K Street Newsletter :: Directions

July 2020    |    VOLUME 18, ISSUE 7

Every Datum Tells a Story

When pitching KM back in the day, we often tried putting it in a historical context. People have been trying to capture knowledge for thousands of years, going all the way back to clay tablets. Each new advance made it easier, as clay was replaced by parchment, then paper and then by digital media. Indexes make printed books easier to navigate. Today, thanks to the Internet and increasingly sophisticated search tools, the problem becomes one of too much information, rather than not enough. And with the arrival of big data, we need new kinds of tools to sort things out.

So we liked this article that considered the history of information technology since the days of the Industrial Revolution, when the number of books printed annually went from millions to billions. Newspapers in Europe and America increased from a few hundred to tens of thousands, and words became commodities. The telegraph and telephone pushed the time needed for information transfer from the speed of a horse to the speed of light. We're at the same kind of cusp now, looking into a near-term future of self-driving cars, Internet aware devices and intelligent cloud applications. It will be an age of meta-information in which data scientists will serve as intermediaries, trying to bridge the gaps between what we know and what we need.


The Importance of Doing Nothing

Knowledge workers today are always at risk of information overload, dealing with so many streams of information that they barely have time to catch their breath. It's not a new problem, but it's gotten worse since most of us have become reachable 24 by 7. You can't leave work behind when you walk out the door, unless you're extremely self-disciplined or work for an unusually civilized group of folks. Unfortunately, business culture (at least in the US) has devolved to the point where it's no longer considered rude to call a co-worker about business, even after hours or on the weekend. Or even on vacation!

But as considered in this article, our brains need downtime. Otherwise, it's very hard to integrate that incoming information with what you already know, and thereby learn something new. Many of us have become rabid information consumers, and you can see it almost anywhere you look. People can no longer enjoy a simple cup of coffee without the comfort of their smartphones. We've personally watched young mothers pushing swings with one hand while texting with the other. Or even worse, sitting off to the side with their phones while the kids play on their own. The most effective knowledge workers are those who can find time to both act and reflect, and that means unplugging from the need to keep busy. That's the real trick for working smarter.


Street Smarts 201: Start at the end.

Communications is an important factor for organizations that are considering a strategic change. You need to bring your customers, suppliers and employees into that conversation, so everyone is on board with what's happening, when and why. And of course, your employees will be most interested in how the changes will affect them personally. If there's a reorg involved, will people have a new manager? A new title? Is there an impact on wages or benefits? Heaven forbid, does it mean layoffs are coming?

A traditional approach would be to structure the communications as a kind of step-by-step conversation. That is, you might begin with the background of why a change was under consideration, and lead your audience along a logical path, a little bit at a time. But sometimes it makes sense to start at the end. Open the conversation by drilling down into the future state you have in mind, and bring people into the managerial vision that's driving things forward. That way, you can get people excited about the future, and that can help deal with the natural concerns folks are likely to have. This tip comes from an article at forbes.com, where it's one of 13 ideas for managing strategic communication.


Face Masks & Communication

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, wearing a face mask has become a part of daily life. In the US, it's also become a political statement, which is another story entirely. Setting that aside, more than 50 countries now mandate masks in public, a very new idea in some places but already well established in others. In many countries, particularly in Asia, people are used to wearing masks as a way to guard against air pollution. In countries that are new to the practice, people are trying to cope with the challenges. They worry about finding it hard to breath or that they can't communicate properly because their words are muffled. That may be a particular problem for people in the deaf community, who have relied on lip-reading as a communication booster.

Humans tend to process faces as a whole, and when we can't see the whole face that processing is disrupted. That's true even for countries where veiling is common, such as Saudi Arabia. This article considers how people may need to adapt to a world of masks. They'll need to develop new skills to interpret hand gestures, body language, pitch and tone. Masking in public may be with us for some time, so we'll all need to develop alternative ways to communicate with others, and new ways to understand them as well.

Customer Communications Management

The importance of communicating with your customers is self-evident, but the evolution of electronic and social media options has made it more challenging than it used to be. That's led to the discipline of Customer Communication Management (CCM), which lets companies manage the design, development and delivery of all its customer communications with an integrated set of tools. A good CCM program will let align your messaging as desired and keep it relevant and consistent, regardless of the communications channel.

CCM can be critical to growth in at least three areas. In sales, communications offer opportunities for up-selling and cross-selling, by suggesting related products or offering upgrades on purchases. It can also help build customer loyalty by offering support, reviews and advice. Communications can establish and enhance brand awareness, since your customers will remember and talk about your brand if you communicate with them properly. This article describes a ten-step program for establishing and managing a good CCM operation. Worth a look.




Directions is an electronic newsletter about things related to KM & Communications, published on the second Wednesday of each month (check out the current issue above). It’s a double opt-in system, which means you’ll receive an email asking you to confirm that you really want it. Once you click on the link in that mail, you’ll be signed up. You can always unsubscribe using the same link (or by using the link provided in every issue). We will absolutely not give your address to any third parties. What are we, crazy?

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