The new way of working together
In the early 90s, we started sending each other emails. I remember very well how it was done in the organization where I worked at the time. We were using cc:Mail from Lotus. Yes, the Lotus of spreadsheets, the inventor of Lotus 1-2-3. A revolutionary invention. Lotus 1-2-3 made sure that the PC was taken seriously by financial managers. Suddenly we could do accounting on a PC. And you know: if the financial manager wants something in an organization, it happens. They manage the budgets.
Sending e-mails was a technical marvel, a groundbreaking invention. At the time, it was very common for your computer to make a sound when an e-mail message came in. “You’ve got mail.” There is a cozy movie with this title starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. That romance is gone now, though. Nowadays, we get up to 100 emails a day. On your smartphone. It’s enough to drive you crazy. Email was never intended for that.
E-mail is basically the automation of quill-written parchment. Something exclusive. A letter was an investment of time and money, only the nobility could afford it. A letter was often sealed with lacquer and a signet ring. That was the “security token” of the time. The signet ring has now been replaced by an electronic security token on your cell phone.
Hopefully, it won’t be that long until we look back with pity on this time when we frenetically handle dozens of emails a day on our smartphones. Email was never meant for that. And it doesn’t have to be anymore. After cc:Mail came MSN Messenger, the first form of social medium. Teenagers, in particular, chatted a lot. For larger organizations there was Yammer. At my previous employer we used Yammer worldwide to find each other’s expertise and submit issues to each other in expert groups.
At the time, I was responsible for Salesforce and with Salesforce came Chatter. At first, I didn’t even realize the impact of Chatter. Our global CTO alerted me how brilliant this concept is. Basically, Chatter is a social medium like many others, with one big difference: you can attach an object to it. For example, a contact, an organization, or a project. As a result, you can have a very focused discussion with a team of colleagues around such a topic. This discussion is the basis of what we call ‘social collaboration’. Sending each other no or far fewer emails and instead communicating on a project or theme with all relevant data at hand.
Three reasons why we need to replace email with new tools
First, there is the psychological effect of up to a hundred emails a day, which is mental and emotional exhaustion. To work your way through that many emails requires multitasking. And multitasking, according to research, reduces our mental capacity by about 40%. So that’s not a good thing. Email is not meant to be a productivity tool.
A second aspect I want to mention is the opposite of multitasking, which is working in a flow. Flow has been studied by the American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Not to be confused with ‘go with the flow’ – letting yourself go with the flow. Flow is a mental state in which work is so concentrated that you lose time and the feeling of self-awareness for a moment. You are not distracted, are exceptionally productive and also experience a sense of happiness.
It is my experience that by making good use of a modern social media environment such as Salesforce Chatter or Google+, you can have many more flow experiences in your work than when the use of e-mail dominates.
A third aspect is being able to work better together, because you can now easily organize as a team around a topic. Instead of sending each other successive emails, you oversee the communication of everything related to the topic at hand. The team can complement each other and keep each other focused.
So there are three reasons to shape ‘social collaboration’ – ’the new collaboration’ – within your organization: the first is that productivity increases, secondly you work more enjoyably and finally you can complement each other as a team so that you work together in team roles and synergy is created.
In short, the new collaboration contributes to the long-term success of organizations.