Do You Have the Freedom to Communicate Your Way?

05. February 2018

With the early stages of digital transformation, the way we communicate is undergoing rapid change. Whether we communicate using voice, email, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or social media posts – we are communicating right here, right now, more than ever before. And every day, our communication grows.

You can read heaps of coverage on our culture of smartphone obsession. Numerous studies explore how much we look at our smartphones – on average 2,617 times per day! According to the research company dscout, power users look at their devices around 5,427 times per day. Since every smartphone check takes up to five seconds, a person can clock up a net usage time of 150 minutes per day. This equates to around 15 percent of the time we’re awake!

Voice Brings Us Back to Our Roots

We are taking the next big step in digital transformation using language. What began with audio books and podcasts continues with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. We communicate most naturally using language, both person-to-person and person-to-machine. And even with data usage growing, voice traffic across the globe still continues to rise.

In fact, we are communicating more every day. Ovum says that voice traffic will increase by 8 percent per year until 2025. For example, when we combine the annual communication traffic of every single person into one call, this equates to 68.5 trillion minutes! Voice connects people on a personal level. It creates a personal bond and fulfills a basic human need: After body language, voice is the second most important form of communication.

Matthew Kane | Unsplash

Furthermore, voice communication is also more efficient. Whilst written methods can slow down communication, voice creates fluidity. The average person speaks 125-175 words and listens to 450 words per minute. In contrast, the average typing speed is around 40 words per minute and even less on smartphones. And text communication can often be fragmented and incomplete, whilst voice communication has a clear beginning and end.

We must embrace our basic human need for individual communication! With personal digital assistants, Amazon, Apple and Google are aiming for a more convenient user experience which bundles voice and text. Yet, Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri are augmentative voice applications, and their language is unnatural and robotic sounding.

According to John Paul Lederach, Professor of International Peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame, voice centres on inclusive conversations that are grounded in ‘mutuality, understanding and accessibility.’ Communications technologies are most effective when based on human needs and not developed solely on the needs of machines. We need to turn the story around: It’s not about technology and machines, it’s about Us.

We Like to Communicate in Different Ways

The call for a new freedom to communicate isn’t about helping organisations work faster. It is about how more flexibility in communication helps people work better. As GQ’s Ross MacCammon puts it, “Sometimes the phone is a more efficient way to communicate than e-mail, and sometimes it isn’t. If two people leave a dozen messages on each other’s voice mail, that’s a lot less efficient than sending a single e-mail and reading a reply to it.”

Different work situations call for different communication styles. A call may be the best choice when you’re looking for immediate clarification of an issue. Yet, email may work better when you’re writing more than one person. And a face-to-face conversation usually works best when you’re trying to communicate a complex message.

Benjamin Dada | Unsplash

In a study by Harvard Business Review, researchers looked into the effectiveness of different communication choices when you need to get people to donate to a cause. It turns out that donation requests made face-to-face were 34 times more effective than those made my email. Think about it: We are more successful when we have the freedom to choose how to best communicate.

Freedom to Communicate Makes Us Happy!

Our need for communication freedom expresses itself in needs for universal access and in the choice of how we communicate. In the new world of work, we are discovering how private and professional lives are morphing for Millennials and Gen Z. The workplace is becoming an integral part of our life, where work-life balance is turning into work-life unity. Unified communications are powering this trend, merging cloud services, devices and channels into one universal communications platform.

Helena Lopes | Unsplash

Whilst Baby Boomers associate a lower quality of life with the merging of work and leisure, younger generations believe in the exact opposite. A study by Microsoft concludes that maximum productivity is the number 1 motivational factor for Millennials. And we believe that the freedom to communicate your way, whenever you want, with any app/device/channel you like, is the fuel for productivity.

Organisations must realise that soon, the majority of the workforce will be pushing for casual working environments. By 2025, Millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce and will be the dominant generation in the workplace. We will all need to become even more flexible and informal with communication in the workplace, discovering and embracing our freedom to communicate.

The advantages are obvious and the call for a new freedom to communicate is growing louder. The basic human need to be able to communicate anytime and anywhere remains. And with this next stage of digitalisation, we must technically succeed in bringing greater quality and flexibility to platforms that power human communication.

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