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Complex to Clear Project - University of St Gallen
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Complex to Clear Project - University of St Gallen


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Nicole Bischoff

Nicole Bischoff

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  • 1. How to be CLEARin Complex Corporate Communication Nicole Bischof @ IABC Eurocomm 2011 Turin
  • 2. „Everything that can be said, canbe said clearly.“ Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • 3. „The problem with communicationis the illusion that it has beenaccomplished.“ George Bernard Shaw
  • 4. Agenda   Why Clarity matters   State of the Art   Managing Clarity in Communication   Examples   Conclusion
  • 5. Why care about clarity? An illustratingscenario
  • 6. Complexity of modern businesscommunication request for clear personalcommunication1.  Change communication: dealing with uncertainty or „How to motivate for change?“2.  Crisis communication: time constraints or „When to address whom?3.  Strategy communication: vision, mission, goals and values or „How to make your ideas clear?“4.  … many other complex issues
  • 7. Why care? Importance of clarity forbusiness communication “Clarity is business communications’ most sacrosanct topic.” “Clarity is the most serious communication problem in business.” [Suchan & Dulek, 1990]
  • 8. Knowledge communication in businesscommunication - implicit challenges “The process of knowledge communi- cation is the activity of interactively conveying and co-constructing insights, assessments, experiences, or skills through verbal and nonverbal means1.” [Eppler 2007]
  • 9. The context: Information versusknowledge communication
  • 10. Agenda   Why Clarity matters   State of the Art   Managing Clarity   Examples   Conclusion
  • 11. What are we talking about? Threedefinitions of clarity “The state, or measure of being clear, either in appearance, thought or style; lucidity.” “Clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity.” “The state or quality of being clear or transparent to the eye”
  • 12. The concept of clarity has been studiedin different disciplines Clarity
  • 13. The „Hamburg Clarity Concept“ 1. Simplicity 2. Structure •  Familiar words •  Overview and •  Explained terms priorities •  Simple sentence •  Logical sequence, structure •  Highlighting important •  Concrete and elements specific 3. Conciseness 4. Stimulation (moderate) (moderate) •  Focus on essentials •  Personally adress •  Described briefly reader •  Short sentences •  Provide examples, images, quotes •  Use humour and fun elements
  • 14. Typical elements of clarity found in theliterature Findings:   Structure   Unity & Coherence   Eliminating the irrelevant   Writing / speaking in the language of the audience   Simplification & Disambiguation Insights:   Clarity of thought precedes clarity of expression   Clarity is relative …to the audience that is addressed.   BUT: A lack of systematic, actionable guidelines
  • 15. Agenda   Why Clarity matters   State of the Art   Managing Clarity   Examples   Conclusion
  • 16. Our CLEAR formula With regard to the targeted audience, the reasonC ontextualized for the communication of that knowledge, and its urgency and importance. Logical in the sense that elements build on oneL ogical another in sequence; accessible in the sense that it is self-evident and intuitive.E ssential Focus on the essential elements and show them in overview before going into details.A mbiguity free Interpretable in one way in order to avoid misunderstandings or misapplication. Fit the needs, preferences and foreknowledge ofR esonating the audience, knowledge must be made actionable.
  • 17. Managing and facilitating clarity From Complex Mediators To Clear •  C omplicated •  S tandards •  C ontextualized •  O verloaded •  T raining •  L ogical •  M essy •  A ccountability •  E ssential •  P olysemic •  R eviews •  A mbiguity-free •  L inked •  T ools •  R esonating •  E verchanging •  E xamples •  X traneous •  R esources Clarification Process
  • 18. Contextualized
  • 19. Negative example for contextual depiction
  • 20. Contexualized corporatecommunication: in line with companyobjectives
  • 21. Logical
  • 22. Logical Structure: Use templates
  • 23. Essential
  • 24. Keep it essential: Remember clarity ofthought precedes clarity of expression
  • 25. Ambiguity free
  • 26. Negative example: clarity is lost if youmix metaphors
  • 27. Resonating
  • 28. Resonance is missing due tounattractive appearance
  • 29. Resonance is achieved through amultimedial and facts-oriented approach
  • 30. Application: CLEAR e-mail exampleC ontextualized previous e-mail excerpt, reason for writingL ogical fact – meaning – needed actionE ssential one message per e-mail, one paragraph words like soon, urgent, or our client areA mbiguity free replaced by ‘next week’, ‘tomorrow’ and ‘Mr. Stevens’R esonating reply options are pre-listed
  • 31. Application: CLEAR report exampleC ontextualized authors stated, version stated, date stated, contact details statedL ogical summary – topic/pb. – findings - suggestionsE ssential less than 10 pages, half page summaryA mbiguity free Unspecific business buzz words are avoidedR esonating Right level of detail for target audience, action points are categorized and put on a timeline
  • 32. Agenda   Why Clarity matters?   State of the Art   Managing Clarity   Examples   Conclusion
  • 33. Four validation points of our CLEARformula for communication Literature Audience Review Surveys Experts‘ Case Studies Review (contact us)
  • 34. Survey: Clarity in PowerPoint presentations 1 What are the most likely effects of a bad, unclear ppt presentation on you? 2 Which of the following factors have the most negative impact on clarity in ppt knowledge presentations? 3 What are the most important issues to consider when you communicate knowledge with a ppt presentation? 4 Which of the following mechanisms is most likely to increase the clarity of a ppt presentation?
  • 35. What are the most likely effects of an unclear PowerPoint presentation? Not likely Very likely at allYou forget the presentation contentquickly.You don’t listen to what the presenterhas to say.You don’t take the presentationseriously.You perceive the topic as complex.You get angry with the presenter.
  • 36. Which of the following factors have the most negative impact on clarity in PowerPoint presentations? Not important Very at all importantToo much text on a single slideUnclear presentation structureMissing link between presenter’sspeech and slide textLong phrases instead of keywordsSlide shown too quickly
  • 37. What are the most important issues to consider when you communicate knowledge with a presentation? Not Very important importantYour main message/goalHaving a clear structure/slide sequenceYour speaking styleInvolving the audienceIncluding good visualizations / graphics
  • 38. Which of the following mechanisms is most likelyto increase the clarity of a PowerPointpresentation? Not likely Very likely at allTraining the presenterRehearsing the presentationWatching great presentationsProof reading and style checkingGetting feedback on the presentation
  • 39. Four validation points of our CLEARformula for communication Literature Audience Review Surveys Experts‘ Case Studies Review (contact us)
  • 40. Customer service quality as main challengefor companies such as AXA Insurance
  • 41. AXA guide to clear letters:Templates, checklists and examples
  • 42. Swisscom‘s internal communication:implementation of vision and mission
  • 43. Clarity problem pattern as a tool of analysis unclearBackground Involved elements,Foreknowledge Persons & inconsistency,Customs Teams redundance
  • 44. Clarity problem pattern - examples   Too Big to Fail: A document has been growing to a point where everybody agrees with it, so no one wants to modify it, although it contains many unclear passages.   Implicit Implications: A document is perceived as unclear because its originators do not specify its consequences for the addressed target group(s)   Insight without Oversight: A document or communication creates confusion, because it does not provide the necessary big picture context for its messages
  • 45. Discussion “Can you think of clarity problem pattern in your work context?”
  • 46. Agenda   Why Clarity matters   State of the Art   Managing Clarity   Examples   Conclusion
  • 47. Facilitating complex corporatecommunication   The magical number seven, plus or minus two   Examples, examples, examples   Pre-structures   Fore-knowledge and motivation [Lutz 2011]
  • 48. Conclusion: Clarity matters and can bemanaged  Complex corporate communication requires clarity.  Clarity makes communication of complex managerial issues more precise, efficient, user-friendly, and reduces misunderstandings.  Clarity in communication can be specified, analysed, managed, and trained (CLEAR formula).  Measurement and emotional issues of the clarity concept are research gaps which should be explored further.
  • 49. “Put it before them brieflyso they will read it,clearly so they will appreciate it,picturesquely so they willremember it and, above all,accurately so they will be guided byits light.” Joseph Pulitzer