Communication Channels, Asset Specificity, and Some Humor

20 April 2007 at 6:26 pm Leave a comment

| Chihmao Hsieh |

First off, I’d like to thank Nicolai and Peter for adding me on as a guest blogger at O&M. I have admired it from afar. Hopefully I can introduce other provocative topics universal to the esteemed readership, but also practice my more text-oriented sense of humor. Ergo, this opening post…

Last week I gave a lecture to my undergrad class that included remarks about the differential ability of communication channels in handling messages of varied complexity or “equivocality.”

The research cited (Lengel and Daft, 1988) during the lecture categorizes communication channels into 3 groups: email, fax, voice mail; telephone and video conferencing; and face-to-face interaction. I independently argued that these 3 categories distinctly varied in terms of their relation to asset specificity: excepting underdeveloped countries, email, fax, and voice mail each involve investments low in asset specificity (no need for shared location, no need for shared timing); telephone and video conferencing involve investments moderate in asset specificity (no need for shared location, yes to shared timing); and face-to-face interaction involves investments high in asset specificity (yes to shared location, yes to shared timing).

I pointed out that none of these communication channels were marked by shared location and lack of need for shared timing (the missing “yes, no” condition), and that this set of conditions indeed does not indicate a communication channel. It indicates marriage.

Of course, the punchline was given with a sly grin, wink, and nudge, belying a deep respect for the institution that we call marriage.* But the students got a real kick out of it.

* For example, by institution I do not mean to imply “correctional facility.”

Entry filed under: Former Guest Bloggers, Management Theory, Theory of the Firm.

Introducing Guest Blogger Chihmao Hsieh Does Your Neighborhood Really Need Traffic Signs?

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