Communication is a shared experience.
Communications is how that experience is shared.
It is not uncommon to see these two terms used interchangeably. Outside of the technology world, most wouldn’t even blink when they hear the term “communications” used in the wrong context.
However, while in many contexts “communications” is assumed to be the plural of “communication,” in the business world it’s actually a term used to describe the network of technology tools an organization uses to communicate. When trying to map out how your business operates, this is an important distinction.
Is your tongue all twisted up yet?
Let’s really break it down.
Different types of communication…
The first thing to keep in mind when it comes to communication is there are two different types: “real-time” communication and “iterative” communication. Also known as synchronous vs. asynchronous communication.
The easiest way to tell the difference is this: if you cut the connection and the collaboration session ends, it is real time (or synchronous), if it doesn’t end, it is iterative (or asynchronous).
When you are in a video meeting and you leave the session, then the conversation is over – this is real-time communication. If you want to continue the conversation verbally, you have to rejoin the meeting, or schedule another one.
If your coworker sends you an email at 7:00pm on Tuesday, but you don’t respond until 10:00am on Wednesday, this is an iterative communication. This is still a continuous conversation, but not all parties are required to be present at the same time to keep the information flowing.
…Require different communications tools
Communications tools that aid real-time communication can look very different depending on the type of work you do and where your employees are. In an increasingly hybrid world, many organizations are finding more and more of their team members working remotely.
This means we not only need to be considering what tools and technologies are available in the office — such as ceiling microphones, life-like sized screens and high quality speakers — but also need to keep in mind what remote members have access to.
This is why communications platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Webex are an important bridge. These platforms are extremely adaptable and accessible from anywhere on any device. Employees working remote and in- office can connect to the same environment and have a high quality experience without missing information or feeling disconnected.
Iterative communications tools can also range from instant messaging platforms, to digital whiteboarding apps, even websites for recording asynchronous video.
The key to iterative communications is keeping things organized. Project management tools such as Trello and Asana are great for tracking progress, leaving update notes for your team and linking important documents.
Giving your people the power to work when they are most focused — without the pressure of trying to coordinate who is available and when — actually saves time and leads to higher quality work much faster.
Communication is the core of every interaction we have
The relative framing for different types of communication, enabled by different types of communications, gives us an insightful view into how we collaborate.
If we can help our organizations to be better at communicating, we unleash the abilities to prioritize our time better, perform better, and connect better.
How can we be better at communicating? Here are two transformative things you can do:
- A corporate communications framework must be formalized. This is a framework that embraces both the real-time and the iterative collaboration requirements for the organization.
- Move past the idea that your organization’s communications must be real-time. This will have a profound impact on your business.
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