TAMIU Professor: E-Communication Prompts Users to Compensate
If you're still trying to choose your New Year's resolution, consider
improving your electronic communication.
The New York Times recently reported that in a survey of 120
American corporations, one third of employees are poor writers and companies
may spend as much as $3.1 billion on improving employee writing skills.
Much business communication takes place electronically, a medium known
to increase the amount of thought necessary to effectively communicate.
Dr. Ned Kock, Texas A&M International University College of Business
Administration associate professor and interim chair of the Department
of Management Information Systems and Decision Sciences, notes the news
is not all bad.
"My research indicates that while communicating through electronic
media such as e-mail or on-line discussion groups may be harder than face-to-face
interactions, people generally compensate for the difficulty and can produce
results that are as good as if they had worked face-to-face," explained
In a study scheduled to be published in the April/June 2005 issue of
Information Resources Management Journal, Kock discusses his compensatory
adaptation principle, which argues the use of electronic communication
tools prompts two reactions: people perceive the communication to be more
difficult than face-to-face, and people compensate for this difficulty.
His experiment showed that while subjects using electronic communication
typically had a significant reduction in the "fluency" or words
used per minute, and increased the amount of time preparing a message,
the outcomes of the communication were not significantly damaged.
Such findings indicate the advantages of electronic communication should
not be dismissed, as long as people are aware it takes effort to communicate
"Electronic communication provides advantages such as the ability
to collaborate on tasks while in different locations, and a higher number
of ideas generated per unit of time. The obstacles associated with e-communication,
and the effort required to overcome those obstacles, means that businesses,
and people in general, might need to evaluate which tasks are worth the
extra effort, and which ones should be done through more traditional methods,"
He explained tasks where the amount of knowledge transfer is high, such
as explaining why something works, would probably benefit from more naturalistic
communication, such as video conferencing, but those tasks where the knowledge
transfer is low, such as providing facts about something, could be conducted
through e-mail and on-line discussion boards.
For more information about Dr. Kock's research, please contact 326.2521,
visit offices in the Western Hemispheric Trade Center, room 217A or e-mail
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