Chinese Whispers

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Do you remember playing Chinese Whispers? I was recently thinking about how much could be drawn from this childhood game for organisational communication and for change communication.

Is it still called Chinese Whispers or is it not considered PC anymore?

It seems harmless but we can’t be too sure these days and perhaps that goes to the central topic of this blog.  Is our communication received as we intend?

As a child I was told it was Chinese Whispers because the Great Wall of China (one of the seven man-made wonders of the world) is so long that if you tried to pass a message along it from person to person, by the time you got to the other end it would be a different message.

If I didn’t explain that, you could be forgiven for finding a meaning that could be offensive.

The aim of the game, of course, was to get the message from one end of a line or circle of people to the other unaffected. Of course there were always those who wanted to trip up the next person. They were ‘found out’ to be the link where the message changed once the game had finished and we went back over who passed on what message.

It is a great lesson in communication skills.  Do we communicate our message clearly? Do we pass it on so the listener receives it in the form that it was intended? Do we change it entirely, to suit our own aims, just because we can? Did we rush the delivery of the message?  What are the implications of that changed message? Who gets the blame?

Communication in change needs to be authentic, transparent (as much as is possible) and frequent across multiple channels.  Does everyone in your business use email or read the company newsletter? Is there are better way to communicate the message? Communication also needs to influence, maintain the message, mediate and repair those points where the message went wrong. 

Finally, wherever possible, use well liked, credible spokespersons of change from across the business.


Header Image: Girls Wispering © Kevin Shorter

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