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Frog DNA & The Importance of Frequent Communication

The absence of communication leads to what my friend Don Ray calls “Frog DNA.” The head of a good-size accounting and advisory firm, Don understood the importance of frequent communication. Frog DNA refers to a scene in the movie Jurassic Park. In the film, geneticist Dr. Henry Wu attempted to create dinosaurs from DNA recovered from fossilized remains. The recovered DNA was incomplete, so Dr. Wu filled in the gaps with the DNA from a frog.

The substitution worked to create the dinosaurs, but it also allowed the creatures to do the one thing that was never to be permitted: reproduce. The frog DNA allowed some of the females to change their sex to males and breed, causing catastrophic effects.

When we don’t communicate frequently and effectively with our teams, they fill in the storyline with their own version of frog DNA: rumors, speculation, and assumptions. And just like in the movie, these substitutions can lead to catastrophic outcomes.

Don’t Leave it Unknown

Often when the mind doesn’t know, it assumes a potentially negative outcome or intention. And when we assume the negative, we become suspicious. In turn, that suspicion leads to a lack of trust.

This bad cycle has an easy answer: communicate frequently and work to build trust. Although it’s a simple solution, it’s rarely practiced by most management teams.

Business writer Brian McDermott underscored the importance of building trust when he said that “86 percent of employees say that the lack of trust stops them from doing their best.” What a staggering statistic! 86 percent of people aren’t willing to put forward any discretionary effort because they don’t trust management.

Discretionary effort is the level of effort that people could give if they wanted to, above and beyond what they have to do. A big advantage for high-performing companies is that people choose to give that discretionary effort.

Is This Thing On?

The messages you want to get across must be repeated, especially messages about things that seem obvious to you as the company’s leader. Suppose you have a goal to grow sales from $60 million to $100 million over the next three years. You hold a big meeting to announce the goal and discuss the plans. Everyone seems to understand and support the goal and to be excited to make it happen.

But what if you don’t mention the goal again during the next six months? You may see a lot of shrugging shoulders when you walk the four corners and ask, “What’s our main corporate goal? What are we trying to accomplish?” A few employees might vaguely remember the $100 million goal, but they very well might think you didn’t really mean it; after all, they haven’t heard a word about it for six months.

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