In my last article “A Short History of Communications” I concluded “humans are adaptive creatures and new communications capabilities will always be arriving”. I was of course talking about some of the technological features regarding communications. It the end of the day we would have not invented this array of communications technologies over the years had relationships not mattered to humans.
Relationships matter to us humans therefore we keep inventing new ways to communicate. Right back to the times of the caveman I postulate that communication would not happen without relationships and relationships would not happen without communication. I know this therefore is somewhat a circular reference, but it is undoubtedly true. Communications and relationships are key to the development of humanity.
In “Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind” Donald Johanson and Maitland Edey postulate a theory about the development of humankind and the enlargement of our brains and the development of language to a complex set of interrelated triggers that enabled man to stand erect, communicate, develop our affinity with tools. I know there are many competing theories about human development but I doubt human kind would be on this planet today but for our ability to handle complex problems and to convey our solutions to each other.
I shall not get into any discussion in the area of palaeoanthropology, other than a fascination for reading about such things, it is not specialist area, although the workings of ancient man can sometime teach us a little about who we are. My only reason for touching on the subject is in further understanding communications and relationship building. We know that almost as soon as we became human we were able to communicate verbally. As I said basic words like ‘yes’ and ‘no’ were probably the first human inventions (even before fire), we have simply been developing from there. The fact that that written records were developed independently in four different civilizations across the world (Mesopotamia, China, Egypt, and Mesoamerica) thousands of years ago shows that simple speech was never enough for our species. Undoubtedly Humans began to write a long time before those permanent records were ever etched.
A basic part of human development is also about working together, co-operatively in teams. One of the images I recall from my youth was a teacher telling the class about ancient man hunting and killing woolly mammoths. Given these creatures were larger than elephants and more ferocious hunting was definitely done by teamwork. So the cartoon of one caveman clubbing another is good for jest, but probably has no basis in reality. Humans have always been social creatures that understand working together for the common good.
It is well known that fire was one of humankind’s first inventions. I would not be surprised to find that most ancient cultures developed an ability to communicate with each other my smoke signals soon after understanding how to manage fire. It may have assisted tribal unity while the hunting parties were away from the home area. Writing probably came when we had more complex messages to convey. Papyrus and paper certainly came about as humans became more refined in our culture.
Most of our other communications requirements seem to stem from this point as we moved from person to person communications to the need to broadcast a message to all. That is the thinking behind the printing press, books, newspapers, radio, television, internet, blogs and other mass broadcast techniques. If you think about that concept it requires a leap of faith that we will have an audience out there who are waiting to hear what we have to say. Yet as that saying goes “if you build it they will come”.
So we humans like to talk.
Clearly mass broadcast only satisfies a small element of our desires. We also needed to improve our person to person communications hence the letter, telegraph, telephone, email, instant message and other forms of personal communications, including Social Media. We had a form of Twitter hundreds if not thousands of years ago – think back to your youth for a minute and the postcard notices in the window of the newsagent, tobacconist, or supermarket. According to some historians such message boards were also used in Roman times to communicate between citizens, so we posted private messages in a public place a long time ago.
Collaboration is one aspect where modern social media is taking communications to a whole new level. yet we must remember this is not our first opportunity to collaborate, remember ancient man and their ability to act collaboratively to topple the mammoth, part of man’s ability to start controlling the environment in which we live. Our ability to work collaboratively is increasingly important to us. I am sure that Wikipedia will not be the last collaborative publication. In fact the development of Google Wave should ensure that.
The importance of relationship building within the business world is also clear to be seen. Whether a mail room clerk or a CEO relationships are paramount. They take on extra importance when relationships add value to the organisation. It has often been said that people prefer to work with people they like – in fact, rightly or wrongly, it is often the basis for hiring another person. But it does not end there every person in every role has to build relationships with others to be successful at their job:
♦ The salesman with the prospect or customer
♦ The buyer with the supplier
♦ The shipper with the logistics companies in the supply chain.
These are the most obvious, but the list goes on across the whole of the business. Relationships matter doubly when working together in teams, e.g. the project team implementing the new accounting system. Few, if any, jobs in the modern corporation are done alone.
Communications are of course at the heart of Social Media. When leveraged correctly Social Media is a tool for building relationships with new prospects. In fact it should be one of the entry points for future connections. These connections may start as mere names in an electronic form if we do not do something with them to turn them into real relationships. Not every relationship will add direct value to the business, yet they may still think about you in their next conversation and that may be the route to your next customer. That is why it is important to build a relationship of trust.
Our whole history of communications is about adding new capabilities. Relationships do matter in building everything we do in business today. There is a clear value to be gained from improving collaboration within the workplace. Organisational Development experts have been encouraging corporations to be more collaborative during much of the past 30 years, and possibly longer. We have all made great steps to improve our teamwork particularly for those who work in a project environment, yet teamwork is only a small part of the collaborative environment which is possible today.
Adding Social Media into the mix adds a whole new dimension, even if you just involve people within the workplace. We work with some amazing people and you never know what knowledge they possess. That knowledge when applied to a problem can take the organisation forward in leaps and bounds.
In my articles Investing in Relationships and “Don’t Set Aside the ROI in Building your Social Media Solution” I talked about the importance of building relationships and collaboration within the new and evolving Social Media.
If we take each person we can look at their collaborative sphere of influence. Starting with themselves, they can expand that by working with another person. It can be further built through teams, out through their department to the company as a whole. Each step of this process brings additional expertise. Ultimately our individual spheres of influence touch customers and suppliers, they may also touch various third party partners like haulage companies.
This is ultimately about building and enhancing relationships, that in themselves add value to our business.
Tags: Collaboration, Communications, Social Media