Face to face communication complements innovation

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Brent Sonday
  • 21st Medical Squadron commander
Old school face to face communication is the best way to establish an atmosphere that promotes innovation in our organizations. Email has become the primary means of communicating in this fast-paced, ever-changing world we live in today. Emailing co-workers and subordinates has been the trend in recent years in an attempt to pass on the massive amounts of information available.

Relying on email as a communicative tool can inhibit organizations from reaching their full inventive potential. Over the years, emailing information has slowly evolved from an occasional circumstance to a constant everyday occurrence. Adding smiley faces and icons to generate expressions on our email may help others understand our demeanor and true feelings, but the opportunity to stimulate creativity and innovation is missed when an organization relies on email as their primary means of communicating. Crafting and forwarding emails has no benefit in an organization attempting to promote innovation.

Effective communication is essential to an organization's success, especially today when we are in need of creativity during this time of fiscal constraint. Discussing issues and debating ideas in person promotes and stimulates cutting edge and productive advancements. Spending the time to huddle in groups allows the entire team to build on their teammate's inspiration and advance an ingenious idea. Face to face communication promotes an atmosphere where every member feels part of the team and enhances the overall appreciation of the task at hand. Leaders who meet and converse with their troops in person are better at understanding where their team stands at that very moment in time and are able to visualize their follower's expressions. These same leaders can sense the team's overall state of mind in their unit. The team leader can change gears on a whim providing inspiration when needed and reverberating when his or her troops appear tired. Allowing your troops to express their beliefs and ideas in a huddle builds camaraderie and provides each individual member a sense of belonging to the organization fostering "buy in."

Our youngest Airmen are many times the most imaginative individuals on our team. Including all of our bright young Airmen in our discussions provides clever input that can only be garnered in these face to face interactions. Many military leaders are familiar with the Four Lenses Strategic Framework design model, where organizations attempt to better manage tensions within their team, promote new thinking and attempt to achieve high performing social enterprises. Involving teammates from each of the four color categories (blue, green, gold and orange) into the discussion brings forward different perspectives and a plethora of ideas. Valuable insight can be gained from involving the perspectives of members from all the different color coded categories.

Building a culture of creativity and nourishing an innovative atmosphere can best be accomplished by corresponding with our troops in person. Our leaders may never see the brilliant ideas sitting in our Airmen's inventive minds unless they encourage them to show themselves in a dynamic group setting. Promoting a mindset that supports knowledge sharing will advance an organization in the right direction leading to heightened creativity. Face to face communication contributes to an environment that complements innovation which is essential to championing excellence in our units today leading to a more productive team.