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

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Taking Notes Episode 126: Introducing Social Business with Luis Suarez

Gran Canaria - Mapaslomas Dunes' Sunset Over the last couple of months I have been participating on a number of different podcasting episodes, (Internet) TV interviews, news articles and a whole bunch of other kinds of rich media publications talking, most of the time, around the topics of Enterprise 2.0, internal social software adoption and 2.0 evangelism, and, lately, the new social term that seems to be en vogue nowadays: social business. I originally had planned to share a few insights about the most interesting ones and point folks to the original resource to watch or read through them, but then I realised that there are out there far too many to mention in a single blog post, more than anything else, because some of the conversations have been substantially different from one another. So I thought that perhaps I would drop by over here, every now and then, and point folks to the odd one or two, so you could have a look into some of them, if you would be interested, but always being conscious of trying to strike a balance on not sharing them all one right after the other. That’s why I have decided as well that I will be splitting them up half in half and share some other pointers over at my Posterous site, which would also give me an opportunity to keep things going over there as well, as I keep making a much heavier use of it from here onwards…

Thus, what a better way of kicking things off than sharing with you folks a recent podcasting episode that I participated in with the wonderful folks from The Taking Notes podcast, Bruce Elgort and Julian Robichaux. That’s right, back in November, Bruce invited me to participate in their #126 episode and talk with them about the topic of “Social Business”. Now, you may have noticed already, how for the last few weeks, probably since right after the Enterprise 2.0 conference event in Santa Clara, there seems to be a growing trend of switching away from the Enterprise 2.0 concept into that one of Social Business. Even in Twitter itself it is starting to happen… I wouldn’t be surprised if in 2011, as we get to wrap up things with this year, we would see an increase in the number of conversations around social business vs. purely Enterprise 2.0. Starting by confirming whether it does provide value or not… In fact, that dialogue has already started with a good bunch of folks chiming in already in this space. Even IBM has been coming along and jumped into the bandwagon as well…

Now, I do realise how I have shared above a whole bunch of rather interesting and insightful blog links on this very same topic, which some folks have been calling even a debate, but I would surely like to recommend you go through each of them and read them through to get some additional context of what I feel is going to be one of the main themes in the next few months, if not already. Then at a later time and, as we move forward, I will be coming back to some of those blog entries hoping to add some further insights on to the overall conversations…

To get things started with those reflections on what social business is all about from my own perspective, I think The Taking Notes podcast with both Bruce and Julian would probably be a good start, since we had a rather interesting and enlightening discussion on what social business could mean for any business out there. If you go into the original blog post you will be able to see the various show notes of all of the subjects we touched base on. I thought I would also include them over here to give you a quick glimpse of what you can expect from that podcasting episode:

  • “Social software evangelism inside of IBM, and the group of 1,600+ BlueIQ Ambassadors within the company
  • How you can possibly live without e-mail for over 2 years (a question Luis has probably answered hundreds of times before, and he graciously answered again)
  • The difference between social networks on the Internet and social networks behind the corporate firewall
  • The future of social software, and what technologies will be used to make it work across networks and vendors
  • Luis’ recent Enterprise 2.0 Evangelist of the Year Award

The podcast lasts for about 48 minutes and in it you would be able to find out plenty more what my ¢2 are about social business in general, what it is like, and how a company might be capable of reaching out that status over the course of time through a direct influence from Enterprise 2.0, etc. etc.. Interestingly enough, and as a teaser, my opinion comes pretty close to that one shared by Jevon McDonald not long ago in another blog post under the title “E20 vs Social Business?“: Social Business = People + Process + Technology (Enterprise 2.0), which, if you have been reading this blog for a little while now, you would see how it resembles, pretty close, something else, much larger, that’s been there with us for over 15 years…  But I won’t spoil anymore the surprise field that we discussed for much of the duration of the podcast…

Over the course of that long conversation we also touched based on a good number of different topics, including some of my favourite ones, like the BlueIQ program (And its BlueIQ Ambassadors community) I have been part of over the last three years as part of IBM’s internal social software adoption strategy, as well as my long time running experiment of living “A World Without Email” (Whose update, I realise now, is very much long overdue!), and the future of social software in general…

And, finally, something that I will be talking about more in a separate blog post, but which has been one of the major highlights for yours truly for 2010; the nomination and award from the 2.0 Adoption Council group as Internal Evangelist of the Year 2010, taking the baton from the always inspiring Claire Flanagan who won it last year. What a true honour, indeed!! But, like I said, I will be talking about that one at a later time as I get to wrap up a post on some highlights for 2010. For now, I just hope you enjoy the podcasting episode with the Taking Notes folks, just as much as I did recording it with them! I surely had a blast!

From here onwards I just want to take this opportunity to share across a big special Thanks!! with both Bruce and Julian for having me on their show and for always making it so much fun and dynamic to participate in it! Thanks ever so much, guys! Looking forward to the next one!

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Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work – A World Without Meetings?

Aranjuez - El Palacio de Aranjuez If you have been a regular reader of this blog, you would know how, by now, and every so often, I get to talk and share further insights around one of my favourite Web sources for learning on a wide range of topics available out there at the moment. One that surely doesn’t leave people standing still; quite the opposite… Inspiring, provocative, insightful and enlightening are adjectives that come to mind when talking, of course, about TED Talks. Well, earlier on this week, I had the opportunity to watch one of those presentations that would surely fit in with that profile and that, if you haven’t watched it yet, would probably manage to wow you big time, just as much as it did for me. Indeed, I’m talking about Jason Fried‘s recent “Why work doesn’t happen at work“. Have you watched it already? No? If you think that work is something else than what you have been told all along, or have been doing all of this time sensing it just doesn’t feel right, this would be one Talk to watch! No doubt it won’t leave you indifferent!

It’s a rather short, but amazingly inspiring, presentation, that lasts for a little bit over 15 minutes, put together by Jason himself, where he comes to question, with some incredibly accurate and rather solid descriptions, the true nature of work and that one of what our traditional office environment has been all along and; how it, perhaps, needs to start thinking about changing some of the dynamics and key concepts behind the traditional physical office space.

Of course, while watching the video, I couldn’t help taking a few notes that resonated quite a lot with my overall experience as a knowledge worker who moved from a traditional office environment back in 2003 and who today is a full time mobile worker, spending most of the time working from his home office or travelling, and who wouldn’t have it any other way at this point in time. Yes, that’s right! Read further on and you will see what I mean … Watching Jason’s speech I just couldn’t help nod time and time again in agreement with everything he said about how we may need to start shaping up how we view work, and, most importantly, how we execute work, whether at a traditional physical space or remotely, because, apparently, the way we have been doing it all along hasn’t been the most effective so far. And he is right. Here is why …

Jason starts up his presentation identifying three different areas related to work, which I thought were rather interesting: Room (where does work happen for you? At the office, at home, travelling, at a customer’s, at the airport, you name it); Object (basically, what we produce) and, finally, Time (When does work happen? Early in the morning, throughout the day or in the evening, on the weekends, etc. depending on how productive we may feel at those times). With that intro he moves on to claim that at the traditional office, the physical space, we no longer get to do work, but, instead, we have work moments.

We seemed to have moved into work in chunks, being constantly exposed to interruptions that could come from various different places. Now, this is something that I could certainly relate to. Back when I used to work from a physical location it used to take about 5 hours to commute to work (Back and forth), so typically I would have to get up really early in the morning to arrive at around 9:30am at the office, and as soon as I would get in I would be getting exposed to those work moments. My boss would come in, asked me to go with him for a coffee (to catch up or just chit chat at the coffee corner, or water cooler, whatever term you would want to use…), spend a few minutes talking to him, then I would go to my desk and right as I am sitting down to start my work, colleagues would come around to talk, once again, or go for another coffee. You know, the usual stuff you do with work colleagues when you first see them at the office in the morning…

From there onwards one thing leads to the other and before you realise, it’s lunch time. My lunch time. So by the time I could go and sit down at my desk to start doing my work it would be after 1pm in the afternoon; then meetings and conference calls would kick in and before you knew it off it goes your entire work day dedicated to stuff you probably could have done without just that day. But then you go on and keep working, before you go back home, because there are a number of tasks that need to be finished and you know you can’t leave them behind, just like that. So you end up doing a whole bunch of extra hours, just because of those interruptions giving you back only a few work moments. Does that situation ring a bell? I bet it does, specially, if you are one of those knowledge workers who still gets to go the traditional office. So here is a question for you… when does work happen for you in that scenario?

Right, under that premise, Jason gets to share some rather interesting thoughts about how we have moved into a corporate environment, for all of us, where we seem to consistently lack long term periods of hard thinking. We just don’t have time for them anymore, because of those interruptions! Eventually, resulting in knowledge workers choosing alternative methods to carry out their work; whether they do it while at home, or later on in the office, once things quiet down a bit, or in a plane, in the car, at an airport, etc. etc. In these new environments, it looks like the distractions are minimum; there are still some of them out there, but they are not the same as in your traditional office. How many times have you called the office yourself to tell your boss you are going to be at home for the whole morning, so that you can concentrate on a rather hard and tough task you need to accomplish soonish? I bet more than once!

So why do we keep insisting then on commuting to the office, when we all know that we are not the most productive during that time, specially with those interruptions kicking in time and time again? Why do we keep insisting on measuring knowledge workers’ performance by their sheer physical presence, as opposed to the results delivered on tasks accomplished? Why do we keep on distrusting our knowledge workforce to do their job properly, when we know that in the first place we have hired professionals who know they need to be just that: professional? When are we going to start trusting them to be more responsible for what they do on a day to day basis? Isn’t it about time we shift gears, change our corporate chips and inspire an open, collaborative work environment where knowledge workers take more control, AND responsibility, for what they do … and let them do their thing?

That’s exactly the premise that Jason comes to question in his presentation. In fact, he goes even further! He comes to compare sleep and work as both being pretty much the same; in order to get a good night sleep you would rather prefer not to have any interruptions, because it will disrupt the sleeping phases you go through and you wouldn’t get the rest you deserve after a hard working day. Well, the same thing happens with work; in order for you to do a proper job about something, in order to get work done, it would work best if you wouldn’t have any interruptions. Yet, that doesn’t seem to be happening very often, to the point where he keeps questioning how can we expect people to work at the office effectively, if they keep getting interrupted time and time again? Quite an eye opener, don’t you think?

Well, it gets better, because, at this stage, it is when he turns things upside down a bit, stirring the pot some more, becoming a bit more provocative in the end, detailing what may well be some of the most typical examples at the office and how some of the main real distractions employees are exposed to, according to their managers, are social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. etc. going to the extreme of blocking them not allowing their employees to access them freely, when in reality it shouldn’t have to be like that! His notion of these social tools as our modern smoke breaks is terrific and rather descriptive of what we used to have back then when we used to hang out at the coffee corner, or water cooler, having a short break talking to colleagues before getting back to work. Things seem to have changed very little, don’t you think? We have just been moving away from that physical water cooler to a virtual one: The Social Web.

What’s interesting though from his presentation is to watch him talk about what he feels are the real problems; what Jason calls M&Ms (No, nothing to do with chocolate! hehe); what he refers to as “Managers and Meetings“. Apparently, manager’s job is that one of interrupting people at the wrong time; also perhaps calling up meetings when they shouldn’t. All of these are toxic, terrible, poisonous events managers do, because hardly any knowledge worker would eventually do that. According to him, and it is not the first time I have seen / read about it, meetings are very expensive to the business provoking those very same interruptions!

This is when it gets really fascinating in the presentation itself, because he comes up forward proposing some solutions as to how we could help our businesses reduce a large chunk of those meetings, and interruptions, happening while at work so that we can continue having a go at it and do what we need to do: work. He comes to propose that instead of scheduling a meeting people could start making heavier use of both traditional and emerging collaborative, knowledge sharing and social software tools to get the job done. Now this is something that some folks may consider silly, yet, in my own experience, it’s tremendously powerful and relatively easy to achieve.

There was a time in my recent past where what Jason described was pretty much my day to day workload; long days of conference calls and meetings, then working on to-dos, dealing with other interruptions, etc. etc. Eventually, I started building a strong sense of NOT being much productive anymore and, essentially, an increasingly uncontrollable amount of additional stress kicked in making things even worse. That’s why, before you know it, you realise you need to do something about it, before it drives you crazy! Not to mention how such “insane work schedules” will keep eating up your private, quality time, from your personal life, with your loved ones and eventually everyone experiences the frustrations! I bet that one sounds familiar, too! Like I said, it used to be my working environment for a while not too long ago. Lucky enough I managed to change things just in time…

That’s exactly what Jason suggested in this TED Talk as well, when talking about what can managers do to help prevent this ever increasing lack of productivity and frustration altogether from their employees. He proposes three different solutions to start tackling a new way of getting work done:

  • Ever heard of Casual Fridays? … Well, how about No Talk Thursdays? (Or whatever other day of the week)
  • Embrace passive methods of collaboration (Moving away from active collaboration)
  • Cancel the next meeting! (Yes, that one! The next one you are about to start up! There is a great chance that things will continue to roll on without it, so why have it in the first place?!)

Now, these are some great suggestions, very easy to implement and live by; and pretty much along the lines of what I started doing myself a few years back, although my approach is slightly different …

  • As a starting point, I don’t have “No Talk Thursdays”, but I do have Think! Fridays, a time during the course of the week, usually, Friday afternoons, where I avoid having meetings and conference calls, on purpose! (And rather stubborn about it, too!), so that I can dedicate that time to do some hard thinking about the stuff I am working on at the moment, or future projects / initiatives I would want to explore further, etc. Basically, I allow that Think! Friday time slot to slow down, pause for a bit, think! about tackling more complex problems or ways to improve the way I work. So far that weekly thinking time has proved to be tremendously powerful and energising!
  • Put a stop to meetings galore!: Yes, that’s right! How many times have you come to work, checked your agenda and noticed you had 7, 8 or 9 one hour meetings or conference calls in a row?!? And then people expect you to do your work on top of that?!? AND not to mention participate in social networking sites as well!! Are you crazy? Where do you get the time then? Why do we always have to sacrifice our private / personal life / time? Things shouldn’t be like that!

    So, about three years ago, I decided to put a stop to that madness! It was about time! I had enough! Just as much as I decided to live “A World Without EMail” I also thought about living “A World Without Meetings“. And right from the beginning I have been reluctant to have more than 4 hours of meetings in a given day, so anything that comes after those 4 hours of scheduled meetings it gets rejected with a prompt message to look for alternative times. Now there are the odd exceptions here and there, but so far I have managed to keep up with it quite consistently; so much so that in those three years I haven’t given up on it altogether! The other way around! It just works!

  • Embrace passive methods of collaboration: that’s where I have moved to nowadays; instead of having meeting after meeting, I have managed to encourage folks to collaborate offline, preparing the outcome of some of meetings in such way that with the usage of social software tools we are finding out that most of those meetings are redundant anyway, because we can already work on the outputs in a collaborative manner offline. And rather effectively. So one consequence of doing this is that for most of the meetings and conference calls I attend nowadays they have gone from the default one hour to 30 to 45 minutes long, where we just basically close off pending to-dos and other action items, instead of meandering in everlasting discussions with nothing happening. Not such a bad deal, don’t you think? 
  • And, finally, I thought I would share one last tip I have grown very fond of over the last few months and which I am starting to find essential in helping me tame and manage better the interruptions I am exposed to on a daily basis. Of course, I am referring to the well known Pomodoro Technique, which allows me to singlecast effectively by focusing on a specific task at a time, get it done and then more into the next one!

    What I am finding really interesting and rather exciting is the fact that just recently I have started applying the Pomodoro Technique to the time I spend as well in social networking sites, both inside and outside of the firewall. So, now I can keep up a much tighter control of the time I spend interacting with some of those social tools. For instance, I usually dedicate 2 pomodoros of 25 minutes each for all of my blogging / microblogging and other social activities in the morning, and perhaps another 2 late in the afternoon to finish off where I may have left it. Some times it is a bit more, and plenty of other times it’s a little bit less. Either way, it helps me get a much stronger sense of accomplishment and achieving something by marking down those periods of time where I can dedicate myself to one single task … and then move on to the next one!

And what happens with the rest of the time, you may be wondering, right? Well, I follow the flow, usually letting serendipity do its magic, which in a way helps me focus on those areas I need to focus on at a later time when that uninterrupted thinking time kicks in again! Which is the main reason why I bumped into Jason’s TED Talk in the first place and which allowed me to go through in one of those Think! Friday activities, having served that purpose of putting together as well this blog post from the initial draft I wrote while watching it through! And, yes, not further meetings were required!

So how about you? Can you, too, live in a world without meetings? At least, can you see yourself reducing the ridiculously high number of meetings we all seem to keep attending time and time again and instead start relying more and more on other passive methods of collaboration, longer periods of hard thinking and perhaps a stronger sense of being more effective and, why not, efficient altogether? At the end of the day, I guess it’s all about working smarter, not necessarily harder, and somehow I sense that social software tools will be helping us out achieve a whole lot more, with a whole lot less … effort! And that can only be a good thing, don’t you think? Specially, if it allows you to cancel your next meeting!

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[Podcast] This Week in Lotus 018: A World Without Email? Or Blackberries?

As things are starting to settle back in, after a couple of hiccups with WordPress plugins here and there, following the hardware upgrade debacle of my hosting provider over the course of the weekend (Thank goodness everything turned out all right eventually!), here we go, once again, getting immersed on that regular blogging schedule. And today I thought I would let you folks know about a couple of interesting podcasting episodes that I have listened to or that I have participated in, that you may want to tune into as well. Because you do still listen to podcasts every now and then, right? Yes, that’s what I thought. Me, too! They still play an important role in my day to day knowledge sharing and collaborative activities, whether discussions in real time prime above all, while watching them live, or participating as one of the guests in the various conversations.

So last week Friday, my good friend Stu McIntyre and his partner in crime, Darren Duke, kindly invited a couple of folks, and good friends as well, Bilal Jaffery and Jon Mell from the Dachis Group / Headshift, along with yours truly, to participate in their weekly podcasting show “This Week in Lotus” where we spent a bit over one hour talking about a whole bunch of various different topics, including some of my favourites 😉 hehe

Yes, that’s right, last Friday, Stu, Darren, Bilal, Jon and myself had a blast recording “This Week in Lotus 018 – A world without email? Or Blackberries?” [Link to the podcasting episode], where we talked, amongst several other things, about the recent product launch of IBM’s Northstar as well as IBM Customer Experience Suite, that I have talked about over here, a little bit about “a bad week for the opposition and, of course, my favourite topic as of late, living “A World Without Email“.

Like I mentioned above, the episode lasts for a bit over one hour and towards the end of the podcasting episode we had a chance to talk about the experience of giving up corporate email and, instead, rely, plenty more, on social software tools to collaborate, share your knowledge across. In short, to get the job done. Now, this particular conversation with those folks was slightly different than the one I recently participated in at TWiT net@night, since I eventually continue to build further up and add more insights on the overall experience that I may not have shared elsewhere before. More than anything else with the purpose of helping those folks out there, who may be interested, to find out some more the various reasons why I started, how I do it and what’s meant for me, and the teams and communities I hang out with, so that perhaps you may also have a good chance to give it a try for yourselves.

I am not going to expand much further on the topic, since you can go and have a look into the accompanying blog post that was put together [Link here], and check the extensive show notes that have been provided where you can get a good glimpse of what we talked about, as well as checking out plenty of the links that we mentioned during our conversations. If you go there, you will also find a brief section of Tips where each of us pointed folks into some interesting hints and tips, tools, blog posts, applications, etc. etc. Worth while a read, if you are an avid iPad user as well! 🙂

I am sure you would have a good time listening to it, just as much as we did recording the session altogether; I think you would enjoy it as well if you are also an IBM Lotus user or are interested in IBM’s Lotus products, because we also talked about them a little bit. And, while talking about this very same subject, if you didn’t have enough, or if you would want to find out, plenty more, what it is like hacking stuff together with IBM’s Lotus Connections social tools suite or how IBM is helping accelerate the adoption rate of social software, both inside and outside of the company, I would strongly encourage you all to have a look and listen to the latest podcasting episode from the fine “The Taking Notes Podcast“.

Because in “Taking Notes Episode 121: 2010.09.17 – Evangelizing Lotus Connections“, and over the course of 37 minutes, you will be able to listen to co-hosts Bruce Elgort and Julian Robichaux, interview two of my favourite IBM people, and really good friends, Sacha Chua and Luis Benitez (Yes, my twin brother!), talking away for a large chunk of time on some of the really cool, and pretty neat, things they are both involved with hacking together Lotus Connections as well as their great work as social software and Enterprise 2.0 evangelists. You can grab the episode itself from the following link and start playing it right away…

Lots of golden nuggets in there, including a lovely discussion on how microblogging helps drive business value within organisations. You gotta listen to that story to realise the true power of enterprise microblogging behind the firewall. Flattening the organisation in a matter of minutes would be rather an understatement, to say the least! But quickly go through the show notes as well and hit play to start listening to it. I am sure you will enjoy it, even more of you are a techie yourself hehe

Ok, that was it! From here onwards, I just want to take this opportunity to share a special thanks! with both Stu and Darren for inviting Bilal, Jon and myself to such an entertaining and enlightening podcasting show as This Week In Lotus. Oh, remember as well that, every week, there is a new episode to listen to! So take the dust away from your favourite .mp3 player and go ahead, subscribe to the podcast. There will always be something new to listen to… and learn, I can guarantee you that!, which is just wonderful. That’s the whole purpose behind podcasting altogether, don’t you think?

Well done, guys!

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A World Without E-mail: The Mashable Effect!

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves & Surroundings in the Spring Last week was one of those weeks that would surely mark a before and an after on my mission of living “A World Without Email“. Two years back, in June 2008, to be more precise, I published an article on this very same subject in The New York Times. For a good few hours it was the most emailed story of the day, or so I was told. The amount of buzz generated around the subject of giving up on corporate email and, instead, make heavier use of social software tools, was just outstanding! One difficult to forget! Till last week. Welcome to the Mashable effect!

If you would remember, on Friday September 3rd, Amy-Mae Elliot published a lovely article over at Mashable’s Homepage under the heading “A World Without E-mail: One Man’s Vision of a Social Workplace“, where she talked about a recent interview I did with her talking about what it is like being a remote knowledge worker working for an email driven corporation like IBM (Most businesses would probably feel the same way as well, I guess…) using, mostly, social software tools to collaborate and share your knowledge across, giving up altogether on work email. I had a terrific time talking to Amy-Mae about this topic, but I never expected what would be coming along after that! Basically, when the article was finally published!

Welcome to the Mashable effect, indeed! What happened from there onwards was the emergence of a huge number of superb conversations and overall buzz generated that it kept me busy for the entire week last week! Several dozens of blog posts, thousands of tweets, retweets and Mentions; hundreds of buzzes; hundreds of Likes; several dozens of comments on the original article (Which I have now finally caught up with!); traffic on my blog tripling from previous weeks, and, most interesting, a massive decrease of incoming emails, during the course of those few days… Something that, with the NYTimes article, didn’t last that much longer. But it looks like the Web has matured in this respect quite a bit! What before was perhaps the most emailed story of the day, now it’s been a huge buzz on various social networking tools for over a week!

Yes, I’m posting today this blog entry over here to reflect on the overall experience of what has happened in the last week and a day, since that article in Mashable was first published. I didn’t have much time to reflect on it till now and it surely is one of those wonderful experiences difficult to forget. For certain! Alas, new week, new stories coming along at Mashable and traffic over here has gone down back to normal; well, perhaps a bit more than double of what I used to have. But, certainly, things seem to have settled down quite a bit!

The remarkable thing from this whole experience has actually been getting contacted by people who I know very well for a long while now, and who I trust dearly as well, and, also, most interestingly, getting contacted by a whole bunch of total strangers, both fellow IBM colleagues, as well as non IBM social networking evangelists and enthusiasts, who have started themselves their own conversations on reducing some of the email clutter they are exposed to on a daily basis. That has been tremendous and what I would consider mission accomplished!

Social Networks’ traffic is a nice thing to have, it makes you feel good, it helps you get a good sense of being “noticed”, but, like I am witnessing over the last few hours, it’s something that will pass. People will move on. Just like yourself and myself. And that traffic will slow to slightly higher levels than before, but sticking around there. Yet the effect of that buzz will disappear eventually, over time! However, I cannot say the same thing about the conversations that’s triggering; about how it is helping people question the way they do and process email, and, most importantly, how they collaborate and share their knowledge with others. And, that, to me, is exactly what I wanted. To challenge email. To help people wake up and think before they send out that next email! And it looks like that objective has been met quite extensively, because the email traffic I got over the last week, including today, has been averaging 2 emails per day!! And the amount of social networking traffic has gone sky high!

Yes, indeed, mission accomplished! Everyone is out and about sharing their knowledge and information more openly and publicly, thinking outside their inboxes! And I cannot be happier than that, to be honest! Well, actually, I can be! Because also last week, a total “stranger”, Amber MacArthur (Amber Mac, for short), kindly invited me to participate on TWiT’s net@night live podcasting show with her and the one and only: Leo Laporte. Yes, I mentioned “stranger” a few seconds ago, because, to them, I was a total stranger, even though I have known, and followed!, them for years! (Some of my favourite podcasting shows I still listen to on a regular basis come out of TWiT).

Yet, there I was, about to be invited to participate in episode #167 on the topic of “A World Without Email“. Can you imagine how hard my worlds collided?!?! Still, I had a blast! I couldn’t say “No!”, of course!, to such kind offer by Amber, so despite the unearthly hour I stuck around and spent a good few minutes talking to them about the experiences of giving up on corporate email. What the main reasons were, why I still keep doing it, what social networking tools I use on a regular basis, what have been the main implications of such blunt move, and a bunch of other stuff, including some helpful tips on how to get things going for other folks!

Lots of good fun with some really interesting discussions going on as well! And all of that recorded for posterity! Yes, that’s right, there is a recording both at the TWiT site, as well as in YouTube. Thus I thought I would finish off this blog entry sharing the embedded code over here, so just in case you may have missed it last week, you would still have a chance to go through it and get a glimpse of what it is like starting a week at work getting hit by the Mashable effect and finishing it off with being the host of one of your all time favourite and unforgettable TWiT net@night shows with Amber and Leo!

Whooaahh! Will it get better than that?!?! I don’t know. I doubt it. But I tell you what… I would be incredibly excited if you would stop using email to collaborate and share your knowledge across with your fellow co-workers and other knowledge workers altogether and, instead, make a heavier use of social networking tools for business. Yes, that would make me really happy! Not just for you, nor for me, but for all of us! And if the urge to send that email is just still far too strong for you, breathe, count to 10, and think before whether you would really want to send that email or not. Hopefully, not! That would make me happy, too! 🙂

From here, I just want to take another opportunity to send a special thanks to all of those folks (Yes, you know who are!) who have made a reality such an incredibly exciting week for yours truly and his mission to live “A World Without Email”. I’d be eternally grateful, to say the least … Thanks ever so much, folks!

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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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A World Without Email — Year 3, Weeks 24 to 28 (Email Is Where Knowledge Goes to Die – The Presentation)

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves & Surroundings in the Spring It has been a while now since the last progress report I have shared over here around the topic of living “A World Without Email“, that experiment that has been going on for over 2.5 years now, where one day I decided to give up on corporate email altogether and, instead, make heavier use of social networking tools to collaborate and share knowledge with other fellow knowledge workers. So I thought I would drop by today over here and share with you folks an update of how things are going, specially now that there seems to be a growing interest in demonstrating how social software tools are consistently not only helping reduce the amount of emails we receive on a daily basis, but at the same time we are starting to witness the changing role of email itself, transitioning successfully into becoming that messaging / notification system that was designed for over 40 years ago versus remaining that content repository where everything goes. Even your knowledge!

Matt Forcey put together a rather insightful blog post not long ago under the heading “Email Usage Drops 28% in Past 12 Months!” where he quotes a recent study by Nielsen “focused on how Americans spend their time online, [and] unexpectedly found that email usage has dropped by 28% over the last year“. Worth while a read, for sure! Just as much as Ethan Yarbrough‘s Email’s Role in an Enterprise 2.0 Environment: Signal Not Source where he is sharing a terrific story of how his own team is progressively changing the role of email in a business environment, moving away from that content repository format where conversations used to happen, to only serve as a notification and messaging system for content that’s stored elsewhere, in this case, social software tools.

If you remember, and if you have been reading this blog for a while now, that’s exactly what I am trying to advocate with “A World Without Email“. Yes, I do realise and acknowledge that email is not going away any time soon. And that’s probably a good thing! What we are seeing though is how email is being re-purposed into no longer becoming the bottleneck of how work gets done. How it is now part of the flow of conversations happening all over the place and, perhaps, in much better, and suitable, social spaces, so that both information and knowledge flow faster and, as a result of that, knowledge workers become more efficient and effective at what they do, which, I am sure, is what really matters at the end of the day… So how have I been doing over the last few weeks, since my last progress report, on moving away, successfully, those various email driven conversations, you may be wondering, right?

Well, things still are going really good! Actually, better than ever! Here is a snapshot of the last five weeks of incoming emails I have received:

A World Without Email - Year 3, Weeks 24 to 28

As you would be able to see, except for last week I have been consistently getting less and less email by the week, and, even more exciting, way below the 20 emails per week mark!, which surely is making a good progress from when I started 2.5 years ago. Remember, at the beginning, before starting this experiment, I used to receive 30 to 40 emails per day! And now, 2.5 years later, it’s just 17 emails per week! Yes, indeed, you are reading it right! I’m now averaging 17 emails received per week, while the majority of my online interactions are now happening through social software tools.

So, to me, it is not just a drop of 28% in the past 12 months, but way over 90% of the email I used to get! And, not sure what you would think, but that’s *huge!* Yes! Being able to state how email is no longer the only game in town for me, quite the opposite!, actually, is a good thing. It proves it can be done! It proves I am not the only one who can make it happen. And this is when it gets really exciting! When you see other folks increasingly paying more and more attention as to how they interact with their email Inboxes and how they effectively start looking for ways of reducing such email clutter.

Very exciting, indeed! Even more when you notice it’s folks around you who are starting to ask you how you can help them eliminate most of their incoming emails and instead progress towards a much more receptive adoption of social software tools for business. That’s why I’m pretty jazzed up about seeing a whole bunch of fellow co-workers who are continuing to make efforts to reduce their email workload. To the point where entire teams are figuring out strategies to make it work for them and over the last couple of weeks I have been working with a couple of them where there is plenty of promise ahead! Yay!

But it gets better! Because over the last few weeks as well I’m starting to notice how even customers want to figure out ways on how they themselves can get rid of, or reduce substantially, their incoming email. And they seem to keep finding me out there as they search how it can be done (Double yay for #lawwe), which is really good news, because I have been invited a couple of times already to go and present to them how they themselves could live “A World Without Email“.

One of those presentations was eventually one I did last week in Germany for that one customer where they wanted to know what it was like making the transition from using email as a collaboration tool into that messaging & notification system. Thus they wanted me to speak to them for about one hour on what it would be like. Of course, I couldn’t say “No!” to it, right? I didn’t.

And the end result is this mindmap I have put together under MindMeister (One of my preferred online mindmapping tools available out there!) and which tries to explain that 2.5 year long journey of having given up on corporate email and, instead, use social software tools using four different entry points of discussion:

  • Why did you do it?
  • How did you do it?
  • How has it changed the way we work?
  • Tips on reducing email – where do you start?

Now, the great thing about MindMeister is that rather you can go to the Web site to see the mindmap itself, or, instead, you can just go through it in the embedded version attached below, which I think is a really cool way of delivering presentations. In fact, for none of these did I use any kind of slideware and it surely was a new, and quite refreshing!, way of delivering a presentation. I should do it more often! Here it is:

I think at this point in time you may be wondering whether there would also be a recording of this presentation so that you could listen to the flow of going from one node to another and learn some more about what that journey has been like in the last couple of years, right? Well, great then!, because I do have a recording of the presentation, although not the one from last week’s customer visit, but from another customer presentation I did remotely through an emeeting (Using LotusLive) and which I’m pretty excited to be sharing it across with you folks over here, in this blog.

It’s a 45MB download you can grab from here and the recording itself includes both the audio and the video, with a short introduction, so you could be able to follow the flow of the mindmap and how the various pieces fit together. It lasts for a little bit over one hour, so you may want to go and grab a cup of coffee, or tea, sit back, hit PLAY and let the show begin. And if you are looking for a one pager of the mindmap itself, I have also gone ahead and uploaded it into my Slideshare space and can be accessed through here.

Hope you enjoyed it just as much as I did putting together the mindmap, reflecting some more on what that experiment has been, and the couple of customer events I have done in the recent weeks. Somehow, I sense we are just starting to have some good fun!

(Ok, here is the thing though, after going through the various Tips on Reducing Email – Where Do You Start?, will you now be capable of Living A World Without Email …? What do you think?)


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