By Guy Higgins

Last week, I posted about context and clarity in communication. As I was reading The Admirals (an excellent biographical overview of the four WW II Fleet Admirals, Leahy, King, Nimitz and Halsey) by Walter Borneman, it occurred to me that the exchange of messages surrounding a major WW II battle provided an excellent historical example of what can happen with the lack of clarity and context. Continue reading

Context and Clarity

By Guy Higgins

I recently saw, on social media, a political cartoon from 1941 with a question from the person who posted the cartoon juxtaposing the situation in the cartoon with a situation today. Unable to help myself, I commented, and I received a reply that said, “It was only a question and any implication you draw is yours only.”

That got me to thinking – was that true? Was I reading into the post something that wasn’t there? After much more consideration than I intended, I decided that, while it is remotely possible that I have been wrong in the past, I was not wrong about this. The post was not just a question. By referring to an extremely specific situation, the question was put into a specific context and projected onto a situation today. That’s important because the tacit (but only) purpose of any post was to communicate, and communication must be both clear and complete. Continue reading

Communication and Power

By Guy Higgins

I recently read an article about an email with the subject, “Communication within Tesla” from Elon Musk to the entire workforce at Tesla. I found the email interesting, but also dangerous – dangerous for Tesla. Mr. Musk’s email is, apparently, aimed at eliminating communication bottlenecks (a good thing) by specifically authorizing, “Anyone at Tesla can and should email/talk to anyone else according to what they think is the fastest way to solve a problem for the benefit of the whole company. You can talk to your manager’s manager without his permission, you can talk directly to a VP in another dept, you can talk to me, you can talk to anyone without anyone else’s permission.” Continue reading

Rebutting False Information

By Guy Higgins

A recent online post from the Association for Psychological Science delivered, I think, a critical message for organizational leaders. You can read that post here. The gist of the post is that you can’t overcome false or fake information simply by denying it. You need to counter-argue it credibly and in detail.

I think that almost everyone has seen cases of people holding on to beliefs based on erroneous, false or outright fake information. The people holding those beliefs are, in the main, not stupid people, but they are people who have all the human tendencies and biases. Overcoming those tendencies and biases is hard and requires some hard work and intelligent planning. It cannot be done ad hoc. Continue reading

James Damore’s Communication Skill and Leadership at Google

By Guy Higgins

I’ve read, in its entirety, James Damore’s ten-page memo, Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber, which captures his concerns about the ways in which Google approaches diversity issues and what he (Damore) thinks Google could do achieve a more representative workforce. I’ve also read some of the related op-ed pieces by columnists of both liberal and conservative bents. For those who’ve read my posts over the past six years, you may appreciate that I’ve read about and investigated a number of sources concerning diversity and differences. I, therefore, read Mr. Darmore’s memo in the context of what I’ve learned from those sources. I think that I understood his memo the way he intended for it to be understood. I want to post about two factors that I think have contributed to the firestorm that Mr. Damore’s memo has generated: first, his failure to effectively communicate his ideas on a highly emotional topic without creating “hate and discontent” and second, the failure of Google’s leadership to respond in a positive manner thereby generating more “hate and discontent.” Continue reading

Plan to Get the True Answer

By Guy Higgins

Last week, I looked at the problems that can arise when someone asks for a study or an investigation and doesn’t plan for the situation in which the answer is not the one expected, wanted or needed. Now, I want to follow up on that with “Asking Questions for Dummies” (tip o’ the hat to the folks who publish the For Dummies books of which I have several). Continue reading

Plan Ahead – Not Behind

By Guy Higgins

I recently read two articles about an organization that had chartered a study to determine the actual results of a policy that had been implemented two years earlier. Neither the organization nor the policy is of any importance to this post. The initial article reported that the study discovered that the policy had had significant unintended adverse consequences. At this point, I need to point out that these consequences were very much unintended but predictable. In fact, the organization had been warned that these consequences were possible, even likely, results of the then-proposed policy. The second article reported that the organization was directing a “do over” of the study. The original study had been conducted by an organization that I recognize and which has a good reputation. Other than that, I have no knowledge of the structure of the study, its assumptions or its methodology, so I’m assuming that a reputable organization chartered to do a (very public) study did a competent job. I don’t have any information on how the study was commissioned or how the goal was articulated. It’s possible that the study was poorly chartered, but that’s a topic for another time.

Okay, “so what has this to do with me?” says the Noble Reader. Continue reading

Words Matter

By Guy Higgins

I recently read an article on corporate preparedness that contained the following assertion:

“In today’s corporate governance climate, there exists an increased emphasis on corporate boards and directors as well as senior management to fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities to guarantee that their corporations have in place the required corporate policies and operating protocols that would be adequate when it comes to managing the affairs of the corporation.” Continue reading

As Simple As Possible, But Not Simpler

By Guy Higgins

My last two posts concerned the choice of words that people use in communicating. My focus was a tendency to use polysyllabic terminology, excuse me – big words.

There is, of course, a flip side to that coin (as an aside, if anyone ever finds a one-sided coin, I want to see it). It is possible to use words that are too simple – to dumb down communication. For the purpose of clarity, I’ll define “dumbing down” as simplifying (word choice, sentence structure, flow) to a point at which it becomes harder for the reader or listener to comprehend the message rather than easier. Dumbing down can also kill your credibility or simply cause your audience to “tune out.” Continue reading

Clarity in Communications

By Guy Higgins

I came across a post from the Harvard Business Review titled Step Away from the Thesaurus: Big Words Don’t Make You Look Smart. I thought it was a pretty good post.

The most important factor in communicating is clarity. You want your intended meaning to be clear to the audience at which your communication is aimed. Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? My experience is that even professional writers don’t always hit that mark. Continue reading