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Communication Is Still King

There’s no getting around it: Communication systems are a critical factor in the health and welfare of any organization. But this is about more than your phone. Even the very structure of an organization, including the physical space, is designed to promote effective communication.

Effective team collaboration without effective communication systems doesn’t exist. If collaboration were a card game, then communication would be the deck.

The organizational structure functions as a communication system, and change is on the horizon. The emergence of organizational structures such as pods, for example, represents a new way to address how we communicate. The idea of the pod is to bypass some of the obstructions of a typical organization structure. “Working in small units allows team members to quickly reconvene and share information on a project or discuss issues that arise,” as brand specialist BBR wrote in a post titled, "Pod Structure: Creating the Right Team for the Project."

Illustration of team chat

The emphasis on team collaboration of the past few decades has driven an unrelenting focus on communication systems. The category “unified communications” is often inseparable from “collaboration.” While collaboration is a style of working well together, communication is the baseline that makes collaboration possible in the first place. We can’t collaborate if we can’t communicate. In fact, there are many things we can’t accomplish if we can’t communicate.

Still, improving team collaboration remains a driving factor in many organizational choices. We feel the growing need to break down silos and work well together. While effective collaboration requires effective communication systems, other situations require effective communication, too. Here are just three: presenting, motivating, and decision making.

But the pressures on communication systems today are immense. The need for faster, higher-quality communication systems is increasing, and at least five forces are driving communication systems to falter:

  1. Digital disruption drives immense urgency
  2. Messaging fragmentation creates more noise than signal
  3. Information fragmentation prevents a coherent picture of what’s known
  4. Information proliferation floods the system with more and more information
  5. Distributed workforces erect physical, temporal, and cultural barriers

These five pressures, and others as well, are causing our current communication systems to break down. Desk phones are becoming obsolete. Text messaging has displaced voicemail and disrupted email. Audio and video conferencing haven’t realized the promise. Meanwhile, information proliferation continues to explode, with no end in sight.

As new communication systems emerge, we need ways to defragment our information systems. We need ways to channel our conversations and our messages so that we’re all speaking and hearing a coherent story. We need ways to pull information out of silos so that we’re all experiencing a shared picture of what’s known.

We need to separate the signal from the noise like never before.