E L S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez

From the blog

A Refreshing New Way of Collaborating and Sharing Knowledge – Giving up on e-mail! (Part I)

In yesterday’s blog post I already hinted something that, although I don’t have much more time to expand on it further, as the weekend is just around the corner and tomorrow is a big day for me ;-) (Those of you on Facebook and Twitter already know about it!), I thought I would drop just a couple of lines to let you know what I have been up to this week. These particular links to very enlightening and thought-provoking blog posts by Beth Kanter and John Tropea, respectively, will give you an idea of what I am talking about…

Yes, I’m giving up on e-mail! At least, work related e-mail! That’s right, this week I have launched a new experiment, or initiative, at work where I have diverted most of my conversations into social computing and social software tools, both internal and external.

You did what?!?! Yes, I surely did!! Just like you are reading it. Last Saturday I decided that enough was enough and I created a post in my internal blog where I was mentioning that from that day onwards I would not be answering any e-mails, nor write any e-mails myself either, but instead I would make the most out of social software tools and social computing, in general, to get in touch with other knowledge workers and collaborate further sharing and exchanging our knowledge over there.

I know, you can call me crazy now! You can say I am out of my mind, but the truth is that I am now on the 5th day of taking such a radical approach to my daily workload and the overall experience has been tremendous!! In all of those 5 days I have received a total number of 45 e-mails. Yes, you are reading it right!! 45 e-mails!! When normally on a daily basis I would be getting, on busy days, between 30 to 45! A day!! But this time around, things have been different. I have been telling people I will no longer be responding to e-mails, because the more I respond, the more I get. I am sure you have seen and been through that already!

So have I given up on all incoming e-mails as such? No, I wish I could, but there is one single scenario that I cannot ignore and that will force me to continue making use of e-mail as a communication tool (Notice that I am mentioning here communication vs. collaboration - More on that later!) and that is the unique and rare opportunity (Yes, I am one of those lucky guys!) to engage on a private conversation where information of a sensitive nature gets exchanged. Of course, in that case, that conversation is still going to be carried out through e-mail & it would be the only time that I would be responding back.

For the rest, I have decided that if I want to demonstrate how powerful social computing is within the corporate world, and beyond, I am going to make a complete shift to it and try to provoke as many conversations as possible out in the open space of social software. Yes, you can say I am crazy, but, hey, I thought it was worth while giving it a try.

And like I have mentioned above, it has been a total success!!! At least, on the first week of pushing myself to the other side. The way it works is that people can send me, and will keep doing so, different e-mails, and me, instead of replying to each and everyone of those e-mails, is going out to the social computing tool(s) where those folks may hang out and share the information / knowledge over there, so that if someone asks me a question on something, I will provide the answer in that social software tool, and that means that colleague will have his / her issue addressed, but everyone else, too! Because it is in the open, everyone can see that answer and benefit from it, even if they don’t need it at that moment!

Oh, and when it is the other way around, me wanting to find out about something, I go into my usual social networking spaces and interact there with my various social networks to get an answer or, at least, some pointers, and therefore trying to avoid making use of e-mail altogether. Pretty interesting stuff, eh?

Well, like I said, it has been working great thus far! Just this week, the first one, I have been getting 45 e-mails, when normally it would have been a lot higher than that. Yet, everyone has been trying to get through me or get me involved through the usage of social networking tools. So I have been using quite often Lotus Sametime 8.0 (With some of its lovely social networking capabilities I will cover one of these days), Blog Central (i.e. blogs), Wiki Central (i.e. wikis), Lotus Connections (With blogs, Dogear, Activities, Profiles, Communities), Lotus Quickr, Fringe, Cattail, BlueTwit (An internal Twitter clone), Media Library, Beehive, Atlas, etc. etc. (And not counting the external social software tools I use on a regular basis!)

That is right! That is what I kept saying to myself all along before getting started with this. If we all are to drink our very own champagne, I might as well get started with the one I like the most, don’t you think? Certainly, e-mail is not going to be it! Social computing is!! And big time!!

So, stay tuned because when I have a bit more time, some time next week, I will share some more on this new exciting and incredibly rewarding and re-energising activity I have gotten started, almost, a week ago, which is encouraging me more and more by the day to move away from e-mail and live social computing. Only question remaining so far is, why didn’t I start this years ago? Makes you wonder, eh?

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26 comments

  1. I’d love to try that, but alas, at my day job, they’ve only barely started to wean themselves off phone calls and faxes… and we’ve had enterprise email since at least 1991! We have an enterprise license for QuickPlace, but no, instead people thrash out long topics in email that then overload my account quota and get everything all plugged up.

  2. Hi Elsua!
    Totally inspiring Am looking to test this within my own organisation, although, not sure others are there with it all yet. Really be interested to see how it shifts behaviour and use! Keep it up!

  3. Wow. Now that fires off a LOT of questions in my head, mainly variations of “why doesn’t it backfire?”

    How do you keep from getting information glut??? In your Effecting Blogging interview, you said that you scan 2,500 articles each morning! If we assume that everyone will follow suit and also give up on email, that number will easily double, right? How will you keep from missing questions that people would normally direct to you via email? Will they need to make a post, then send a link to you via email or is there some other mechanism?

    And how do you follow replies to your comments on others’ blogs? Will that scale?

    Put another way… your mail inbox has a priority all its own because people are sending messages to you, individually and specifically. If you are giving that up, why isn’t it making things worse for you?

  4. Obviously Luis has found the mix of collaboration tools that best meets his needs. However, he is a collaboration evangelist. His needs are very different from others’.

    I know that any kind of categorization is going to be over-simplification of life, but it might be interesting to draw up some categories of knowledge workers and then assign a recommended “bundle” of tools that would meet that type knowledge workers’ needs.

  5. Hello folks! Thanks very much for sharing your insights and thoughts on this particular blog post. Lots and lots of really good questions, so have taken the liberty of creating a follow up blog post where I have added some additional input to add further up into the conversation. You can grab the link direclty from the main page.

    Thanks again for the feedback!

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