Just back from a great evening of stimulating conversation about the pros and cons of e-mail at a Knowledge Cafe organised by knowledge consultant David Gurteen. Luis Suarez of IBM kicked off the evening by proposing that e-mail was a very poor tool for collaboration and there were more productive ways of communicating. Luis has not used e-mail for around 8 months now and seems all the happier for it. Through talking to a range of interesting people - the Cafe is structured to enable high-quality conversation with a number of different folk - I started to realise that I have not been practicing enough of what I occasionally preach.
Confession time: I am a bit of an e-mail junkie and I have never really understood why people complain about the amount of e-mails they receive. However what I realised tonight is that I have just got particularly good at processing e-mail - so volume doesn’t really bother me - without thinking whether it’s a particularly appropriate tool for every kind of communication.
It’s become a bit of a cliche that, a lot of the time, it’s better to pick up the phone and talk to someone. Yet that requires thinking about the conversation and being prepared for it to go differently from your plan. Plus it requires time to call, leave messages and play telephone tag for a day or two.
Social media - blogs, wikis, online fora - provide a better way of communicating when collaboration is required or when you simply want to share something. (Confession time again: I have recently dithered over sending someone an e-mail link to an article when I could simply publish the link somewhere - on this blog for example! - and let the recipient know that it was there along with loads of other good stuff.)
If there was a consensus that emerged at the end of the evening it was probably that we needed to use e-mail and other tools that are appropriate to the application in question.
And then we all went home to check our inboxes - or at least I did. But I probably deleted more than usual…