Over the past several decades, we have all worked very hard at creating Information Age companies. And that has become part of the current problem. It's time to create Communication Age organizations. Unfortunately, many companies are woefully behind.
What's the difference between informing and communicating? Informing is static. It's one-way and doesn't always cause action. In contrast, communicating is engaging. It's two-way and prompts the party you're communicating with to do something. Informing is passive; communicating is active.
Over the last several years, I've been surveying tens of thousands of managers, general managers, and C-Suite executives from all over the world and in every industry. I've asked them if they would answer "yes" to the following statement: Internally, we are very good at informing, but not very good at communicating. The majority--over 95% of those surveyed--said yes. Most feel they are great at informing all segments, yet terrible at communicating with them. In essence, they have Information Age companies, not Communication Age ones.
How can you make the shift to being a Communication Age organization? The answer lies in adapting social media tools for business, because social media is all about creating dialogue, interaction, and engagement.
Remember, social media isn't about the word "media"; it's really about the word "social." And while it used to be more text-based, now it's becoming multimedia, where we have videos, photographs, and other media we can use to enhance our communications with others.
Even better, most of these tools are free or nearly free. Personally, I love powerful business tools that are free. But don't just use the tools the way that kids use them. We want to take what often starts with young people and convert it into something that can be a powerful tool for training, education, sales, marketing, and every other business function.
For example, how about setting up an internal business Twitter-type account. There are already programs out there that are not Twitter, but they function just like Twitter, and they're for a business to use internally. You can find them on the Internet quite easily by doing a search.
Using a Twitter-like tool, you could pose a problem to your sales team or engineering team and have them respond quickly. After all, a Tweet is only two sentences long. The tool forces you to keep everything short and focused. And in fact, people don't even have to write. Because we have social multimedia, they could record an audio or if they want a video to show you the problem.
Here's another example: A sales team can use a private form of YouTube to share training and sales techniques with each other. They can record a video using their laptop, tablet, or smart phone and the camera that's built in, and then post the video in a social sharing site that is secure and used only by that company. Then, they can start interacting with each other about the information using other social media tools, creating a very engaging--rather than passive--learning environment for increasing their sales.
So you want to ask yourself, "Are we better at informing than communicating?" I would guess that you're much better at informing than communicating. But as technology enables us to transform every business process, you need to also be much better at communicating.
Therefore, let's raise the bar on our ability to communicate, to engage, and to cause action. Let's use social business tools to jump into the Communication Age.
Follow Daniel Burrus on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DanielBurrus