We have more email than we can keep up with. We have numerous collaborative tools were trying to interact with. Were members of multiple groups and associations that provide information. Weve subscribed to paid and free e-newsletters, newsfeeds, and RSS feeds. Were subject to mobile advertising and a barrage of information every day. Even the company leaders are constantly sending out plans, imperatives, directives, goals, strategies, and tactics to the organization, trying to get people at every level to take action on them.
We are literally drowning in information.
The rate at which each person is creating information is increasing as well. We have so many more devices capturing information in real time that most people dont even realize how much data is being created. Heres a simple example: Every time someone is in a department store and buys a pair of Levis 501 jeans with a 34 waist and a 32 inseam, the moment they make the purchase, theyve just created more data that is then converted into information and sent somewhere for analysis or action.
Clearly, the information age is wonderful, but it has also become a problem. So whats the solution? We need to propel our organizations into the communication age. Only then can we reach the next level of organizational excellence.
There is a big difference between informing and communicating. Informing is one-way, static, and seldom leads to action. Communicating is two-way, dynamic, and usually leads to action. Realize that the information age is not our friend; its our enemy in disguise.
Ask yourself, In our organization, are we better at informing than communicating? For most people, the answer is yes. And if you cant communicate internally with your staff, how can you communicate externally to customers and shareholders? This is not to say that you should stop informing people. However, you do need to tap into true communication. When you focus on maximizing two-way communications, you can create a communication age organization and cause positive change much faster.
Now heres the interesting thing: Even if we embrace the communication age and go full force into it, the information age doesnt go away. Informing has its role and can be useful. So you dont want to erase the past, you simply want to move forward into the future. Think of it like this. All the ages of human history that have ever existed still exist today. You can go to certain places on the Amazon river and be with people who live as they did thousands of years ago. They wear loincloths, hunt with spears, and live in grass huts. Similarly, you can go to sections of Pennsylvania and Ohio and see Amish communities where people live as they did in the 1800s.
You can also go into companies and do a similar sort of time travel. Some departments or divisions feel as though you went backwards in time, with old operating systems and mindsets. Other departments and divisions are already in the future, using advanced tools and moving faster than most.
So, from an information perspective, everything that has ever existed still exists today. It doesnt go away. The new simply gives us more options to innovate and lead. Previously, we jumped into the information age and have since done a great job of being information age organizations. The benefits of all that work dont go way, however, in order to get rid of some of the negatives of the information age and accelerate growth, we have to move forward into the communication age.
Ironically, we have all these fantastic communication age tools, but were using them in an information age way. Why? Because we still have an information age mindset. Therefore, its time to learn how to use the tools currently available in a way that will advance the organization and promote both internal and external communications. What follows are some suggestions that will help you move your organization into the communication age.
Know how people like to communicate and learn - Not everyone communicates in the same way. In some cultures its common that people dont return voicemails, but they do return text messages. Likewise, people in different generations prefer different communication tools.