How businesses will communicate in 2021? - Technology Response
A former professor turned friend, and respected businessman Myron Kanning brought up this question during a trip down to Bloomington, IN in the Fall of 2016. Myron, or Moe, plans to lecture on this topic in one of his courses at the Indiana University Kelley School of business.
In our conversation, he stressed the trend of shorter communications and the need for businessmen/businesswomen to be able to communicate snippets, bullets, and phrases to get their point across.
I couldn’t agree more.
This trend has been greatly accelerated by our society's desire for brevity. We are overloaded by “always on” social media, news networks, etc. We are constantly in search of the next thing to grab our attention. If you want your message to be heard and understood it but be clear and SHORT.
- Tweets are a max of 140 characters - Engagement on tweets <100 characters increase by 17%.
- Facebook, a medium with no length restriction yet messages <40 characters experience 86% greater engagement
- YouTube videos average 14 minutes, however, the optimal placement of your call to action (CTA) is in the first 30 seconds.
Apply this to corporate communications… the ideal length of a paragraph is 40-55 words. Combine that with another study which indicates the optimal email has a max of . This means you have two paragraphs to get your point across before you could lose your audience.
Hey Moe, the optimal length of a lecture is 22 minutes… can you deliver this lecture within that limit?
I posed the question to Moe:
in your lecture do you have anything around the technology used to facilitate these messages?
I’ll leave the rest of the “form” of the message to Moe. Going forward, I will focus on the method of delivery, the technology.
Email isn’t dead but it’s on life support
Several establishments, blogs, etc. claim email is on its way out. I will agree… in part. The role of email is evolving. Becoming less and more formal at the same time.
Less formal: Emails have and will continue to become more conversational; less editorial. Less structure, less review, quick, to the point thus leading to the rise of technologies such as Slack.
More formal: Email will be used to deliver more official communications, continuing to stealing share from certified mail, courier services, fax, etc. For example, the 5 years in between accepting my first and second job offers this process evolved from being conducted via certified mail to exclusively via email.
If email is on the way out, what is on the way in? Communication technologies with structure, and purpose.
Email, as a technology, is not intrinsically bad… there’s great advantage for those organizations willing to end the reign of the unstructured workflow and replace it with something designed from scratch with the specific goal of maximizing value production and employee satisfaction. - Cal Newport, HBR
Part of the downfall of email is the lack of structure. One way this can be solved is in the “form” (Moe- tag you’re it!) the other way is changing the technology used to facilitate these conversations.
Basecamp, Slack, Workfront are some of the many tools which can institute structure and control into your communications. Emphasis on "can", because if the form is not controlled or the technologies are not adopted, you are better of without them...
Slack, (think instant messenger on seriods) makes communication quick and searchable and if adopted appropriately can revolutionize how sh*t gets done!
Workfront structures work/projects into chronological tasks assigns them to and notifying responsible parties at appropriate intervals.
These tools are the craze of the day (or yesterday, in the case of basecamp). As Kevin Kelly, would say in his book, Inevitable, it's not inevitable that we send <INSERT TECHNOLOGY> messages all day but the need for collaboration to need complete projects/tasks is inevitable.
The low marginal cost of sending a message is a constant. So is the high cost of interruptions...
To eliminate the ability for knowledge workers to perform deep work is like putting assembly line workers in thick gloves that hamper their ability to manipulate their tools — it’s an absurd self-imposed handicap.- Cal Newport, HBR
These tools do not solve the human problem of seeking out our next distraction but they do provide much-needed structure to our otherwise structureless "streams of consciousness" email inboxes.
Letting technology institute structure in combination with the adoption some will power/human control (i.e.: turning off these communication tools when needed) will allow our productivity can soar!
In conclusion, when shaping the form and method of how businesses will communicate in 2021 we need to focus on strategic vision of the organization, why we are communicating? what are we trying to do?. If we shape these communication styles to GSD (get stuff done), the sky's the limit.