If it’s not about Community it ain’t Communication

99% of what we call communication in an organizational context is non-communication. Instead, it is what marketers would call ‘advertising’.

Don’t get me wrong, organizations do require an enormous amounts of information exchange, but let’s not lower the bar of communication by labeling this exchange as ‘communication’.

Higher Grounds, Lower Standards

What’s more, the higher you go in an organization, the more people are prepared to lower the standards of their definition of ‘communication’.  On average, the definition of communication can contain up to five elements, and only the upper two really belong there.
Communication and non communication

There is a reason why people high up in the hierarchy have a tendency to include the lower three when they talk about ‘communication’: otherwise their list would be empty. It’s a classic mistake: thinking it’s about them, about their deliverable and above all: that it should be measurable.

Communication that Matters

If you are one of those people, here is the bad news: not everything that can be measured matters, and not everything that matters can be measured. In this respect, one of my favorite quotes is that of Bill Jensen:

Communication is the message received, not the message sent.

In other words, the quality of a communication is determined by the extent to which the receiver feels understood and involved, rather than by the amount of information you are broadcasting. It’s the relationship, rather than the content which determines the quality of a communication.

It’s all hidden in the word: “Communication” requires “community”. Any exchange of information that does not result into being in relationship is non-communication. In that sense, good communication is more about receiving and acknowledging than about sending.

The Moral

Here is a final piece of advice based on the above visual:

  • If you find yourself spending a lot of budget and time on advertising-like campaigns you should not feel guilty. Just know that you are creating noise and clutter. It’s nice for branding purposes and for presence. Just don’t fool yourself by labeling it communication, OK?
  • Information exchange is necessary and by all means: don’t stop broadcasting your stuff! Just remember the simple Know-Feel-Do rule (again, a great insight from Bill Jensen).
  • Finally, go local, be there and spend time. There is no other way to communicate in the real sense of the word: being in service of ‘community’.