Envisioning and shaping the future of work and business.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The ability of employees to communicate efficiently is a key asset for any organization

9:10:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments
From “Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations” by Clay Shirky:

“All businesses are media businesses, because whatever else they do, all businesses rely on the managing of information for two audiences - employees and the world.”

On the Internet, anyone can become a publisher today. The means of producing and distributing information and experiences have been democratized (available for free or at no cost and easy to use) and virtually anyone can reach an audience of millions. Even though very few do, the possibility still exists.

It obviously takes either killer content or being a master at communicating to reach a very large audience, and usually it takes both. You also need to master how to market yourself and your content and to understand how to use the power of networks in doing so. To find evidence of this, you only need to observe and listen to those bloggers who make it to the upper few percent in the long tail and manage to stay there to. The key skill they all possess is the ability to communicate efficiently, to efficiently convey a message to an intended audience.

The democratization of media will have huge implications for businesses and how they are managed and operated. Today, anyone can write something about your organization and reach your customers, partners and employees. It also means that any member of an organization might be required to represent it and thus need to possess good communication skills. If we look internally, all members of your organization need to be able to communicate as freely with each other as they can on the Internet - which includes being able to communicate freely with people outside of your organization.

If we take this reasoning to the extreme, then the ability of an organization to communicate successfully internally as well as externally can simply be seen as the sum of the ability of all its members to communicate, plus a culture and infrastructure that empower and leverage.

A cynical conclusion that one can make is that people who possess great talent but lack the communication skills will have a hard time to exploit this talent without help from others. They will have to team up others who are greatly skilled in communication, but they must anyway work hard to develop their own communication skills since one person’s talent has rather limited value if it cannot be “cross-fertilized” with the talent of other persons.

The main point here is that most organizations need to make a considerable change in mindset if they are to succeed in a world where all businesses need to master communication almost to the same degreeas media businesses. Most organizations still see information captured in documents and databases as their key assets. Now, they need to see the members to have the ability to make use of those assets and communicate efficiently as their key assets, but also the cultural values and the infrastructure that supports them. Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook, has nicely expressed this shift of mindset that is needed:

“The other guys think the purpose of communication is to get information. We think the purpose of information is to foster communication.”


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