By: John Wilson
One of the benefits of being old, and I am, is that you can “remember when.” As in when stuff happened. It helps with that thing called perspective. I can look back and see how the landscape has changed, and think about what I might or should have done differently. Email, for instance, has made mincemeat of business communications. Torn it apart and left it on the floor for dead. I should have known better, but I fell into the trap along with everyone else. But it is time to reclaim the territory.
In the old order, business communication focused on two areas: business-to-business and interoffice. Business-to-business communication had three facets:
There were increasing levels of formality, the letter being the ultimate, iron-clad tool for summing things up and sealing deals. Face-to-face happened at trade shows or in offices and was typically expensive because it involved travel. The phone was the preferred medium for daily work.
Interoffice communication was a slightly different story. It primarily involved phone and face-to-face, but with the memo standing in for the letter. Around the office we talked to one another, a lot. You sent memos to make proposals, summarize meetings, and formalize plans. It was all straight forward and hierarchical and well established by the time I arrived.
What followed would completely reshape business communications, practically ensuring the need for the company I founded to step in and help sort through the noise using tools based on those first principles.