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Are We Pushing Innovation in Communication Too Far?

05/27/2015 06:37 EDT | Updated 05/27/2016 05:59 EDT
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Rapid innovation in communication has led to a communications crisis, fueled by the obstacles that create a challenge for professionals when trying to build both business and personal relationships. These obstacles include short attention spans, a need to interrupt to move a conversation along or weigh in with one's opinion and the tendency to finish other people's sentences in conversation.

Innovation is usually cast in a positive light, meaning an improvement or enhancement to an existing product, technology or way of doing things. Where interpersonal communication is concerned, innovation takes place largely in the accelerated speed of communication -- both written and spoken -- in real time and cyberspace. It also stems from our increasing need to have our ideas heard and validated amidst all the "noise" or "clutter" that surrounds us.

The extent of this clutter is evidenced by the number of visual impressions we receive daily. Just taking advertising into account, we are bombarded with so many audible and visual messages that many simply don't register with us, as seen below:

Average number of advertisement and brand exposures per day per person: 5,000+

Average number of "ads only" exposures per day: 362

Average number of "ads only" noted per day: 153

Average number of "ads only" that we have some awareness of per day: 86

Average number of "ads only" that made an impression (engagement): 12

Innovation in communication has had a profound effect on business development globally. Being able to communicate across platforms drives business and connects corporate environments around the globe, which spurs progress. And how would your office function without communications including the Internet, closed circuit television, and structured cabling and telecommunications recovery?

However, with all of the extra clutter and communication channels, perhaps we have pushed too far in terms of how we communicate with each other and the loss of a personal connection.

Artificial Intelligence and Communication

Communications experts, including Stephen Hawking, one of Britain's most famous scientists, has noted that the development of full artificial intelligence could "spell the end of the human race." He was referring to innovations of the technology he uses to communicate, which relies on a basic form of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.). Hawking fears the day when computers develop the ability to shape ideas and communicate in a manner that surpasses human communication skills (BBC).

The result would be a society free of emotion and engagement (not to mention millions of jobs lost), a scenario much like the world outlined in the lyrics to the classic pop hit "In the year 2525" by Zager and Evans.

Ain't gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lie

Everything you think, do and say

Is in the pill you took today

The A.I. threat to interpersonal communication may seem light years away as many of us attempt to master the options on our increasingly complex cell phones and other personal communication devices. The fact remains that technology will soon allow us to substitute real-time, face-to-face conversation with computer generated messaging with little or no effort on our part.

The Convenience Evolution of Language

This evolution to "no-brainer" communications is well under way in subtle and barely noticeable ways. For example, do you ever find yourself speaking and communicating in "short speak" (a new version of short hand) that makes you sound rushed or even distant? Has "Do you want to go golfing this weekend?" become "Golf this weekend?"

We all do it from time to time and it's a direct result of churning out dozens (or more) of emails and text messages, not to mention Tweets and LinkedIn posts daily that emanate from our latest personal communication device.

Perhaps our "short speak" is driven by our regard for the recipient's limited time available to process our communication or our obsession with communicating as quickly and concisely as possible. It's most likely a combination of both.

Short-speak is the first cousin of the popular work strategy known as multi-tasking. Even though it can lead to uneven or disastrous results, the ability (or attempt) to execute two, three or more activities at one time is a popular strategy for the time-starved parent or professional.

Multi-tasking has a way of distancing people from who they really are, trying to engage as they amortize their time with mixed success.

Communications innovation in cyberspace has brought people closer but has helped to breed a variety of societal problems that are growing with Internet use including scamming of essentially helpless individuals looking for support or financial freedom, cyber bullying, and online shopping and general usage addictions.

Let's work on our active listening and other conversational skills to strengthen our ability to communicate with purpose and build trust as we have always done.

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