There have been a lot of people who, over the course of the last few months, have been asking me whatever happened to that initiative I started a while ago around ditching corporate email (Under the moniker “A World Without eMail“), since things seem to have been a bit quiet over here in this blog for a little while on that very same subject. Did I give up on giving up on corporate email? Did I get tired of it and moved back to email? Was the experiment a total failure? Did I get tired of it and move on to something else? What happened? Well, nothing and a lot! The movement is still alive and kicking. It’s now more popular than ever and it’s still going as strong as ever, if not more! To the point where it’s now evolved into what will be the next stage and my new focus area: Life Without eMail.
A couple of months back I was talking about this with one of my fellow IBM colleagues, and very good friend, Rawn Shah, and while brainstorming on something that I am hoping to be able to share very soon (Which I am sure plenty of folks out there have been waiting for it for a while!), we thought it was time for me to help the movement evolve into something much more exciting: going personal. Indeed, instead of focusing on the whole world, which may have been a bit too ambitious and perhaps over demanding on everyone as in too large to cover, I am switching gears and instead adopt a new mantra towards it: Life Without eMail.
Why? Well, mainly because if there is anything that I have learned over the course of time, and, specially, in the last couple of years, is that the world doesn’t use email. People do. So if someone would want to free their life up of the email yoke it’s got to start with people. We are the ones who should, and need!, to break that chain. The (corporate) world is not going to do it. It’s just far too comfortable keeping up the status quo of abuse, political and bullying games just as it is. It’s a matter of divide and conquer. And so far email is winning, at least, according to some folks, although I reserve the right to disagree with those statements, specially, when we start separating email as a content repository from email as an alert / notification system (BACN anyone?). Either way, that’s why I feel it’s probably a good time to move on to the next challenge. To design a new kind of work, a new mindset of work habits that would inspire each and everyone of us to become much more collaborative and keen on sharing our knowledge out there openly through digital tools, whatever those may well be.
So, instead of just focusing on the world itself, it’s time to focus on the people, the knowledge (Web) workers, to help them free themselves up from what may have been stopping their passion to pursue something bigger, much bigger, for themselves. That is why from this year onwards I will be talking about going personal with Life Without eMail.
It’s no coincidence either, really. Because those of you folks who may have been following this blog for a while would realise now how, a couple of months ago, we just went through the 5th year anniversary since I first started “Thinking Outside the Inbox“, then how it evolved into “A World Without eMail” and how it all comes back to basics, eventually: that is, live a successful, purposeful, effective and rather productive work life without depending so much on corporate email. Indeed, I can’t believe it either myself that February 15th 2013 marked the 5th year anniversary of an initiative for which a large chunk of people thought I would be fired from my current work within two weeks, thinking I was just plain crazy, and, instead, here I am, 5 years on and having a real blast with it.
Of course, there have been plenty of obstacles along the way, and there are still plenty of them ahead of us, but, if there is anything that I have learned in the last year, since my last progress report update, and even more so in the last few months, is that this movement is now unstoppable. And that’s why I thought it would be a good time to put together this blog entry where I could reflect on what has happened since the last update I published over here, where we are moving forward and what surprises do I have reserved for you folks, because I do have a couple of them…
But let’s start with the beginning. First, let me assure you that although this article is going to be a bit long (Remember, it’s a yearly update hehe), it is not going to be as massive as the last one I put together by the beginning of last year. This time around I am just going to focus on giving you folks an update on what’s happened in the last 12 months, then share some further details on a new experiment I have conducted last year that I am sure you would all enjoy learning some more about it and after all of that we will go through the surprises I have got prepared for you. So, let’s begin…
A World Without eMail – Year 5 – Progress Report
If you remember, in the last blog entry on the topic I mentioned, for the previous year, how the average of incoming emails I had over the course of the whole year was down to 16 emails per week, which is roughly about 2 emails per day. So, as you can see, I wasn’t capable of killing email per se as most folks have been saying all along, specially, when I am being introduced at a public speaking event. However, if I look into what I used to have before I started this initiative there has been a decrease of up to 98% of the total volume of inbound email, which I guess it’s just not too shabby when thinking about how 5 years ago I received a total amount of 1647 incoming emails and last year only 798.
No, that’s right. eMail is not dead and it’s far from being dead, despite what some other folks may have been claiming all along. This is something that I have been saying all along myself, too! eMail still has got its place in the corporate world. More specifically in three different contexts or, as I call them, use cases. To name:
- Universal Identifier (For whenever you need to sign up for a new service)
- Calendaring and Scheduling of events in your agenda (Most of those meetings, appointments seem to come through email still).
- 1:1 Confidential, sensitive exchanges (HR, Legal, Financial matters would be prime examples for this use case. Notice how I mention 1:1 and not 1:many confidential emails, by the way, more than anything else, because as soon as you include more than one person it’s no longer confidential. You never know where it will go next and who may leak the information across)
However, beyond those three use cases, there isn’t an excuse anymore to move the vast majority of our interactions into more open social, collaborative, knowledge sharing spaces: digital tools. And this is when it is getting really exciting, because, despite the various different reports that indicate how email use has gone sky high through the roof, here I am to confirm how not only the number of incoming emails for yours truly has remained steady, but it actually decreased for the 5th consecutive year, ending up at barely 15 per week. Yes, barley 15 per week and if it weren’t for a couple of weeks where that traffic experimented a certain peak I would have been on 14 emails received per week! Too funny, as an anecdote, that one of those weeks was the very same one that 5 years ago it also triggered the giving up on corporate email by yours truly!
Here’s the full report of the entire year, where you can see the maximum number of emails received for one day, and the minimum. And right next to it, you will see as well the comparison with the previous 3 years, so you can have a look into the overall trend from that 4 year period. If you would want to check out the entire progress report into more detail from all of those years go to this link and you will find it there:
Not too bad, I guess, for an initiative that most people thought it was going to be dead within the first two weeks, don’t you think? 5 years on and a Life Without eMail is now a reality. And it can only get better …
Social Networking tools *do* make you ever so much more productive
Over the course of the last 5 years one of the main comments I have been getting all along from those folks who may have been exposed to this movement has been along the lines of how as interesting as it has been moving my work interactions from email into social networking tools, it seems as if the only thing I did was swap from one tool for another. Still the same result. Well, not really. Here is why…
You may have seen that particular piece of research that McKinsey did in 2011 where it mentioned some fascinating insights on our corporate work habits confirming how the average time that most knowledge workers spend just processing email is roughly around 650 hours per year. Yes, I know it may not sound too much, but that’s actually nearly 3 months out of the year people spend it processing email. Now, if you add up the month of vacation approx., we end up with nearly 4 months out of the whole year being spent just working through emails, because you do check out your mailbox while you are away on vacation as well, right?
So earlier on last year I decided to do a little experiment where I would try to measure the time I spend on internal social networkings tools to get my work done and see how that would compare to the time spent doing email. If I would have just switched from one tool into another set of digital tools it would show pretty much the same time spent, right? Well, wrong!
Most of you folks out there know how much of a big fan I am of the pomodoro technique, which I have blogged about a couple of times already. Last year I decided to ruthlessly measure the time I would spend in internal social networking tools in chunks of 25 minute long pomodoros and see how many of those I would accumulate over the course of months. And now that the year has gone by it’s time to share the stunning results.
Over the course of 2012 I have spent 683 pomodoros of 25 minutes each to not only keep up with what was happening around me through social technologies, but at the same time to get my day to day work done. So that means I have spent 17.075 minutes working my way through these digital tools, that is, 284.5 hours approximately. Eventually, resulting in 35.5 days or, in other words, 5 weeks. Yes!, not even a month and a half!! Who would have thought about that, right? But it gets even better…
Because it also means it could save people even more time to do other more productive tasks. These statistics are just from myself, a power user of social networking tools with no scientific method in place. A social computing evangelist at heart. Someone who lives these digital tools, walking the talk, learning by doing. Perhaps the atypical social networker, because that’s where I have moved all of my work related interactions to a great extent. As an example, in our internal social networking platform, IBM Connections, the average number of connections / contacts fellow IBMers have is roughly around 40 people, approx. For me, I’m currently coming close to 3,280 folks, so you can imagine how my internal networks do not represent the normal and why I strongly believe that those productivity gains in time saved using social tools could be even bigger for vast majority of knowledge workers out there.
Thus what does that all mean? Well, essentially, that next to all of the perks and various benefits I have been sharing around becoming more open, more public, collaborative, flexible, autonomous, transparent, agile, and more responsible for how I work I can now add up that living social / open has made me more than two times as productive as whatever I was 5 years ago! And believe me, this is something that I really appreciate, because, like for everyone else, work does never decrease, but it is always on the increase, so knowing that I have remained over twice as productive over the course of the years, no matter what, has been a splendid and surprising new finding that has made me realised the whole initiative since I got it started 5 years ago with it has been more than worthwhile.
But what do you think yourself? Would you be able to relate to this new experiment yourself as well? Specially, if you have started already that journey of reducing your dependency on email, is it something you can confirm yourself, having experienced similar results, although perhaps not at the same scale as what I have done and described above myself so far? Do you feel it’s a realistic conclusion altogether? I am not claiming it’s a rather scientific experiment, since it isn’t, but I’m starting to think that it could well prove accurate enough to confirm the ever significant impact of social technologies in the corporate world.
The one thing that I do know now is that relying more and more on social networking tools for business to carry out my day to day work does make me much more productive and effective than whatever email claimed to be in the past. And that’s a good thing! Finally, the living proof is there! It’s all about working smarter, not necessarily harder. All along. It’s all about making it personal and making it work for you, just like I did for myself. And therefore the new moniker kicking in from now onwards…
Life Without eMail – The Community, The Movement
So, “where to next then?”, you may be wondering by now, right? Well, certainly, I am not going to stop here. Like I said, there is no way back anymore, but onwards! The movement is alive and kicking and we are going to take it into the next level with a couple of surprises I have got for you folks for sticking around following this initiative all along and for being so incredibly supportive over the course of time and for sharing along with me this fascinating journey. Hello and welcome to the Life Without eMail community. The Movement.
Last year’s progress report, you would remember, was rather massive, more than anything else, because I decided to summarise one whole year of progress with a substantial amount of interesting and relevant links about the impact of social networking tools on helping us reduce our dependency on email by a large margin. I talked as well about other companies attempting to do the same, as well as sharing plenty of interesting and relevant links on good practices on using social tools, or fine tuning the email experience to get the most out of it.
Well, this year I am not going to do that. I still have got a bunch of top-notch resources, but instead of sharing them over here in this blog post I decided to eventually gather them all, and over the course of time, share them over at my Scoop.it account that I am in the process of feeding it, as we speak, and where I will continue to add those links over time, so from here onwards you would be able to keep up to date with all of those relevant links I may bump into that would cover this topic of “Life Without eMail” from other people interested in the topic, or writing / talking about it, as well as including articles I may write myself, interviews I may conduct or public speaking events I may well do, so you could have them all in a single place. Starting already today!
But the main surprise is another one I have got prepared for you folks. Plenty of people have been asking me over the course of the years whether there would be a central place where those #lawwe and social networking enthusiasts could gather together to share their own experiences, hints and tips, their know-how, lessons learned, and whatever other activities where they (we) could all learn from one another. And time and time again I have been telling folks there wasn’t a specific space. Till today.
Indeed, along with Prof. Paul Jones, Paul Lancaster and Alan Hamilton, all really good friends and folks who have already embarked on freeing themselves up from the corporate / organisational email yoke as well, we have decided to put together a community space where we could hang out with other folks interested in this movement and help share our very own experiences, know-how, and plenty of practical hints and tips on what it is like having ditched work email for good. The original idea, and due credit, of course, is going to go to Alan Hamilton, who suggested to me some time last year to put together a community space where we could hang out. And while we couldn’t get it sorted out back then, too much going on, as usual, I guess it’s never too late, eh? So thanks ever so much, Alan, for triggering the thought of having an online community for us to get together!
And after much discussion and looking around for some really good solutions that may be available out there, we have all agreed to create this particular community space over in Google Plus Communities. So here’s the link to it:
We hope you would find the time to come and join us in the community, where all of us, me included, will be sharing plenty of our own experiences, as I mentioned above, on how to reduce our inbox clutter while we keep sharing some additional insights on what’s happening in the space of social networking, Social Business and, of course, Open Business and how they keep disrupting the corporate email driven world as we know it. Still today. Our main purpose is to help out knowledge workers become more open, transparent and collaborative through digital tools vs. just keep dragging along through an excessive and perhaps unnecessary abuse of our email habits. I can surely guarantee you it’s going to be a fun ride!
So much so, that if you are really willing and committed to give it a try yourself we will be sharing with you some initial tips by which we can guarantee you that within the first 5 weeks, since you start, you would be able to see your incoming email volume getting reduced by over 80% and without hardly any effort, just applying some methodology I have developed over the course of time and which I am sure you would be able to follow with no problem since it isn’t rocket science, really, but just the trigger to break the chain and to, finally, have that rather rewarding and fulfilling sensation of owning your work, perhaps for the first time in a while!
Will you join us? Remember, 80% reduction of incoming email in just 5 weeks! Here is the link again to the community to get you going and thanks ever so much, once again, for the continued support, for sticking around and for having made these 5 years quite an interesting, inspiring, exciting and rather refreshing time!
Onwards into a Life Without eMail!
[In my next article on this topic, I will be writing about a rather interesting twist that I have gone through this year so far. A hard reset. A reboot from everything that I have done in the last 5 years… But that would be the story for another post soon enough…]
This is it! The moment of truth! The wait is over. The long hiatus of silence is now a thing of the past. The soul-searching period is finished and dealt with. It is, at long last, official and I am now ready to announce it to the world! As you may remember from a previous blog post, I mentioned how late last year someone decided to move my cheese and how that turned around into becoming a very good opportunity for me to make the move into the next big thing. It’s been a rather interesting and exhilarating experience how an extreme negative of a 20 minute long conversation can be turned around into an extreme positive with another 20 minute long one. Both of those having taken place within a couple of weeks in between. Both extremes are always disruptive enough to make you question your entire career and what you would want to do with your work / personal life next. Yes, I know you all know what I mean… that kind of change. The truly mind-blowing one. The one that, once you strike it, you know there is no turning point. No way back at all anymore. It’s just there to stay and become part of you and you become part of it. For better or for worse.
Well, I have just gone through one of those. I know that some of you folks may be wondering about what happened back in January about who moved my cheese and why was I so relatively quiet on social networks for a good few weeks, right? There was a reason for it, after all. A reason for which I am still trying to come to terms with and that I will be blogging about in its due time, whenever I feel I am ready to share it across. In short, it’s the one that provoked the extended period of silence on the Social Web and which concluded with me deciding to *not* stand till, do nothing and wait for the pay-check at the end of the month and succumb to everything that I have never believed in, in the first place.
I am not that kind of person. Don’t think I ever will be. So sorry if you thought I was, but I am afraid I am not. I eventually decided to find my new cheese in an attempt to move further on in my professional career. Yes, I know what you are thinking, there is a whole lot more than I could probably talk about around what eventually happened, but I am starting to think that it’s probably no longer even worth it. In fact, it may have happened because of a good reason: my time was well overdue and it was just the perfect chance for me to move on. And serendipity, as you all know, works in various mysterious and magic ways, so after having looked both inside and outside of the firewall, I am now pleased to announce I have got a new job.
Indeed, still at IBM (My current employer for the last 16 years… and counting…), and already fully immersed in it for the last couple of weeks, which is also why it’s taking me a bit of time to blog about it, as I first needed to adjust the massive learning curve, but still doing what I love doing: keep challenging the status quo of how certain things work in the business world in an effort to become much more open, transparent and sustainable. Indeed, an openly Socially Integrated Enterprise.
That is right, like I said above, a couple of weeks ago, my new reporting manager, Barb Mathers (IBM Director of Workplace and Collaboration Solutions), announced, of course, in no other way than through our internal social networking platform, IBM Connections, the following exciting piece of news:
“BIG NEWS! I am thrilled to announce that Luis Suarez is joining my team as Lead Social Business Enabler for w3 and www Connections. Luis will be driving the successful adoption of Connections across IBM, in support of our Workplace of the Future goals of transforming the way employees work in a globally integrated enterprise. Luis will be an excellent champion for the CIO office as he helps to communicate our direction of becoming a truly social business and what it takes to get there. Welcome aboard, Luis!!!” [Emphasis mine}
A dream job, without any doubt!, another one, that just came true. I could probably say that back in the day, when I was first getting involved with social networking tools, back in 2001, I knew, deep inside, that, at some point in time, I would be ending up doing this kind of job. And 12 years later that dream came true. Yes, I know, probably a bit too long, perhaps, right? Well, I guess that's what patience, resilience and perseverance can do for you (Along with having plenty of good fun along the way doing a bunch of other interesting projects and initiatives as well and working with an amazing group of talented and rather smart fellow colleagues, too!). They keep saying that those who are patient enough to wait for it will eventually end up achieving it and I guess that is what just happened two weeks ago!
I am incredibly excited and truly honoured to be filling in this new position. Thrilled that I will have an opportunity to continue doing what I love doing, i.e. exploring that whole brave new world of Open Business in the context of helping my employer become a Socially Integrated Enterprise. I realise that, for most people out there, it would probably mean the very same thing I have been doing all along in the last 6 years, but there are a few differences...
As a starting point, I will no longer be working within the IBM Software Group as a Social Business Evangelist for fellow senior technical leaders and subject matter experts, which is the work I have been doing now for a bit over a year. Instead, I will be joining the Global IBM CIO Organisation as Lead Social Business Enabler for w3 and www Connections, our Enterprise Social Software platform (Internal and external), with the main goal, vision and mission of continuing to help facilitate the adoption / adaption of IBM and fellow colleagues in our journey to become a successful social / open business. Yes, indeed, I will be doing lots and lots more work on enablement, adoption, education, facilitation, adaptation, consultancy, and so forth around accelerating our very own social / open business transformation.
As most of you know already, IBM is one of the many Enterprise Social Software vendors out there, perhaps one of the most competitive ones, too (I will leave that to you to decide…), but, at the same time, long time ago, we decided that, instead of blocking the use of these social technologies, and in order to help improve the way we collaborate and share our knowledge, both inside and outside of the firewall, we were going to, instead, drink our own champagne and become a showcase of that social business transformation a good number of other firms have embarked on already over the course of the last few years.
And that is the journey that we started back in 2001 and that since 2005 it's gone through a good number of tipping points, some of which I have already blogged about in the past. Well, I guess this will be the next one, at least, for yours truly, because that announcement that Barb mentioned above already is the most popular microblog post shared internally already from the very beginning, which has me even more excited and incredibly humbled, because, in a way, it's confirming it was the right move when I started conversations about it a couple of months back. And even more so from the perspective that my new management line knew that, when they were hiring me, they weren't just hiring Luis Suarez (That weird, strange guy who lives in Gran Canaria, and who doesn't use corporate email to do his work any longer, that social business evangelist who works leading by example on what social / open is all about) but my entire global network, both internal and external! That's how this new hyperconnected, networked business world works nowadays ...
But what I do feel really excited about is that my new management line also walks the talk, they do lead by example in this brave new social / open business world. They do live one of my favourite mantras as of late, that is, "Doing is believing!", so when I was first offered the job I just didn't have to think much to accept it, right on the spot, on February 12th, in New York City, at a Starbucks coffee shop, near the IBM building in 590 Madison. [Yes, I don't know why, but NYC does manage to have a special place in my heart over the course of the years. It already did back in 2008 when I first announced there publicly to the world I was starting the movement of Thinking Outside the Inbox. And it still has it 5 years later when I landed in this dream job!] I am sure over the course of time I will be introducing you to them all, my management line, that is, so that you all get to start knowing who I will be working with. It’s going to be quite good fun, I can guarantee you that!
I know that at this point in time you may be wondering about what my job role and responsibilities would be like and everything, right? Not to worry, I will be sharing all those in an upcoming blog post, but perhaps for one I will detail the main task / activity I will be working on from here onwards: Help facilicate and accelerate the adoption / adaptation of Social Business at IBM (Both internally and externally) through our strategic enterprise social software solution, IBM Connections.
Like I said, more to come in an upcoming blog post, but that’s it for now! That is the reason why I have been relatively quiet in the last couple of months while I was adjusting to this brave new adventure I have been so much looking forward to. Yes, your suspicions were absolutely right, too! There is a whole lot more than I could tell and share over here and that’s my intention as well over the course of the next few months when I will be blogging about the very same themes I have been blogging all along over the course of the last 8 years around Social / Open Business, Collaboration, Knowledge Sharing, Online Communities and Learning, but at the same time I also feel this blog will turn itself into an open and transparent window as to what it is like being in the role that I am, narrating my work, working out loud, by sharing how that fascinating journey moves along, i.e. the challenges, the opportunities, the really cool things, the not so cool ones, what I learn along the way and whatever else that comes up in my mind… I guess this blog will turn itself into what the original concept of blogging was all about: a (my) personal Social Web journal…
For now, time for me to move on and delighted to come back again, in full force, to the Social Web and really looking forward to keep up with the conversations and additional dialogue around Social / Open Business with all of you folks now that I am back in business with just one final token of sincere appreciation and gratitude for sticking around this long and for your patience and genuine interest (Yes, you all know who you are!) and for making it possible for me to bring into reality my next dream job: keep leading the Open Business (r)Evolution.
Thanks ever so much and let’s do it!
Let the good fun continue!
Bring it on!
Now that I am, once again, back home, after another round of business trips, I just couldn’t help reflecting on the fact that, lately, over the course of the last few months, perhaps couple of years, we seem to be going from extreme negatives to extreme positives and back. Somehow it’s starting to feel like being on a non-stop roller-coaster, and although I quite enjoy those rides, I am not too sure it’s something I would want to do on a permanent basis. Specially, getting exposed to extreme negatives. They can be just so much energy draining altogether, it’s probably not even worth it focusing too much on them. Yes, I know, I, too, have been missing the Inspiring Video of the Week series of posts over here in this blog, so I’m hoping to bring them back, once again, and perhaps with such enticing and rather optimistic message as The Future Is Ours.
No, don’t worry, nothing serious about my own persona or those around me for that matter. I am all right. In fact, I’m doing really well, specially, on the final week before I will be sharing some further details on that previous blog post where I talked about Who Moved My Cheese? and where to next. It’s just that the whole world has gone really weird and for no apparent reason. And that’s where the extreme negatives keep flourishing all over the place, distracting us all from what we should really be focusing on at this point in time: make the world a better place. Not for you, not for me, not for any of us, but for our future generations to come…
That’s why, when I bumped into The Future Is Ours (A beautifully inspiring and thought-provoking short video clip of a bit over two minutes), I just couldn’t help thinking that it wouldn’t hurt us to have some sort of reminders, every now and then, that allow us to keep that focus intact on what our purpose and potential meaning truly are, never mind those distractions that we seem to keep bumping into more often than not.
Thus I thought that since I am now back from my last round of business trips and in order to get things going again with my blogging mojo, it would be a perfect opportunity to kick things off with a blog entry on the Inspiring Video of the Week and this time around, since it’s been a while, to actually share a bonus one as well! And I think I may have just bumped into the right, quality materials for today.
Michael Marantz quotes: “Imagine the future as a movie, consider this a trailer to that movie” as an introduction to this short video clip. I know most people out there reading this entry would probably say that it’s far too optimistic and perhaps utopian, but then again, I learned, a long while ago, to come back with why not? What’s stopping us from reaching out our highest potential, that is, “pushing humanity forward“? Probably nothing else than just us. So why not go ahead and do it? How? Well, here’s some inspiration to get in the mood:
Yes, I know, I need that, too! Well, here’s the bonus track. When you are done watching through that video clip take a look into this other one, of just under two minutes, on “Social Media Changes Everything“, which is just as powerful as the previous one, more than anything else, because it shows and demonstrates what has been crippling us all in the past and that we are finally breaking loose from it with the emergence of social technologies: “Knowledge / Information is power” is now shifting into “Information now finds its own flow“:
And if we are talking about the Social Web as a Flow, as my good friend Stowe Boyd would say, we are just getting started… See? That’s why every now and then I keep longing for inspirational video clips like the two I shared above, so I can get over from the extreme negatives, even if is it hard for a short while and continue to work really hard for those extreme positives that make everything worth while.
Yes, I know, I could probably summarise it with these two different sentences spread around on the first video clip:
“Let yourself be overwhelmed… Never stop dreaming“