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The Illusion of Communication

Managers can unknowingly create bottlenecks in communication, mistaking control for precision.

2 min read
The Illusion of Communication
conference, people, speaking, speaker, talk, symposium
Before Growth is a weekly column about startups and their builders prior to product–market fit.

I believe that the number one reason why delivery teams miss requirements is information asymmetry. In contract theory and economics, information asymmetry deals with the study of decisions in transactions where one party has more or better information than the other.

But one good quote is worth a thousand definitions, so here’s one I like.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. —George Bernard Shaw

Sometimes managers unknowingly create an environment of information asymmetry. I know I certainly used to, even though my intentions were good. To keep everyone on the same page, I tried to become a single point of truth and steer the flow of information between business stakeholders and the delivery team single-handedly. It worked great until I made my first major mistake, which (surprise, surprise) happened soon. Now I see that I only managed to become a single point of failure—a bottleneck. My former workflow wasn’t about precision, as I publicly claimed; it was about control.

A good product manager should facilitate the conversation instead of acting as the only middleman. Two sets of eyes are better than one. And talking to is better than talking at.

Curious about how the illusion of communication could affect LLM-based products that center on interacting with AI? In The Articulation Barrier, I talk in depth about the complexities of drafting specifications for software development teams. This task is not unlike instructing LLMs like GPT-4 to create an app for you.
The Articulation Barrier
Some people can’t write or dislike it. Yet, products that rely on generative AI require them to do just that.
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Kamil Nicieja

I guess you can call me an optimist. I build products for fun—I’m a startup founder, author, and software engineer who’s worked with tech companies around the world.


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