Saturday, July 12, 2008

Relevance of Communication

The other day i was asked a question ... about the role communication skills might play in the realm of knowledge management. This got me thinking ... interesting topics ... this is not something i have read much about, nor have i written about it myself.

Let us try to look at it from two perspectives:

From the perspective of explicit knowledge, this is a no-brainer ... if you are trying to write something, put something to paper, you are in the process of communicating with the world through the document which will result. So, there must be ample and proper articulation, which in turn requires sufficiently good writing skills. This is important because when you are doing so, you are trying to translate a picture which you are carrying in your head, to a set of words, and there is the very real possibility (something which happens more than one would like to see) of meaning being lost in the translation.

Moving now to the realm of collaboration ... today, when we are talking about web 2.0, collaboration deals more and more with an ongoing conversation ... through blogs, wikis, through social networks, etc. However, this is where my viewpoint begins to differ from the traditional one. the way they have been developed, and their essential philosophy, is totally opposed to any kind of structure. There is some, of course, which is in the interest of brevity (which is why we still divide posts into paragraphs which can be more easily digested), but apart from this, this paradigm of social computing has rather little to do with the sophisiticated techniques that one is taught during communication skills trainings. Apart from the basics ... Keep it short, capture the interest of the audience, and make sense at what you are talking about.

The impact is interesting ... while communications are becoming more and more informal, they are also becoming more and more vibrant (read twitter ... which reminds me, i need to graduate to twitter one of these days, except that i am just too lazy to create my network all over again over there, when i have already done so over at facebook). Lots has been written about the way sms has changed the way people communicate. To my mind, a lot of this is applicable to the social computing space as well.


Sameer said...

Well I think communication is different from verbal skills. While articulation (for traditional, 'explict' kind of KM) requires good writing skills, the realm of communication is much beyond that.

It's about an understanding of what mediums work best to be able to most effectively 'transmit' information. As Knowledge Management, or Knowledge Sharing professionals isn't our job to create an environment conducive for effective collaboration. No how do people collaborate, what appeals to them and what doesn't - including the medium (say Web 2.0) and language (say twitter/SMS kind)is something that will fall in the communication realm for sure.

Of course you can argue that it really is about understanding human behavior, but 'communicating' with humans effectively to get the desired behavior is definitely the task of a master communicator, who in this case doubles up as a KM/KS professional..

What say?

Atul said...

I agree, Sameer, to an extent, but having said that, if we are to be able to deploy web 2.0 tools in organizations, we would need to understand 2 things:

1. the motivation for adoption.
2. the way people interact over these is at times quite different from the way they do in real life, and this difference is what makes the difference between say a blog, and email ... and, we need to understand this difference ... essentially to drive adoption ... to my mind, thats the key!

Cheers ...