Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Persistent, Redundant Communication Pays Off

Professors Paul M. Leonardi and Elizabeth M. Gerber of Northwestern and Professor Tsedal B. Neeley of Harvard Business School have published an interesting new study in Organization Science. They have found that managers who send a series of redundant messages to team members using multiple media achieve better results. They can actually get projects accomplished more quickly than those who do not use persistent and redundant communication. The paper is titled "How Managers Use Multiple Media: Discrepant Events, Power, and Timing in Redundant Communication."

The authors also found that those managers with less power and formal authority tended to use this strategy of persistence and redundancy more often. Neeley explained to the HBS Working Knowledge blog: "Those without power were much more strategic, much more thoughtful about greasing the wheel to get buy-in and to reinforce the urgency of the previous communication. Managers without authority enroll others to make sense of an issue together and go for a solution."

This paper reminds me of something that the famous cognitive psychologist Howard Gardner once wrote many years ago. He advocated a strategy that he called redescription as an effective means of persuading others. In his book, Changing minds: The art and science of changing our own and other people’s minds, Gardner explained:
“Essentially the same semantic meaning or content, then, can be conveyed by different forms: words, numbers, dramatic renditions, bulleted lists, Cartesian coordinates, or a bar graph… Multiple versions of the same point constitute an extremely powerful way in which to change minds.”

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