According to a McKinsey report, the average knowledge worker spends 28% of the work week on reading and responding to emails. That’s crazy! Don’t get me wrong, email has its purpose; it’s flexible, it can be part of your workflow, and it’s not going away. However, email shouldn’t be the all purpose communication tool of the office.
Your collaboration platform should be the central knowledge repository of editable web pages, files, conversations, and essentially anything that could be useful for you, your team, or colleagues you don’t even know yet. Email can help you keep track of which tasks and projects within the knowledge repository need your attention and allow you to alert others if they can help answer questions or need to review a document.
You still need email for these notifications as well as for communications with those who may be outside of your organization’s collaboration platform (e.g., customers, consultants, etc.). However, if you take a look through your inbox, you’ll probably find never ending threads, many of which you’re unnecessarily included in. When you think of all the useful knowledge trapped inside everyone’s inbox, that is essentially unsearchable by 99.9% of the rest of the organization, you realize why it takes so long to figure out who is the expert on a topic or what the answers are to your complex questions. The bulk of corporate knowledge is invisible and undiscoverable to those who need it.
I worked for a manufacturing company that made flavorings and all employees had weekly taste tests. It was estimated that it took about 50,000 emails a year just to coordinate people’s schedules. We implemented Socialtext, set up a single editable web page where employees could sign up for time slots each week, and with that one small change, we essentially eliminated 50,000 emails a year. And making the schedule more transparent actually encouraged people to sign up more often when they saw when their friends were signing up.
Essentially any process that involves multiple employees editing and revising information can be done faster and more easily with social software. You don’t have to keep track of multiple copies of documents or versions or figure out how to pull multiple edits into one document; a good social platform does that for you via revision history. If these are repetitive processes (e.g., organizing monthly events, weekly newsletters, etc.), a social platform enables participation from anyone and can make collaboration more efficient.
It takes an intentional individual, team, and organizational effort to migrate your attention away from your inbox, and begin doing most of your work within your collaboration platform. You can work all day sending and responding to emails, and that work will be visible to those you’ve communicated with, but will be invisible to 98% of everyone else. Instead, if you do your work transparently within your social platform, your work is visible to and discoverable by almost everyone. That makes finding useful knowledge easier.
Work transparently, not invisibly. Most communication and knowledge is useful to others. Share by default; use your social platform.