At the recent Global Leadership Summit, Juliet Funt, CEO of Whitespace at Work shared the concept of 2D vs 3D communications. It’s a simple idea that encapsulates why our communications – within our organizations and especially with our volunteers – are sometimes more painful than they need to be.
2D communications are simple and fact-driven. They include simple sharing of information, reporting back, yes/no questions and scheduling. E-mail, text, chat and PowerPoint decks are all great ways to deliver 2D communications.
3D communications are something else entirely. They are emotional, nuanced, and fluid. They require back-and-forth, follow-up questions and time to reflect. They are collaborative and creative. These communications are best suited for the phone, video meetings and face-to-face conversations.
The problem comes when you use the wrong communication method for information you’re trying share.
- Fill a board agenda with static reports that could have been emailed and you’ll have bored, disengaged volunteers.
- Try to discuss a challenging strategy issue over group email and you’ll have an endless chain of responses that don’t connect and leave everyone confused.
- Introduce a bold new concept with a string of PowerPoint slides and you’ll crush conversation.
This seems pretty straightforward. So why would we use the wrong method of communications?
2D communications are all about control. We are stating a fact or an expectation in a clear and direct manner. We expect very little push-back. That’s useful in relating some information, but not when there are complex ideas to share.
3D communications are often challenging, dealing with issues that we’d rather not face. It can be easier to avoid conflict by diverting to an impersonal communication method like email.
When you’ve got something to share, make sure you use the right tool for the message and encourage your staff to do the same. Knowing when to talk in 3D means richer and more dynamic communications for everyone.