September 2016

“Meaningful Communication in a Digital World” – A Program with Anne-Laure Fayard

Welcome, the newest addition to the CrossKnowledge Faculty, Anne-Laure Fayard. She believes technology should boost our communication, instead of being a goal in itself. This collection helps you to make communication matter again. It gives you ready-to-use tips, valuable insights to reinforce the messages within organizations in the digital age. It shows you how to become a better communicator and make technology work for you to build better relationships.

Companies are less innovative because they tend to only reproduce and exchange PowerPoint decks as if they were the ideas themselves. The digital world has radically changed the way we communicate in organizations, both inside and outside. A lot of discussions today focus on the medium—computers, telephones, blogs, tweets—but these discussions are missing the point. Successful communication should focus again on human beings and their interaction. Technology should improve the way we communicate nowadays, instead of being a goal in itself.

 Watch the program intro:

Anne-Laure Fayard is an Associate Professor of Management in the Department of Technology Management and Innovation at NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering. Before moving to New York, she was a faculty member at INSEAD Business School, both in Singapore and in Fontainebleau. She has also been visiting scholar at the Center for Sociology of Innovation at Ecole des Mines in Paris and with Design London and the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group at Imperial College in London.

Her research interests involve communication, collaboration, culture, and space. Her work has been published in several leading journals such as Organization Science, Harvard Business Review, Organization Studies, the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, and The European Management Journal. She has been quoted in newspapers such as The New York Times and Business Week.

Learn more about Anne-Laure Fayard here.

Read about the 14 steps of this program: 

Virtual doesn’t mean anti-social.
Creating trust in a virtual context is challenging. We should see technology as a tool to help us broaden our relationships, rather than simply replace face to face interaction. Anne-Laure gives valuable advice on how to use technology establish trust through informal connections.

Direct interactions are not always best.
Although texting, emailing and voicemail constitutes as the main mode of communication in the 21st century, it lacks direct interaction. This has many advantages. Often, direct interaction is unnecessary as it requires more work and, therefore, should be saved for instances where two-way interaction is necessary. Being able to identify the purpose of communication will help you decide which form to use.

Cutting and pasting kill innovation and problem solving.
In many organizations, a cut-and-paste culture prevails, which in fact often decreases innovation and impedes meaningful analysis. To articulate your ideas, analyze problems and properly resolve them, Anne-Laure recommends embracing the blank page.

Changing organizational culture is a holistic process.
Changing your organizational culture takes time, requires patience, and should be seen as a comprehensive process. Physically redesigning an office is often insufficient as people themselves need to decide how to use their new environment. And if they don’t adapt as originally intended, then the plan should be reinterpreted and revised. Through two inspiring organizational examples, Anne-Laure pinpoints ways to help leaders who wish to rethink their culture through workspace redesign.

Stop never-ending email threads.
Everyone has encountered never-ending email threads, which tend to get off topic as they are forwarded on to more and more recipients. Anne-Laure gives you concrete tools to avoid this very inefficient way of communication.

Pick your technology and stick with it.
The digital age comes with an abundance of media. Do you write an email or use Yammer? Build a PowerPoint or design a Prezi? Should we use LinkedIn, send a tweet or call with Skype? For Anne-Laure, these questions are missing the point: powerful communication does not depend so much on the kind of media you select, but making sure that everyone understands and uses the selected media in a coherent, harmonious manner.

Think before you send.
Communication has always allowed human beings to express emotions, but the immediacy of today’s technology means emotions can quickly escalate. Everyone has been faced with frustration or anger when an annoying email arrives in the inbox. Anne-Laure gives valuable pointers about how to transform this frustrating experience into a constructive exchange.

Give yourself an offline moment.
One of the main challenges of the digital age is that people are always connected. Being continuously connected can harm our capacity for creativity and analytical thinking. Anne-Laure recommends going offline now and then, to keep the upper hand on technology.

Strong communication is culturally contextualized.
Global teams often mean many different cultures are working together, which results in numerous challenges when it comes to communication. Anne-Laure says that strong communication needs to be culturally contextualized. She offers concrete techniques to make sure that other people clearly understand your message.

Improving your writing means improving your critical thinking.
Written communication is not an innate skill. Whether in a collaborative document or an online discussion thread, the ability to express your thoughts in a clear and coherent manner means being able to structure and articulate your ideas. Anne-Laure puts forward some valuable tips to improve your ability to write, which will, in turn, boost your critical thinking skills.

Proximity, privacy and permission for digital collaboration.
Many teams nowadays work remotely, a situation which creates complexity and new challenges. Anne-Laure states that proximity, privacy and permission are ways to overcome these challenges and to reinforce collaboration in remote settings.

When conflicts arise, “slow” communication is best.
When conflicts arise, knowing how to handle them can be tricky, especially in the digital era where things move quickly in a connected world, in real time. In a situation where you face such challenges, carefully selecting which medium you use is key. In fact, synchronous communication and face-to-face contact are not always the best option. With a personal story, Anne-Laure shows the benefits of slowing down and using asynchronous communication as well as how you can put this knowledge to use in the 21st century.

Ensuring engagement and connection in a digital world.
One challenge of the digital era is creating a sense of engagement and connection in a virtual context, especially when dealing with groups of people who must work together toward a common goal. To achieve this, Anne-Laure tells a personal story about how she got two groups of students on opposite ends of the globe to learn and work together. The outcome: a strong sense of experimentation, engagement, and connection.

Embrace a design thinking mindset.
Traditionally, when faced with a problem, we seek the solution, which is called a reproductive mindset. However, a design mindset encourages you to question the problem instead of automatically searching for the solution, which is a productive mindset. Such an approach is key to solving complex problems of the 21st century.