Hot Potato

There is a Childs game called “Hot Potato” where a small object such as a bean bag is tossed around (as if it was a Hot Potato) while music plays. When the music stops, the person with the Hot Potato is out.

There is a communications method I would like to call the Hot Potato method where when you try to disseminate communication, you do a blast. Such as an email to your group, a poster on the notice board or some other passive means. Why would I like it to be called the Hot Potato method, its simply because it seems that the goal is to get rid of the communication as easily and quickly as possible.

My thoughts are that this method of communication is fine, if the information is inconsequential.

If the information is important, then I suggest other means be employed.

Why? well, if you disseminate information that is not currently relevant to all individuals at the time, then you run the possibility that it will be ignored or forgotten when the time is crucial.

For example, you have a procedure for a particular circumstance that comes around once a month. You send an email out to your team a month beforehand. If they are inundated with a number of emails per day. They are going to read it and mentally ignore it, or ignore it in the first place. Its 30 days away. They are busy, its not going to be at the top of their thoughts. Then a month later, the procedure needs to be implemented. You are going to have people who have no idea what you are talking about. You can complain, and say that you sent an email, but it was sent at a time that it was irrelevant for those people.

A quote by George Bernard Shaw comes to mind in this circumstance. “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”.

So what can you do? Well, my thinking is that its not going to be easy and there may be different methods to try.

For example, timing might be everything. A day before the procedure needs to be performed, notify then. Not a month before hand. Physically go to the people affected and let them know about the procedure. A conversation may stick more in their mind than an email. Teach those affected. Write a tutorial, doing sticks more in the mind than telling.

The whole point is that if you really, really want to communicate something to someone, you have to be pro-active, you cannot be passive. You have to get their attention. Tell them and/or teach them. Get confirmation that they have received the information. Reinforce the information.  If after all that, you still fail to get the message across to all relevant people, re-evaluate and try something different.

People retain information through different means. Some through written word, others audibly, others through pictures and diagrams. Some, by doing and some a combination of all the above. It becomes your job as the person who needs to communicate the information to make sure it is properly communicated as only you know if its importance.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.