For many, a model or theory is something we last saw on a chalkboard in science class. In popular culture, even proven theories remain misunderstood. (See debates on global climate change and human evolution). These theories are often a soundtrack to the news cycle, and excite a certain percentage of the population. But, models can be useful if we apply them to our work.
More than 4,000 senior managers worldwide were surveyed by the Economist Intelligence Unit on the importance of new business models. The survey found that “how companies do business will often be as, or more, important than what they do.
Consider traditional communication theory. There is a conventional model that describes how the sender and the receiver communicate. In this theory, there is an element that can impede success. It’s called noise. And, although a valid model, it does not provide the necessary answer to the question: Whose problem is noise?
First, consider what we mean by “noise.”
Noise may be literal.
I can’t hear you.
Noise may be technical.
The network is down.
Noise may interfere with the clarity of the communication.
What? What are you talking about?
Noise may be the volume of the communication.
Sorry, too many emails, no time to read.
Noise may be veracity of the communication.
I stopped reading when you cited evidence of the Piltown Man.
Noise may be figurative.
I have so much on my mind, that I can’t pay attention.
Noise may be mechanical.
My phone died.
Noise may be experienced on the side of the sender, the receiver, or somewhere in between.
Mine, yours, theirs . . . the server is down.
Whatever it is or wherever it occurs, the model posits that noise can disrupt communication. If we decide that successful communication is critical, and we accept the concept of noise, the next question is: Who is responsible to do what?
The Model is YOU
There is another model to consider. The conventional model says eradicating noise leads to success. Sometimes it is the sender’s job, sometimes the receiver’s. Sometimes the organization in the middle is responsible.
The alternative model assigns responsibility. It states, "Our job as communicators is to own the communication."
The resulting success or failure lives (or dies) with you. Confirm the message has been sent. Confirm it’s been received. Confirm it’s been heard, paid attention to, and understood. And confirm that all receivers understand what to do next. The model begins and ends with you.
It’s not enough to say, “Didn’t you get my email?” or, “Did you hear my voice message?” or “. . . receive my text?” You are responsible to determine the problem, you must work through the noise, and you must keep the communication alive. This means making the effort to confirm the status of the communications, and the actions that must ensue.
Anything short of that, and, well, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re just a noise maker.