You know it’s a good day when you can drop a Demolition Man reference.
It’s a weird time right now. Intertubes-based communication is crowding older, established methods, and as digital natives (i.e. Millenials) enter the workforce, their preferred means for communicating are at odds with what we’re all used to using to, you know, do business.
This has lead bloggers (surprise) to call for the death of the old ways, e.g. business cards and voicemail. Email is under siege too as people react to stuffed inboxes by declaring bankruptcy or refusing to use email at all.
Why can’t we all just get along?
I have no problem with business cards, voicemail or phone calls, email, IM, social network messaging, posts on my wall, blog comments, Twitter, or whatever. However, these are manageable for me.
I do have two items on my hit list though: fax and snail mail. I was reminded of those recently when I had to send my health insurance company documentation for reimbursement. The helpful representative informed me that I should send the documentation to their PO Box. I asked if there was another method; she replied, we have a fax number. Grr.
It’s pretty rare that someone requires a fax or snail mail, unless you’re doing real estate or legal stuff. I guess the need for signed documents will keep these two around for a while.
Anyway, back to the point, people ping me through any number of mediums, which doesn’t really bother me. What’s the big deal then?
I guess the point is that when you have an unmanageable amount of communication, you want to make it stop. But because the people who have loudly called for the death of these methods are VCs and influential bloggers, you wonder if anything other than a career change will make the noise stop for them. Seems like it comes with the territory.
Still people have differing abilities to manage communication chaos.
I’m more interested in the effect shifts in communication will have on the workplace. Fragmented communication has at least two negative impacts, at least on me: 1) it becomes very hard to recall information and 2) it torpedoes my focus.
How recently did you ask yourself “where did I put that”? Search and recovery are enormous timesinks, and when you have more possibilities to search, it only gets worse. Say I’m trying to find someone’s email address, but can’t recall where it would be. The more places to search, the more time I spend recovering the information. Not good.
Now, if you’re Mrs./Ms/Miss/Mr. Influential you can dictate how people contact you, but if you’re not, then you better have a mind like a steel trap.
Fragmenting communication across a bunch of different mechanisms also makes it extremely hard to focus, at least for me. I already have work-based ADD; it’s hard to find time to concentrate on deliverables with the steady stream of meetings and communication.
To do real work, I have to drop offline entirely and digitally seclude myself. Not ideal, but it works for me.
Will communication overload eventually make it impossible to do real work? And if you can’t concentrate on real work, who can?
So, what’s the answer? There’s no denying that communication will shift away from older forms to newer ones, but is it better to force standardization or stretch your ability to listen to multiple channels?
Seriously, I think we all want an answer.
Find the comments and add your voice.