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Learn it here, apply it out there. No wait, apply it here too!

November 18, 2013
Jennifer Walinga

Four organizations recently took part in the Organizational Communication Challenge assignment as part of the PCOM 550 Organizational Communication course in the School of Communication and Culture’s MA in Professional Communication program at Royal Roads University.

Fernwood Neighbourhood Resource Group, Mediate BC, BC Hydro and the RRU Marketing Department welcomed our students to explore, analyze and present recommendations for addressing their organizational communication challenges. The challenges were varied: ‘how do we keep pace with changing communication demands?’, ‘how do we build partnerships?’, ‘how do we better equip our employees with communication tools?’, ‘how do we build our high performing team?’

The students had two weeks to learn about their clients, conduct their analysis using the exercises, tools and concepts gleaned from their first year course in Organizational Communication, draw conclusions, generate strategies, and produce a presentation and communication plan reflecting their process and recommendations. Many were able to also draw from their theory and epistemology courses for insights into the nature, and causes of these challenges, as well as the opportunities for resolution.

Presentations were clever, insightful, courageous, and harmonized and the clients were excited by the ideas, ingenuity, and applications offered.

In accordance with the RRU Learning and Teaching Model, the assignment was collaborative, team based, participative, integrative, applied, relevant and human and technology supported all in an effort to perform as a learning community. As our brand suggests, we aim for a transformational learning experience which demands that we confront our barriers and challenges in order to facilitate new insights, paradigmatic shifts, and the forging of new pathways for behaving in the world.

Unlike typical ‘case study’ or ‘case comp’ assignments, the Org Comm Challenge is not competitive in the traditional sense. The initiative was designed to mirror the values based learning principles governing the Royal Roads pedagogy and culture. Therefore, teams worked independently and, though they were certainly challenged to strive for excellence by their fellow teams, but there was no team judged as better or worse. All teams were aiming to optimize their performance and were therefore comparing themselves only to their best selves. As a former Olympic gold medalist, I believe that the collaborative-competitive model represents the ideal of any human performance challenge – we are not trying to rise above our peers but rather to rise up - to whatever height and in whatever direction one chooses – inviting all others to do the same.

In this way, rather than a single beam of light, we achieve a starburst.