Thinking Should Come Before Communication

    December 9, 2002

Communication has become the great fashion and addiction of our age. Kids think a mobile phone is cool. Workers think that communicating is a sign of productivity. Communication may make you look cool, but it does not necessarily make you more productive. Communication, without thought, is in fact an unproductive activity.

There is an ad by a major technology company that goes something like this: ‘You can’t beat the rush of real-time information.’ This is quintessential Silicon Valley-speak. Real-time information is a drug. It makes you high.

A major news channel boasts about how its news is updated by the second. News should not be a 100 meter sprint, although it has largely become one. The closer you get to the moment something has happened, the less likely you are able to communicate the context of what has happened.

I was in America during the Washington sniper attacks. Every minor and inconsequential development was put under the media microscope. All the experts were wheeled out to give their expert opinion. Which turned out to be completely wrong.

I have a bad habit. I keep checking up my books on Amazon to see what sales rank they are. This is pretty useless information. What position my books are at on a Tuesday, as against a Thursday, means little or nothing to the financial return I will receive from book sales.

Thinking should come before communication. All this real-time information often lacks context. It also eats up your time. Time you could be spending thinking. Time you could be spending putting things in context.

When information is updated by the second, is it really information anymore, or simply data? Information, after all, is supposed to be the communication of knowledge. Information requires intelligence.

We have begun to confuse communication with intelligence; communication with knowledge. For knowledge to be transferred from one person to another, it does need to be communicated. However, just because two people are communicating does not mean that knowledge is being transferred.

Times have changed. It used to be that many organizations didn’t communicate enough with their customers, staff and other stakeholders. Now, the danger is that too much communication is occurring.

Too much communication is wasting staff time and reducing productivity. Too much communication is overloading customers, and making it harder to get through to them with important messages.

How often have you claimed to be ‘too busy?’ What exactly does that mean? For me it’s an excuse. It means that I didn’t do something because it just wasn’t important enough for me to do. Or else it means I did something quickly, being too busy to do it right.

Being too busy is never an excuse. There have been 24 four hours in a day for a long time now. There are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, seven days in a week. If you can’t manage your own time, you shouldn’t be allowed manage anyone else’s.

Those who are always too busy are always on the phone. They’re always on the Internet. Always firing off emails. Always flicking channels. Always late for meetings. Never get their reports in on time. Never can give you any time. Always communicating. Always communicating.

If only they’d stop and think sometimes.

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