Simon Terry

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An Excess of Communication

I was turning left in my car on a rainy night in the centre of Melbourne waiting for a pedestrian. An oncoming car was turning right towards me except they seemed to be coming too fast and dangerously close. It was disconcerting to look across and see the driver turning right and looking down his face lit by the phone in his lap. We avoided a collision but I had to wonder what message could be so important it needs to be read in the middle of a right hand turn.

I once worked in an organisation with a zero inbox culture. Emails pinged around at rapid speed. Every idea was on the move somewhere else. Every email was less than three lines. Velocity mattered more than value. Everyone was overwhelmed by the flood of messages and few emails created the actions they intended as they were either in transit elsewhere or lacked the information required to move forward.

I watch the politician on the television say the same vaguely reassuring phrases over and again. With masterful skill they pivot each question back to their set phrases. Challenges and doubts are dismissed or simply ignored. Short of time and well aware that the answers form a pattern the interviewer surrenders and moves on.

The legal documents were long and fell with a heavy thud on the table. The goal of the reams of paper was to cover every eventuality in a complex transaction. There were dozens of lawyers in the room and they had been negotiating for days already. Discussion fell into a quick routine as points were hammered out. I looked at the document waiting for someone to point out the small error that reversed the impact of a clause to nobody’s benefit. The conversation was moving on. Rather than paying attention everyone was relying on the amount of discussion to have caught the issues.

‘But how can our employees not know, the policy is quite clearly explained on our intranet’

‘I’m calling to follow up the text about the email on the link in the post’

As he pushed submit on his blogpost he wondered ‘Am I just adding to the excess?’


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