Have you ever tried explaining a complex task to someone? Have you ever experienced a problem with expressing your own thoughts? Communication is not always easy, efficient and effective. Without effective communication, your company organization is unable to exchange information essential to daily operations. Communication problems between employees can cost a company productivity and money.
There might be language barriers between people of different ages, professions, levels of industry experience, or coming from different social backgrounds. Any such barrier is going to slow down communication or create misunderstandings that make communication ineffective. Misunderstandings, resulting from poor communication, can easily lead to mutual distrust, personal conflict or even worse.
When people speak, they are often not clear about what exactly they mean, which almost assures that the message will be unclear to others as well. Not to mention that people, especially when under pressure, tend to communicate multiple messages with the same piece of dialogue. We often get confused about these messages that we constantly receive from others. Furthermore, listeners are sources of communication problems as well, as they often fail to listen carefully, get distracted, lose focus or interest. They may think to know what the speaker means, because they have heard similar dialogue before, or are making assumptions on the speaker’s character (he/she is "just like" that other person).
Perhaps most important of all, many people are not even aware that this problem exists, think that it does not affect them personally, or are unaware of its huge impact on day to day business within their organization. Awareness of the problem is the first step to an effective solution.
For this reason, 1000 realities has developed Blockade, a virtual reality experience that facilitates diagnosing and understanding effective communication barriers within teams, while additionally raising team member awareness on the subject in an attractive, somewhat gamified way. The experience is designed for 2 to 5 participants at a time, who are collectively tasked with carrying out a specific, complex task in a virtual environment. One of the participants, referred to as the “listener” is immersed in the virtual environment by means of a VR headset and motion controllers and is tasked with carrying out any actual actions necessary to complete the task at hand. The remaining participants, referred to as “speakers”, are each given a piece of the complete graphical instructions on how to carry out the task at hand. The team’s objective is to effectively communicate in order to translate the pieces of instructions given to each of the speakers into a plan to complete the task at hand, while at the same time conveying that plan to the listener doing the actual work.
The exercise currently available in Blockade consists of a task to build a specific structure out of a set of blocks varying in shape, size and color initially scattered around the virtual environment. Speakers are provided with images of the finished structure at various stages of completion, and viewed from various points of view. Other exercises are planned for future releases of Blockade, with varying factors such as base difficulty level and degree of induced emotional engagement.
The key point of the exercise is that initially the listener may not see the any of the instructions, while the speakers may not constantly observe the actions carried out by the listener. Such a setup will most probably induce awareness on how difficult communication within the given scope actually is. At a later stage, the participants may repeat the exercise, possibly changing the roles of listener and speakers. This will most probably hint a solution to the experienced difficulties, i.e. “things tend to get a lot easier once we all have the same perspective, and establish a common language used to work on the project”.