Business Communication in a Light Speed World
In a light speed world, people need to communicate at increasing speeds (and from increasing distances) in order to build trust. Internally, this means a focus from the top on building systems of communication. It also means focusing on external communication. In a light speed world, people on the outside scrutinize and analyze every action that the company takes. There is constant pressure from the media. New websites, blogs, and watchdog groups crop up every day, fueling more feedback and "e-chatter." Since there is no "under the radar" anymore, leaders need to invent new ways to communicate and shape the rules of the game.
At a daylong meeting with a group of neuroscientists at the University of California, I posed this question: "Aside from getting more money, what would most quickly help you achieve a major breakthrough in your field?"
One scientist talked about specialization. "We are so specialized in our individual research," she said. "That's how we win our grants and build our reputations. Yet as we become increasingly specialized, it's like the universe itself. Our stars are flying farther apart from each other. It's almost like we can't see each other."
"That's true," said another scientist. "The biggest breakthroughs are between specialties. If we're to succeed, we need to understand what each of us is learning. Bridging the gaps between us is our biggest challenge."
Another scientist jumped in. "In my last project, we put together an inter-disciplinary team. We met twice each week. It was slow going at first. But it yielded a brand new level of understanding about neuro-developmental disorders."
"You're right," another person said. "The breakthroughs occurred when we built a shared understanding of what happens at three levels - behavior, development, and biology. We need to bridge those gaps."
"But that's a huge leap," one of the clinicians said. "Each of those is a different world with a different history and scientific protocols and language. How can we possibly do that?"
This conversation about transcending differences and finding common ground through communication was not new to me. But it was new for this group. I talked about how people make a similar leap when they become leaders. The breakthrough comes, I said, when they rethink how they communicate. To succeed, they build systems of communication that bridge the gaps.
"So who is responsible for that here?" someone asked.
"Good question," I said. "What do you think?"
There was a pause. "I guess we all are."
People started to toss out ideas. They became energized.
Within an hour, they had identified five new strategies to build communication across their various disciplines - and agreed to try all of them. They also decided to meet each quarter to assess how well they were communicating. They were making the leap.