16 Comments

  1. Paul Jones
    April 3, 2012 @ 6:16 pm

    I am advocating ditching email ;-> Some notes and observations and studies here: http://ibiblio.org/pjones/blog
    Good to meet another @elsua fan.

  2. Kevin D. Jones
    April 3, 2012 @ 7:45 pm

    @pjones – Great blog on #noemail. Ditching altogether – depending on the situation – is doable. But as an organization it might take a phase-out approach. But still doable.

  3. elsua
    April 3, 2012 @ 11:15 pm

    Hi Kevin, I, too, believe that we are not going to be capable of ditching completely (As in 100%) corporate email as we know it. At least, not just yet. In 4 years of #lawwe I have been capable of reducing my Inbox clutter by 98%, which, in a way, is not that bad and throughout all of that journey I can tell you that the biggest challenge, and the most rewarding altogether, too!, has been helping change people’s habits not by “forcing” to stop using email, but by actively showing how there are much more powerful collaborative and knowledge sharing tools out there.

    All in all, nothing wrong with email, as a system for communication, per se, but rather more the painful experiences we have inflicted upon ourselves by abusing the system to kill our productivity consistently. One of my biggest learning experiences throughout the 4 years of carrying out this initiative has been a transformation of how I see myself collaborating and sharing my knowledge and networking with people, having gone from that mentality of a “need to know” basis to a much more open, transparent, public and, hopefully, trustworthy, of “need to share”, as in share your knowledge publicly unless you have been told otherwise.

    And that has worked wonders. It’s allowed me to prove you can reduce your Inbox clutter to the point of almost not having any more emails coming through! (right now getting about 16 per week!) and show there is a life after email, to prove that if I can break the habit of not using email to collaborate so can other folks, so I keep entertaining questions over on Twitter at #lawwe and very very soon on a new cool initiative I am working with other folks, which you can already see a glimpse of it over at http://www.outsidetheinbox.eu

    Stay tuned! 🙂 (If you folks would want to break free from the email yoke for good! hehe)

  4. Kevin D. Jones
    April 3, 2012 @ 11:57 pm

    You have piqued my interest! And I hope many more take note!

    • elsua
      April 4, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

      I know! On purpose! But stay tuned, because you will enjoy it, just as much as folks out there who would want to reduce their Inbox clutter to a great extent, they would be able to do so as well! 🙂 More soon! hehe

  5. mlcollard
    April 4, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

    You can cut down on email by using your organisation’s internal social business platform (assuming they have one of course)- but that platform may not be shared with the outside world. So unless you plan to operate in a bubble it is difficult to work those external communications without email ? We may not operate in an environment that only uses twitter, FB and the like to reach our external clients and contractors. If you ditch email altogether how do you get round that? Even if you have internal social business – you still get email notifications – you can ditch those of course – but they do remind you people are responding to your threads.
    Much as I dislike the amount of time I spend on email and try to use other ways to communicate – it still remains an important source of communication – and most particularly with the outside world.

    • elsua
      April 4, 2012 @ 6:34 pm

      Very insightful comments! Thanks for sharing them along! You know, contrary to what most folks think that vast majority of my interactions with customers, BPs, analysts, influencers, competitors, etc. etc. are all happening through all of these social networking tools, although a long while ago I settled down on what I call the The Big Three and so far the experience has been phenomenal! Tremendously inspiring!

      Even traditional news and mainstream folks have been contacting me through those social networking tools. For instance, the recent piece that got published on Wired.com on the topic came through to me on a Twitter Mention and a couple of days later, there it went! Published!

      I guess what I am trying to say with all of this is that if you build an ecosystem around you where you transition away from your Inbox into much more open, public and transparent means of communication, collaboration and engagement people have a tendency to follow suit.

      Yes, I, too, have seen that transition where I still get those other “notifications”, or BACN, as it is well known for, on those notifications from social networking tools, but that’s not really email per se, because it’s providing a new form of handling them. Email is no longer a content repository, but a social messaging and notification system, which, eventually, is what it was designed for over 40 years ago! Finally, it’s coming back to basics, allowing us to free up all of that trapped knowledge that now flows within the networks, and across each and everyone of them. And that’s a good thing, in my opinion. We all learn, not just a few from what people share and collaborate on, like we are doing over here on this thread / post put together by Kevin 🙂

      • mlcollard
        April 4, 2012 @ 8:45 pm

        Thanks for your comments Luis and contrary to what you may think I do detest email per se – even though it still manages to occupy a lot of my time. I would love to “transition away from my inbox” as you put it, but I can’t help feeling you have just replaced one ecosystem with another that does not free up your “time” in any way! It is much more transparent, public and open – that’s true – but does that make the communication better? – or just different? What’s more you still do have your email for all those BACN – which I’m sure you get a lot of even if you don’t regard that as email per se. Where I do agree with you whole heartedly is the “freeing up all that trapped knowledge” and that fact alone must encourage learning and progress. But I have yet to be convinced that you are actually free of email (or BACN) or that you (or Kevin) have freed up your “time” to pursue the greater and the good!? A different ecosystem yes, a better one – almost certainly – but liberating? Not sure.

        • elsua
          April 4, 2012 @ 11:35 pm

          Yes, indeed, it has been rather liberating and for a single, yet, simple set of reasons. I haven’t freed up more time with no using work email anymore. I wasn’t planning on doing that, what I have done is have regained back my own productivity; have taken a much better control / grasp of my own workload and no longer have to carry out someone else’s work through that ruthless delegation machine that email is, or through having to put up with tasks from other people dump on to me to carry out when perhaps a rather simple search query would have addressed that task already.

          I have broken free from having to “fight” my own colleagues and my organisation with silly political and bullying games where it always felt like it was just me fighting everyone else, and I know this is a common sentiment for most of the corporate world out there. Instead, I have now become much more open, transparent and public on my interactions meaning that everyone can see how I’ve become rather comfortable with narrating my work out in the open and help others do the same so that we can then, through the network effect, figure out how we can help others, vs. trying to figure out whether they are “working” or not.

          It’s allowed me as well to mitigate and tame those expectations of not having to read everything AND respond to everything, like we have got ingrained in our email processing mentality. I’m relying much more on my network to help me get the work done, just as much as they rely on me to help them back.

          Have a look into this this video documentary where I explain a bit more in detail what’s meant for me and for those folks around me both inside and outside of my company.

          (Yes, BACN is lovely, it’s just telling me that there is content out there not just for me to go ahead and digest, but for everyone else. Feeling that you would never get with email per se, I am afraid 😉 hehe)

          • mlcollard
            April 5, 2012 @ 10:04 am

            Hi Luis
            Thank you for sharing the video and for taking the time to explain your views in such detail. I do actually use a social business software at work as one of my main communication tools so I’m fully aware of all the advantages you discuss and do my best to promote that system within my particular area of working and within the organisation (for all the reasons you have already mentioned). Where I have issues with what you are saying is how this works in external interactions (which I don’t feel you have fully explained) – assuming you dump your inbox. In other words the part of your ecosystem where internal and external communications overlap. To try and be really specific:
            -how do you “search” discussion threads/projects/people in that overlap or in the fully external part of your ecosystem.
            -How do you harness valuable information and knowledge in one place?
            -How do you keep track of what elements you want to keep in which social network (you mention “the Big 3” somewhere) in order to grow and develop that interaction and the value to your organisation?
            -How do you separate personal from work?
            -How do you measure how successful your ecosystem is compared to one that integrates both social business and email? Using an email connector for example whereby you can move email discussion threads with external contractors in to the public domain of your organisation’s social business – or keep private if you wish?

            This is not to dispute what you are saying – but to increase its value through challenge! 🙂
            Thanks

          • elsua
            April 5, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

            Hi Marie-Louise, thanks much for the continued feedback comments and for the wonderful conversation. I am enjoying it tremendously, as it keeps me challenging my own methods of how I work and interact with others while living “A World Without Email”. Very re-energising and inspiring. Right, moving on to the next round, I am not sure whether I have mentioned it already or not, but I am not the guy who wants to kill email or wants to see email die a slow, but painful death. I *still* see good use cases for email. There are a couple of interactions out there for email that it’s best suited for than anything else and by far:

            1. Calendaring and Scheduling: for meetings and gatherings, I still use email for this set of interactions
            2. 1:1 private conversations of a confidential or rather sensitive nature that would be suitable for those two people conversing. Like, for instance, when HR tells you what your pay slip is for the month. You wouldn’t want to share that, just yet …

            And for the rest, it goes all out! Out there on social networking tools, whether internal or external, so let’s see if I can provide some further thoughts on your questions shared above… And see whether they would work for you or not, as well, specially, seeing how you are already using a combination of email and social networking tools behind the firewall. Half way through to reach out the final frontier: The Social Web.

            -how do you “search” discussion threads/projects/people in that overlap or in the fully external part of your ecosystem

            Right now, as I have mentioned on a previous comment, the vast majority of my social interactions are happening through the Big Three: IBM Connections (Internal, but also external where I collaborate with customers and business partners), Twitter and Google Plus. The way I search for content is not by focusing on the content itself, but focusing on the people behind the content. The networks themselves. They are my thinking brain, they are my content repository. I learnt that trick from Thomas van der Wal (@vanderwal), where over the course of the years he has “planted” (Probably wrong word, but certainly gets the message across) knowledge in others and he knows how to retrieve it by asking them directly. This is the true, core value of how networks operate, not so much focusing on content, but on the people, on the relationships. And eventually becoming much better off, because we, human beings, are terrible at documenting stuff, a writing things, yet, we are brilliant at capturing knowledge in our heads, filter, and share it across accordingly through multiple methods, and email not the only one, in this case 🙂

            -How do you harness valuable information and knowledge in one place?

            RSS Feeds. I *live* in RSS feeds and I realize that while most folks would tell you they are dead, they are still alive and kicking and they are critical in helping me succeed at what I am doing living social. They allow me to keep an eye on all of those networks and their content I’m interested in and make sense into it all, keeping my sanity of not having to go to multiple places. Again, we should not underestimate or undermine the value of RSS feeds. They are critical in the Social Web. Always will, whether we like it or not.

            -How do you keep track of what elements you want to keep in which social network (you mention “the Big 3” somewhere) in order to grow and develop that interaction and the value to your organisation?

            The vast majority of my work related stuff happens in IBM Connections, both internal and external, so keeping track of it is relatively easy. I live there. And folks who know me at work, customers and BPs as well, would tell you that. I still rely quite heavily on RSS feeds to keep up to date, but it’s also true how a good number of my interactions are happening through Twitter and Google Plus. To retain some of the knowledge I come across that I would want to share across and re-use I use rather my blog, to reflect on it, or my social bookmarks where I have accumulated now over 11k bookmarks in the last 6 years and growing. Using tags to classify, categorize the content is key; allows me to re-find it much easier. I can’t tag emails. I can tag content and people in social networks though. It’s the icing sugar on the cake… Using social metadata to make sense of your content, your networks, your relationships. Call it a Personal Knowledge Management system, if you wish, I prefer to call it Personal Knowledge Sharing or PKS 2.0 🙂

            -How do you separate personal from work?

            I don’t. Or, at least, I try not to. I am ONE, SINGLE WHOLE PERSON. So when I go to “work”, my home office, I just don’t leave my personal stuff and leave it by the door and do work. I am bringing my whole self, my work, my passions, my interests, my hobbies, my partner & family, my dog, my daily worries and problems, etc. etc. Why? Because they make me human, they help me understand and embrace that I, too, have got limitations and that I need to learn how to live with them. How I need to trust and rely heavily on networks who understand and embrace that humanity, so that they can help me address those limitations and make me better at what I do.

            In a way, I guess what I am trying to say with all of this is that I am a human, and, as such, I am brining forward my humanity, both personal and work, to try to get my work done as good as I possibly can. I think the corporate world needs plenty more of this humanizing. We used to have it decades ago, and all of a sudden we have lost it and it’s showing the huge impact it’s having. Moving into social networking tools has helped me make the transition into thinking that I don’t have to keep on fighting people, their political and bullying games. I just need to help where I can, make myself available and visible so that I can help them humanize their interactions, instead of battling silly political / power games. We have got many more important things to do.

            -How do you measure how successful your ecosystem is compared to one that integrates both social business and email? Using an email connector for example whereby you can move email discussion threads with external contractors in to the public domain of your organisation’s social business – or keep private if you wish?

            I haven’t got any specific way of measuring that success from my ecosystem, but I guess if my networks keep coming back, if they keep finding my contributions valuable, if my customers and business partners still feel I am helpful to them in addressing and fixing their business problems, if people would still keep finding me to ask me how I can help them become more productive and effective at what they do, I guess I’ll keep doing it. That’s how I measure the success of my ecosystem. Not necessarily just for me, but for the whole network, communities, groups. How can I help them help me be better at what I do? Email didn’t even reach that level of trust, camaraderie, openness, transparency, publicy, agile, engagement, involvement, motivation I keep getting from living social. People ask me whether I would ever be going back to email as my main method of communication and collaboration. And my answer has always been that once you see the light, it’s too tough to go back into darkness.

            I guess that’s another signal of success of the ecosystem on its own …

          • mlcollard
            April 5, 2012 @ 5:32 pm

            OK Luis – so you do still use email – but in a very specific way that mostly avoids the inbox but maintains the other functionality you still find useful. I’m happy with that!

            Your main social platform appears to be IBM Connections – similar I’m sure to the social business platform we have and which I use predominantly at work too.
            If you don’t mind my asking – how do you collaborate with external partners on this platform? Do you allow them in – or do you have separate “communities” for the external partners that sit and function in parallel with the internal one? i.e community networks?

            As for your interaction with the Social Web I find it …mind boggling- but fascinating! What percentage of your RSS feeds go to your internal business network and what remains outside in the Social Web? (I’m just trying to evaluate where you biggest repository of information is?). I would be worried if I had 11K bookmarks in the Social Web and you must spend a lot time tagging and re-finding information. That, to me, is a turn off my friend Luis! Your ecosystem is very multilayered and that also worries me more than my dislike of email. And the way you capture and disseminate knowledge using multiple methods I can’t help feeling may lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations – like Chinese whispers if you like. Not that email is immune from that!

            It was interesting to note how you measure success – all very valid and very important markers. But what you haven’t measured is your productivity and the “time” factor, which I mentioned before. One man’s addiction to email may be yours to your RSS feeds! I know you mentioned that you didn’t change the way you work because of time – but for me how productive I am and how much time it takes me is important. So, leaving the Inbox behind would have to be as much about freeing up my time as taking on all the advantages of doing so- not merely transferring my time load in to other social platforms and networks per se.

            It seems to me that a lot of what you are saying about how you work outside of the Inbox Luis is about you as a person (forgive me if that sounds personal – it’s just an observation!) You take a holistic approach if you like (an by your own admission). But doesn’t that also rely on others joining your ecosystem to be full effective? Take your internal IBM social business platform – what percentage are as engaged as you?
            Colleagues know how to find you – but are you able to reach out to that talent that isn’t as fully engaged? Tough questions!

            Forgive the continued dissection Luis – at the end of the day I probably agree with you more than I don’t – but I’m not yet sure that equation actually balances sufficiently in favour of leaving my inbox behind ….just yet! Though you’ve done a fantastic job of re-aligning some of my thinking! And for that I’m very grateful. Keep in touch!

          • elsua
            April 5, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

            Hi Marie-Louise! Yes, indeed, and that’s what it’s been all along during the last 4 years. Like I said, I have never written, nor said that I want email dead or would want to kill it. I am just questioning and challenging the status quo of email in the corporate world as a communication and collaboration tool to prove there are better ways of sharing and collaborating and inspire a shift of habits, of mindset, from private, secret, obscure, political, bullying interactions to trustworthy, open and transparent ones. I’m basically challenging how we have managed to kill our very own productivity with the abuse and mis-use of email in a business environment. That’s all 🙂

            We have got different instances of IBM Connections out there. I use three of them, mainly: one for internal collaboration only where I try to keep conversations of an internal nature for just my colleagues and the other two instances of Connections to connect with customers / business partners, depending on which one of the two they are already using themselves. Instead of them accommodating to my needs, I prefer to accommodate to theirs. It’s work that happens through individual interactions, or through networks or communities. In both external instances. Both of them, by the way, don’t talk to each other. At least, not yet 🙂 And then the internal which is just available to my colleagues and myself.

            My biggest repository of information right now is internally focus, through RSS feeds from Connections, behind the firewall, because my role is that one of being an internal social networking evangelist, not with customers, although I do work with a bunch of them as well. So the vast majority of my work interactions happen behind the firewall and just this week it’s been so frantic that I haven’t had a chance to go out there to the Social Web to casually hang out with folks, as you may have noticed from my lack of tweets, for instance.

            I’m not worried about those 11k bookmarks, because I can find any link I need in a matter of seconds. I have built a pretty much consistent folksonomy of tags I use on a regular basis and know how to spot the link I need, or that other folks need pretty easily. It also helps quite a bit when my bookmarks are stored in Connections and they are injected as search results in our corporate Intranet Search Engine, so basically I am helping it become more effective, along with several other thousand people, to validate content and re-find it easily.

            On the ecosystem being multilayered… Actually, it’s not really multilayered, although you are describing it nicely, but I prefer to use the term fragmented. Yes, I live in fragmentation. In fact, we all do! Through social / phycological research it’s been proved that our brains process better information and knowledge in fragments than as a whole. And it’s something I have learned to live with and treasure. That fragmentation allows me to see things in compartments and know where to go to find what I need and from whom I need it. I am sure you may be thinking I am missing out on things and information and people and knowledge. Yes, I surely am! Yes, I am TOTALLY fine with it, too! It’s not possibly human to keep up to date with everything that happens around you and still try to make sense of it. So in the process I had to learn to LET GO of things that were not important move on with what really mattered. And how did I find out about it? Very simple, those really important things that really needed my attention, they all came back. The rest, didn’t. So I moved on … And it feels great!

            It’s like when you come back from a long weekend break, you head to the coffee corner and you ask your colleagues what you may have missed since you were gone. The vast majority of times they would tell you nothing, so … you move on. If there was something you would need to pay attention they would tell you and that’s what you would have to work on and nothing else. Collaborative filtering at its best. It takes time to develop it and nurture it on the Social Web, but once you do it, it’s priceless! It’s like the whole network is watching after you, just as much as you do for them when they are not there themselves…

            On productivity and saving time, I am actually saving TONS of time! Allow me to explain it with an example. Say that I would have to put together a presentation for a keynote session I may be doing coming up. In fact, I had one in London a couple of weeks back. Usually, I would put together some charts myself, build the scripts, send the output to my colleagues through email, wait for their reaction days / weeks later, get their feedback, consolidate it myself, put together an updated version, share the final one again for final round of comments, have input back, consolidate again and off it goes… That’s usually what it would take normally to put together the deck in a “collaborative” manner, at least, from a traditional perspective using email.

            On the Social Web, internal or external, here’s the difference. I go into my Activity Streams, in Connections, in this case, I ask my network whether they have got some materials on that particular topic I’ll be presenting on that I could re-use. Shortly, minutes later, I would have a couple of folks coming back sharing similar decks they have done and from which I could choose the most appropriate one. For this keynote I did in London a couple of weeks I got my slide deck that way and it took me 5 minutes having to change my contact details and work on the scripts. And off it went. Ready to go on the same day and with the same high quality standards, because that deck was already “used” with success. That’s the kind of productivity savings you would be doing with that open, public, transparent manner of “narrating your work”. If you would need to make some modifications to the slides you do them, reshare the content and whoever comes next afterwards has got another deck to work from. Priceless!

            On the holistic approach of just me doing it, over 4 years ago, it surely was the way and it felt like that for a good few weeks, after I got a good enough critical mass behind me attempting and succeeding the same thing I do and we all got things working. One thing I have done to help avoid that holistic approach of just me was to make an initial time investment and good effort on educating and training my colleagues on making use of these social tools so that they, too, could see the benefits, so spent hundreds of 5 minute long sessions educating them all and that surely took a lot of time. But then 4 years later, I no longer do it, all of them are trained and educated on using these social tools and they all use them, so we are done to get the work done and move on. And now it is in the hundreds, if not thousands, of folks who, perhaps not at the dramatic level I am doing myself on that 98% email reduction, but they surely are seeing a high % of email clutter dealt with and moved into social technologies. It’s got to start at some point, like Kevin mentioned, and in this case it started with me, then move into building that critical mass, share the value and the vision and it will spread around from there… The end result, something as cool as this > http://www.outsidetheinbox.eu/en or my latest article on the topic which you can read over at http://www.elsua.net/2012/01/06/reflections-from-2011-a-world-without-email-the-documentary/ (Notice it’s a rather long post, so get yourself a cup or two of coffee or tea!). But surely those two resources show where I’m now 4 years later on building that ecosystem, and how it is getting more and more traction by the day…

            Again, thanks much for the continued conversation over here and for spending the time challenging my thoughts and thinking behind it. It keeps me on my toes and allows me to evaluate where I am with it and where I am heading, or planning to. Very inspiring this exchange! Let me know if you would have further commentary and happy to share more insights on this experience … Take care!

          • mlcollard
            April 5, 2012 @ 11:28 pm

            Thanks Luis – Your ecosystem is starting to make more sense 🙂

            Ah – “critical mass” you mention- now that IS something that has always intrigued me. What is the critical mass necessary for enabling any internal social business platform to be really effective/successful in the work place (with or without email)? – if you know how to measure that success of course !
            I think that’s a topic for another day!

  6. Kevin D. Jones
    April 12, 2012 @ 3:04 am

    Thank you ALL for an incredible exchange of ideas! I LOVE IT!

    There is one thing that has really stuck with me during this. I mention in the original blog post that email “will instead be pushed into a more narrow focus of function.”

    After reading your exchanges I feel more convinced of this. Whereas in the past (and even now) it is a swiss army knife of communication, it will narrow down to a few things it does well as other methods come along and take over that which email does poorly.

    Thanks again for a fabulous discussion!

    • elsua
      April 16, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

      Hi Kevin! You are more welcome and we should also take the opportunity to thank you for allowing us to have this discussion over here in your blog. It’s been wonderful! And I surely agree with you 100% on having a much narrower focus for email as a communication and collaboration tool. For me, it’s down to 2 different use cases that I still keep making use of email:

      1. Calendaring and Scheduling for meetings and such
      2. 1:1 Confidential / Sensitive conversations between two parties. Notice how I stress out 1:1 interaction vs. 1 to many, where it fails again.

      For the rest, it’s all our in much more open, transparent, public and collaborative spaces where everyone else can benefit from those same conversations! Again, thanks for hosting us, Kevin!

      See you soon!! 🙂

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