A Secret to Great Communication…

During the Cold War the United States and the Soviet Union conducted a decades-long, anything-goes race to build ever-more powerful weapons and satellite systems.


Partway through that race the US government decided to investigate the efficiency of this process. It solidified research into the question of why certain engineering projects were successful and others were not.


One pattern in the data became immediately apparent.


The most successful projects were those driven by sets of individuals who formed what researcher Thomas Allen called “clusters of high communications.”


Allen dug into the data to find out the common link of the groups that solved problems at such a high level.


Was it intelligence? Same experience? Same degree? Best leadership skills? All those factors would seem to make sense but the data showed otherwise.


It was simply…the distance between their desks.


He couldn’t believe it at first but the more he studied the data the more it became clear. It had less to do with their intelligence, experience, and expertise but where their desks were located.


Allen said “Something as simple as visual contact is very, very important, more important than you think. If you can see the other person or even the area where they work, you’re reminded of them and that brings a whole bunch of effects.”


In digging even deeper, Allen goes on to say, “We could look at how often people communicated and see where they were located in relation to each other, and we could see through the frequency, without knowing where they sat, and who was on each floor.”


“We were really surprised at how rapidly it decayed when they moved to a different floor.  It turns out that vertical separation is a very serious thing.  If you’re on a different floor in some organizations, you may as well be in a different country.”


This research went on to be known as the Allen curve.

In other words, proximity is power.


Power for your leaders, their communication, and their effectiveness.


I understand in a world where we work on various floors, multiple locations, and multiple offices around the world, this research may instantly be discouraging, wondering how in the world your team or company can overcome this obstacle.


Regular connection, personal face-to-face meetings (even on Zoom), and a frequency in those interactions becomes the secret! 


A quick chat or video call can increase that feeling of connection.


So, if you find yourself with the challenge of distance, whether it’s 8 meters or 8,000 miles away, remember...

Consistency is everything in having those touch points with your team!

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