Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gap? more like gorge...

Work Literacy asks: is there a gap in work literacy?. The idea behind work literacy are methods and processes that could make people more proficient in their jobs.

A group of engineers gather. The client is not happy. The technical problem is tougher than expected. Everyone's in the war room to figure it out. You start to explain that you've figured it out... but no one gets it. They look for a second and stare. Then someone else pipes on and everyone is onto another idea... but you had it... why won't they listen, why don't they get it?

There is a big gap inbetween intelligence and effectiveness, that gap is communication. I would call it a massive gap or gorge. Your effectiveness is directly related to your ability communicate ideas.

I meet and work with many bright minds on a regular basis. Their intuition and insight continuously amazes me. The sticking point is that I see a lot of wasted time when people can't successfully exchange ideas. Their brilliance is hindered by their language. Many people are unable to structure, and present their ideas in a coherent fashion. It's something I catch myself struggling with. I understand it in my head but the practice of making it easy for someone else to grasp is a different matter.

Regular practice is the key to successfully communicating. Presenting, and writing on a regular basis will only help improve your writing. You can also learn from other examples of good communication, but practice will yield the most benefit.

The ability to structure and communicate ideas concisely and effectively is hugely under-valued.
No matter how smart you are, unless you work completely on your own, if you can't convey your ideas - you're useless.

Related Links:
http://www.workliteracy.com/work-literacy-gap
Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson
Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (Voices That Matter) by Garr Reynolds

2 comments:

V Yonkers said...

Being a communication professor, I can't agree with you more. However, there is one other piece I find missing with my students: the ability to put themselves in the position of the listener.

As your example points out, you say "why can't THEY get it." My students often have the idea in their mind but don't take the time to understand where their listeners start from. They tend not to ask questions when others don't understand it (often a good way to figure out where there is misunderstanding) and often blame others for not understanding their brilliant ideas.

In addition, many speakers miss the communication cues their listeners are sending. I work a lot on reading the audience, including what their non-verbal communication is telling you. My students leave the class better communicators as they begin to become better listeners, not necessarily better speakers and presenters.

Shaun Bala said...

The informal aspects of communication are so underrated. Similar to english , grammar and basic math perhaps we need to mandate the instruction of communication at an early level. It seems almost sad to say it but it does appear necessary.

Better communication skills could help solve many other societal issues.