Illustrating communication and conversation in organizational teams is easier than it seems–all you need is a ball of string. The recent Management Teaching Reviewarticle “Web-of-Communication” from authors Gary Wagenheim and Jacqueline McAdam outlines a simple group exercise for students and organizational teams to better understand communication patterns and team development.
The abstract for the paper:
The web-of-communication exercise is a fun, highly interactive experiential activity that facilitates learning about team communication patterns. A ball of string is used to visually map the communication pattern that emerges during a team conversation. The exercise helps participants learn how patterns they create reinforce or break down barriers that shape meaning and exert influence on behavior. This exercise requires only a ball of string for each team, is easy to facilitate, takes very little time, energizes participants, and provides substantial learning opportunities. The exercise works with student teams in an organizational behavior course with modules on communication, team development, power and influence, or conflict management. The exercise works well with organizational teams, too.
Today’s intensely international, multimedia marketplace for communication places a premium on design thinking and collaboration. Such thinking has been fostered for years in art and architecture programs, which feature a studio approach to solving problems and making art. As I’ve pursued my current research on how—or whether–21st century workspaces can be designed to foster innovation, I’ve collaborated with colleagues in architecture and design and become more aware of how they teach. Visits to professional design studies and other workspaces have also made me aware of how creating communication products is an experimental, interactive, iterative, dynamic, flexible process, much like play. Visual thinking is key, especially embracing the role of text in a visual environment of messages. My observations are confirmed by professional writer, who tell us that they depend increasingly on visual thinking and design skills to compose successful messages. University courses in professional communication, however, rarely cultivate a studio atmosphere or approach visual skills at any more than a superficial level. In this article, I describe a short course in visual communication for American undergraduate art students, taught in London by a colleague and in which I participated for three years. It provides an attractive model for bridging the gap between pedagogy and practice in professional communication, opening students’ eyes while at the same time inviting them to enjoy the game.
Business and professional communicators increasingly rely on visual thinking and design strategies to create effective messages. The workplace need for such thinking, however, is not readily accommodated in current pedagogy. A long-running study abroad short course for American students taught in London provides a model for meeting this need. Addressed to students in art and design and framed through principles of discovery learning, the course approach and assignments can be productively adapted to enhance the visual competence of students of professional communication.
Deborah C. Andrews is a professor emerita of English at the University of Delaware. She has published textbooks and articles about professional communication, especially internationally. Her current research is on how—or whether—the physical environment of a workspace can be designed to foster entrepreneurial or scientific innovation through effective communication.
The rationale for changing JBC to IJBC seems relatively transparent. Few people would argue with the notion of a globalized economy and, as a result, the significance of international business communication. To prepare students to meet the language challenges of this increasingly complex business environment and to address the questions that arise in the workplace that focus on ways in which the language of business communication crosses state and national borders, our members’ scholarship must, by necessity, cross those same borders.
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About the Journal Business Communication Quarterly (BCQ) is a quarterly, peer-reviewed journal devoted to the teaching of business communication. It aims to present the many interdisciplinary, international, and organizational perspectives that characterize the field. It is an official journal of the Association for Business Communication (ABC).
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