‘Telephone’ was a Fun Childhood Game, but Do You Really Want to Play it in Your Business?

Do your reports match reality? Are your decisions based on reality or secondhand information?

‘Telephone’ is a game in which one person whispers a message to another, which is passed through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group.  It is often regarded as a metaphor for cumulative error, especially the inaccuracies as rumors or gossip spread, or, more generally, for the unreliability of human recollection.

There’s no doubt this game is amusing as a child, but how comical would the inaccuracy of human recollection become if you played it in your business?  How much laughter would you still hear if you discovered one of your previously ambitious account executives could no longer close new business?

Would you giggle if you were no longer profitable?

In this fictitious game of Telephone, casual chatter about the latest opportunities circulate around the sales community over the course of the week.  The seemingly innocent conversations cause an ambitious senior account executive to feel the effects of miscommunication around the office.  Adam is a consistently high performer, but when his boss, Gary, hears the misshapen truth of Adam’s latest lead, tension arises:

Adam: “I’ve met with the client several times but they’re a bit tough.  I have another meeting tomorrow and am hoping to close the deal.”

Bill: “He’s met with the client several times and they’re tough.  He has another meeting and might close the deal.”

Christine: “He’s met with the client several times and they’re really difficult to deal with.  He might close the deal.”

Diane: “He’s met with that impossible client multiple times but he said he hasn’t closed the deal yet.”

Eileen: “He said he’s met with that impossible client but he still hasn’t closed the deal.”

Frank: “He said that client is impossible and he can’t close the deal.”

Gary: “Adam, are you calling our clients impossible?  If you can’t close the deal I can give it to someone else.”

Which company are you?  Which company do you want to be?

To Adam’s surprise, the perseverance and positive attitude he shared with a coworker earlier in the week had inaccurately passed through a line of people – just as in the Telephone game.  The snowball of miscommunication created a distorted perception of Adam because the inaccuracies of human recollection are unfortunately inevitable.  Adam was advertised as the exact opposite of determined; and in this case, there’s no evidence to support what Adam really said.

While this is a fictional example for our purposes, situations like this are real.  They happen everyday both internally and externally, through all channels of communication: in-person, through email, and on our business lines.  With all those channels of communication, how easily can you access the necessary evidence to fairly dispute customer complaints?

Just as your CEO wants the knowledge to accurately address your largest client’s concerns, you need this knowledge to moderately settle even the smallest discrepancies.  Quantitative data is great for good companies, but qualitative, context data turns the good company into a great company.  Take Company A and Company B, for example:

Company A knows how many phone calls they receive in the office and who is calling.

Company B knows how many phone calls they receive in the office, who is calling and on what device, who they want to speak with and what they’re saying, who they spoke with and what they said before, when a dispute is escalating, what the dispute is about, and where the dispute originated from.

Which company do you want to be?


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