Understanding How the World Works: A Communicator’s Perspective
(This paper was my submission in one of the subjects I enrolled in as a Communication student. I’ve edited some portions of the original paper to make it more discursive and reader-friendly.)
In my personal view, the emergence of social media reflects an open and globalized society. It has allowed man to bridge gaps where ordinary communication could not fill. Technology has made things easier, faster and more convenient to everybody.
Because of the accessibility and wealth of information available (as least, in a democratic and/or market-driven society), anybody can become a source and recipient of information. This is what communication is all about: it’s not one way, it’s not two-way but it’s multi-channeled. Thus, it is so easy to get entangled in a sea of information (and misinformation) that it becomes difficult to identify which information is true and which is false.
In Malcom Gladwell’s book “Blink” (I am a great fan of this author, by the way), he asserts that people do not really need to know the whole picture of a company, but only that sufficient information that will enable a person to make an informed decision. There are people who really on gut-feel and win, while there are those who are more cautious but are consistently deficient. The whole premise of the book is this: the best decisions do not necessarily involve having that know-it-all, know-everything attitude, but rather comes from knowing only the pertinent details to make a wise decision (Gladwell, 2011).
Looking at the World Through Blinkers
For some time, this has been my personal belief. The only information I need is what I can use for my job responsibilities. Everything else is surplus, and what I don’t know won’t hurt me. Even in the workplace today, most companies expect personnel to act according to their particular tasks. This is why job descriptions are designed by management—it also makes it easier for managers to measure employee performance. Employees simply take their cue from management policy and follow what is designated to them.
Do we really want to see the world the way horses look at race tracks? Probably not.
After taking on this course for my Doctor of Communications degree however, it changed my view of how I ought to see things.
A Systemic Perspective: A Not-So New Idea
Going through the whole semester of information exchanges and online discussions have taught me the relevance and importance of systemic thinking supported by Bartlett (2000), Forrester (1959) and Richmond (2000). As asserted by Mathews (2007) in her paper, “a systems thinker will look beyond his/her discipline, assumptions, and knowledge and search for a holistic view of whatever is at hand” (Mathews & Jones, 2007). Taking on a systemic approach has forced me to see the big picture—an attitude I had done before but outgrew as I logged in years of experience in the workplace.
On a practical note, it has enabled me to look at situations from all corners before coming up with decisions that will be effective and timely. For instance, on deciding whether or not a proposal is feasible or not, I have to look at its applicability from a financial, operational and legal viewpoint. This has led me to go out of my circle and network with other departments for fish out their views on certain points. The result of the exercise has so far generated positive impact.
As a communicator, using this approach has encouraged me to be more methodical and comprehensive about communicating with others. Communication itself requires great skill, and to deliver it is quite another. It is not as simple as others would think, but as a student of communication it is a challenge that we must come to accept. Organizations exist because of the people behind it, and for organizations to move ahead is to have strong leaders who are able to communicate the group’s mission and vision to the members and implement its programs.
Bartlett, G. (2001). Systemic Thinking: A Simple Thinking Technique for Gaining Systemic (Situation-Wide) Focus. Prodsol International.
Forrester, J. W. (1959). Industrial Dynamics.
Gladwell, M. (2011). Blink: The Art of Thinking Without Thinking. New York: Hachette Book Group.
Mathews, L. G., & Jones, A. (2007). Using Systems Thinking to Improve Interdisciplinary Learning Outcomes: Reflections on a Pilot Study in Land Economics. American Agricultural Economics Association Annual Meeting, (pp. 1-26). Portland.
Richmond, B. (2000). The Thinking in Systems Thinking. In The Systems Thinker.