Growing up, I used to think the word cybernetics was something to do with robots. According to Businessballs the definition goes like: Cybernetics is the science of control and communications in animals, including humankind, and machines. The study of cybernetics has been used in various ways since ancient times to attempt to explain and understand and manage the effective workings of all manner of systems - social, organisational, animal, mechanical, electronic and others. As such, the cybernetics concept (notably 'the first law of cybernetics') is immensely relevant to the modern development of management, and one's own role and potential within systems of all kinds. From: www.businessballs.com/cybernetics.htm My background is in Electronic (Communications to be more precise) Engineering, and as such I am familiar with issues and concepts such as noise, filters, signal/noise ratio, feedback (positive and negative), and so on. This old USAF training film also discusses some of these concepts: MAN AND SAFETY - COMMUNICATIONS - YouTube As does this Wikipedia (I know, but it seems ok): Communication - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Barriers to successful communication include message overload (when a person receives too many messages at the same time), and message complexity. Physical barriers: Physical barriers are often due to the nature of the environment. Thus, for example, the natural barrier which exists, if staff are located in different buildings or on different sites. Likewise, poor or outdated equipment, particularly the failure of management to introduce new technology, may also cause problems. Staff shortages are another factor which frequently causes communication difficulties for an organization. Whilst distractions like background noise, poor lighting or an environment which is too hot or cold can all affect people's morale and concentration, which in turn interfere with effective communication. System design: System design faults refer to problems with the structures or systems in place in an organization. Examples might include an organizational structure which is unclear and therefore makes it confusing to know who to communicate with. Other examples could be inefficient or inappropriate information systems, a lack of supervision or training, and a lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities which can lead to staff being uncertain about what is expected of them. Attitudinal barriers: Attitudinal barriers come about as a result of problems with staff in an organization. These may be brought about, for example, by such factors as poor management, lack of consultation with employees, personality conflicts which can result in people delaying or refusing to communicate, the personal attitudes of individual employees which may be due to lack of motivation or dissatisfaction at work, brought about by insufficient training to enable them to carry out particular tasks, or just resistance to change due to entrenched attitudes and ideas. Ambiguity of Words/Phrases: Words sounding the same but having different meaning can convey a different meaning altogether. Hence the communicator must ensure that the receiver receives the same meaning. It would be better if such words can be avoided by using alternatives. Individual linguistic ability is also important. The use of difficult or inappropriate words in communication can prevent people from understanding the message. Poorly explained or misunderstood messages can also result in confusion. We can all think of situations where we have listened to something explained which we just could not grasp. Interestingly, however, research in communication has shown that confusion can lend legitimacy to research when persuasion fails. Physiological barriers: may result from individuals' personal discomfort, caused—for example—by ill health, poor eyesight or hearing difficulties. Presentation of information: is also important to aid understanding. Simply put, the communicator must consider the audience before making the presentation itself and in cases where it is not possible the presenter can at least try to simplify his/her vocabulary so that majority can understand. With respect to noise: In any communication model, noise is interference with the decoding of messages sent over a channel by an encoder. There are many examples of noise: Environmental Noise: Noise that physically disrupts communication, such as standing next to loud speakers at a party, or the noise from a construction site next to a classroom making it difficult to hear the professor. Physiological-Impairment Noise: Physical maladies that prevent effective communication, such as actual deafness or blindness preventing messages from being received as they were intended. Semantic Noise: Different interpretations of the meanings of certain words. For example, the word "weed" can be interpreted as an undesirable plant in your yard, or as a euphemism for marijuana. Syntactical Noise: Mistakes in grammar can disrupt communication, such as abrupt changes in verb tense during a sentence. Organizational Noise: Poorly structured communication can prevent the receiver from accurate interpretation. For example, unclear and badly stated directions can make the receiver even more lost. Cultural Noise: Stereotypical assumptions can cause misunderstandings, such as unintentionally offending a non-Christian person by wishing them a "Merry Christmas". Psychological Noise: Certain attitudes can also make communication difficult. For instance, great anger or sadness may cause someone to lose focus on the present moment. Disorders such as Autism may also severely hamper effective communication. Given that the First Law of Cybernetics states that The unit within the system with the most behavioural responses availible to it controls the system, does it mean that anyone with an impaired ability to understand others' responses and to control their own is disabled? Also since everything comes down to perceptions, does this explain why bullshiters and ar$e kissers always seem to win promotions and get their ideas accepted? Their message is what the recipient wants to hear, therefore it appears to have a better S/N ratio than others, particularly when the message is what the recipient wants to hear (yes, it's a brilliant idea)? How useful is this in understanding behaviour, either as an individual or as part of a group?