E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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The Man Who Should Have Used Lotus Connections — Collaborating Effectively through Wikis

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo & SurroundingsEarlier on today, and through various different sources, both inside and outside the firewall, I got alerted by several folks on the latest blog post put together by Andy McAfee on a very thought-provoking, insightful, and dear to my heart, topic, that I thought I would share over here a few more insights on it, since a bunch of the folks who told me about it indicated how Andy might have called me out for my endeavour on living "A World Without Email".

The title of the article is "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Email" and I can certainly tell you it’s a very worthwhile read. It will make you think twice about how you may have viewed email as a collaboration tool all along. It will also make you question, as a social computing evangelist / enthusiast (If you are one), what you have been advocating all along with regards to email and its (mis)use within the corporate world, to the point where perhaps it is not such evil after all. I tell you, a very worthy read.

Now, I am already preparing a much lengthier response to Andy’s thoughtful article (I will probably be sharing it over the weekend, in case you are wondering…), but I thought I would put together a blog post on something that can certainly introduce quite a bit the main core idea that you will see on that extended response.

Andy comes to question whether e-mail has got a place in the current collaboration landscape within the enterprise, as perhaps the one and only that works, the one that cannot die, the one that knowledge workers cannot do without as an essential tool to collaborate and share their knowledge with their peers. In short, he comes to propose that those folks who have been saying that e-mail is nowadays pretty much dead, as a collaboration tool (After all, "Email is where knowledge goes to die" — does that quote ring a bell?), should probably cut off some slack and stop attacking it in the first place.

Like I said, I’m already putting together a much more extended response than this one, but I thought I would get the conversation going questioning the validity of email as a collaboration tool altogether (which is not the same as communication either, by the way!). If you have been following my project on living "A World Without Email", you will know how all along, for the last 19 months, and going!, I have never mentioned that email is dead. Quite the opposite. I still see plenty of value in using email as a communication tool for one-on-one confidential / sensitive exchanges as well as to process calendaring and scheduling events altogether.

However, during that time that I have been doing this, I’m now more convinced than ever before that for the rest of the various different interactions email is as bad as it can get. So why don’t we see that with a story? With a hilarious one actually. One of those scenarios that I am sure everyone can relate to, because we may all have experienced it a couple of times already. Perhaps far too often even!

No, not to worry, I won’t try to kill e-mail right away (Like I said, I still see the value of it. Very much so!), I am way beyond that level. What I’m going to share with you is a story that will explain, very nicely, why its misuse keeps falling short of everyone’s expectations as a powerful collaborative and knowledge sharing tool.

Actually, it’s not one story, but three. All coming from the same source, my fellow IBM colleague Jean Francois Chenier, who over the last few weeks has put together a series of video clips under the heading "The Man Who Should Have Used Lotus Connections", demonstrating, very effectively, why email does not cut it any more in our current collaboration landscape.

If you remember, I have already blogged about episodes #1 (See "The Man Who Should Have Used Lotus Connections – On the Misuse of Email" for more information) and #2 (See "The Man Who Should Have Used Lotus Connections – On the Business Case for Corporate Blogging" for more details) and it is now the turn of episode #3: "The Man Who Should Have Used Lotus Connections — Collaborating Effectively through Wikis".

In this particular video clip put together by Jean Francois, and over the course of nearly 6 minutes, you will see that particular scenario where I was mentioning what group collaboration has been all along (Not a pleasant experience, as you’re about to watch. Quite the opposite!), and what it would be like by making use of something so relatively simple as a wiki. Yes, a wiki. That online web collaborative space where people can keep adding content top of each other’s content in a very open and transparent manner.

Not to worry, I’m not going to spoil the contents of the video for you. I would just ask you to sit back, relax, and watch through it. Not only will you be nodding, like crazy, all along agreeing with most of the various different points that are made throughout the video, but you will also have a really good laugh. Once again Jean Francois has done a terrific job in describing, very faithfully, some of the most fundamental flaws behind email as a collaboration tool, in my opinion. But I will let you go and watch the clip, so that you can have a look and judge for yourself:

So, after watching all the three different episodes I’m sure you will probably understand a little better why I still keep going further with this endeavour of living "A World Without Email"; not really because of email itself as a system to communicate effectively, but more because I don’t feel it is very good as a tool that will allow me to collaborate, share my knowledge across and innovate with all knowledge workers and my peers. More than anything else now, because we have been misusing it all along! And in cases pretty badly, too!

And that’s just what I keep fighting against. Not the tool itself, but how we keep on misusing it, left and right, to no avail. So, over 19 months ago, it was about time for me to say "STOP! Think before you fire a new memo. There may be a better way. Let’s find it! Together!" And after having said that, even more, after having lived through it all along till today, there is no way that I would go back! No way!

I saw the light. I saw how I stopped getting headaches, or getting stressed repeatedly for something that was always out of my control or having that strong sense of not being productive enough (Because my inbox was being used as a delegation machine by the rest of the world! Literally!) and so forth! Just like the man in the video I learned to stop worrying about email and eventually moved away to more proper collaboration and knowledge sharing tools: social software.

(Like I said, I will be responding to Andy’s blog post with a bit more detail later on this week… for now let’s go and enjoy "The Man Who Should Have Used Lotus Connections" — episode #3 and see how much you could relate to the story shared… Or not.)

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  1. I’m glad to see you and Andrew agree on the important things here, Luis. Your arguments about the misuse of email are spot on.

    Keep leading by example and showing the world how to collaborate by using email as a scalpel to be used sparingly rather than as a hammer to use on every single job.

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