- Shared intelligence companies exist. The question is: how do they manage to deploy it?
- There are companies in which the CI is limited to announcing the pure data and nothing else.
- Demonstrate, specify, translate into slang and narrate are four strategies that help internal change.
Internal communication , practiced as dialogue and not as monologue, makes shared intelligence flourish in organizations. Strategies such as storytelling , if they are participatory, encourage different teams and departments to develop shared visions about the client and their problems.
In this article we will see how to make our collaborators participate in the best internal communication, either in the front line or in the rear of the organization.
Who would win the war?
Without maps, armies lose wars. If they have them, but they don’t know how to interpret them, they also lose. Even if they have them and know how to use them, but each soldier fights on his own, defeat is certain.
All armies need resources. Some are material (such as people, machines, money, or energy). Others are intangible: data (the map), intelligence (the interpretation of the map), and a shared vision of the enemy.
The same thing happens to companies and countries: it is not always whoever has the most and best data that wins, but whoever generates and shares the best intelligence.
As a professional interested in persuasive communication, I often look at how companies share intelligence internally. Frequently, the department (or function) of Internal Communication (IC) plays a very relevant role in the process, through its publications, circulars, messages, newsletters or intranets. But collaborators also activate that communication.
I have known companies in which the CI is limited to announcing the pure data and nothing else. I also know of cases in which the data comes with the official interpretation, the one given by “those from above”, without further debate. They both remind me of armies in which either there are no maps, or only a few understand them: those troops end up defeated.
There is a third type of organization that ensures that data and interpretation are shared and integrated by each department and collaborator. They are organizations that speak, at the same time they listen, and that win because internal communication is two-way. Everybody, every department, is on the same page when it comes to the customer and their problems.
So there are shared intelligence companies. The question is: how do they manage to deploy it?
Internal communication, for whom?
Some time ago I got to know the work of Nancy Duarte. She is an expert in corporate communication, founder of the most notorious communication agency in Silicon Valley . He has written half a dozen international bestsellers and lectures at TEDx no less than at Stanford and MIT universities. He is someone worth listening to.
In the spring of 2019 he wrote an article entitled “How to get others to adopt your recommendations? ”. She focused on the persuasive aspect of internal communication, but her analogies help me to describe other situations.
Duarte says that in all organizations there are people who know how to connect data. That turn them into intelligence and that they discover opportunities. Whether they are part of the grassroots or the board, they tend to think and recommend actions to take advantage of it. But for those directions to be met, they must convince other people and departments within your organization. Duarte noted that many companies create good data, have good ideas, but fail to generate the necessary cooperation. Intelligence may abound, but not good internal communication.
The reason for that, he observed, is that each person in the company needs to be told things differently. There are those who just want to know and ask. There are those who must understand thoroughly, contrast and doubt. Some require just being told what to do and finally others need to get excited to act. There are, in total, four communication strategies for four different dialogues.
Pepa and the four strategies
Imagine Pepa. He works as an analyst in the Customer Experience Management department of a multinational insurance company. It has thousands of data of its clients. One day he crosses them and bingo !: he finds a pain unforeseen, a problem that affects and saddens a relevant group of customers. If she could avoid that pain, she would improve the customer experience and beat the competition in that field.
Pepa creates a detailed report that explains what happens and why. It also makes a list of recommendations and technical and cultural changes, which apply to many areas of the company: Finance, Human Resources, Marketing, Production … Change is everyone’s responsibility.
Now, Pepa has the challenge of convincing the company of her discovery. But you won’t do it with just one story. You will need four. One, for your direct boss. Another, for the board of directors. Another will be for those responsible for the areas involved and the last, for the entire workforce worldwide.
Pepa will adapt her communication to each audience, because what she wants is to dialogue with them before involving them.
Nancy Duarte would recommend that you use these four strategies:
- Demonstrate : First Pepa has to convince her direct boss. So you will prepare a detailed report, based on the data, well ordered, with which you will demonstrate the existence of the problem and its characteristics.
- Get to the point : When Pepa’s boss is convinced, both will need resources and legitimacy to lead the changes. And that, says Duarte, is only granted by the CEO or senior management. But that story is no longer the same as before. The demonstration is unnecessary. Now what it is about is to specify. Senior managers are very busy people, so they will assume that analysis is good and they will just want to know how they should help to make the change happen. Pepa will want to start with her recommendation and then, if asked, she will demonstrate how she got there.
- Translate into slang : Once she has the authority and the resources, Pepa still has to fight more. Each of the departments mentioned in your report will have to implement changes. But the changes are often uncomfortable. More, when each department is like a bubble and sees with bad eyes that an upstart, Pepa, is the one who imposes them. Duarte recommends using as technical language as possible here to explain to each department the why, how and when of these changes. If they have questions, these people will ask them in their own slang as well.
- Relating : it is the last battle. At some point, Pepa will have to address a broad audience, made up of all the company’s collaborators anywhere in the world. You will have to convince them of the need for change, rather than tell them what it is. Duarte says that, in this case, it is best to use a story, because it is the strategy that excites and moves to action.
Storytelling in internal communication
Not only Duarte believes that storytelling is a beneficial strategy in internal communication. The psychologist Luis Casado has already described very well that in the everyday life of organizations analytical thinking coexists with narrative , the latter being the one that gives meaning to everything else. Years before, Professor David M. Boje defined organizations as “ narrative systems ” and Walter Bennis saw inleaders as “storytellers” who articulated that sense.
Also the British Sara Spear and Stuart Roper showed in 2016 that a good story helps change in the organization, as much as a bad one subverts it. And Australian professor Rob Gill argued that storytelling is a way to maintain team loyalty in times of change .
However, one of my favorite studies is the one that professors Robledo-Dioses, Atarama-Rojas and López-Hermida Russo published in 2019 . They presented the case of EMC2 (currently owned by Dell Computers), a multinational whose performance in terms of diversity, inclusion and corporate responsibility stood out as much as its financial results. The company was recognized for many years with the prestigious “ Great Place to Work ”.
Storytelling and commitment to change
The academics thoroughly analyzed the internal communication system of EMC2, its contents, channels and results. They concluded that it fit a fully narrative pattern. The same message was always repeated, a conflict, heroes and villains, a plot and a tone of dialogue. Exactly how good business storytelling has to be.
In their article they say of the case analyzed: “ it is a clear example that, by assuming a leading role in history, the worker will make corporate values his own and develop a more solid commitment. The corporate strategy of Inclusion and Diversity that the company has makes strong, extensive and professional use of the storytelling tool to promote and promote the commitment of all levels of work ”.
It is not for nothing that the companies that win wars are the ones that best transform data into shared intelligence. And, to achieve this, they use strategies such as demonstrating, specifying, translating into slang and, of course, storytelling.
In all of them, internal communication is dialogue, and not monologue.