Friday 31 August 2007

Social media and the case for asynchronous communication

SystematicHR comments in Asynchronous Communications, HR 2.0 and the Future of Work that we (at least pre-GenX and GenX workers) are very into real time communications.

"But the world and technology is increasingly lending itself to non-real-time conversations. GenY millennials are increasingly comfortable with conversations that span hours or days or longer. Ideas from these conversations hang around and tickle the backs of our brains until the become useful in some unexpected context."

I largely agree with the post. Even when we send an instant message or e-mail we know that a response may not come back immediately because the recipient is in a meeting or has other priorities. And debates in the blogosphere can develop over an extensive time period.

But I don't agree that asynchronous communication is that new. After all, when I started in consultancy 20 years ago, Partners still used to meet round the table to open their letters together every morning, looking for responses to their own letters, sent maybe a good week or so before!

In fact, if anything, I think business is demanding ever more real-time communication. The increasing use, and mis-use of blackberries is a good case in point. As Knowledge Infuser has commented in their post, Crackberry's: are you addicted?, the blackberry “shifts expectations of availability”:

"When everyone in a firm keeps a Blackberry as constant companion, the
temptation to send messages during evening and other downtime hours grows. There is “escalating commitment and dependence on the Blackberry, a spiral
of expectations and feeling constantly on call.” The work day simply has no

This clearly is a problem. As Systematic notes, "real time transactions, while growing from a data perspective, are shrinking from a human perspective".

I agree with this point. Asynchronicity allows people to review content, think about their responses and publish worthwhile contributions. I certainly find I often need to think about other people's posts for a couple of days before I want to comment on them - so some of my posts do and will continue to comment on material that may seem rather dated to some.

And it's a reason why, although I want to continue to learn about and develop my practice in social media, I can't ever see myself being drawn to Twitter.


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