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Reviews and Excercises

"I never write Metropolis
for seven cents
because I can get
the same price for "city."
I never write the word policeman because
I can get the same
money for  "cop."
- Mark Twain

Julius Caesar And The Bad Day At The Office
Rome Shakespeare's rendition of how Caesar met his demise might be viewed as an extreme example of a bad day at the office. Caesar was unable to successfully communicate and convince his opponents (and apparently his friends) that his vision for governance of Rome was the most desirable.

Hopefully, none of us will experience a physical threat in the workplace over our attempts to communicate; but all of us have likely experienced the feelings of frustration and futility when our best attempts to communicate fall short. Even highly experienced and successful business writers have days when the communication patterns they have developed are not sufficient to overcome the difficulties encountered in certain situations and with certain people in the workplace. These same experienced and successful communicators are often not able to pinpoint the source of the problem or to easily identify a remedy.

Many factors can contribute to the "noise" in the process that results in failed business communication. A likely place to start looking for the source of the problem and the potential solution is in the assumptions we make about communication and the context in which it occurs. Business communication reverses the usual assumptions about the means and ends of most other communication.

Do You Want The "Whole Story" Or Do You Want To Know, "Who Dunnit"?

inductive A common discussion in our Presentation skills and Writing skills programs revolves around the use of inductive vs. deductive organizational patterns.

Should you lead up to the main point, or do you start off with the main point and lead from it?

What We Learned vs. What We Should Do
While attending English classes during school, many of us feel like we were taught to "set the stage, build your case, and lead the audience to the main point" - the inductive approach. However, at work, there seems to be a constant emphasis on the "bottom line" followed by the details involved - the deductive approach.

Some of us use inductive methods - we give full details while leading to the main point as we speak. Others of us use the deductive method - we prefer to get to the point as quickly as possible and then follow with the details.

Even though we all seem to know that as you move up the corporate ladder, we need to be bottom-line focused, the value of communicating in a deductive, bottom-line manner still needs to be emphasized. So why isn't it easy for us to communicate in this pattern, and what might be the factors that keep us from using deductive methods to communicate all the time?

When What You Do, Is Not What You Should Do
Scientists face unique challenges when communicating their expertise with audiences. Scientists are taught to use the inductive method as they pursue their work and are taught to take very small steps when performing research. A successful researcher must demonstrate that they have taken a very intricate series of steps, and provide a very clear scientific pathway to demonstrate the validity of their results. When scientists are speaking with other scientist or friends, the inductive method of communication often works.

However, the way that one does science is not how one reports science.

When audiences listen to scientific/technical presentations they still want to hear the bottom-line information that you are there to present. Research papers have abstracts; Research reports and presentations need to have an abstract in the introduction. Because the researchers are so close to their topic, they often present the research process in excruciating detail, while the readers and listeners are asking "So what?"

After listening to or reading scientific/technical presentations laden with inductive patterns many audience members finish the presentation wondering what was the purpose of the presentation, how am I supposed to use this information, and what does the presenter want me to do?

Specific Factors Affect Our Approach
We are about to make some sweeping generalizations here, but it seems that there are a variety of factors that predispose people to choose between inductive or deductive methods. In addition, the audience we are addressing will influence whether we should use inductive or deductive methods.

Some of these factors may be based upon their expertise, gender, regional, culture, timing, and technology. There is no right or wrong pattern of communication. There are only differences in the patterns. And, the more we understand about these differences in patterns, the more we will successfully communicate in a wider variety of circumstances.

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Unit I - Page 2 of 9
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