Showing posts with label communication. Show all posts
Showing posts with label communication. Show all posts

Saturday, December 28, 2013

How Multiple Forms of Media Impact Our Social Understandings

Communication is seen as a process of information transference from one person to another. Few think about the cognitive models that develop from information transference and how different communication channels influence meaning. Dennis, et. al. (2008) discusses the nature of information conveyance and convergence when dealing with groups and how media synchronicity impacts meaning making among recipients.

Media richness theory indicates that task performance will improve when task information are matched to the medium’s information richness.  Difficult tasks require more information when compared to simple tasks while less rich media are better suited to tasks that require less information. The media used to transfer information should be based on the type of task.

For example, someone who wants to complete a simple task such as changing a wiper blade on a car will need few instructions to successfully complete this task. Changing a car transmission may require multiple forms of written instructions and videos to successful complete this task. The more difficult the task, the more media synchronicity can help.  

In communication we prepare information, transfer it through a medium, and others will process this information into their mental models. Different people obtain varying levels of information from media and process that information according to how their particular mental models work. Two people can see the same thing but each will notice the information that fits within their understanding while selectively ignoring information that does not fit within their personal models.

In groups, the meaning of information is based more in the interactive interpretation of multiple persons. Meaning requires a level of negotiation among members that are engaged in tasks. Meaning is subjective depending on the cognitive models others are using. Each group will come to their own slightly different interpretation of the information.

When transmitting information to groups it is important to understand the processes of conveyance and convergence. Conveyance processes provide transmission of diversity of new information that allows individuals to create revised mental models of situations. Convergence processes is the way in which people interpret and make models out of the information to come to mutually agreed upon understandings.  We can see this as receiving information, building models of that information, and then coming to an understanding of that information.

It is possible to see this in an example. The latest gizmo makes its way on the market. The type of spokes models, celebrities, music, and impressions provided through the media make their way into everyday conversations. Each interpretation adds to the collective development of a fad product. When the product becomes old people will leave it for something new. That is the nature of fads and hype which are socially constructed concepts of “coolness”.

The researchers found that when individuals have experience with tasks and each other they have fewer convergence processes and less need for media synchronicity. In other words, they are familiar with each other’s cognitive processes and a small amount of information is enough for them to come to a shared understanding (i.e. a tight group of teenagers who like a product). When individuals have little experience with each other or the tasks it is beneficial to use multiple rich forms of media to transfer needed information.

The study helps highlight how we use media and information to build cognitive models. When tasks are unfamiliar it is beneficial to use multiple forms of rich media to help us build new models (i.e. learning) and come to a social understanding of those models. Once the models are built, lower forms of media are enough to transfer information. Thus, understanding is based on cognitive models and they are individually constructed and then negotiated against others cognitive models to come to mutual understanding.  Therefore, understanding is a social construction process fostered by the information we receive from our environment and multiple forms of media (i.e. phone, Internet, face-to-face, music, television, You Tube, etc…).

Dennis, et. al. (2008). Media, tasks, and communication processes: a theory of media synchronicity. MIS Quarterly, 32 (3).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Supportive and Humanistic Leaders are More Effective

Both style and communication intertwine tightly around the effectiveness of leaders.  Reinout de Vries and Angelique Bakker-Pieper conducted research on 279 employees in government agencies to understand the communication styles on human-oriented and leadership outcomes  (2010). They used the six main communication styles of verbal aggressiveness, expressiveness, preciseness and assuredness, supportiveness and argumentativeness. 

Leadership communication style bases its effectiveness on the need to maximize hierarchical relationships to reach goals (Daft, 2003). Communication has a purpose and is goal oriented. Communication seeks to enhance and influence the environment in one form or another. The ultimate goal is often dependent on the leader who seeks either collective or self-gain. 

Communication is about knowledge sharing. It is a process where individuals exchange tacit and explicit information to create new knowledge (Van den Hoof and De Ridder, 2004). Communication helps participants bring forward new information and connect them together in ways that have more meaning for them. The more someone communicates with others the more they understand both the issues at hand and the potential solutions. 

Charismatic and human-oriented leadership correlated with perceived leadership performance, satisfaction with that leader, and employee’s commitment. Likewise, Leadership supportiveness had a strong correlation with knowledge sharing. Both styles were stronger than correlations with task-oriented leadership. 

The authors contend that leadership supportiveness appears to be the strongest communication approach and has positive associations with leadership styles and outcome.  This find makes sense if we consider that leadership is about influence and drawing people in through supportive, humanistic, and knowledge sharing behaviors that helps others solve their own problems and sets higher expectations.  Leaders who excessively focus on tasks may be less successful if their subordinates do not understand the greater purpose of the tasks, do not feel connected to it, and do not know how to achieve it. 

De Vries & Bakker-Pieper, W. (2010). Leadership=communication? The relations of leaders’ communication styles with leadership styles, knowledge sharing and leadership outcomes. Journal of Business & Psychology, 25 (3)

Daft, R. (2003). Management (6th Edition). Cincinnati, Oh: South-West.

Van den Hoof & Hendrix, (2004). Eagerness and willingness to hare: the relevance of different attitudes towards knowledge sharing. Paper presented at the Fifth European Conference on Organizational Knowledge, Learning and Capabilities: Innsbruck, Australia.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How Social Network Channels Influence Job Performance

Do your social networks impact your success? Xiaojung and Vekatesh (2013) discuss research on how important physical and online social networks are to job performance. Direct physical, direct online, and indirect online are sources of information that impact the process of decision-making and connecting to resources. Their research helps identify how online and offline communication channels can work together to enhance job performance.

It is first beneficial to define what a social network is. “A social network is a specific set of linkages among a defined set of persons, with the additional property that the characteristics of these linkages as a whole may be used to interpret the social behavior of the persons involved” (Mitchell, 1969, p. 2). Those within the same social networks often use similar behaviors and vantage points.

Face-to-face communication offers the opportunity for both verbal and non-verbal communication. It is considered a rich content channel that spreads information through time tested historical methods. The advent of online communication affords greater variety of information management that previous methods need physical interaction to accomplish.

Despite its breadth, online communication channels are less value laden than face-to-face communication. Yet this communication channel is being hedged to create greater reach than would be possible with traditional methods. Varying degrees of information can be collected from networks in the online world that moves quickly among members. Over time online channels will become more information laden to mimic face-to-face interaction (i.e. video, music, forums).

The authors found that the use of online and off-line communication does have an impact on job performance. The belief is that information is power and the more one is able to collect and integrate varying channels of information the more likely they can make proper decisions that impact their job. It is recommended that business leaders use both forms of communication for maximum job growth.

The report doesn’t move into this concept, but through channel expansion theory and concepts of information hubs it is possible to put oneself in the center of the information hub and expand upon that information for greater influence. Leaders who desire to become influential should develop as many communication channels as humanly possible and use that information to bring great ideas forward.

Mitchell, J. (1969). “The concept and use of social networks” in social networks in urban situations, J.C. Mitchell (ed), Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, p. 1-50.

Zhang, X. & Venkatesh, V. (2013). Explaining employee job performance: the role of online and offline workplace communication networks.  MIS Quarterly, 37 (3).

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Preparing College Graduates for Job Interviews

One of the responsibilities of higher education is to prepare students for the job market. This preparation is a long process of learning competitive skills to successfully work within an organization. Sometimes, we forget that in order to have students use their new developed skills they will need to land a job. Dr. Lauren Mackenzie (2009) shares some of her assignment experiences in helping students interview better and secure the employment they desire. 

She believes that there are three concepts which are helpful to students that include viewing interviews as conversations, nexting, and thin slicing.  As you may not be familiar with these terms nexting is a flow of information, and thin slicing is understanding the non-verbal cues. Together these three concepts help in creating higher levels of interview preparedness. 

All interviews are conversations. The employer is trying to gain as much information about you while you are trying to gauge them. It is a process of opening of information and ensuring that each as an accurate perspective. Through this conversation, job seekers want to ensure that they are balancing honesty with their best attributes to both obtain the position but also ensure that it is the right match for them. 

Nexting entails working within the flow of information and furthering the information for display. As someone asks you a question, expand the information in a positive way and then try and move the conversation in a positive direction. Those who do well at nexting also are able to ensure the interview conversation maintains the best flow to highlight their abilities while leaving the interviewer a positive impression.

Thin slicing entails a concept of understand others behaviors through their non-verbal cues. People have been accurate in understanding others behaviors through a few brief moments of interaction. This is a thin slice of who they are at that particular moment. It does not represent the total person but it gives an intuitive insight into their behaviors and perceptions. If a person gets good at understanding others, they can steer their conversation in a way that encourages receptivity.

Graduates should learn the job based skills as well as the verbal skills to be successful on the market. This can be taught through class by practicing writing a resume, cover page, common interview question responses, and filling out peer evaluation forms. Through the process of thought formalization and feedback, they can better gauge their preparation.

Recent graduates may be interested in some of the job and information sites below:

Mackenzie, L. (2009). Connecting communication theory to interviewing practice: strategies for instruction and evaluation. Currents in Teaching & Learning, 2 (1).

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Become an Influencer-Learning the Art of Persuasion

Improving on communication skills and influencing is extremely important for potential success.  A paper by Johnson and Young (2012) discusses the concepts of influencing others to achieve objectives. Their advice appears to be practical in the sense that it continues to expand the network creating more adherents. It also takes into account the natural resistance people display and how to overcome those concerns. 

Most people tune out a significant amount of daily conversation and lots of information is lost from one day to the next. To attract someone’s interests it is sometimes necessary to do or ask something interesting. In sales they may call this “making the pitch” but in daily conversation it is more of “tuning in” to potential engagement.

Most people are receptive to things that help them. Explaining concepts through their vantage point and the potential benefits of certain actions helps them to visualize the possibilities. Focusing on encouraging others to engage the solution is helpful to developing personal influence.  You can’t be influential without other people.

Before one can properly influence others they need to have the right questions. This is a process of brainstorming and thinking about all of the alternatives. Asking the right questions can prompt other people to start thinking about the answers and if their answers logically lead to your conclusions you are likely to find support.

Each organization comes with other influencers and connecting them together creates systematic impact. Communicating with opinion leaders and power brokers creates the ability to render converts to a cause and then move those ideas throughout an organization. The more people, who hear, understand and pass on the concepts the more influence that is created. 

People want to quantify the concepts. They want to envision, touch, taste and see the ideas. Speaking in terms of tangibles helps people understand and create a mental framework that solidifies the concepts. This allows them to formalize, ponder, and finally conclude with their agreement.

People want to understand your message. Use the language of your audience. This means using the terms, vocabulary, education level and at times even the slang others use. Helping people understand the message means speaking in a way that allows for easy connection to the concepts. 

It is beneficial to work in a group and allow multiple vantage points and perspectives to make their way into the solutions. Doing so will afford greater allies in your quest. People have varying perspectives and these perspectives can be used to help ensure that concepts make sense to a greater amount of people. 

Developing greater presentations with graphics, charts, and content helps people solidify the information. Just like in sales a great presentation can provide for higher levels of understanding. It can draw interest and put things in a tangible form. 

Don’t believe that you are infallible. Continually learn from your mistakes to improve upon your influencing abilities. Some things work while others do not. If you continue to learn you are likely to improve over time and create greater abilities. 

The report doesn’t talk about truth but it should be included as an influencing argument. People don’t want someone to “pull the wool over their eyes” or “blow smoke” and will be naturally resistant to those who have an unyielding agenda. Rightly so, an over demanding agenda means they have not evaluated the alternatives and their concerns are limited. People want to hear the strengths and potential pitfalls so that they can understand the credibility of the speaker. Those who think they know all the answers usually don’t. 

Johns, W. & Young, N. (2012). Power of persuasion: becoming the influencer. Facilities Manager, 28 (3)