Three lessons in communication from James Bond

What is it that makes 007 the suave, confident and cool agent that he is? As impressive as some of his gadgets have been – from dagger shoes and garrotte watches in his early adventures to his Sony Xperia T mobile phone in Skyfall – his outstanding array of personal communication skills have proved time and again to be a more effective arsenal of weaponry at disarming foes and lovers alike.

As my colleague Moira noted in a previous post, communication skills vary from person to person. And although we should all aspire to be the best communicators we can be, some people appear to be naturally better equipped than others in this department. Whether you consider yourself a natural communicator or not, Bond teaches us all some important lessons when it comes to communicating effectively.

Style can be as important as substance

James Bond was never known for his substance; something of a lonely, mysterious figure, he is better known for his Rolex watches and Tom Ford suits. So while I agree with Moira that substance is more important than style in matters of fact, one’s style is a matter of great importance nonetheless. Bond’s immaculate Tom Ford suit in Skyfall complements and supports the message he conveys throughout with his strong body language: power and confidence. No matter how tense or dire the situation, he manages to maintain his composure – always engaging in eye contact and with good posture.

Of course, style is an issue of great importance to us here at Saffron Interactive. Like James Bond, we ensure that our style supports our message; whether it’s in relation to e-learning we’re producing with clients or Saffron marketing communications, we have to be aware of our audience and communicate in a style that best conveys our intended message. But unlike James Bond, we have substance. The challenge is to use our unique style to give, rather than take, information in the most appropriate manner.

A failed plan doesn’t necessarily mean failure

I have yet to watch a 007 movie in which things go according to plan. Indeed, things are not supposed to go according to plan and, as with all action movies, a large part of the enjoyment is intended to be derived from seeing how the main character (Bond) improvises to find another way to achieve his goal.

During a recent discussion with a disability consultant, I came to a renewed appreciation of the challenges those with diverse needs face when using computers. Needless to say, e-learning can very easily not go ‘according to plan’ when used by someone with special needs. Such a user should never be expected to improvise to make a course work, so accommodations – for want of a better word – should be built into the course from the outset. Contingency planning should be central to an e-learning design process, and it is certainly something MI6 do before sending Bond on a mission – even if he does end up improvising!

Breaking the ice

Times have changed since the sixties – as the BBC notes continually – and although Bond’s sense of humour has changed somewhat since his early adventures, he still deploys wit as a powerful weapon in his communication skills arsenal.

Casino Royale:

Vesper Lynd: [introducing herself to Bond] I’m the money.
James Bond: Every penny of it.

Although jokes per se won’t necessarily add value to a conversation, humour disarms those Bond is talking to and makes him altogether more approachable. The lesson we can all learn here is that people are social animals; Bond recognises this fact and deploys wit to lower people’s defences. In the context of e-learning, the use of wit and humour doesn’t achieve this purpose. It can, however, be used strategically to enable learners to relate to the content more effectively.


Magda: He suggests a trade. The egg for your life.
James Bond: Well, I heard the price of eggs was up, but isn’t that a little high?