Ever played the game “broken telephone”?
The game typically requires players to pass a single message around in a circle. More often than not, the message is heavily distorted by the time it reaches the last player.
While the outcome of the game may often amuse its participants, it is hardly as amusing when it happens at work.
Miscommunications are not only agonising, they often impede productivity by eating up precious time and resources, leading to frustrating repercussions.
That’s why practising clear and effective communication is of paramount importance in any organisation. To avoid miscommunication, it is useful to bear in mind that the medium is just as important as the message.
In 1986, communication scholars Richard L. Daft and Robert H. Lengel introduced the Media Richness Theory to help people understand organisational communication better.
The Media Richness Theory suggests that either rich or lead mediums should be used to convey different messages, depending on their varying degrees of complexity and ambiguity.
Rich or Lean?
Rich media refers to face-to-face conversations or video conferences, where non-verbal cues can be observed, during which feedback to information is almost immediate.
Lean media, on the other hand, refers to emails, text messages and newsletters. Lean media include mediums of communication that do not allow its participants to provide their responses instantaneously.
When to Use Which
Well of course, there’s time and place for both rich and lean media, and this heavily depends on the nature of the information you intend to convey.
If the message in question is simple — such as a request or instructions to complete an unambiguous task, then using lean media would suffice. Asynchronous channels such as emails and text messages are good tools for disseminating simple information.
On the other hand, if decisions need to be made, or critical points need to be discussed, it would be advisable to schedule a face-to-face meeting where participants can provide feedback instantaneously.
Intending to ask a colleague out for lunch? Simply drop him or her a Slack or Google Hangouts message.
However, if it is a discussion that requires substantial input from both parties, and may involve messages that could potentially be misinterpreted, it would be wise to find a time to mitigate potential communication problems.
Chew on this tidbit before you decide on how to convey your next message, and you may just save yourself from an unnecessary workplace misunderstanding! TOC