In the beginning there was email, and it was good. It fulfilled the desire for a more rapid exchange of information than traditional paper-based mail could achieve. Emails started off life as an electronic duplication of snail mail, performing the same function but in a faster way. Emails were polite, well structured, and sent with purpose.
Over the decades though, email has devolved into a much more insidious beast, clawing away hour upon hour of productive time from our working days as we strive to control the ever-increasing influx of information we’re bombarded with via this increasingly antiquated communications channel.
In my personal life, I rarely use email – it exists for filing order confirmations and the occasional mailshot from companies I’m interested in. For my day to day communication needs I have far more productive channels open to me. Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Google+, Flipboard… the underlying ethos is the same for them all; sharing of knowledge and information with diverse crowds with as little effort as possible.
The real paradigm shift when examining these technologies vs email is in the way information is disseminated. In email, a piece of information is sent to a select few people and then sits there, hidden from the world amidst an ever-growing sea of irrelevancy. In all of the communication channels I use in my personal life, information is flung open to a wide audience in a way that I define as useful to me, ever-flowing and always relevant.
Collaboratively sourced knowledge and information is almost invariably more powerful and accurate than information from a single siloed source – the power of Wikipedia is in its openness, its decriers would claim that it’s inaccurate and open to tampering, yet it remains a vital tool in modern life for many.
Why then can’t I get the same openness and collaboration in the workplace? If I can find my childhood BFF from age 5 in a handful of key presses, why don’t I know what the finance team are currently working on? Or that there’s a project that I can add valuable insight to? Or that the new tracking system the sales team are thinking of buying is one I’ve previously used and can help with?
Siloed, closed communication is a tool of the past. Companies like MangoSpring, Huddle, Jive and others are springing up to take advantage of this market niche, adding a social, collaborative layer to businesses, opening up their true potential.
Lew Platt, former CEO of HP once said “If HP knew what HP knows, we’d be three times more profitable.” Thanks to tools like the above, within companies we’re starting to learn what we know, and for me, that’s a very exciting time to be in a business.