THE BLOG
10/30/2012 05:29 pm ET Updated Dec 30, 2012

Harness the Power of the Communication Age

The Communication Age is here, and it's time we harness it. Why? Because informing is a one-way conversation between you and your employees, customers, or other stakeholders. And let's face it... you can send somebody a new policy, a new training manual, a new brochure, or even an email and not know if it had any impact. Did they read it? Did they act on it? Did they embrace it? You don't know.

Communicating, on the other hand, is two-way and dynamic. It's a dialogue... a conversation... a meaningful connection that prompts action. Communicating allows you to move ahead in a positive direction faster.

But before going any further, let me say that this doesn't mean we never want to inform again - -that we want to dismantle the Information Age. There still is a need to simply inform. Think of it this way: Every age that has ever existed still exists today. There are places on the planet where people are still hunters and gatherers, and in other places there are people living in an early form of the industrial age. The same is true when it comes to our tools. We don't get rid of the past. Rather, as new things come along, we integrate the old into the new. For example, right now we still have mainframe computers, desktop computers, and laptops, even though we are increasingly finding that our main computer is our tablet and our smart phone.

So the old doesn't go away; we just use it in a new way. For example, mainframes are now being used to help create a big-data backbone and connect to users through a secure private cloud. That's why we don't want to get rid of the Information Age, but rather we want to embrace the power of the Communication Age.

What are some Communication Age tools we all need to take notice of? Two in particular are visual communications and unified communication.

Visual communications are different from video conferencing. Video conferencing requires a large room filled with expensive equipment, and the room is always booked by the executives. Visual communication is something like Skype -- something you can use not just on a laptop, but also on a desktop, tablet, or smart phone today.

Visual communications are powerful. I can see what you are thinking while I communicate with you because I can hear and see you. Based on your reactions, movements, mannerisms, and expressions, I can get a better feel for what you're thinking and can adjust my communications with you. I can see whether you're bored, focused, or confused. Because of this, I can keep myself more relevant and get a higher level of communication with you.

It's also important to realize that we don't all learn best in the same way. For example, some of us are auditory learners, meaning we learn best when we listen to a book than read it. In this case you would most likely be better at dictation and voice mail than writing and email.

Unified communications is a tool that can help us communicate in the style we are best at and therefore communicate better. For example, with unified communication I can send you a document in writing, and you can choose whether you want to read it or listen to it based on how you learn and process information best. And chances are that you'll respond more quickly in the way you prefer to respond, whether in writing or via voice.

Even though unified communications has been around for a while, it has not been widely used. But thanks to increasing processing power, storage, and bandwidth, it has had some major breakthroughs recently, and this will increase its use. For example, some of us are using our new smart  phones to have our text messages read to us, and we are responding by voice. Even though this is just one simple example, it is still very powerful.

Visual communication tools and unified communications represent only a few of the many new tools we have to foster better communications because we're giving people options of how to communicate with us. By allowing people to choose the medium they want to send their communication in, the medium of choice to receive it in, and the addition of the visual element, you can create better real-time communication as you would have in a phone call, or you can create a time-shifted dialogue that is far more effective than the traditional means that we've been using for years.

So if you're one of the 95 percent of companies firmly rooted in the Information Age, it's time to start the shift to being a Communication Age organization. Don't wait. Do it now.