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

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A World Without E-mail: One Man’s Vision of a Social Workplace – Wear Sunscreen

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves & Surroundings in the SpringUsually, weekends, as most of you already know, are rather quiet over here in this blog and in most of my virtual social networking hang-out places. More than anything else, because I use that time to unwind properly; to chill out, relax, charge some batteries from that week at work and, eventually, connect with my real life social networking connections (Those who don’t live on the Web…). I guess it’s all part of that work / life integration that one has got to put together in place in order not to lose that balance. Well, this weekend has been an exception… And what an exception! Late on Friday evening, yours truly was featured on the front page of Mashable (Yes, that Mashable!) on a beautiful article put together by Amy-Mae Elliot under the title “A World Without E-mail: One Man’s Vision of a Social Workplace“.

As you can imagine, that article has got a lot to do with this initiative I have been carrying out since February 2008, originally called “Thinking Outside the Inbox” and nowadays just simply living “A World Without Email“. In it, Amy-Mae tells the story of how I got things started over two and a half years ago on giving up corporate email and, instead, making a much heavier use of social software tools and how I’m still going strong at it, right as we speak, while still employed by my current employer, IBM. If you would remember, there have been a few other publications that have echoed, in the recent past, what I have been doing so far (Starting with The New York Times, Forbes and CIO, amongst several other dozens) and Mashable’s piece is the latest one on that very same topic. Exciting stuff, to say the least!

The interesting thing from that excellent write-up by Amy is that it captures, very nicely!, not only plenty of the great discussions we had last week in preparation for the article itself, as part of the interview, but also she captured the latest progress report available, so that folks could catch up with things in the last year or so; at the same time, she has also put together, and quite nicely!, the three major tips I keep sharing with folks over and over again on how they themselves can reduce some of their inbox clutter, should they decide they would want to tackle it at some point in time. To name:

  1. “Don’t Reply (to email)
  2. Study your inbox (i.e. group conversations)
  3. Tackle one area a week”

These are the very same tips that I talked about not long ago, when I blogged about the last progress report and where I included a link to a recent mindmap I put together on the topic as well as a recording of a customer event that I did just recently as well. So those folks who may want to find out plenty more about what this nearly 3 year old experiment has been like all along could surely have a look into those materials to find out the whole story.

Now, at this point in time, I am sure you must be thinking that I have got the job done; that I have proved it’s possible to survive in an email driven corporate world without making use of it at all and, instead, rely more heavily on social networking tools to carry out work. I guess there may be plenty of folks out there who feel that now that I have been featured in Mashable, I am done with. It’s time for me to move on. It’s time for me to go back to business and continue making use of email as before, since there may be a sense that all I am doing would just work for me and no-one else. You know, the eternal battle of the early adopter. Always go against the current. No matter what! However, that’s not the case. Quite the opposite!

Like I have mentioned in the past a couple of times, this is just another step; another move in the right direction to hopefully raise plenty more awareness of the harm that the misuse (and abuse!) of email has been causing within the enterprise for decades as a knowledge sharing and collaboration tool. To me, it’s just one more step towards continuing to push gently for that successful re-purposing of email altogether to bring it back to basics; back to where it belongs: a messaging and notification system of content that’s stored elsewhere!

Yes, to me, all of this living “A World Without Email” is just an initiative to keep pushing for more open, public and transparent interactions where multiple parties could take place and participate, where knowledge workers could help, finally, bring forward much more clarity on how they share their knowledge with others and collaborate more openly. After all, that’s the final frontier, as far as I am concerned, and Mashable’s Amy-Mae’s superb write-up is just another step in the right direction that, eventually, it will be happening!

Whatever it takes, whenever it happens, whoever decides to embark on it, I will still be there as well, wearing my sunscreen, which was my first reaction, to be honest, after I read Mashable’s article. “Wearing your sunscreen? Are you crazy?” You know, it’s still summertime, but what has got this article to do with wearing sunscreen then, you may be wondering, right? Well, I blogged about it over three years ago and thought I would finish off this blog post with it, embedding it over here, as a clear reminder of what lies ahead… Errr, what? Wait, don’t worry, watch the YouTube video clip in its entirety (It’s only 7 minutes long…) and you will see what I mean:

(Yes, Luis Suarez has got a dream, and it’s one that many of us
with our overloaded inboxes could well buy in to — a world without e-mail)

(Note: A big and special Thank You! to Amy-Mae for the great interview and wonderful article put together and to Laurie Friedman for making it happen! And another special thanks! to all of those folks who over the course of the weekend have been tweeting it, liking it, buzzing it , blogging it and sharing it across in multiple online places! Thanks ever so much!)


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  1. Luis,
    Happy for you to get such a mention and article!
    Yes it’s a great video and so true. I might add, for Americans, live outside the US for a year or 2, and see the US from a whole different perspective. I spent 5 outside of it and it changed my view forever.

    1. Hi Keith! Thanks a lot for dropping by and for the kind feedback! It surely has been a blast! Still recovering from catching up with all of the threads it’s opened! Fantastic! Exactly what I wanted with the interview in the first place! hehe

      RE: video, yeah, I know what you mean! To date is one of my Top 3 video clips I never tire of watching! In fact, whenever I see a need to have a listen and be reminded again, I go ahead and do that; it helps me re-focus on what really matters and what we should be worrying about! Even if that means leaving outside the country!

      I can share that same experience where I lived outside Spain for nearly 10 years and, boy, did that change my perspective on things, indeed! Guess that’s another subject for another blog post or perhaps over a drink or two 😉

      Thanks again for the feedback! Greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi Steve! Thanks a bunch for the kind comments and for dropping by! Glad you are enjoying these blog posts, as well as the ones related to the iPad; there will be plenty more to come, for sure! Already working on Week #3 for this week! hehe As well as sharing some further insights on helping folks reduce their inbox clutter 🙂

      Stay tuned and thanks for the heads up!

    1. Hi Jo! Awww, you are most welcome! Many thanks for those lovely comments and for the great follow-up article! I have just checked it out and will surely drop a quick comment about it shortly! It’s a great write-up and surely inspiring to see how others are willing to reduce some of their inbox clutter! Way cool!

      You, too, folks, keep up the great work of spreading those great biz ideas! 🙂

  2. Luis: thanks for taking the time to offer such an elaborate reply to my comments on the Mashable post! I was becoming a bit self-conscious about the length of my own comments, and so thought it would be better to bring them here.

    [Side note: the relatively small size of the text box for comments here on the blog seem to encourage brevity … but I’ll press on nonetheless.]

    I have worked for large organizations with varying degrees of openness to the adoption and use of social media and other platforms for sharing. Some of this experience comes from a pre Web 2.0 era, but even more recently, openness and sharing does not seem to come naturally to most of the people I’ve interacted with (in large organizations).

    Regarding the examples you shared on Mashable:

    1. Finding an expert in 5-10 minutes (vs. 2-3 hours) is, indeed, a significant achievement, but I wonder how one might go about investigating trends throughout the organization.

    2. I, too, have assembled Powerpoint decks representing work done in various parts of a firm I’ve worked for (in fact, I’ve done this in every organization I’ve worked for). As a counter-example, I’ll also note that I once visited an office where a colleague – another employee of the same firm – would only give me a printed copy of a slide deck he’d prepared. So I guess my earlier comment about identifying the appropriate social software tool (e.g., wikis vs. threaded discussion tools) should be expanded to include appropriate culture for sharing.

    3. I totally agree that sharing outside of the inbox can be a powerful – and empowering – form of preemptive self-disclosure, but I also know from my own experience that sending emails with links to other sources can be very problematic, especially when firewalls are involved. And having recently compiled some research (including some by IBM Researcher Jeff Pierce) on mobile Internet intent, action and inaction, I believe the increasing access of email through mobile phones adds another dimension that does not always result in more effective sharing. But perhaps the broader use of non-email tools will help reduce such technology-induced bottlenecks.

    Finally, thanks for sharing that video – inspiring (and relevant) on many levels!

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