Sunday, August 3, 2008

Too Much Communication?

In my last post, I praised email because it is uniquely suited to a specific communication need. That got me thinking about the recent history of various forms of communication that I routinely use.

I am just old enough to remember when the technological advance called a fax machine appeared. It was a giant leap forward and many businesses resisted the expense. Little did we know that form of “instant” communication in the early 1990’s – not even twenty years ago – would lead to people staying connected via email or cell phone – even when on vacation.

As technology takes us down new roads, I look at the way we conduct business and shake my head. Business managed just fine when the fastest form of written communication we had was the fax machine. Is business doing any better now that we are constantly connected to one another? Are American companies healthier and more stable with the advent of instant communication? I think not.

As a society, Americans have convinced themselves that inactivity is evil. If we are not doing something every minute, we must be slackers. So we show everyone how hard we are working by making calls, writing lots of emails and sending text messages.

There is a problem however. All this communicating leaves little time for thinking. If we do not reflect on our business, we cannot change it to meet new challenges. Years ago, Toyota saw the need for a hybrid car but GM did not. How many GM managers were furiously downloading emails to their cell phones back then instead of thinking about the future marketplace and its desire for a Prius?

Perhaps we would do well to dust off the fax machine. Or better yet - smoke signals anyone?

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