Communicating in Times of Change

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Pace of Change

The perpetual pace of change in our ability to communicate through modern technology is at an unparalleled level. Especially this year, where digital methods which were in existence pre-Coronavirus, have come into everyday use on an exponential level to keep the economy and our social structures operating on a virtual basis, in many instances.

However, despite this world-wide technical ability to communicate, the art of effective and meaningful communication is becoming harder to achieve as we navigate a world full of V, U, C, A (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) a term which emerged from the US military in the nineties.)

The uncertainty caused by different economic and political systems, different world views on dealing with existential issues such as climate change, a global pandemic and immigration, make the job of effective communication, a defining matter for 21st Century leaders and organisations. Without it the ability to harness the interconnected nature of collaboration, cohesion and innovation to drive sustainable change, diminishes significantly.

Virtuality

A 2006 paper by researchers at Cornell University identified the impact of virtuality (geographic dispersion, electronic dependence, structural dynamism and national diversity[1]) on team innovation, highlights the importance of a psychologically safe communication climate for teams to make sense of new and diverse information.

Amy Edmondson, the American scholar who ‘accidentally stumbled into the importance of psychological safety’ in the mid-nineties during a research study in healthcare, says in her new book The Fearless Organisation, it is a ‘crucial source of value creation in organisations operating in complex, changing environments’.

In a recent HBR article,  What It Takes to Lead Through an Era of Exponential Change, the authors highlight ‘Covid-19 has laid bare a “new normal” of change, marked by three dimensions’ which requires a different kind of leadership. Sapient leadership, which the authors claim ‘drives shared learning and intelligence, leading to a better future for all’.

Listening

New models of leadership come with new ways of thinking and communicating which involves a greater ability to listen. As Margaret Heffernan, professor, entrepreneur and author claims, ‘Leaders of the future won’t see their jobs as discerning the future, but as listening to the voices who can imagine how to build it’.

As we are increasingly busy in keeping up with the pace of change, do we have the time or inclination to actively listen? The theoretical physicist David Bohm, one of the most distinguished scientists of the 20th Century, was an eminent thinker on modern communication and the concept of holding dialogue. A concept he believed was fundamental to delivering the change we need to see in the world.

Dr Tracy Kite has written a Glassmoon Insights piece based on Bohm’s valuable research where he gave us the clue to Holding the Conversation for Communication at Its Best

As we create psychologically safe climates to communicate effectively during this period of exponential change, our ability to create impact and change at a global scale rests in our willingness to focus on shared purpose, develop a flexible mindset and create a 21st-century work ethic which enables us all to work well leading to a better future for us all.

[1] Gibson, Cristina & Gibbs, Jennifer. (2006). Unpacking the Concept of Virtuality: The Effects of Geographic Dispersion, Electronic Dependence, Dynamic Structure, and National Diversity on Team Innovation. Administrative Science Quarterly – ADMIN SCI QUART. 51. 451-495. 10.2189/asqu.51.3.451.