f. Communication, Assembly and Organisation

Communication, Assembly and Organisation

Communication and Assembly

In the context of an organisation, communication means an ability to find other individuals and organisations who wish to address the same motivator as oneself. Once communication is established and ongoing, the individuals have assembled and can be described as an organisation.

For much of the history of humanity we have only been able to communicate face to face, and this has limited our ability to form organisations. Indeed, it is interesting to note that the evolution of communication has followed that of the hierarchy of needs. Alarm calls are associated with a creature’s existence needs; mating displays with its procreation needs; behavioural symbols, such as grooming, dominance, etc., with its relatedness needs; writing and more long-distance communication with its growth needs.

Much of our interaction is still face to face, of course. So, individuals in an existing organisation, who experience the same motivator, can assemble physically to form a sub-organisation or an entirely separate one. Individuals in a community can also assemble physically. This is evidenced by the number of groups in the UK that protest against local building development.

However, in the present day, we also have technologies which enable us to communicate with many people over very long distances, e.g., the telephone, internet, etc. These technologies have developed over time. We have, therefore, become ever more capable of contacting others who are experiencing the same motivator, and thus, ever more capable of forming an organisation. This growth in our ability to communicate has contributed significantly to increasing social complexity. It has also contributed to our ability to respond to motivators, both positive and negative, and thus, to the nature of our societies. On the other hand, it has created new motivators of both types.

It may be necessary for a significant number of individuals to be affected by a motivator before they assemble into an organisation. The extent to which they are affected also has a bearing. The motivator must be of sufficient significance for people to find communication worth their time and effort. Thus, there can be a threshold below which an organisation does not form.

A charismatic individual or one willing to put in much time and effort can help in the assembly process. However, their personal motivation may or may not be the same as those affected by the motivator.


In the West, we have a fascination with organisational structure. Owing to their competitive nature, this is particularly the case for business organisations. There is, therefore, a vast body of information on the internet, and apart from describing the basics, I will not attempt to repeat it here.

Organisational structure defines how activities for the purpose and maintenance of the organisation are carried out. Usually, there is a division of labour. Each member’s role and how it fits into the overall system is defined. A simple club, for example, normally requires a chair, a secretary, and a treasurer as a minimum. Typically, organisations comprise a number of sub-organisations with particular responsibilities. They may be divided according to function, geography, or a matrix combining both. For example, a business may comprise several departments with responsibilities for procurement, production, marketing, and sales. A police force may be divided into northern, southern, and central departments.

Organisations also form part of larger parent organisations. For example, nations may combine to form political, cultural, economic, or geographical alliances. Smaller organisations in a nation may collaborate to form functional sectors, or geographical alliances.

e. The Systems Approach to Communication

The Systems Approach to Communication

Communication is about the transfer of information. The latter is held in the way that matter or energy is organised. A key feature of information is that it can be replicated, whilst matter and energy cannot, i.e., organisation in one place can be copied to another. The term “replication” is used because information is established in the latter, whilst also being retained in the former.

An example is cellular reproduction. Information is held in a cell’s DNA and provides a template for the way in which the cell is formed and functions. DNA is an interlocking double helix. Each individual helix or strand contains the necessary information. Before a cell divides, its DNA is replicated firstly by splitting into the two strands. The matching strand for each is then fabricated from chemicals in the DNA’s cellular environment. When the cell divides each carries a copy of the original DNA and, thus, information in the original cell is replicated. This is just one example. Similar processes exist throughout the living world and are essential for the propagation of information, including human knowledge and beliefs.

The Shannon-Weaver model of communication identifies five key components: the sender, the encoder, the channel, the decoder, and the receiver. Shannon explained miscommunication by introducing the concept of noise in the channel. However, this neglected other ways in which human communication can fail.

The principle of discrete minds denies the existence of telepathy, i.e., the ability of one mind to transfer information directly into another. Rather, each person must translate his knowledge into one of many languages, and transmit it via a medium of communication, for example a book, an email, or speech. The recipient must then acquire knowledge from that medium by translating from language into meaning and remembering the latter.

In the case of human communication, Shannon’s sender is the original source of the information, i.e., someone’s memory. The encoder is the same person translating his memory into an encoded form, e.g., speech, text, etc. The channel is a medium of communication, such as sound, a book, the internet, etc., which holds the encoded information, making it accessible to others. Sometimes information is held temporarily by the medium, as in the case of speech. Other times it is held more permanently, as in the case of a book. Shannon’s decoder is someone else who translates the codified information into information that is meaningful to him. Finally, the receiver is the ultimate destination of the information, i.e., the memory of the decoder.

It can be seen from this process that there are opportunities for replication. A book can be duplicated several thousands of times, and speech can be heard by several individuals.

However, human communication is not inevitable. If someone holds information, this does not necessarily imply that they communicate it. It is very common for information to be withheld, and there are numerous reasons for doing so. For example, it may confer advantage to a competitor, it may be of little importance, or it may overload the processing capacity of the recipient.

The relevant information can, of course, be false at source. However, even if it is true, there are several ways for it to degrade and become false during the communication process.

  1. If someone communicates information, this does not necessarily imply that he believes it. He may be lying, or to put it more politely, providing misinformation.
  2. Errors can arise during encoding by, for example, a poor choice of words.
  3. As Shannon points out, there can be noise in the channel of communication. Noise is anything which can alter information during its transmission. If the medium is speech, then noise is literally any random sound, such as traffic, pneumatic drills, or the buzz of a crowd, which drowns it out. With the advent of more complex forms of communication, the term has become more general, however. The problem of noise interfering with communication can be minimised by information redundancy. In its simplest form this is repetition. It can also mean retransmission in an alternative form, or via another channel or medium, or some way for the recipient to check that the information has not degraded. Natural language itself contains much redundancy. Grammatical rules mean that it is still possible to decode a sentence even when words and letters are missing. For example, “I … happy that George l?kes t?e bisc??ts”.
  4. Our senses are fallible, and it is possible to misunderstand what is expressed in a medium of communication, e.g., by mishearing or misreading it.
  5. Our information processing abilities can also become overloaded. The principle of requisite parsimony means that there are limits to the rate at which we can decode information. However, the principle of requisite saliency says we can deal with this limitation by prioritising the information we do receive, and process only what seems to be the most important.
  6. In memorising information, the principle of effort after meaning plays an important part. When attempting to store new information in memory, we often modify it so that it is consistent with what we already know.
  7. Finally, memories fade if not constantly accessed, and even when they are accessed, this can result in them being modified.

Given all these factors, errors in human communication are inevitable. Indeed, it may seem surprising that we are able to communicate at all. Perhaps information redundancy is the reason.