moving more and more to social communication and influencers.

Would it take so much to implement the modern market approach in an organization? Yes, is the answer, because the big bosses at the top usually see the consumers as the market’s bosses, while they see themselves as the company’s bosses. While there is not a shift in mindset towards the belief (and push) for the “linchpiness” of every individual, communication will be hierarchical, the chain of command will give orders to people to follow and people will be cogs in the machine: cheap and easily replaceable.

Is there a movement for change? Certainly, just look for example at Philips: they launched its social community in Social Cast to unite tens of thousands of employees across the globe. It’s a bit like Twitter, but only employees have access. So you can share what you are working on, ask questions for the people following you (or to the groups you are in). Imagine this: the most proactive people (linchpins?) would not wait for the sales manager to talk to them, but they would instead follow the sales manager profile. This opens a whole new range for leaders (not bosses) influencing large parts of the organization.
But do companies really want to go through the scary path of leaders not being bosses?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.