October 17, 2013

In his book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas G. Carr argues the Internet is changing our ability to think, process information and communicate. So much information and communications is now processed via Web pages, abbreviated text messages and 140 character tweets. The other day I was talking to one of my daughters about her discussion with a family friend who lived in another city. After a while I realized her idea of talking with someone was different than my own. I imagined her talking on the phone, but after a few minutes, I realized her discussion was a combination of Facebook posts, tweets and text messages.

[Previously from Shields: Achieving Analytics Value in the Insurance Enterprise]

What a different world we live in now! With today's pervasive technology, communication takes on a very different approach of texting, Facebook and cell phones. In the past few decades, everything we'd taken for granted for so long in communicating has been turned on its head as a wealth of new modes and mediums for speaking to one another have gone from science fiction to everyday fact.

As Carr writes in his book, these new things bring change, but it should be noted they bring opportunity as well. Communications, quite simply, ain't what it used to be. As leaders, we need to change our idea of communications to match the times.

When I was in my last position, my boss and my daughter, who was in grad school at the time, actually followed one another on Twitter. One morning, she tweeted about a difficult exam she had later on that day, and my boss made a point of wishing her good luck when he spoke to me later that morning. I didn't even know she had an exam. What a powerful and simple tool that is for forging relationships and community.

Of course, the value in the wide array of communications available to us now goes far beyond simply using it to form a stronger relationship with an employee. Armed with these new communication tools, leaders can be far more immediate and effective in communicating their vision, their ideas, their point of view - both with their employees and with their customer base. Indeed, employees and customers alike have come to expect this. The rise of mediums such as blogs and Twitter has led people to expect a more intimate, personal understanding of the writer. They have come to anticipate more than a simple and formal communication of the facts; they now desire to know more about who you are and are accustomed to a more personal, friendly, informal touch in such communications.

The one true goal of any successful communication is effectiveness. Without it, communication is nothing but random words and meaningless noise. Effective communication in today's world is often about more than facts and figures and dry information; it must elicit an emotional response. With the new technologies that allow communication in a variety of ways unimagined not so long ago, leaders have powerful tools at their disposal to touch peoples' hearts, to couch their message in ways that resonate best with their audience.

[The Nolan Company. Gerald has over 30 years' experience managing enterprise scale IT functions, with a focus on enabling the business through effective automation. At Aflac, he served as CIO and in senior IT management for over ten years, and is a respected thought leader and innovator in the areas of IT management systems, technology strategy, and mobile technology.