Over at CommsOffensive325, Mike Klein joins the debate started by Liam Fitzpatrick over on BlackBeltDojo about "Advanced Internal Comms" and whether there are any revolutions left to come in the field, or is it all about really implementing basics we already know about?
Mike poses the debate as one about concentrating on competency (the Liam suggestion) vs the prospect of "fundamentally reinventing" the field. Mike suggests that:
Liam’s view only really holds water if you accept a view that organisations are fundamentally hierarchical and that internal communication exists to support the smooth functioning of hierarchies. If you accept the notion that organisations are simultaneously hierarchical and networked in nature, then it is worth recognising that very little work has been done in developing an advanced approach to internal communication that harnesses and influences the social networks in and around organisations while supporting what necessary hierarchy is required to drive an organisation towards its strategic or commercial objectives.
While the Holy Grail still eludes us, the emergence of social network tools and social network thinking are likely to play a key role in propelling the Internal Communications profession as we continue on its quest. And with the challenges we are likely to face in the short term as the budget-cutters seek easy targets, I for one think this quest is well worth continuing.
I think I have some overlap with Mike's view but I'd like to take a moment to muse on the philosophical question of "fundamental reinvention."
In the comments on BBD, I mentioned that I felt Liam was having it both ways. I said this because depending on how you cut the definition it's easy to cast something as evolution or revolution.
For example, let's take small group (4 people or so) transport. Let's think of the bullock cart from the Indian village of my grandparents, the mail coach of the Napoleonic London to Portsmouth route, one of Daimler's earliest 4 wheel vehicles, the Honda on my drive and a concept car of tomorrow, environmentally friendly which uses technology to drive itself.
There are lots of axes upon which one can measure some kind of fundamental change, for society. The increase in speed makes a huge difference to what transport can do, we seem to go in a circle about the environment, from animal power to "clean hydrogen" or whatever. And the notion of a car that drives itself has something to it too.
But, from another point of view: 4 wheels, power plant, somewhere to sit, control interface... nothing has changed in 500 years at least...
[Another set of objects for consideration might be: portable gramaphone, boombox, walkman, ipod.]
And so to the debate on IC. I do think that there are large elements of current theory (and some elements of practice) that are not going to go away. There will still be a need for various existing forms of organisation communication. So, you can fast forward 30 years and I think Liam can easily expect to find people doing "the basics" and so it's easy to argue that "fundamental reinvention" just isn't happening.
Of course, I'm not sure that's the right way to look at it, particularly from the point of view of IC professionals, because I think there are changes on the horizon for the typical IC department in the next 30 years. Mark highlights how social media trends mesh with the notion of an organisation as a partly a network (rather than just a hierarchy) could radically change the kinds of communication needed in an organisation.
One analogy for this might be the change from "Managament Information Systems" (MIS) departments to "Information Technology" (IT) departments. In the 60s and 70s, companies had an MIS department, which served to use technology to gather information on those doing the work and present it to managers. In a modern organisation a group of similar people are still there, but their role is (to some degree) now to think much more about how information moves between those doing the work - IT. Of course that role is still evolving, but I think it has something to say about the coming change in Internal Comms, from a management focus to a whole organisation focus.
My own contribution for now would be to suggest that once you move into that "whole organisation focus" it becomes apparent that where "communication" currently stands as a proxy for moving around particular information sets, in the future that has to expand. IC will have to overlap more with IT and think more about all the different aspects of communication. But I'll say more about that another time.