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Archive for the ‘Effective Communication’ Category

Recently I have focused my attention on two areas: “Effective Communication” and “Learning and Human Development”. In looking for articles I found this one “Power up your Professional Learning” (LaGarde & Whitehead, 2012).

A major focus for me is the idea of the “geo-disbursed knowledge contributor.” Essentially my turn of phrase is another way to describe global social networks. The authors surface the phrase “personal learning network (PLN).” This type of social network infers intentionality of purpose (shared interests / hobbies / passions with others entering freely into these relationships).

Let me take a step back from being strict about “Professional”. Two examples come to mind: Fan Fiction communities and Artist communities. While globally disbursed persons utilize technology to connect these types of PLNs have existed face to face long before technology (just think of local writing and art clubs).

Regardless of location, face to face or globally connected, PLNs offer access to people of differing professions, education, and perspective. While many groups already exist, if I have not joined any then I have not begun my own PLN(s). My own example is DevianArt. My wife has joined a fan fiction group. We post our work, receive feedback, and develop new, trusting relationships within that context.

The authors layout a four step process each of us will go through in establishing a PLN:

1) Consumption. On DeviantArt I can receive broad inputs or specific (from the entire community or based on individual or type, etc). In fact when I began with DeviantArt I listed myself as a “lurker”. The consumption step could be described in this manner. At some point “lurking” is not completely satisfying and I took the next step.

2) Connection. I began to follow certain artists to comment on their work and ask questions (methods, locations, thoughts and reflections). Doing so begins to build connections as others respond. This in turn gave me courage to take the next step.

3) Creation. From the answers I received from the other artists I am able apply and experiment with their ideas as I create my own works.

4) Contribution. Once a work has been created, I would post it so I would receive feedback. The reason to post it is because I was excited about the work and desired to share it with those who stimulated my thinking and skills practice.

I have enjoyed seeing my wife on a fan fiction site. She read (consumed), gained courage to connect, leading her to create her own stories, and contributing her works to the community.

I have been sharing and discussing bounded systems. The authors however are clear that each bounded system is a part of a larger, personal system, bounded only by our personal, individual limitations. Thus every club to which we belong, every faith tradition, 12-step program, classroom, and any place people meet regularly has the potential to be part of our PLN. Our personal learning network is custom plotted and built from the relationships we have in all our communities of practice – face to face or through technology.

LaGarde, J., & Whitehead, T. (2012). POWER UP YOUR PROFESSIONAL LEARNING. [Article]. Knowledge Quest, 41(2), 8-13.

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This posting should not be taken as an end all of marriage and communication.  Rather my exploration of my own marriage and communication.

What is the purpose of marriage?  What is the purpose of communication within marriage?  Why did I get married?  What do I hope to get out of my marriage?  These questions and more surface to me as I contemplate.

I married Trixy because I truly believe I was called to marry her.  Strange as that may sound.  It is my divine concept worldview that leads me to this conclusion.  We met, I was attracted, we continued getting to know each other.

However it is in this process that we see communication at work.  The day we met I was communicating with her and her classmates, just as I communicated every day with students and faculty.  The purpose of which was to ascertain levels of computer literacy and database search skills; to build up skills; and to build rapport – at the very least.

Aside from the literacy and skills based stuff, she gained my attention, quite by accident, in that she wore a bicycle century T-shirt.  We saw each other on campus.  She had my attention but along the way I had her’s as well.  If we had not we would not have exchanged verbal pleasantries when we bumped into each other.  However attention getting can be done in a build up or tear down way.  For me, a temper tantrum is negative, but a calm “I’ve been thinking /feeling about…” is positive.  Yet even as I write that I realize these attitudes are built on experiences and conceptions from my family and upbringing.  Rarely did we have to yell to gain attention and most often a temper tantrum for attention met with negative consequences – and thus the purpose of it was unfulfilled.

Now to hear a friend describe her interactions with her significant other, I would think they would be trying to bully the other into submission.  At least on first hearing the stories.  But as I probed deeper into her experiences I found that she was open to him and she believed he was open to her.  Yet their methods would not work for me.

I am suggesting the point of communication in marriage is to know and understand the other.  Not to exert pressure to get what I want.  The tools of dialogue and appreciative inquiry can be used, but one party cannot make another party participate.  If it were even possible to force dialogue the mere active of using pressure tactics would limit the value of dialogue.  Appreciative inquiry is possible to be more one-sided as it requires only one to ask questions.  But to be effective the other must answer in the spirit of a larger purpose.

In this sense is a marriage a marriage because of policy and law? or is marriage a marriage because the partners have committed to building up and not tearing down?  This building up and tearing down then become negotiated through communication.  Each person brings their worldview, experiences, beliefs, ethics, learning capacity, and so on as expectations of what marriage should (or is supposed to) be.  What it becomes will be a different reality from what the individual expects.

If the purpose of communication is to “win” the result may be one-sided.  If the purpose is “to one” then we may find some sort of success.

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Much speculation again about your medical leave of absence. Apple’s stock prices were down 7 to 8% in Europe today. Tomorrow Apple is reporting financials. I suspect it will be very good news.

Someone asked me recently if I thought you were a good leader. I had no good answer. I have never worked with you nor do I even know you. Yet I do know of you.

Are you visionary and you have some pretty high standards of what you consider excellence. You are focused and can be fairly intense from what I understand. You are a leader to be sure. I say this not because of the position you hold in your company or even the market position of your company. No. Rather you are a leader, like the rest of us who have a sense of responsibility and struggle with balancing that in a paradoxical world. You understand profit, but don’t seem to be driven by it – at least not as much as some of those who follow you. You seem more interested in artistic expression and creativity than in earning a buck, but you recognize that earning a buck and protecting your investment is vital.

I can’t even pretend to know all the conflicting issues you face each and every day. I can only second guess you and play the arm-chair quarterback.

Steve, for my dollar, you are not Apple and Apple is not Steve Jobs. Apple is a part of who you are and clearly a product of your influence. You gave it a rebirth – a second chance. You made some very hard decisions and many people were unhappy. Throughout your time you have been true to your vision if not always communicative about what that looked like. But I do understand that. Sometimes the vision is fully developed and we only know what it isn’t. Vision is often an unfolding – a revelation that is built on discovery. I also get that you might have clearly held a vision that has not change or evolved. But one that was so far forward that it was out of the frame for the rest of us – out of our zone of proximal learning – that you may have incredible patience as the vision unfolds for the us.

I may not always agree with all that you say or do, but seriously – thank you for your vision and the products that have come from it (oh, and yes, for nurturing Pixar).

So Steve, whether you return to Apple or not, whether you live to be 56 or 106, it is my prayer that during your current medical leave of absence that you will take care of yourself and your family. Take time to fully heal your inner man. May you know and experience, not only during this absence, but throughout the reminder of your days: peace, joy, and unconditional love.

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Taking a quick look at Wikipedia:  Policy is NOT law, but gives direction to what laws might be necessary to fulfill policy.  Policy by default orients to “What”
  • It is our policy to be transparent.
  • It is our policy to integrate geo-dispursed knowledge contributors
  • It is our policy to have accessible and affordable health care for every citizen
Policy also answers the “why”
  • It is our policy to be transparent because we want to build trust with our stakeholders.
  • It is our policy to integrate geo-dispursed knowledge contributors because we can access the best and brightest without having to relocate them (etc)
  • It is our policy to have accessible and affordable health care for every citizen because a healthy workforce produces more, is happier, etc…

A friend on Facebook posted:  “I see the need for [policies] for an organization, yet see that they also have a tendency to stifle growth.”

My reply:

A couple of thoughts: Policy should help people be aware of mission/purpose/priorities; provide balance and equity of scarce resources; clarify roles; AND improve creativity and flexibility. Policies are purposed to be limited in scope and time – are therefore change-able or can be eliminated when no longer necessary. Can we think of policies as an external expression of what we want to see internally? enforcement of policy can actually limit the intended purpose of the policy….another thought comes to mind: how we administer policy matters.  just a few thoughts.

Policy intersects with other leadership competencies in my program of study.
1a:  Our worldview and philosophies will feed what we (1b) value (the policies we want to create) and how we (1b) believe we should administer policy (the rules we make).  Further our worldview influences what we believe the capacity of learning and change is of those we influence (1c).  We must communicate (2a) policy.  Even without a specific Mentor/coaching policy, mentoring and coaching (2b) become part of the informal adoption or resistance of any policy.  The way an individual or community perceives its responsibility (2c) influences the creation and implementation of policy.  (An example is Apple Inc.  They have environmental policies and social responsibility policies which have in part spawned the Supplier code of conduct and audit process.)  http://www.apple.com/supplierresponsibility/

In the corporate world, policy and resource allocation, development (human and/or financial) (3a) is probably the most visible connection to policy.  Likewise when new policies are at times instituted to change Organizational behavior or culture (3b).  Even not when purposed to this regard, successful implementation often means the implementation of change processes (3d) and evaluation and assessment of said processes (3e).

The “why” of the policy also infers that there is a problem of some sort.  The answer to “why” is through research (4a/b/c).   My reading of Senge, Wheatley, Argis, and others about complex adaptive systems suggest that we may achieve our stated goals (i.e. intended consequences) but that there are always unintended consequences.  We may have to go back and re-evaluate the policy and/or its implementation.  This too is research. (that is the policy process is purposed to be used as “research”).

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It seems to me that most often, in communication, we are trying to drive home a message from one person or group to another. It seems the purpose of which is to get that other person or group to do something they might otherwise not do. A keyword to describe this would be “persuasion”.

I have heard it said that leadership is the art of persuading others to do what you want them to do while believing it is what they want to do. This would seem to define “effective communication” very specifically as having persuaded the “other”. Personally I think this is a failed definition or at the very least “weak” in terms of “real/authentic” communication as tied to “Leadership”. Again, here is where worldview and philosophical foundations play into what one calls “effective”. While there could be times where this type of communication is essential, leadership that depends on this method does seem weak to me. This type of leadership takes an “us vs them” and the “enemy is out there” approach to human interaction. It misses the connectedness of all and misses that we can be our own worst enemy.

Bohm Dialogue
I was introduced to David Bohm through the writings of Peter Senge (Fifth Discipline) and Joe Jaworski (Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership). I have not purchased Bohm’s book, “Dialogue”, but have reviewed a number of websites, including Wikipedia. The editors of the Wikipedia entry encapsulate four principles of Bohm Dialogue:
1. The group agrees that no group-level decisions will be made in the conversation.
2. Each individual agrees to suspend judgement in the conversation.
3. As these individuals “suspend judgement” they also simultaneously are as honest and transparent as possible.
4. Individuals in the conversation try to build on other individuals’ ideas in the conversation.

We can see glimpses of this in brainstorming sessions. The most satisfying brainstorming sessions in which I have participated are free from decisions and judgements; no one holds back their best contributions; and one thought often builds on another.

For Bohm (david-bohm.net/dialogue/) dialogue is sharing of thoughts. “Thought”, to his thinking is more than “mere” intellect or intellect’s output. Thought includes our fullness/wholeness: thoughts; emotions; feelings; etc. In this way we do not simply send a message. In dialogue we send ourselves, open and vulnerable. Additionally, Bohm’s dialogue has no apparent agenda (“Why Dialogue” paragraph 3).

Two paragraphs later, Bohm says that dialogue “is not concerned with deliberately trying to alter or change behavior nor to get the participants to move toward a predetermined goal.” I can think of various experiences of “dialogue” where there was a “Hidden” agenda behind the “dialogue” and other times a much closer experience to Bohm’s Dialogue. The experience of the hidden agenda is felt by participants and it changes participation (at least it did in me). I am left with wondering why we bothered to “do” the activity. When I questioned the person in charge once, than answer I got was basically, “I want every one to know they have been heard.” But the person’s mind was already made up and I am not sure he achieved that which he thought he had achieved. There were many discontented murmurings after the meeting.

On the other hand I have had very positive experiences in dialogue. While there was still an agenda of making a decision eventually, the decision surfaced through the contributions of all participants. The decision reflected the input and was seen in the outcomes.

I am reminded of Peter Jarvis’ thoughts on Human Learning (see my post of Sept 30, 2009). With this in mind, when we enter into Bohm Dialogue we bring all of our knowledge and learning as well as an openness to new learning.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohm_Dialogue
http://www.david-bohm.net/dialogue/dialogue_proposal.html

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When it comes to the tools of communication I can’t help but think of “Methods” as well. Tools would be completely neutral to effective or ineffective communication. Methods – well, I’m still thinking about methods.

On first thought “face to face” is a method, not a tool. Where as any form of telephone is a tool. In any case I will brainstorm some of the tools and methods. I use/have used for communicating with others:

Telephone (cell; VoIP, etc)
video conference equipment (iChat, Skype, Polycom, etc)
Screen sharing (built-in to the OS [Mac/Windows], web-based,
convergence: GoToMeeting, breeze, etc
Letters, email, fax
Art: paintings of all sorts, photography, poetry, etc
Text (books, magazines, newspapers etc)

As I see these items in front of me, I begin to see how “letters” may be a method, where “Pen” and “paper” are tools. The Gutenberg press would be a tool where as a document using the press would be a method. Often I have heard it said to use the media as a tool to “get the word out”. But to be nit-picky this would be “Method” rather than “tool” in my worldview. The “Media” itself is multi-modal methods and tools: print; audio; visual; as well as the people and events created and used as “media events”. Thus we have multiple methods and tools being used with and sometimes without the impact for which they were purposed and designed.

I hope that makes sense. If not I trust you’ll post a comment below.

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From the Sereno and Mortensen text comes this definition of communication:
“a process by which senders and receivers of messages interact in given social contexts.” (p 5)

It was in my M.Ed program that I really began to probe the concept of complex adaptive systems. The individual human is a complex adaptive system. When combining any number of humans complexity isn’t reduced.

Communication therefore cannot, by definition, ever be “simple”. “Communicative events involve the whole person… perceptions, learning, drives, emotions, attitudes, beliefs, values, decoding-encoding, meaning, messages, and social situations.” (Sereno p 4).

It would seem that with each added human, the complexity is increased. The “ladder of inference” is a play here as well.

A couple of communication games come to mind: There is one where you whisper a statement to a person and they, in turn whisper to their neighbor and so on around a circle, to where the person who started the process is the last to receive the message back. Another, is where everyone writes a statement on a piece of paper (each person has a stack of paper). Everyone then hands the stack of paper with the statement on top the person on their left who then draws a picture of the statement on the next sheet of paper in the stack, sending the statement to the bottom. Again, everyone hands their picture to the person on their left, who then writes a statement of the picture on the next blank sheet, sending the drawing to the bottom. This continues until each person receives the stack they started.

Besides being a hilariously fun experience, rarely is the message received at the end the same message sent.

Now when it comes to “message” the method(s) we choose to deliver will influence the reception of the message itself. This will be “customized” based on the individual receiver. While this is my own thinking and makes sense to me based on being complex adaptive systems (we humans), there are, of course, models (and models in models) that cover this: Ladder of Inference (Senge et al 1990) and the Transactional Model of Communication (Barnlund – as seen in Sereno text 1970 p 83-102), just to locate two in my limited time.

We have face to face methods which we generally trust the most. Not only do we have a verbal message we receive, by sight, nonverbal cues. I gave a sermon the other day and had a single message sent to the congregation. My single message, based on who I am and all my worldview, assumptions, etc was conveyed to all those present. I too, received immediate feedback with both verbal and nonverbal cues from the congregation.

Some did not seem to receive it well, while others were inspired and encouraged. Some walked out, some slept, others laughed heartily, some chuckled; some said loud “Amens”, some clapped. In all there was two-way communication. The sermon was recorded. It will be available as an audio file and a video/audio file. No longer will I receive immediate feedback.

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