When it comes to our physical bodies, muscles atrophy when they are not used. Even relatively short periods of lessened muscle activity and movement, as when a leg is immobilized after a break, can affect muscle tone and length, flexibility, agility, and stamina. That's why physical therapy, which helps muscle stretch, strengthen, and regain 'muscle memory' and helps joints regain/retain range of motion, is so often an adjunct to treatment for muscular-skeletal conditions.
This metaphor is useful for business. Unless an organization regularly engages in active, informative communication with employees and customers - in other words, flexes its communication muscles -- it will lose its flexibility to adjust to unpredictable conditions, the agility to bounce back from otherwise temporary setbacks, long-term stamina to retain and/or grow market share, and the ability to effectively use its collective 'memory' (aka collective business knowledge and history) as a foundation for moving forward.
In realistic terms, how important is it to flex your communication muscles?
Open communication, open minds, open for business. Some of the best ideas for solving problems or leapfrogging the competition come from employees. The best solutions derive from exchanging and sharing ideas. It's the spark that ignites innovation and prevents the company from becoming stagnant.
More is more. While the economy may lead you to tighten the purse strings and voice "less is more", when it comes to communication, the opposite is true. The more you communicate with employees and customers/prospects, the more market intelligence you have to run your business. Employees are your front line and they know what it takes, on a daily basis to deliver on your brand promise. Ask customers about their expectations and their satisfaction with your service/product and you'll receive valuable information that you can use to redesign your service/product, gain referrals, or expand into new market niches. And, with today's technology, communicating more doesn't have to cost more.
Role model the communication behavior you want for your corporate culture. Leaders who primarily (or solely) directly communicate with the management team should not expect employees to be forthcoming in their communications. The actions of leadership (i.e., corporate behavior) send more powerful messages than any employee handbook or memo. If you want your employees to communicate meaningful information on a regular basis with management (including you) and customers, then you have to show them how it's done well and why it's essential to the business' long-term success.
So, flex your communication muscles and gain a competitive advantage. No heavy lifting required.