If you asked a dozen people to define the word “communication” you would likely receive over a dozen different definitions. A helpful way to gain a better understanding of an often-used word is to examine how the term relates to other familiar words or phrases. Since communication shares a root with both “commerce” and “community” we can learn something by thinking about the relationship to each.
We tend to think about “commerce” in relation to buying and selling, in which we exchange money for some product, service, or experience. When we think about communication’s relationship to commerce we can consider the times in which we exchange information to accomplish a task or provide an answer in response to a question.
We often use the word “community” to identify a specific group of people (as in “my church community”) or to express the feeling of working closely with someone (as in “I felt a strong sense of community among my teammates”). While merely sharing information is required for a sense of community, it’s a pre-requisite for growing in our sense of shared purpose and commitment. This foundation of free flowing information within an organization can lead to shared understanding, which is the ultimate goal of organizational communication.
A commitment to organizational truth telling requires both a commitment to sharing information (you can read more about this in last week’s post by clicking here) and a willingness to actively participate in the life of the organization. The risk to organizational truth telling is found in those times in which either information stops being shared or people stop asking questions about the information they receive. There can be no passive recipient of information within this type of organization.
Community participation becomes a priority for an organization committed to truth telling. We may tend to think about “truth telling” as a one-sided effort; but it requires a willingness to engage in the information received in an effort to challenge, clarify, and discuss.
In the coming months we’ll be sharing more information about the long and short-term strategies and goals of Winebrenner. This is your official invitation to join in our community by receiving, asking, and discussing the information you receive.
- Brent Sleasman, President