The term âlateral communicationâ can actually mean (at least) two different things.
In the natural world, lateral communication occurs whenever a group of animals appear to exhibit a collective intelligence. For example, when a flock of birds turns at the exact same time, remaining in perfect formation, this is lateral communication. Other examples include shoals of fish acting in perfect synch, or the movements of ant colonies.
In the business world, however, the term âlateral communicationâ denotes something else entirely. In modern business, lateral communication is all to do with hierarchy. An example of here occurs when two workers on the same level discuss ideas (e.g. a manager talking to a manager). Its opposite term, âdiagonal communicationâ, occurs when communication is initiated between different levels of hierarchy (e.g. talking to your bossâ boss, or your boss talking to you).
âThe term lateral communication can be used interchangeably as horizontal communication. In his text entitled âOrganizational Communication,â Michael J. Papa defines horizontal communication as âthe flow of messages across functional areas at a given level of an organizationâ (Papa and Daniels 55). With this system people at the same level are permitted âto communicate directly without going through several levels of organizationâ (Papa and Daniels 55). Given this elasticity, members within an organization have an easier time with âproblem solving, information sharing across different work groups, and task coordination between departments or project teamsâ (Papa and Daniels 56). The use of lateral or horizontal communication in the workplace âcan also enhance morale and afford a means for resolving conflicts (Koehler et al., 1981) (Papa and Daniels 56).â
The pawns, on the other hand, can only converse one space at a time and only in one direction. Oh wait; Iâm getting confused again!
I hope that helps you, Sarah-Jane. I am unsure as to which definition you were looking for, so I focussed on both. If you have any follow-up questions, drop me a line the usual way and Iâll try to get back to you as soon as I can.
you can get the original piece here