TAMIU Professor: E-Communication Prompts Users to Compensate

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 Dr. Kock.

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 effectively.

"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," said Kock.

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 nedkock@tamiu.edu.

University office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu