In transformations, we are often aiming to change the way of working. People should abandon the old way and should be able to look forward to a world that they don’t know. Without any doubt, it is easy to understand that they might have fears or at least unanswered questions about their future. Furthermore, what we can very often see in change processes: Management is giving explanations in detail and using a lot of slides in order to justify the case for action as the employees need to appreciate the urgency of the situation. Does this create the basis for moving forward?
In our digital world, we are very familiar with using a number of different digital media in our communication. A PowerPoint presentation is already a digital media, but e-learning and various interactive connection platforms are also part of our daily business communication. All these media have opened up new possibilities for us to connect quickly with our colleagues. However, we need to learn how to combine the old way of communication with the new possibilities. From our children’s education, we know that there is a significant difference between when children are using solely interactive media and when they are using them in combination with, for example, a printed book. The new media can be used in a very good manner to motivate youths on a certain topic. But this also applies to business content when Digital Immigrants or, as Hanspeter Reiter once said, “Digital Naives” in comparison with “Digital Natives” are supposed to learn something new– which is always the case in a change process.
From brain research, we know that impromptu playing develops the cross-linkages in our brains. Secondary messengers which are released during the playing–such as catecholamine, endogen opiate or other peptides–have a growth-stimulating effect on the neuronal network. Thus, these networks are developed through such playing. But they can only be developed based on hands-on activities and not through instructions and assistance measures. This would be an argument again for gamification which means the use of serious games within the communication processes.
The human brain is more than a machine. Instead, our thinking also generates emotions. Thus, my advice for the communication during a transformation process is to use metaphors. Even in a digital context, we can use metaphors to communicate the cognitive, emotional and effective needs involved during the new way of working. They support common learning-based identification. People need to feel the change by getting a good feeling about the change in order to move forward.
It is therefore not a question of analogue or digital communication. It is a question of how we can use digital and analogue communication. Without any doubt, we will always distribute information through digital media. In one of my last transformation processes, we used eLearning which combined short story telling and interactivity. The advantage of this eLearning was based on the independence gained; the people were able to look at it whenever they had time and they could repeat and look at it over and over again. Sometimes, some people have so many thoughts going through their minds that they simply cannot concentrate or other people are not in the right mood when they get the message the first time. However, once the people got the message, we played a simulation game. We put the “whole system” in one room and played the new processes out without any media support. In this way, the people could feel the new world–the world which they had seen in the movies. People had a lot of fun playing these simulation games and learning is always easier when we have fun.
We should get more innovative in our change communication. Today, we have so many different possibilities and we are still sometimes using only a mere few of them. The communication is always the key during our change processes. Therefore, we should invest more time and spirit than just creating another PowerPoint presentation.