The Art of Communication: (The First Week MBA Perspective)

Communication (to give it’s dictionary translation) means the act or process of communicating, fact of being communicated, the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions or information by speech, writing or signs.  Communication is something imparted, interchanged or transmitted.

I work in Communications, my undergraduate degree was in Communications, I am a fully qualified Communicator.  On certain days I would even go so far as to call myself a Communication Expert.

However my downfall is that I often discover that my Communications haven’t been Understood.  This is Understandable as I have no training in Understanding.  I didn’t study it in school or college and I can wholeheartedly say that I have received no on the job training in the area of Understanding.  Understanding for the uninitiated is the area of expertise where you learn how to ensure your Communication is Understood.

This year I decided to study for an MBA at the wonderful Smurfit School of Business.  One of the reasons I chose this programme is to improve my Understanding of the Communication of my message. Where better to be Understood than in University right?  I regret to inform you that my first week was a disaster on the Understanding front.  And I sincerely hope this is not a harbinger of doom for the year ahead.  And to confuse matters doing an MBA is not just about being Understood in an Irish setting, it is also about being Understood by the cohort of international students.  In today’s world being Understood globally is vital if you want to be successful.

So picture this, week one, our class of 40 is split into 8 teams.  In my team there is an Irish Marine Engineer, an English Trader, a Vietnamese Tax Consultant and an Indian Electronic Engineer while I am an Irish TV Producer.  Our first meeting as a team is to write our team charter, our rules of engagement as it were.  Five minutes in there’s already a problem of Understanding.  I am in the middle of addressing a critical area of team work when I spot my Indian colleague Aditya, shaking his head in disagreement.  Already we are facing our first conflict.  And as a Communicator I like to confront conflict.  It turns out that when Aditya shakes his head it actually means he is agreeing with something.  Baffling for an Irish person, I know, but common in Hyderabad!  My first glimmer of Understanding.  Men and women Understand things in different ways, as do different generations, and as for different cultures where do you start?  I’ve made progress though.  Feeling positively euphoric after week one.  I’ve made that critical first step on the road to Understanding how to Communicate myself so that I am Understood.  I might, in fact, choose to actually Understand something myself by the time I leave here. At least I’m in the right place to learn some more about Understanding.

– Stephen Smith, FT MBA 2012