Researchers have now determined the point at which a communications system becomes unwieldy, and when it’s best to just stop talking.
The study into just why it’s alright to be quiet sometimes was done the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. The aim of the study was to find out just how effective a communications network is when parts of it don’t work like they’re supposed to.
Common thinking and the social media perspective dictates that more communication is always better, and the more we know about and talk to one another, the more efficient our world will be. Indeed, many young people are of the opinion that knowing everything about their neighbors – and their neighbors knowing everything about them – is par for the virtual course. But are they right?
Turns out, old folks may know best.
The researchers have discovered that in any system which relies heavily on communication, be it a flock of migrating birds, social network or business Intranet, fast and accurate communication is key.
If the precision or speed of communication decreases, even if the system itself grows larger or more complex, the end result will be a total system failure.
Mathematical representation of network structure: fancy!
This is in contrast to the prevailing idea that the more connected we become, the more efficient the network.
In fact, while communications effectiveness will increase for a short period of time even if several connections – or “nodes” – are not responding fast enough or with enough quality information, the eventual trend will be a decrease in overall system function.
If these nodes are left alone, regardless of how many more are added, the system will eventually collapse.
This flies in the face of the notion that if other nodes pick up the slack or increase their rates of communication that the system will right itself. Instead, researchers found that in certain situations, decreasing the connectivity between nodes that were not functioning properly could increase the viability and stability of the network.
What does this mean for business?
That fast and accurate communication is essential to profitable function.
What does this mean for teens, tweens, and the social media-addicted masses?
That no one cares what you had for breakfast, how many fields you planted on Farmville and that by communicating poorly, you may bring down the very systems you love so much.
Sweet, sweet justice.