Gartner Blog Network


Email is Anti-Social 3: Reactive vs. Proactive Work

by Anthony J. Bradley  |  September 17, 2013  |  Submit a Comment

This part 3 of an “Email is Anti-social” multipart blog. Here is Part 1 and Part 2.

Email is ephemeral. It is a continuous stream of loosely connected messages with a relatively short useful life. The efforts of collectively trying to advance a collaborative product gets lost in a seemingly never ending stream of short-lived messages. This nature of email drives an interrupt and reactive approach to work. Email is a multitasking nightmare with new distractions emerging by the minute.

I’ve gone into email to do something specific and then get caught up in email for 30 or more minutes. Extract myself to attend to something more productive. And then realize that I never actually did what I originally went into email to do. I doubt I am the only one that gets caught in that email multitasking trap.

Imagine that you are trying to contribute to the advancement of our Lego interceptor while constantly getting pelted by Legos from other Lego sets, sets you are not even involved in putting together. Email does not provide an environment where the collaborative product can exist as the focus of the efforts. Instead the effort is entangled in a morass of other efforts many of which you are not a part. With E-mail the participants are central and the purpose, the effort, is subservient.

Substantial work rarely happens in e-mail. It may happen in Word, Powerpoint, a F2F meeting or some other environment and then be distributed via e-mail. But email is the distribution channel not where the work is actually done.

Meaningful collaboration requires a more proactive focus. Social collaboration provides a dedicated space where the collaborative product is central and where we focus on it. When you go to Wikipedia you go there to create a Wikipedia article. It exists for that sole purpose with no distractions. The purpose, the collaborative product, is central and the participants are subservient.

This moving from the reactive to proactive requires a change in mindset, a more disciplined approach. Many of us have gotten used to, if not addicted to, checking e-mail regularly to see and react to what comes at us. Meaningful collaboration is different. It requires us to set some time aside and go to the collaboration product to contribute. It requires us to break free from the steady stream of interruptions, set priorities, and spend quality time contributing.

This is a change with which many people struggle. I sometimes do. Do you?

Please respond while I go check my e-mail.

Additional Resources

View Free, Relevant Gartner Research

Gartner's research helps you cut through the complexity and deliver the knowledge you need to make the right decisions quickly, and with confidence.

Read Free Gartner Research

Category: 

Anthony J. Bradley
GVP
13 years at Gartner
30 years in IT

Anthony J. Bradley is a Group Vice President in Gartner Research. In this role he leads global teams of analysts who research the emerging technologies and trends that are changing today's world and shaping the future. Mr. Bradley's group strives to provide technology product and service leaders (Tech CEOs, General Managers, Chief Product Officers, Practice Leads, Product Managers and Product Marketers) with unique, high-value research and indispensable advice on leveraging emerging technologies and trends to create and deliver highly successful products and services. Information technology now impacts pretty much every business function in all companies, all industries, and all geographies. Technology providers are critical to the technology and business innovation that will define the world of tomorrow. Innovation depends on technology providers. By helping them, we help the world.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments or opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors only, and do not necessarily represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management. Readers may copy and redistribute blog postings on other blogs, or otherwise for private, non-commercial or journalistic purposes, with attribution to Gartner. This content may not be used for any other purposes in any other formats or media. The content on this blog is provided on an "as-is" basis. Gartner shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever arising out of the content or use of this blog.