David Grossman reported in “The Cost of Poor Communications” that a survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees each cited an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year because of inadequate communication to and between employees. Debra Hamilton asserted, in her article “Top Ten Email Blunders that Cost Companies Money,” that miscommunication cost even smaller companies of 100 employees an average of $420,000 per year1
The basis for the art and science of communication lies in a ‘mantra’: communicate more in less – easier said than done. Almost all professions rely heavily on communication. A domain like public policy, where a professional is expected to serve as a bridge between domains and sectors, delves into the nuances of communication – verbal and on-verbal.
Policy makers have to bring with them a gamut of skills, one of the most important of which is communication. For public policy professionals, one of the biggest challenges lies in condensing and filtering huge amounts of information to make it easily understandable and comprehensible for decisions to be driven in the right direction. This also involves the delivery of concise summaries (with logical conclusions, drawn from reliable data) at the ‘right’ time to the ‘right’ person in the ‘right’ format, wherein ‘right’ can have innumerable connotations.
Another pre-requisite that also facilitates the above is the ability to navigate across vertical silos of disciplines. Public policy issues are like river water basins, lying across state boundaries, and therefore needing – just like water disputes do – a ‘smart’ way of engineering communication. It requires an amalgamated understanding of contexts, and the scientific understanding of evidence. This also encourages the creation of customized solutions to complex challenges, as after all policy making has to be pragmatic.
Besides the above, and with the world becoming a global family, intercultural intelligence is becoming an important subject – the ability to not only to understand cultures across the world, while doing business, but also to understand local cultures that form a diverse country like India. This intelligence hinges on communication too.
Many times, public policy decisions are rooted in certain value system that a society takes up, rather than evidence. This makes the need for an effective communication, all the more important. People do not share ethical standpoints. For them to be able to come across a table and agree to certain propositions relies crucially on how the proposition is made. It is not a battle. Words become important.