This is just a quick post to expand on something I started thinking about while working through the exploration stage of a large strategy project we’re developing for a client. It’s pretty much half-baked, but I wanted to throw it out there to see if it resonated with anyone else.
The issue of signal-to-noise is a no-brainer in the mass market – for every useful bit of information you’re interested in, you must wade through a mountain of stuff you couldn’t care less about. If the ratio is really out of whack, you never get to the stuff you want to or should, and you abandon the channel – it’s just too frustrating and useless.
That last part also has real resonance for the enterprise. When the noise outweighs the signal, the system stops being functional because people stop being able to productively use it. Who out there gets 300+ emails a day? Many of which contain documents that you are asked to review? Who could possibly keep up with all of this in a meaningful way? A number of senior execs I know at some of the largest companies in the world confess to barely being able to keep up with this firehose of information. No matter what kind of process they employ, it all boils down to one thing: learning which communications are safe to ignore.
Is it time to truly re-think the way that information moves through teams and the nature of responsibility for deliverables and decisions? Instead of project managers or team leaders or executives pushing the information at you that they think you need, perhaps we, as executives and workers, should be responsible for finding and reviewing the data we know we need.
Is this plausible? Is it possible to slowly shift from a predominantly reactive communications culture to a proactive one, in which people seek the data they require? Of course there are many situations in which you don’t know what you don’t know, so information still needs to be pushed out – but maybe not quite so much if it.
For this to work effectively it seems to me that a number of tools need to be in place, including a robust collaboration platform and a holistic enterprise-wide taxonomy that would allow cross-functional users to sort and search data effectively.
Rather than being told I need to read something, the responsibility would shift and I would need to find and read the information I require to make effective decisions or keep projects going. I’m not just talking about using things like wikis and other platforms to facilitate collaboration – that’s not news. I’m talking about thinking about how social media tools can fundamentally change the nature of internal business communication from push to pull.
Once again, another trend that may very well be soon swimming upstream from the marketplace to the enterprise (which is another concept that deserves a post all its own).