AB Thinks  →  14th May 2018

Is the cascade finally dead?

I was honoured and surprised when one of the opening speakers at this year’s IoIC conference referenced From Cascade To Conversation. Sue Palfrey told delegates she had found the book useful when making the strategic shift from broadcast to dialogue at The National Trust.

I wrote the book in 2014 to prove a theory. It seemed to me the most successful organisations of this century would be the ones better able to listen – and act on – the wisdom of their crowds.

Every organisation, no matter what the sector, needs to be constantly innovating. But if we rely solely on senior staff or management consultants for this fresh thinking, we are ignoring the hundreds of thousands of people who know our organisations best – the ones creating the products and delivering the services every day.

There is another important driver for a more conversational approach to internal communication. We live in a world where people every­where have found their voice. They now have the desire and ability to converse with millions across time and space. As employees, we no longer want to passively receive ‘messages’, we want to share and shape stories. Broadcasting messages is becoming increasingly archaic.

The premise of From Cascade to Conversation is the most successful organisations will be those best able to tapping into the collective brainpower from their workforce. Researching the book enabled me to find plenty of organisations gaining a commercial advantage by having better, more productive conversations with their employees.

To my surprise, the shift from cascade to conversation became a golden thread running through this year’s conference.

Speaker Bill Quirke made a compelling point: “Life is moving too fast to rely on the inadequate way we currently communicate inside organisations.”

Sheila Parry shared a worrying statistic. She had worked in an organisation were 42% of employees felt they could not speak up. This reminded me that social is a behaviour, not merely a tool. As communicators we need to help our organisation create safe spaces for open, honest conversations.

At the National Trust, Sue’s team began their shift from cascade to conversation with a programme of listening. The best conversationalists are always the best listeners.

Rachel Royall from the NHS creates a more conversational style of communication by handing over the control of her channels to employees with something to say. She believes genuine conversation builds trust – a commodity currently in very short supply across the public and private sector.

Rachel Miller told us to examine the conversations happening in exit interviews. In today’s war for talent, any insight into why people leave will be gold dust.

Helen Schick from the Alzheimer’s Society reminded us to support leaders at all levels who are having the conversations that really matter inside our organisations.

Cyrus Akrami spoke about Workplace – Facebook’s platform for employee connection and collaboration. Finally, IC tools are coming of age. And when Wal-Mart, Starbucks and thousands of other organisations turn to Workplace, what happens? You’ve guessed it. Employees share their ideas, opinions and stories, which is emotionally engaging for individuals and commercially beneficial for their organisations.