Editor's note: This is the second of a three-part series on Community: what it is, what it means and what it can be. Click to view Part 1: Community Starts with Finding Common Ground.
Have you ever considered humanity’s greatest gift? Beyond our ability to harness fire, electricity or flight, beyond the creation of the wheel or sliced bread or the world-wide web, the power to communicate is our greatest ability.
It’s taken for granted, but we have the amazing capacity to take a thought/idea/concept existing solely within one individual’s mind, transmit that thought/idea/concept (through a variety of means) and share it with other individual minds. All through simple conversation, communication.
Communication is at the heart of Community.
It’s become cliché, the idea that “the key to a great relationship is communication.” But an expression becomes cliché for a reason: because a concept is so universally understood that we overuse a simple phrase to the point of triteness, which unfortunately diminishes the power of an otherwise powerful truth. So let’s deconstruct the cliché and revisit the original concept for a moment; we’ll even use a few clichés to make the point:
Individually, one person is limited. Even an immensely talented individual with unique personal abilities has their personal limitations. Yes, “one person can change the world”; but it requires that one person communicating and sharing ideas/guidance/instruction with others in order to form a team, to create consensus, to spark change, to move the needle, to build momentum, to get things done, to change the world…. you get the point.
Communication heightens our ability to identify our weakness and exploit our strengths. It allows us to harness energies and focus attentions. It creates better understanding, fostering patience. It provides for cooperation and interaction and sparks synergy.
Communication exponentially increases the power of a single individual, creating teams of individuals, all using their individual talents, strengths and abilities and applying them toward a common goal, purpose or mission. A team can accomplish what no individual can. On the ballfield or court, communication allows athletic teams comprised of individuals to succeed in an endeavor no individual could do on their own (ask Lebron James about this). We call that type of communication ‘teamwork.’
Now apply that concept in terms of a community. What can a community accomplish when its individual components — its ‘team members’ (ordinary citizens, “community leaders”, civic institutions, organizations, associations, clubs, etc…) — are acting on their own (even doing great things in their own right) independently? And what can those same team members do (playing to their strengths) while actively communicating with each other, strategically working together with singular vision in shared mission toward a common goal?
That type of community teamwork — with the combined powers of individual institutions all “rowing in the same direction” — requires a sense of Commonality. And it requires Communication.
Communication (and strategic endeavor) is key to the advancement of our community. In our final column, we’ll take a look at the powerful combination of commonality, communication and teamwork at work in a community.
Mark Gibson is Executive Director of The Haute Initiative, a grass-roots non-profit dedicated to promoting & celebrating the greater Terre Haute/Vigo County community.