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

From the blog

Life Without eMail – Year 6, Weeks 1 to 20 – (Back to Basics)

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo in the WinterYou know that moment when you realise that everything you have done in the last 5 and a half years has not been really worth while at all and forces you to go through a massive hard reset, challenging your main core beliefs, in terms of what has motivated you quite a lot in this whole Social / Open [r]evolution space over the course of all of that time? Well, that is the “moment” I have just been experiencing in the last 20 weeks of Year 6 of “Life Without eMail” culminating this week with something I thought I would never be able to see, say or talk about again. And while I can imagine there would be plenty of you folks out there who may be wondering whether I am on the brink of giving up on giving up corporate email, I am afraid nothing further than the truth, despite the fact it may look as if I have lost the war (on email) altogether. I am still as strong as ever in wanting to think outside the Inbox, but acknowledging a fact that I never thought I would be pondering about much, after all of this time being heavily involved with social networking for business: going back to basics!

Indeed, I am not too sure what may have happened, but over the course of those 20 weeks (Yes, I know, that’s 5 months right there!) I have noticed a steady increase on the overall amount of incoming emails I have been receiving at work and it’s been rather interesting to see this phenomenon developing further along with intrigue and awe at the same time. It started already on my previous job role, and continuing along in the new one, where it looks like despite the huge shift towards embracing social technologies at work, the volume of incoming email has skyrocketed to levels that have brought me back to the beginning, in 2008. Yes, that drastic.

All along, I have been reflecting on the potential reasons as to why my fellow IBM colleagues keep insisting on relying for vast majority of interactions on email vs. social tools and while I may not have all of the conclusions sorted out and in place, just yet, I can tell you I’m starting to believe it’s more than anything else because people, in general, don’t feel comfortable enough, just yet, it seems, about narrating their work, working out loud, for the benefit of others, including total strangers, and therefore they still prefer email as that is a medium they control in terms of reach, access and knowledge shared.

How illusory, I know! I have been mentioning in both Twitter and Google Plus how surprising this sudden change has been for yours truly and a couple of folks have suggested whether in part this is all due to the recent change of jobs I have gone through, and the fact that I am now exposed to a larger target audience, where vast majority of that IBM population do not know me much, (nor of my work habits): the email-less man who IBM gave birth to in February 2008. It could well be, but then again it was already happening from the beginning of the year when I was still doing my former job, which makes it even more intriguing altogether.

I am certain that, at this point in time, you may be wondering what this is all about and what do I mean when referring to the fact I am now back to basics, once again, having gone through a massive reboot of everything I have been doing in the last few years on walking the talk, leading by example, with my extensive use of social networking tools in a business context. Well, it looks like I am now going to resume a more regular blogging frequency on the topic of “Life Without eMail“, because apparently many folks out there, within my own working environment, have never heard of it and still keep bombarding me with email after email, resulting in a rather alarming increase of email volume to handle, implying as well for that matter, and I am myself spending a whole lot less time in social networks while processing it along accordingly. 

Yes, during Year 6 – Weeks 1 to 20, I have gone from the good average of 15 emails received per week throughout the year for 2012 to, currently, 31.25 emails received per week, which is just huge compared to the range of emails received in the last 2 to 3 years. Take a look into the weekly progress report from those first 20 weeks, and please do pay attention at the data from Week 20. It will be rather telling altogether, so you can see what I mean:

Life Without eMail - Year 6, Weeks 1 to 20 - (Back to Basics) 

You could say that the vast majority of that incoming email volume has been provoked by my new team members and, to be frank, that hasn’t been the case, at all. Most of our collaboration and knowledge sharing happens in open, social spaces, for folks to participate in as they may see fit, along with some other protected, private ones. What I have noticed though, is a sudden increase of incoming email volume from people outside my immediate teams and for a good number of reasons that I have spotted so far. Because I am now working in a completely different area (Have gone from IBM Software Marketing, into IBM’s CIO Organisation) I have seen plenty of email traffic that would be flagged as political, bullying, unnecessary reporting, delegated tasks on to you, and a whole bunch of other aspects that have clearly reminded me why I got started with ditching corporate email back in the day. And while I have tried to be rather condescending and understanding that not everyone wants to buy into living social AND open, I think I am just about to harden up substantially and become bolder when challenging people’s behaviours on how they keep abusing, and killing, each other’s productivity.Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo in the Winter

I guess after 20 weeks waiting for those folks to re-adjust some of their behaviours and become more socially savvy, and not seeing much progress along the way to adapt to that new kind of mindset, it’s now probably a good time to awaken that outrageous optimist heretic, free radical, corporate rebel, hippie 2.0 side of me and fight back! I guess it’s time for me to start challenging, just like I did at the beginning, how people work and entice them into open up their eyes AND minds into new, more effective ways of getting work done through social / open streams. 

You may be wondering why do I bother about all of this, after all, right? I mean, I proved the point for a good number of years that it is possible to live a life without email, so why keep things running as we move further along? Well, probably because I am stubborn enough to believe all of these digital tools will eventually help us transform how we collaborate and share our knowledge, making it much more purposeful and meaningful altogether. Probably also because over the course of the years I have learned to become more patient, and be resilient enough, to persevere and continue to walk the talk accordingly to show and demonstrate how it’s possible to have such a life without relying so badly on email to get work done or, even, to justify it. Probably, because, deep inside, I still feel rather strong about challenging folks, through constructive dialogue, and practical hints and tips and other pragmatic advice, about thinking different, about fighting that inertia that has trapped them for years in thinking “eMail as the default knowledge sharing, communication and collaboration tool, so why would I change? Not worth it“. Well, it is worth it. It always has been worth it and will always be…

I suppose I am an outlier, a rebel with a cause, after all. And after this week, in particular, even more so, once I am done with it and I finally received the total amount of 99 emails (As you can see from the report shared across above) in a single work week! Goodness gracious me! 99 emails!! That’s the highest number of incoming emails I have received for a single week in almost 6 years!! [Previous one was 60 in 2008]

And talking about rebels with a cause. This working week, which is now a thing of the past, reminded of an interview I got done with one of the smartest people I have had the pleasure of spending some time with to learn what Social / Open Business is all about, along with a whole new concept that I am sure you would all be hearing about plenty more, over the course of time, around smarter workforce. Yes, I am referring to the absolutely delightful interview I had the pleasure to be invited to by Rudy Karsan, CEO of Kenexa, an IBM company, and which he then wrote about on this rather insightful blog post under the heading “Introducing The Smarter Workforce Profile: Luis Suarez“. 

Why does it remind me of where I am, right at this moment, when I am stating “I am just going back to basics“, you may be wondering, right? Well, initially, because, to date, it’s probably the most accurate, insightful and relevant interview I have given, out there, on the topic of Social / Open Business and “Life Without eMail“. It basically explains why did I start it in the first place, how I have been moving along with it, and what’s meant so far, and, most importantly, what drove me to kick it off as far as benefits are concerned and on the working week where I have received 99 emails for the whole week, it’s a tremendous refresher, and a huge energy boost, to identify, refine and remind myself why, despite the hard reset, there is no turning point for yours truly, other than keep pushing, and perhaps not as gently anymore as I have in the last few months. Here is one of my favourite quotes that pretty much describes what I do and why I am so passionate on this topic: 

[…] This  convinced me more than anything else that social is the way of the future, and I found his courage inspiring. What came out of my conversation with him was that there were three things that drove him to do this.

The 1st was to bring about efficiencies. The 2nd was that outcomes are better when people collaborate rather than compete. I was fascinated by his notion that email is more of a competitive than a collaborative norm, as it is more about ‘I’ than ‘Us’. The 3rd was that social is the ideal venue, according to him, of teaching–and all humans have this yearning to teach and share knowledge–because somewhere, somebody will find our words meaningful and respond accordingly. What struck me in particular was that there are very few people I know who have no almost no sense of fear in their decision-making, and Luis is one of those. He is driven more by purpose which enabled him to overcome fear. Now, lots of books have been written about how to be an entrepreneur and how to do things very differently, and I think that is fascinating to watch somebody in a massive organisation like IBM be able to execute on their vision of the world because their sense of purpose is stronger than fear of consequences.” [Emphasis mine]

Gran Canaria - Roque Bentayga's Surroundings in the WinterYes, I know, I would be drooling, too! In fact, I still am. Feel free to read further on through the interview itself, if you would be interested, while I would ask you to bear with me for a few, while I try to clean up the mess on my keyboard. But that’s it. Those are big, big words that, over the course of last few months, i seem to have forgotten, ignored or neglected altogether, and somehow I need to get them back: Efficiency, Outcomes, Collaboration, Teaching, Meaning, No Sense of Fear and, my favourite, Purpose. Not bad to put them all together as an opportunity for me to re-focus on what I need to keep focusing on, specially, after nearly 6 years gone by: Life Without eMail not just for me, but for everyone else around me, too! 

Indeed, it’s a larger group, a much larger one, but then again I’m fully committed. Remember, I’m pretty stubborn, rather resilient, flexible enough to understand the dynamics and act accordingly and, above all, incredibly patient to keep pushing for that business transformation of how we share our knowledge and collaborate further through Open Business. You could say I have just re-gained my status of a Rebel with a Cause, because, to me, it just feels like it. 

This whole new experience for myself of what has just happened this working week with such a high number of incoming emails may have just signalled how I may have now reached the bottom of it all, a new beginning, a completely new beginning, and from here onwards I suppose there is only one way left: upwards and onwards!

Thus here we go. Upwards and Onwards with “Life Without eMail” through the point of no return and using our usual Google Plus Community to continue to help educate, teach and facilitate further into that Open Business Transformation, while we keep going for repurposing email in a work context and put it back where it belongs, at long last!

Hope you will join us! 

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Life Without eMail – 5th Year Progress Report – The Community, The Movement

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the SpringThere 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:

  1. Universal Identifier (For whenever you need to sign up for a new service)
  2. Calendaring and Scheduling of events in your agenda (Most of those meetings, appointments seem to come through email still).

  3. 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: 

A World Without Email - 2012 Progress Report (Yearly) 

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. Gran Canaria - Ayacata in the Spring

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: 

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas DunesWe 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…]

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Meaning Conference Highlights – A Collaborative Future #lawwe

La Palma - Roque de los MuchachosNot long ago I mentioned over here in this blog how one of the many reasons why I went through that extended blogging hiatus towards the end of 2012 was due to a rather intense business travelling schedule that took me on a tour of several different European countries to participate, as a speaker, on various conference events, customer meetings, enablement workshops and so forth. Intense is probably the right word to describe what it was like, but another one that I can think about would be memorable. I do have, indeed, plenty of fond memories about the vast majority of those events, but if there is one that has got a special place in my heart is that one event that kicked off last year and which raised the stakes incredibly high on its first edition to the point where it will always be in my thoughts not only because of the tremendously energising vibe it had all around it, throughout, but mainly because of the amazing experience of attending, speaking and participating in an event like no other in search for something that I am starting to feel we need nowadays more than ever: Meaning. 

Of course, I am talking about the Meaning 2012 conference event that took place in Brighton, UK, on October 1st and that three months later I am still remembering it as it were just yesterday. What an amazing event! Not only was the quality of the agenda and speakers top notch (I had the privilege of being one of them giving me a unique opportunity to continue learning from the greatest and the most unexpected), but the atmosphere around it was just electrifying and incredibly energising. The amount of hard work and the dedication to make things right, the incredibly warm sense of hospitality we enjoyed while in there, and the humanity shown throughout the entire event by folks, now really good friends, like Will McInnes and Lou Ash, along with the rest of the NixonMcIness team!, was absolutely a pure delight. Something other conference events should mimic and learn from a great deal! And all of that on their first edition! 

There have been several different blog posts, articles, references, highlights shared across by a good number of folks who attended the event, which have made it quite a rewarding experience going through as I am writing down this blog entry, remembering the wonderful event that we got exposed to over the course of a single day and, most importantly, the sharing of some of the most brilliant ideas we got to exchange and share openly not just from the speakers themselves, but also from people attending the event live with all of the networking that went on and on and on. A delightful experience all around! 

That’s why I couldn’t help resisting the urge to create this blog post where I could point folks to the recordings of the various different speakers, which you can find them all right over here, so that you could have a look and go through each and everyone of them. At your own pace, whenever you would want to. They are all worth it. Big time.

As usual, and like I have been doing over the last few months, I did a bunch of live tweeting from the event itself as well, and I then captured all of those annotations into a .PDF file that I uploaded into my Slideshare account for folks who may be interested in reading further what it was like experiencing the conference live. The direct link to it can be found over here. And here’s the embedded code in case you may want to flip through the pages as we speak: 

I had the privilege as well of being the last speaker of the day, wrapping up what was quite an amazing day that would be rather tough to forget in a long long time. Of course, I talked about one of my favourite topics from over the last 5 years: Living “A World Without eMail“. This time around expanding further on the notion of what a collaborative future may well look like and hold up for us with the emergence of social software tools in the corporate world. I got to talk about plenty of what I have been learning in the last 5 years after I started that movement, back in February 2008, which reminds me that we are getting close to that 5th year anniversary, where I have got a couple of lovely surprises packed up that I am sure folks who have been following this initiative all along would find rather interesting and surprising. But more on that later on…

For now, I thought, as a teaser, as perhaps an interim update from my last blog article on the subject (Yes, I know! I am long overdue an update on how things have been moving along, aren’t I? Well, coming up shortly!), I would go ahead and share the link to the recording over here, so that those folks who may be interested in the topic (It lasts for a little bit over 17 minutes), can have a look into it and watch at your own pace. I’m sure it will evoke a good number of questions and additional insights that I am more than happy to entertain and facilitate on the comments section below, so feel free to chime in as you may see fit, and stay tuned for that upcoming update on the progress report of what it has been like living “A World Without eMail” in the last 12 months. Oh, and don’t worry, it’s not going to be as massively long as the last one. That’s where one of the surprises would kick in eventually … hehe

Here we go: 

Hope you folks would enjoy watching through it, just as much as the huge blast and true honour I had myself on stage delivering the speech.  The vibe in the audience was something that will be very hard for me to forget. Ever. And for that I am eternally grateful to both Will, Lou and the rest of the NixonMcIness team!, for their kind invitation and for making of Meaning something that I can just define with a single word: special! … [Truly special]

An enormous thank you, indeed, to everyone involved in making it happen!

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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 11 to 18 (Social Networks Spur the Demise of Email in the Workplace)

Gran Canaria - Municipio de MogánLike I have just mentioned in another blog post, I am making my way already to Boston to attend, and present, at the Enterprise 2.0 conference event that will start taking place next week Monday. And the excitement is building up more and more by the day. I am currently drafting this blog post on my way to Chicago, but I’m sure I’ll only be able to post it once I settle down in Boston, later on today or tomorrow morning on Sunday…  Either way, I will have plenty of time to spare for this one flight, right?, so I thought I would go ahead and put together another blog post. One that would include a much long overdue update on how things are going with that work related activity of living "A World Without Email". It’s about time, don’t you think?

Yes, that’s right! I guess it’s about time that I share an update on how things are going, if they are still going… A bunch of the good friends who are going to be in Boston next week have asked me lately whether I’m still going strong with that, now consolidated, experiment of "giving up email at work" or whether I have abandoned it myself altogether and moved into other things… No, I haven’t, quite the opposite! Going stronger than ever!

If you would remember, the last time that I put together a blog post on this topic was about two months ago. Yes, two months! So I guess it’s a good time to come back and share with you folks what’s been happening. I am not planning on sharing the various weekly progress reports, since you would be able to check out all of those eight weeks directly from the latest one. However, what I thought would be rather interesting would be to include that new graphic that includes the timeline, week by week, from  over the last three years so you can see how the number of incoming emails I have received has been decreasing consistently and steadily over those three years. And how that trend seems to be consistent.

Thus without much further ado, here you have got the latest progress report and that comparative new graphic to see things in perspective:

A World Without Email - Year 3, Weeks 11 to 18

And here is the graphic itself with the timeline from the last three years for the first 18 weeks of each year:

A World Without Email - A Comparative of Year 3, First 18 Weeks of Emails Received

As you would be able to see from both snap shots, the decrease on the amount of incoming emails has been rather notable, specially from the second year into the third, where you would expect that things may not be the case. Let’s talk about some of those numbers…

For the first 18 weeks in Year #2 the total amount of emails received was 461, whereas in Year #3 that number has been 323. So that basically means 138 less emails from one year to another. Or to put it in another way, in Year #2 I got an average of 26 emails per week for the first 18 weeks, whereas for those very same 18 weeks in Year #3 the average has been 18 emails received. Not bad. Not bad at all!! Well under the 20 emails per week mark I have been going for over the last 16 months! Very nice, indeed!

The interesting thing from this particular trend is how, as I keep getting less and less emails at work, most of my interactions keep happening elsewhere, as you folks already know, i.e. social networking tools; however, as a result of that, I am finding out as well how more and more those colleagues who used to rely on email quite heavily, instead, take the plunge and start relying more and more on the same social software tools where I usually hang out. End result? Well, that over time a good chunk of our mutual knowledge sharing and collaborative efforts will be happening out there in the open, available to everyone to participate in, or not, depending on the need and / or the context. But the option is right there, which is not the same thing I could say about email itself, for instance.

Later on, in another blog post, perhaps, I will go ahead and share with you folks a couple of charts I keep reusing myself at various different conference events and workshops that cover the incredibly massive transformation that IBM is going through with its wider adoption of social software within the enterprise. To the point where some of that growth has been, if anything, rather exponential. Rather shocking, I can tell you, if you come to think how email driven IBM has been all along, and, perhaps, still is in some areas. It really is rather exciting to witness such transformation and even more exciting to show and help demonstrate how knowledge workers can remain as productive as ever, if not more!, by making use of these social tools!

That’s why, like I have said a couple of times already, there is no way back for me. I have seen the light; the many benefits; the tremendous power of relying on your social networks to get the job done as a group activity in half the time for simple things like putting together a presentation on whatever the topic, or helping answer the questions by the right experts; the lack of stress having to process hundreds of emails every week; the huge opportunity to share and collaborate in a much more open, public and transparent manner; in short, the unprecedented opportunity to take back control of my own productivity and, as a result of that, help others benefit from that exposure to an increasing and constant learning path, while on the job, established by those social networks. Priceless!

And in this context, I thought it would be a good idea to move on and share with you folks a couple of rather interesting links relevant to this topic of living "A World Without Email" that can certainly help set the stage on why email perhaps doesn’t cut it anymore as the main dictator of how communication and collaboration should happen.

The first link is a WSJ article put together by Sue Shellenbarger under the title Email Backlash Builds and which pretty much describes a rather interesting experiment from an American company, SuccessFactors, that just recently decided to stop using email for an entire week (Not just one Friday, but an entire week!!) and, instead, communicate and collaborate through other means, whether face to face, through the telephone, or, of course, making use of a social networking tools (Microblogging in this case).

I bet you may be wondering what triggered such a radical experiment, right? Well, Lars Dalgaard, CEO of SuccessFactors, puts it quite nicely. And, in fact, when going through the quote I will be including below I just couldn’t help thinking about how some of those various reasons stated in the article are the very same ones that prompted me, amongst several others, to give up on email at work over three years ago in the first place… Here is the quote, so you can have a look:

"Mr. Dalgaard objects to email partly because people use it to avoid talking with others, or to hide negative or critical messages or information from coworkers, sometimes by hitting the “bcc” button. His goal in setting the ban is to get employees “authentically addressing issues amongst each other,” he told employees. “Confront issues head-on, don’t hide behind emails.” So far, the edict is working; people are grabbing their phones or walking to each other’s desks to talk, Mr. Dalgaard says. Employees can still contact each other online through in-house social networks, where groups post short messages that can immediately be seen by everyone"

Goodness! Who would have thought, right? Not sure what you would think, but I suspect that Dalgaard pretty much nails it when detailing some of the evils of email and how knowledge workers keep abusing it for purposes and contexts that should not be used in the first place. Of specific relevance in this case it’s the political reference to using the ".bcc" button. I just can’t remember the last time, it must have been years ago, that I used ".bcc" in a notification. I guess I know now why and suppose I would be rather grateful for it. Indeed, I am! Playing political games through email exchanges can be so harmful to any business that may have a strong, trustworthy, open and transparent corporate culture. So much so that they should be avoided at all costs. Just imagine how much time did you spend the last time you sent, or received!, one of those political ".bcc" or ".cc" to realise the kind of damage they could provoke!

The other interesting reading that I thought was worth while sharing over here is this other one, put together by the smart folks of SocialCast, under the heading "Social Networks Spur the Demise of Email in the Workplace" and which pretty much comes to put together "10 reasons why email is dead". Well, I am not really sure, just yet, to declare whether email is dead or not, but certainly the article brings forward plenty of really good points as to why "email no longer rules the communication dictatorship in the office".

However, I particularly like the graphics used on that blog post that try to demonstrate how email may no longer be the best communication, knowledge sharing and collaborative tool out there within the enterprise and as such, if you would have a chance to read through the article itself I can certainly recommend you check it out and pay special attention to that graphic, because it is rather revealing, to say the least.

It’s probably a rather long read, but certainly, one I can strongly recommend, specially for the sections on Information Overload (Check out the average number of emails that people still send across per day, compare to the statistics I shared above!), Information Fragmentation (On the topic of prioritising incoming emails to figure out what to respond to first), and, finally, the section on Activity Streams, which, by the way, I totally agree with, since that has been my very own same experience when using those activities streams behind the firewall with our very own Lotus Connections Profiles Boards.

Well, I guess that’s enough for an update on what has happened over the last two months of living "A World Without Email"; somehow I suspect that if things continue to follow this trend on the second half of this year I’ll start seeing how more and more I’ll be getting closer to the range of 10 emails, or less!, per week than the just a bit under 20 I’m getting at the moment. And, as you can imagine, somehow, I just can’t wait for that to happen!

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The Man Who Should Have Used Lotus Connections – On the Misuse of Email

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las NievesI am not sure whether you may have been listening to the CBC radio show Spark interview I did with Nora Young earlier on this week, and which I have blogged about it over here, but, if you have, you may have noticed I have tried to explain how all along, during all of this time living "A World Without Email", I don’t have anything against it per se, as a system to help people communicate with one another. In fact, I still think it’s probably one of the best tools out there for 1:1 communications.

A different matter would be email as a collaboration tool, although that’s perhaps the subject for another blog post at some point in time. What I have been up against all along, throughout all of these months though, is not email as such, but how we keep misusing it (And abusing it!), over and over, for the daily tasks that we know we could use better tools for, in the first place, but that perhaps we don’t because email is just way too easy.

To follow up that statement with an example, I would love to point out to you a YouTube video that one of my fellow IBM colleagues, Jean Francois Chenier, has made available and which has been so incredibly popular inside IBM with hundreds of views and downloads that by that same popular demand it made it into YouTube itself, and the best part is that it won’t be the last one!

Go and have a look into The Man Who Should Have Used Lotus Connections; a short, incredibly accurate, and hilarious, video clip of a bit over three and a half minutes that describes the painful experience of going through such a relative easy task / activity of sharing files with your colleagues using what we have been using for years: yes, indeed, email! (Funny enough, if you would ask me for the number #1 misuse of email file sharing will be it, by far!; hummm, well, perhaps followed closely as well by Reply to All !)

You will find plenty of humorous commentary that describes pretty well (Too well at times!) the scenario that we go through every time we share a file through email. Pretty much along the lines of what Chris Rasmussen detailed not along ago with this graphic, but this time around showing it with an amazingly funny animation.

The rather interesting part of the video clip is from minute 2:14 onwards, where you will be able to see what a difference it would have made making use of a social software tool for file sharing. In this particular example, it showcases IBM’s Lotus Connections (The Files component, to be more precise, which is by now one of my favourite social software tools behind the IBM firewall! And I am sure you will be able to see why after you go through the video clip).

I tell you, indeed, after you watch that last part of the video you will see the huge difference between both approaches and you will see as well why I’m so keen on living "A World Without Email", specially when someone decides to send me a 10, 20, 30MB large presentation just because they wanted to make things really easy. Really? Do you think so? Specially, after going through that video clip? I am not sure what you would think, but I don’t think so!

A special big thanks to Jean Francois for putting together in a wonderful video clip the struggles we go through with relatively simple tasks just because we didn’t want to start Thinking Outside the Inbox! Well done! Thanks for showing us the way, Jean Francois!

Have a good one everyone!

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