Unpacking communication and creativity
building blocks, ingredients, traits
Communication and engineering culture
When teams or organizations start to get dysfunctional at any level, one way to debug it is to look at the core pillar of the engineering culture- communication.
Communication is a fundamental skill of successful teams and organizations. As an engineer, if we look at our daily toolbox, the picture looks somewhat similar at the minimum.
We communicate in so many different ways that we need to realize the types of communication we leverage on a daily basis to understand the complete picture:
Verbal (spoken: in-person, remote)
Non-verbal (body language, facial expressions)
Written (written language, symbols, and numbers)
Visual (drawings, sketches, charts, and graphs)
I find it particularly helpful to know about the building blocks of communication which I learned from a good beginner-friendly LinkedIn Learning course way back:
People: It is first and foremost, knowing the audience. Understanding that with any communication, people think→feel→do. Consider the mental filters we have as an individual that hugely influence how communication lands.
Message: Being clear on the intent matters. If we are looking to inform or persuade someone, the communication is going to look different.
Context: Keeping in mind the location, timing, and relationships
Listening: Listening with our ears is usually obvious and it is also about listening with our eyes for visual cues, and with the heart for emotional receptivity.
How do we communicate effectively? I think this video does a good job of explaining the recipe for good communication.
Good communication comes down to five key ingredients:
Clarity (make the point clear)
Brevity (make it quick)
Context (make the message relevant)
Impact (make it memorable)
Value (make it valuable)
And, it is all about the audience. As engineers, we have to consider our audience (upstream, downstream, lateral) and adjust our ingredients accordingly.
Clarity: assess the level of complexity, confusion, and ambiguity first
Brevity = time/ attention is short
Context = unfamiliarity with the topic
Impact = standing out amidst the noise
Value = decision making, choices, skepticism
Creativity, Communication, and Novel Ideas
Creativity and communication are closely linked because we need creativity to come up with new ideas and communication to pitch these ideas.
To be creative, ideas must be both novel and useful
Balancing novelty with usefulness is tricky as these two traits often diverge. So should we start with novel or useful? Berg recommends starting with novelty and then shaping it for usefulness by incorporating examples.
It is important to never stop being a creator as it helps you predict the success rate of other people's novel ideas. This is particularly applicable to managers and executives who have ideas pitched to them in any organization.
A personal anecdote for such creativity I have is from my manager who took the nerd nite idea concept (novel) and started lightning talks in our organization where folks could sign up to talk about not work stuff type interesting things they are passionate about (useful).
Also, people who actively pursue creativity are more receptive to other people’s creative ideas.
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