Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Medium of communication affects the message being communicated

Communication is very important for life and it has played important role for all living beings from time immemorial. Communication is far more important in an organizational setup. There are cases when a message poorly communicated resulted in unfavourable consequences whereas good communication leads to positive benefits as all of stakeholders understand the message in its entirety.
Communication is as process of conveying information from one person to other through a medium which is understood by both the parties. The key parts of this process are sender, message, channel, receiver, noise and feedback. The message is initiated by sender by encoding his thought. The channel is medium, which is our topic of interest, through which the message travels and reaches the receiver. This message is decoded into a form the receiver can understand. The noise represents the communication barrier that distorts the message clarity. The feedback is acknowledgement by the receiver confirming his understanding of the message. The sender, receiver and message being same can have different channels of communications. And each of the channels chosen will have different impact on the receiver. Oral, Written and Computer aided communications are three broadly classified types of communications.
Oral Communications includes speeches, one to one conversation and group discussions. Under this type of communication there are three types of mediums which are live, audio and audio-video. This is effective in communicating the idea and receiving the feedback on the same. In case of live it also gives scope for the sender to use body gestures in communicating the idea more effectively. The disadvantage with this medium is it can lead to multiple perceptions of the same idea by different receivers if the number of receivers is huge. Since each one has his own retention power and listening skills the idea would be perceived differently by different people. It is also dependent on the amount of time spent for the discussion. A good example for this could be a class of 80 people listen to the same Professor’s class but when it comes to performance in the exam each one has a different result. In case of audio the receiver will not be able to perceive exactly the idea what the sender intends to because the sender is not present physically. Telephone, audio cassettes are some examples for this medium of communication. Audio-Video unlike audio will be able to communicate better because of the body gestures but this medium doesn’t provide scope for feedback which is also a key part of communication process.
Written Communications includes all written form of messages like letters, faxes, and emails. Under this type of communication there are two types of mediums which are print and electronic media. Companies prefer to get recommendations letters in written forms because it is tangible and verifiable unlike oral communication. Since every individual has his own listening and understanding skills a written communication provides enough time for him to understand the topic. Also a lot of information when discussed orally may lose the essence and hence written communication is used as supplement to convey the message. This form of communication is used when the information to be shared is very complex and lengthy as it forces the receiver to think more thoroughly. Typical examples of print media are pamphlets, notices, text books, certificates and circulars. The disadvantages with this form of communication are it is bit time consuming and is not spontaneous unlike the oral communication. There is absolutely no scope for an immediate feedback for this kind of communication hence doesn’t guarantees that the receiver has perceived it as it was intended. Another disadvantage with written communication is it never conveys what exactly the sender feels emotionally but this purpose is achieved to some extent by the technology in electronic media where one can include a smiley which displays the expression of emotion which was lacking earlier in the traditional paper format of written communication.
Electronic Media includes instant messaging, intranet links and video conferencing. This can be considered as an extension of print media the only difference being this is real time. Increasingly many organisations are opting instant messaging as means of communication for performing the daily chores of job. The following are advantages for using this channel. It is very quick in sharing information. It provides scope to discuss. With technology even multiple people can chat together. Even this one has smiley to convey emotional expression. People can share files real time over internet and it is very quick. It is most economical way to communicate between people who are spread across the world at different places. Ex:- I was working for TCS Saudi Arabia and we had another team located at Mumbai, initially we were using telephone to communicate. After a certain period of time it was observed that the telephone expenditure increased a lot because of the long durations of speech and also some fraud calls which were inevitable. That is when we decided to opt for instant messaging as it costs are negligible compared to the traditional form of communication. Intranet links are the discussion boards which are present in every organisation. This is again quick and provides scope for feedback.
Videoconferencing is a combination of oral and written communication. In this global village, where we have companies doing businesses with people spread across the world it becomes difficult to have a face to face conversation with every individual. This problem is solved by the advent of videoconferencing technology. With this companies can have meetings with people live. This reduces the need of a person to travel different places to communicate, which is a very expensive and hence is an economical way to communicate information. Many Universities in USA which get applications from students all over the world use this technology to interview the students.
Depending on the importance of the information one has to consider the specific medium for communication. Very important information like a change in policy in company which is likely to be raised issues by different parties is ideal to be discussed in a forum. According to Stephen Robbins & Timothy Judge “The choice of one channel over other depends on whether message is routine or non routine. Ex: Mr Patterson CEO of Cerner Corp, who was upset with the staff, sends out an email intimating them about the imminent layoff. Within hours of this email the information was circulated outside the organization and the result was the stock prices plummeted by huge percent” This real incident mentioned in the book by Stephen Robbins & Timothy Judge clearly suggests how important it is to select the correct medium for communication. Had Mr Patterson selected a discussion forum or face to face meeting with individuals it wouldn’t have lead this unfavourable consequence.
Another important aspect to be checked before deciding the medium of communication is the usage of resources. If information can be communicated economically and creating same effectiveness by one medium when compared to others then that medium to should be selected. Again this decision is contextual. Managers should consider trade offs while making their decisions.
The first thing which comes to most of our mind when a person speaks about ‘Da Vinci Code’ is the book but we are aware of the fact that there exists a movie by the same name. That shows how effective was the medium of communication. Having seen from the above that there are many channels and mediums of communicating an idea it is evident that a real challenge to a manager is to select the right channel and medium for the appropriate message.

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