Channel Conflict

This chart is stolen from here a blog with a lot of fun little drawings like this over at Salon.

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I’m amused by the lengths I go to rondevous with different people in their prefered communication channel. We certainly do have so many different kinds these days! Heavens, I have coworkers with whom interaction requires I cross a continent, schedule a meeting which is named from a catalog of known meeting kinds.

The chart above pretends to provide a decision procedure for how to parties would agree to rondevous in a communication channel. Each participant would take the topic in question and then run down that decision process and pop out in the approprate channel. It requires a fair amount of optomism to presume that when they pop out the other parties in the conversation will be there.

Back toward the end of the Vietnam war the parties spent what seemed like years agreeing on the shape of the table around which the negotiation would take place. These discussions over the shape of the table are often just as important as the actual negotiations. You can see that by seeing how hard it might be to get the parties to a discussion to agree about each of the questions enumerated in the decision tree shown above.

It’s also facinating to notice how once the parties get into a given communication channel they will cling to that channel even as it becomes increasingly clear that the channel’s strengths aren’t all that relevant to the challenges of the task at hand. Switching channels isn’t cheap. Your sure to lose people on the way. People will have to waste time learning the standard practices of the new channel. It’s certain to cause the community to have to carry some coordination costs to keep the task model in synch between the two or more channels.

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