By students, for students.

After 6,000 years, are we doing it right?

In Coaching, Management on October 3, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Since its inception, the evolution of writing has responded to and prompted dramatic shifts in the focus and capabilities of human society.

Around the 4th millennium BC, the complexity of trade and administration in Mesopotamia outgrew human memory.  Clay tokens had been used to represent commodities and labour, but with the diversification of the ancient near eastern economy the variety of these tokens in circulation ballooned to more than a hundred categories. The need for simplicity spurred invention and a new communication form was created: writing. Tokens were wrapped and fired in clay, with makings to indicate the kind of tokens within. Archaeologists have convincingly argued that these were the prototype for writing tablets.

Since then, technology has transformed our use of the written word, but not reduced its importance. The Egyptian pharaohs read from papyrus, the British Domesday Book was arduously written on sheepskin parchment and Gutenberg revolutionised communication with the invention of the printing press. Today, available channels are so diffuse and varied that Twitter can sell itself on the basis of a 140-character limit – excess is available in excess.

But there are constants too. In 2012, we’re still dealing with services and commodities, but clay tokens have become a huge array of national currencies. Like the ancients, our response to the complexity of the global economy has been to simplify – translating the perceived worth of a company into share and stock options within a single system of trade.
This still leaves an economy as massive as it is intricate. Our secondary response has, therefore, been an accelerated process of specialisation. The high level of expertise required to negotiate the trading floor has meant many in the financial sector have operated without adequate scrutiny. This year alone, banks have been criticised for fixing key interest rates and mis-selling personal payment insurance and financial products to small businesses. Sir Mervyn King, Head of the Bank of England, stated this week “Something went very wrong with the UK banking industry and we need to put it right.”

While the modern economy has been made possible by mathematics,transforming the culture informing the behaviours of economic operatives will take written communication – capable of conveying narrative, emotion and a sense of duty and responsibility.

Kingbofe

So, what does this mean for communicators today? As written communication has developed from counting to the instrument of discourse and persuasion, communicators have had to be more sophisticated in their approach. It’s now necessary to analyse your audience, leverage your resources and find a unique voice to engage and convey authority and invite action within your organisation. We come to writing 6,000 years into its development; in this period of change for many organisations, we would do well to learn how to use it effectively.

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