Preface
Last update: 13 December 1999

 
The materials presented here have their foundations in a number of my previous publications, including

A lot has changed 20 or so years since I first began writing about business communication. We now know far more about human cognition and how it affects perception and communication than we did when my previous books were written. Also, information technology has changed—and continues to change—the way we communicate in a wide variety of ways. The materials presented here will cover most of the subjects traditionally covered in business communication textbooks and will also incorporate important new material about how people process information and the effective use of electronic communication.

A New Approach to Business Communication

The subtitle, Managing Information and Relationships, reflects those changes. Regardless of what one is doing—whether getting dressed in the morning, participating in a sport, driving a car, or negotiating the deal of a lifetime—the raw material of management is information. Information can be created, obtained, stored, processed, retrieved, and transmitted. This has always been the case. With the advent of computer technology, however, we have started to think about these processes in new ways and have increasingly recognized the centrality of information and communication in everything we do.

Although communication is widely recognized as an essential skill, becoming an effective communicator is not especially easy. One of the things that makes communication problematic is the universal tendency to behave as though everyone has—or should have—the same view of reality as we do. Even though we know from daily experience that this is not the case, in most of our interactions we presuppose that others derive the same meaning from experiences as we do.

We all are inclined to believe that our own views are correct and that the world is as we perceive it to be. For this reason, to be successful at managing information and relationships, we need to develop a better understanding of the ways in which we and others create and structure subjective experience. Because the quality of our relationships depends on our understanding of and ability to manage our own subjective experiences and those of others, Business Communication: Managing Information and Relationships begins by looking at the nature of subjective experience and its influence on the communication process.

The Information Age

Another important change is that the volume of information has been growing exponentially. Regardless of occupation, work has been becoming increasingly communication intensive. The current period has been called The Information Age because of the recognition of the centrality of information and communication in both our work and personal lives. The amount of information currently available is staggering: Letters, memos, reports, newspapers, magazines, books, radio, TV, electronic mail, electronic mailing lists and conferences, and the World Wide Web.

In Business @ the Speed of Thought, Bill Gates says “I have a simple but strong belief. The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competition, the best way to put distance between yourself and the crowd, is to do an outstanding job with information.” How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose (p. 3). In the information age, the same is as true for individuals as it is for organizations. How you gather, manage, and use information will play a significant role in your success—not only professionally but also personally, because how you handle information, how well you communicate, influences all your relationships.

The paradox of the Information Age is knowing what information is essential for a given task and being able to obtain and understand it is both easier and more difficult. These materials are designed to help you think about information and communication in a new way so that you can obtain high quality information more quickly and understand how it can help you achieve your personal and professional objectives.

Overview

Business Communication: Managing Information and Relationships is divided into seven major sections. The sections are arranged and designed to be read (at least the first time) in the following order:

A number of different studies have shown that the higher you go up the corporate ladder, the more time you will spend communicating. For this reason, effective communication is one of the prerequisites for promotion and investing the time required to become an effective communicator will serve you well, both now and throughout your career.

Acknowledgements

I am indebted to far more people than I can thank here for making the completion of these materials possible. I owe special thanks to Dr. Francis W. Weeks, who introduced me to business communication; to Dr. C. W. Wilkinson, who mentored me through my first year as a faculty member; and to Dr. Bernadine P. Branchaw, my co-author for many years until her death in 1994.

While she was my graduate student at Western Michigan University, Renunka Gopinath introduced me to HTML. Dr. Alan Rea, of the Department of Business Information Systems, introduced me to JavaScript and provided the form I have used for the review questions. Jim Jenks, of Kalamazoo and formerly of Western Michigan University, showed me how to use parent/child nested frames to facilitate navigation through the materials.

Additionally, Western Michigan University supported my work on these materials through a Teaching and Learning with Technology Grant and a sabbatical leave for the Winter Semester 2000.

 


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