The Challenge of Innovation and Communication!

Posted on: January 30th, 2009 by Hayim Herring

Here’s one of my favorite stories about the challenges of communicating:

A lawyer was interviewing a man regarding his decision to divorce his wife, and asked, “What are the grounds for your divorce?”
He replied, “I have about 5 acres.”
“No,” he said, “I mean, what’s the foundation of this case?”
“It is made of concrete” he responded.
He said, “Do you have a grudge?”
“Yes,” he replied, “it can hold two cars.”
“Sir, does your wife beat you up?”
“Yes,” he said “several times a week she gets up earlier than I do.”
Finally, in frustration, the lawyer asked, “Why do you want a divorce?”
Looking perplexed, he answered, “My wife says I don’t communicate well.”

According to the Jewish tradition, God did not communicate with the Jewish people at Mount Sinai only once. Rather, the classical rabbis teach that every day God’s voice still emanates from Mount Sinai. (Pirkei Avot 6:2)

Without stretching this analogy, there is something important to learn from this rabbinic teaching: communicating once about critical matters is not enough. No matter how many times you think you have clearly explained a change-related matter, you probably need to continue working at it.

Often, there is a small cadre of people directly assigned with implementing a change and they’ve probably been working at it for some time. They are close to it and understand from the inside out. But, it probably took this group some time to gain clarity on their mandate for change. So if even those who are most intimately associated with the change require time to digest it, consider how much effort is really required to communicate on a broader level.

There are a few strategies that can help you communicate effectively:

  • Identify a volunteer in your congregation/community with expertise in communications who can help you craft a clear and consistent message. (This is also a wonderful way to involve another member of your congregation!)
  • Keep your message simple—in fact, the larger the group, the simpler the message has to be. Why? Because simple messages are easier to communicate to larger, heterogeneous groups.
  • Make sure that all those directly involved with the change process are communicating the same message
  • Match the communications channels to your audience—meet them where they are, whether in print, electronically on your website or e-newsletter, on Facebook, by telephone or with a flier in the local coffee shop or book store.

When I Googled “communications strategies,” I received 36,800,000 hits—a sign of the challenge of communicating in a multi-media, information-saturated age. So here’s my question: what are the most effective means you’ve found to communicate a change?

Rabbi Hayim Herring

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