Living without email – quick update

For quite some time Luis Suarez has been championing a Life Without Email, not just on his blog, but (amongst other places) in the Google+ community of the same name.

Last month, he announced a new community in Slack around the same topic. Why two communities? As he brings out in that G+ post, while the G+ community is very much a Community of Interest, the Slack team is for those people who are both interested and driving initiatives (large or small) to reduce the inefficiencies we all suffer through an over-use of email – a Community of Practice.

The nature of a practice-based community that’s working well is that people share real experiences, and I’m reticent to copy even my own stuff verbatim. If you are interested, Luis opens the group to all – although as he says with a true sense of irony, he needs an email address to let people in! See the G+ post for more information.

One minor experiment of my own that I’m happy to share, as a quick test of how well it’s going, has been to leave Outlook closed this week. I’ve been aiming to only use webmail and web calendar – and so far it’s working OK – I’ve also noticed that my browser tabs for SharePoint, Yammer and the other services I use during my working day have been open far more often than the mail tabs.

A long way from the sort of metrics that would be needed at an organisation level, but nevertheless a good quick test…

Email makes you stupid – so what can we do about it?

Luis Suarez (@elsua), curator of the Life without eMail G+ community, has posted a Vodcast co-presented with Claire Burge (@claireburge)

Here’s the full video:

30)

Here are my notes on the highlights of what Luis and Claire think is wrong with email:

Email creates a dumber workforce” (3:02), because (4:02) the structure of email forces an obsession with emptying the inbox without action.

Email is a selfish tool (4:59) – centred around individual, not team or company goals (because you cannot see the impact of your email on the other person’s workload).

Email doesn’t help people focus on work (7:20) – it misdirects focus and attention. Stuff just flows in, recipient is expected to filter and sort (7:45). People don’t have time, so fall back to just emptying the inbox and treating their email as a task list. This leads to inefficiency through constant task-switching (8:10).

The inefficiencies are not about the technology, but about the human behaviours it engenders (8:58).

[more and more] people justify their workload by how many emails they process (9:22) – so if we take away the email you they have nothing to do. The implication (10:27) is that all the company knowledge, contacts, content and tasks are locked in email

Email gets used as a tool for covertly managing staff (10:45) – yes some interactions need to be confidential, but most aren’t.

Knowledge is power (11:25) – share as little as possible. Which means (12:09) that when someone leaves the company, much of the knowledge they created is lost.

In an increasingly-complex world, email is no longer an effective productivity tool (12:48) – nowadays the environment is complex – multi-project, multi-team, multi-geo – this means companies need open collaboration (13:36) which email cannot provide. Email has been around so long (13:50) that people are scared to try other things. Email doesn’t engender the behaviours we need to be effective in the modern business world (15:08).

Some behaviours need to be unlearned, some need to be taken from email to a new environment (15:27):

Deep parallel between closed inbox mindset and static fixed job descriptions. What results is a series of blockages to the flow of work. (27:30)

Collaborative environment exposes the blocks, (27:56) but this leads to enquiry into the root causes of blockages, making it about the flow of work rather than about the person (28:24)

But, if you keep evolving the process to make the work better, then the job descriptions have to keep evolving too (29:08)