Paper Topic: Communication Diary
Requirements: Choose 22 incidents that illustrate communication problems. These can be drawn from your own life encounters, situations which you observe, the newspapers, radio or television, films or literature. Write a brief description of the incident one paragraph of a hundred words maximum for each one. Beneath the incident put keywords to indicate the cause of the problem as you see it. Also analyze what you learned from communications diary, which is 22 incidents.
The possible range of all communication problems that individuals or organizations may encounter can be as wide as the scope of meaning defining communication. The present analysis is intended to illustrate twenty-two communication problems that can serve as blueprint characteristic of the many situations in the corporate or social setting alike. Communication is a process involving two or more players, and its key vehicle is information being exchanged. Consequently, it is inherently a social function underlying most social and group processes on all levels.
Problem 1: Scarce or Asymmetric Information. The market for insurance involves the two groups of players, the insurance companies (supply side) and the insured (the demand side). The risk averse person is one trying to avoid risk or uncertainty, and for whom a loss of a given monetary value of wealth is emotionally attached with a greater impact than a possibility of a tantamount gain as a result of gambling (or failure to insure). The insurance agent conducts actuary computations to arrive at a fair value of premium the individual will be charged with. But of course, the insured have better information about their risks, which informational asymmetry may underlie moral hazard and result in adverse selection (when the market fails to deliver the valuable services to those who need them most).
Problem 2: Prices as Vehicles of Communication. Market prices actually serve a more sophisticated function than mere distribution of value between the buyer and the seller. Efficient markets have embedded in their price all relevant information about the product’s absolute and comparative qualities. Therefore, by merely comparing prices agents are able to make rational buying decisions. However, if there is a very high inflation, the information or communication facility of the pricing mechanism is distorted, so that using the market is as good an alternative as another one.
Problem 3: Grades as Prices. College grades may be thought of as important signals that help to position the individuals on the labor market. Grades and relative statuses (ranks) provide a proxy for the person’s human capital and ability to deliver on his job. However, when the grading system is inadequate (say, when the curves are too compressed or it is very easy to earn a certain floor level grade but virtually impossible to differentiate the rare talent from the rest because the exceptional skills are not tested), this mechanism may collapse. Also, if learning is circular or iterative (i.e. we are moving bac and forth between the material we studied earlier and what we learn afterwards), it is possible that by the end of his course the person has mastered the content far better than what his original grade points out. If course are not allowed to be re-passed, then the grading system may fail to supply actual comparative information to the employers.
Problem 4: Education as Signaling. According to the modern theory, people may acquire education simply to signal their fundamental ability to the labor market. The employer may not be able to observe the person’s intrinsic value, so he observes it indirectly, by looking at the quantity and quality of schooling the person has acquired. That allows the brighter ones outcompete those less so if and only if for them acquiring ore education is less costly. However, it does not always boil down to one’s learning ability; more often than not, in light of the skyrocketing cost of education, the person’s budget constraint may prevent him from developing his human capital, which will cut him off from the better segment of the labor market.
Problem 5: Language in Advertising. Of of the European companies manufacturing oil extracting equipment issued an advertisement that said, “Nothing Sucks Like Our Pipes.” Apparently, the company management had not conducted a thorough cross-cultural and marketing research before positioning the products in North America or the UK. That illustrates the point that, while humor and idioms may not travel very well, occasionally inadequate verbal coding of the ad’s message may turn into a disaster that will be hard to identify by conventional market research methods.
Problem 6: Bribery and Cronyism. In some societies, bribery and cronyism (preferential treatment by officials of closely affiliated persons or businesses) is an integral component of doing business. Since it also affects the access to distribution channels, it amounts to a component of communication. The company may be interested in hiring a knowledgeable insider that could do the job of bypassing the local cultural and institutional constraints.
Problem 7: Rituals and Traditions. One of the well-known corporate cases features a dilemma facing the company CEO. He has two managers on staff who are considered as candidates to represent the company in its negotiations with counterparts in Saudi Arabia. The first candidate has the highest chance to succeed, but she is a woman, and in the recipient society they do not perceive business women seriously (a strongly masculine society). To change their institutional system to a more progressive one is wishful thinking, and the company values the contract a lot in the short run. They have no choice but to delegate the job to the more mediocre manager.
Problem 8: Advertising Complementary Products. Complementary products are things like pasta and cheese, automobiles and fuel, and coffee and cream. They are best consumed together. Ideally, then, they should be positioned and advertised in some consistent way. But that is rarely if ever done in practice. The manufacturer may not be able to fully control its distribution channel, let alone that several [complementary] manufacturers may be unable to co-ordinate their efforts and their distribution channels.
Problem 9: Explicit Content in Ads. Even slightly suggestive ads may insult some audiences, which would amount to conflict with stakeholders (or society). Even though these audiences were not intended or targeted consciously, that may be hard to control or exclude.
Problem 10: Networks. Communication networks is a very broad concept, which may involve phone owners, supporters of a certain standard like DCC or GSM, or a financial market. The key characteristic of any network is that, a larger number of users is normally associated with higher usefulness (and may determine switch between networks, standards, etc.) However, since any two participants represent a potential channel of information, the number of such combinations within large networks may be very large, which translates into the complexity and cost of co-ordination.
Problem 11: Teams. A similar problem pertains to team work as one facet of corporate management. While a team may perform as a synergistic whole and accomplish a lot more than individuals, the complexity of information exchange and co-ordination may offset the benefits early on.
Problem 12: Information Spillovers in Political Context. During his recent address, President Bush dubbed North Korea and certain other countries as the Axis of Evil. While that could have a very strong and positive motivational effect on the domestic and allied audiences, it could also have the unexpected and uncontrolled negative spillover capable of posing a major roadblock in international contracting should some circumstances change down the road.
Problem 13: Context. In the so-called low-context societies (like North America or Germany) the direct and obvious verbal messaging is symmetrically received by insiders and outsiders alike. However, the high-context societies like the Asian cultures exhibit a high diversion between the superficial message and its underlying or contextual meaning. The proverbial Japanese ‘hai’ for yes serves as but one example.
Problem 14: Communication Technologies. Their quality may affect the scale and the scope at which subsidiaries scattered globally communicate between themselves in a cross-subsidiary team play. That, for example, may affect the co-ordination of effort in managerial process and in designing marketing campaigns. There were times when some subsidiaries were informationally isolated and thus vulnerable and unable to assure adequate team effort.
Problem 15: Conflict Management. Verbal coding of messages may be the ultimate cause of the multitude of conflict situations calling for prompt solution. For instance, failure to clearly and unambiguously communicate to the employees their main and ad-hoc responsibilities may result in conflicts even more likely than could a higher level of responsibilities delegated.
Problem 16: Conflict Management as Cross-Cultural Management. Poor knowledge of the counterparts corporate culture may result in conflict between the cultures based on the implicitly assumed (and less than compatible) practices and timelines to be adhered to.
Problem 17: Public Speaking. Failure to address the audience by maintaining eye contact and making the topic sound relevant may result in the audience’s refusing to heed regardless of how valid the points are.
Problem 18: Public Reporting. The modern generally accepted accounting practices pose a major dilemma for the corporation: to underreport earnings for tax purposes or to over-report them to the market (investors) eager to see good earning prospects. Intricacies of reporting and some distorting schemes have made possible phenomena like Enrongate, which supplement the collection of market failures.
Problem 19: Cross-Discipline Team Communication. When experts from more than one field or operation are involved that posses very limited cross-discipline skills, such a team may be very difficult to organize and make communicate well. Or, at any rate, the learning time (its cost and opportunity cost) will depend on the initial condition.
Problem 20: Etiquette. Poor knowledge of the club’s etiquette will restrain any newcomer’s degrees of freedom in terms of options he or she enjoys early on.
Problem 21: Poor knowledge of communication etiquette in some environments, e.g. the Internet relay Chat, will prevent the new network member from not only communicating adequately, but even from receiving the signals.
Problem 22: Poor or asymmetric knowledge of foreign language may destroy a dating relationship in its more mature stages. Inevitably, over and above the romantic bond of mutual affection, the two individuals will need to communicate and share values for strengthening their spiritual bond toward a fulfilling relationship. Though learning will occur, it may be too slow, and a switch might occur sooner.
We have illustrated and analyzed a wide scope of communication problems and challenges that represent a leverage of added opportunities or costs incurred. One may in particular distinguish between certain taxonomic classes of problems, such as based on the knowledge of institutional, cultural and otherwise contextual specifics; informational scarcity or spillovers; and distorted message or signaling.