Effective Communication and Social Media – Policy Not Required

Effective Communication

Effective communication matters right? Last time I looked there were roughly a bazillion articles and charts and other stuff available about effective communication. It’s important – we want to know our message is getting out there and being correctly understood, in order that it can be usefully responded to, and/or acted upon. And when communication passes through the filters of different people and teams, these filters apply distortion to the message. Kisu Kisu, or Chinese Whispers if you prefer, is an example of this many are familiar with.

Email versus Telephone

The channel you choose to use also has a bearing on effectiveness. I’ve used some data I found lurking down the back of the sofa in this little home made movie to illustrate how tough it is to correctly interpret a message. I made this little film partly in response to some tweeting coming from the Training Journal Winter Conference yesterday (search #TJ12 on Twitter for the backchannel). I got involved with some tweeting between David Goddin and Perry Timms about whether or not a social media policy is necessary, here are a couple of exerpts from the conversation:

Tweets from #TJ12

Tweets from #TJ12

I don’t think a social media policy is necessary, neither do I think it is helpful or productive. Via the #TJ12 I suggested that examples of where social media policy has enabled stuff would be helpful. Have you got any you can share please?

I believe a social media policy supports increasingly out dated hierarchical models, and I hope this film shows in part why I think this. I also made this film partly because I promised Erin I would make a talking blog post. Sorry for the delay Erin.

Effective Communication – Some Challenges

The tools we use impact our effectiveness.

The filters and hierarchies our words and sounds pass through create distortions, and this is partly why I think it is critically important to Tell Your Own Story.

A social media policy in part seeks to support the very hierarchy that social media is dissolving.

Social Media as an Enabler

If the culture is right for social, it’s a fabulous way to support better work, better business, better learning. If the culture is not right – I suggest you think about leaving social to one side until such time as you can fix the much more important stuff like why you don’t trust people where you work. Fix that, and a social media policy is not required.

Label Free Zone

New York

In the run up to last week’s Unconference, Tim Casswell and I were talking about the toys we were going to play with, or if you prefer, some methods we were going to utilise (yawn).

Guests at the event had been invited to prepare Pecha Kuchas as a way of seeding some ideas into the day, and we were going to use the World Café method to facilitate conversations.

Tim was railing against the processes, saying something like ‘This Pecha Kucha stuff is too restrictive, artists don’t like being told what to do’, and ‘Who cares that it’s called a World Café? Naming all this stuff just means you Doug, have to waste time explaining to people that they are going to hear a few short talks and have some great conversations!’

I take Tim’s point about a Pecha Kucha being restrictive, given that once you press play, your slides (all 20 of them) are each on screen for 20 seconds before autoforwarding to the next one. It’s extreme sports for presenters and though not for everyone, I think this method is very helpful in encouraging people to get a point across quite quickly. So we kind of agreed to disagree on this one.

The point about naming stuff though – that was a lightbulb moment for me. ‘OK Tim’ I said, ‘Tomorrow will be a label free zone’, and between us, we worked hard to make it so. I confess the term Pecha Kucha did creep in once or twice but not a mention of World Café, just conversations. And it worked – powerfully.

I think we have a tendency to over-complicate stuff. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s a sense of insecurity that convinces us that our work has to be tricky to understand, and so helps ensure our survival in the workplace hierarchy? Simplification strikes me as really powerful, simplification breaks down barriers. If we take last week’s event as an example I believe one of the reasons people responded to the opportunity so positively was that it we made any process very simple to understand.

That simplification left everyone’s brains free to respond to the much more interesting and useful challenges like defining ‘Why are we here today?’ ‘What do we want to talk about?’ ‘How are we going to make today’s conversations into tomorrow’s reality?’ None of these are easy questions to answer but thanks to an uncomplicated and largely label free approach, I think we helped make it easier for people to engage with something more meaningful to them.


I’m catching up on some reading and this post on The Future of L&D by David Goddin caught my eye. In the post, David says that ‘The opportunity is for the L&D function to engage more consultatively with the business’. I agree, and though I’m biased I think this is why a sales background can be so useful in business. Great sales people inherently ‘get’ the consultative approach, and so from the start appreciate the critical importance of relationships.

We often hear people use phrases like ‘I can relate to Sophie because she talks my language’, and I think that understanding is best forged from a balance of taking the time to understand the other person’s business/perspective/environment, and keeping things simple. This second point is less well practiced, and the comments in David’s blog posts are well worth a read as they dig into this area in more detail.

The simplicity of work matters.

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Let The Games Begin

It’s no secret that #TeamGB are currently rocking the Olympics, and folks are using that success to post a rash of ‘Olympics and work’ stuff. Some examples I’ve seen include, ‘Follow Jessica Ennis’ seven Heptathlon steps to payroll management paradise’, ‘Give your team double barreled names and a horse and watch them showjump to excellence’, and my personal fave,  ‘Grow sideburns like Bradley Wiggins and time trial your way to promotion in less than a month’. But don’t worry, for though this be a post about gaming and work, it has nothing to do with The Olympics.

I’ve teamed up with the good people at Trainer’s Kitbag to facilitate and deliver their products, and in conjunction with David Goddin we’re running the second open day for The Property Trading Game, in London on September 12th. Based on the classic board game of property trading, rent and chance, our Property Trading Game is different in that the participants compete around the city to see who will get the most points.

The game is great for challenging your understanding of how teams work, and it’s also been used for Leadership Development and Resilience Development. Lots of people have played the game and found it useful and enjoyable, and that’s a pretty powerful combination. So if you would like to give the game a try and see how well it could work for your teams, you can click here and grab your ticket to the open day for £350. I hope you can join us.

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