How should we value clearer communication? Is that something that can be expressed in numbers? If so, how can we figure it out?

I’ve been mulling this over for a while and this post is a plea for help!

I’m doing bunches of things that involve improving communication between members of teams, groups, and networks. In my pro bono work with the RSA, for example, I’m helping Fellows to connect with each other via an online Forum and through video conferences using Zoom. In my “day job” I’m working with distributed teams, helping members to understand each other better, so as to find ways of communicating more fluently about the important things.

It seems intuitively obvious that clearer communication has value. But how much value?

I picked up a T-shirt from Lean Agile Scotland that reminded me of Metcalfe’s Law. The conference guys wrote it as, “The usefulness of a network improves by the square of the number of nodes in a network.” Wikipedia phrases it slightly differently, focussing on value rather than usefulness, and the internet has lots of arguments about the specifics. Is it an exponential or logarithmic improvement, people ask?

Nobody disputes Metcalfe’s central premise: communications networks increase in potential value as they add members.

But discussions of Metcalfe’s Law point out that for a network to have real utility, the nodes (the people, in practice) need to actually connect. Potential isn’t enough!

And that’s the bit I’m working on. Getting people actually connecting. Talking about the stuff that matters. Collaborating on innovations that will change the world, that kind of thing.

So, is there anyone reading this who can help me find a Law – or even a Theory – that’ll help me put a value on all that? Please comment!


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