02 We have the technology

02-britI’m on a train. But, in a reversal of apparently normal social behaviour, I’m not yelling about it down a mobile phone.

Instead, as we meander through the Suffolk countryside this morning – all verdant meadows and sun-dappled streams – I’m listening to an on-board announcement. 

It is completely unintelligible. Crackle. White noise. Crackle. Perhaps the announcement is intended to enhance our Health and Safety. Perhaps it wishes to advise us of an unexpected stop, alight here for the Fields of Elysium. Perhaps the hot and cold buffet snacks, for this day only, have been bussed in by Gordon Ramsay.

Regardless of the message intended, the fractured intercom expresses pretty well what’s wrong with most of our attempts to communicate meaningfully with other people.

Oh, wait a minute. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, isn’t it?

You think so? Well, picture the guard (sorry, let me capitalise that) Train Manager tapping the intercom. He knows it’s bust, but he proceeds anyway. Does he care if he’s getting his message across? He has a whole other set of Key Performance Indicators to honour.

And how this relates to business is…?

Well, ask yourself: how often do we assess how well we’re communicating? Take your average meeting. Full of people yammering away, loving the sound of their own voices, others drifting in and out of consciousness. And, like our friend on the train, very few bothering to check if they’re actually making sense to anyone else.

A client asked me the other day for a single sentence on why communication fails. Simple. It fails when you fail to monitor the degree to which your listeners are or aren’t getting what you say.

Or, in this case, when you’re on the 08.00 to Ipswich.

Nielsen Dinwoodie
business messages people remember



One Response to “02 We have the technology”

  1. DNA is the fundamental biological mode of communication. So far it has been writing itself over a period of about 1,000,000,000 years. It contains the same number of base pairs. Yet we have been smart enough to work out that there may be only 30,000 genes on the whole human genome. Redundancy is intrinsic to this form of communication. There is a huge amount, and large proportion of the text, of junk DNA, that is thought at present to be non-functional.

    Yet this smart double helix has aquired the ability to embed strategies within the animal, the reader of the DNA, to survive amid the redundancy. Chimpanzee testicles are four times the size of gorilla testicles. although a chimp’s body is considerably smaller. Gorillas tend to be monogamous and their sperm encounters no competition, while chimps’ sperm must compete with that of other mates. And which species is more successful in today’s challenging environment? So we have two paradigms. Quality relationships with the customer, or the blunderbuss approach. It seems Coca Cola crassness is often a winning formula.

    We must ban all advertising of health-sapping, value-added food and drink ‘commodities’. We must not forget that the core meaning of communicating is its real value. Not ‘selling’ at all cost, but the balance of harm and good. Corporate communication may be exquisitely perfected but if it’s used to sell bad stuff we end up impoverishing ourselves.

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