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When “Connecting the Dots” Fails – Communication Pitfalls in Group Projects

Long-term group projects, such as a website redesign, are the reality of most companies and communication is critical to the success of these complicated endeavors. Building a solid foundation and support system for the communication, application, and implementation processes are essential for a positive outcome – each of which is comprised of “dots.”  Projects such as website redesigns are managed by people with pre-existing biases, behaviors, and perceptions that affect their understanding of the “dots” in play and subsequently, the reality of your project.

To successfully collaborate and avoid misunderstandings along the way, it takes awareness and appreciation of the role “dots” play in your initiative’s success. Being mindful of “dots”  heavily influences the way we approach problems and opportunities, make decisions, collaborate with team members when developing a strategy, directing or designing a website, creating marketing collateral, or any other lengthy, team-oriented project.  Recognizing and keeping top of mind awareness about dots (yours and the interaction with others) will give your result a greater positive impact.

Lining up the “Dots”

So, what exactly are dots? Regarding your website’s redesign, they are core elements of an individual’s and group’s reality which influences the strategy and tactics of your project. They drive the focus, understanding, decisions, and actions taken by team members,

and they are all personal until overtly made universal.  So for true communication to take place, “dots” need to be called out and specifically defined for a shared understanding of meanings, intentions, and associations. Doing so will help form context to people’s rationale, justification, and behaviors. However, assuming your view of your “dots” are universally understood and shared by the team as well as others you communicate with will stall a project before it even begins.

Recognizing the value of people’s dots is essential to “thinking outside of the box”. “The box”  is made up of walls comprised of “dots”.  Psychologists often refer to the box concept in terms of schemas or paradigms of thought. Realizing the relationship between “dots” and “boxes” from the outset will help maximize the project’s performance by leveraging these notions to their fullest potential.

The phrase “connecting the dots” is well known, but what they are and how the dots are connected have not been well documented or communicated.  Because of this lack of knowledge, people either don’t “connect the dots,” do so in their own unique way (which detracts from a common methodology to build on, share with others, and create synergies among team members), or do so in such a limited way that they aren’t taking full advantage of the process –  all of which reduce the effectiveness of your project.

Culture, personal perceptions, individual biases, and other “invisible” variables drive behavior and complicate the “simple” notions of “connecting the dots” and “thinking out of the box.”  

How to Keep Your Project On Track

To make the idea and importance of dots and boxes visible and top of mind, remind yourself of these facts.  Doing so will keep your project on track and even take it to a new level.  

  • Everyone doesn’t see the same dots as you do. You see what others miss and vice versa.
  • Everyone doesn’t see the same dots in the same way.  Even when others see the same dots as you, they may associate a different meaning to the relationship between them and end up with a different understanding.
  • Everyone doesn’t connect the same dots the same way you do, resulting in different overall impressions, decisions, and actions.

With the points above kept top of mind all the time, here are a few out-of-the-box suggestions worth considering.

  • Work as a group for all phases of your project, this removes any singular focus to the work and ensures everyone is on the same page about each “dot”.
  • Be sure that all project criteria are clearly defined, so comprehension is truly universal.
  • Keep an open mind about each element of your project. Oftentimes, pre-existing ideas or limited view of the value of any aspect of the project stunt the potential outcome.

Connecting the dots is important at all stages of a project, but here are specific stages your knowledge of dots can be applied.

  • Research And Analysis.  Synthesize research results and triangulate findings (a structure of an impression formed by the connection of data points gathered through surveys, observations, tests, experiments, etc.).
  • Website Design. When generating ideas and coming up with concepts that solve problems and create new possibilities.
  • Search Engine Optimization.  At the point of planning, evaluating, and developing keyword phrase strategies, look at each word or phrase as a dot.  The decisions you make on their importance or value are determined by the patterns, relationships, and associations you’ve identified – all of which are approaches to connecting dots of disparate information.

When you take the steps necessary to connect each criterion of the reality of your project at a group level, work is streamlined, timelines are met and goals are achieved.

All this is important because whether you are leading the initiative, participating as a member, or reviewing for approval as a company owner, realizing the value of dots and how to connect them results in the best deliverables.

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