Blog post

Email is Anti-Social 4: Personal vs. Community Productivity

By Anthony J. Bradley | September 19, 2013 | 2 Comments

This part 4 of an “Email is Anti-social” multipart blog. Here is Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 .

Email is a personal productivity tool and it isn’t effective outside small-scale and simple collaboration. It is meant to serve the needs of individuals versus the needs of a community of participants. Each of us has our own email with our own version of content, with our own folders for organization and our own rules. By design, each of us can only view the contents of our own email. There is no transparency.

When talking about email versus social collaboration I had someone say to me, “Why are you trying to get me to use these new collaboration environments when I have spent the past 15 years honing my email kung fu. It is where I work. Why don’t you come to me rather than make me go somewhere else.”

My response was, “Because it’s not about you. It is about the community.” We talked earlier in Part 1 about the multiple versions and information fragmentation associated with email. Well imagine trying to invite somebody new into that effort how would they possibly be able to absorb all of that fragmentation and be able to productively contribute. It is like each of us is working separately on building the Star Wars interceptor with our own Lego versions, unique ways of categorizing those Legos, and different methods for working on them. And then as an afterthought we try to collaborate.

With social collaboration we not only establish that collaborative product as the center but also enable the whole community to more easily understand and contribute. It is a transparent and shared environment where people can view, contribute, and provide feedback to the entire effort. It is about community productivity .

Email is a fantastic communications tool and it also works just fine for simple collaboration where a few people are working on a basic and short-lived collaborative challenge like establishing an agenda for an upcoming meeting. However, I’m hoping at this point it is obvious that email is not well suited for deeper collaboration. In fact, it can be a significant barrier to more sophisticated, substantial and impactful collaboration. But moving away from email is difficult. For some it is almost an addiction. One they have no intention of abandoning. This is why we have seen some organizations pursuing “No Email” campaigns. It is an attempt to remove the barrier and force change.

Hopefully in this 4 part blog I’ve given you some ammunition in the fight to move all but simple collaboration out of email and into a more suitable environment for mass collaboration.

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  • Hi Anthony – I’ve enjoyed this series, and this conclusion in particular. As you say “it’s not about you, it’s about the community”.

    I’ve been writing about a similar theme in a series called The Business Communication Revolution. Email is the most obvious enemy of efficient business communication, but it’s not the only one.

  • Anthony J. Bradley says:

    Thanks Richard. I’m happy to have your readership.