OK I am not the first person to say this and many have tried and failed to fix it.

Before looking at why email could be broken it is worth looking at why it is so popular and useful (and yes it is useful):

  • It’s quick and easy
  • You can send to many people at once reducing any duplication of effort
  • It’s cheap
  • It’s private
  • There is an expectation of an instant response

Now let’s have a look at some of the reasons why email is not so great:

  • It’s (too) quick and easy, too easy to send an email when may another method of communication may be better (e.g. a telephone call).
  • You can send to many people at once reducing any duplication of effort, this can often mean that multiple people can be included who often do not need to be. Of course if you are on the first email of the chain you are probably on the last reading each one just to check that you were mentioned or required
  • It’s cheap – that’s why we have so much spam! 2 millions emails sent who cares it’s cheap.
  • It’s private – two main disadvantages a) some people may say things that they would not say in public but funny when gets sent or forwarded to people you may not expect. b) more importantly much of what goes on in emails, in organisations and projects, would benefit many others hence why so many emails are forwarded
  • Expectation of an instant response – many of us are stuck constantly checking email because we thing that an instant response is expected.

So what’s the answer? Clearly email is not going away any time soon and neither should it but I think we would benefit from changing our attitude to email and reducing the amount of email we send and finding better communication platforms. Email coming in from externals is often to be welcomed especially if it is from customers and prospects but what about internal email. The larger the organisation the more of the email that can be generated internally with multiple cc’s (and probably more bcc’s than is good for us). Even in SME’s internal email can blight your inbox with either irrelevant information that very few people need or very important information that everyone needs to see but can’t because it is in your email.

In the last 10 years we have seen Social Media become a formidable public communication platform. I would imagine that a lot less email has been sent because of Facebook (there has to be some upside) and thank goodness it has reduced the dancing cat videos in my inbox.

So could Social Media platforms reduce email in organisations. Clearly much of what is said (typed) is not for public consumption, mainly for boredom reasons as much as competition, but there are many private social media platforms for corporates. It is great to hear that Automatic has no internal email at all, as all in-house communication (which is across many countries) is done on P2 a WordPress blog which is customised for that very purpose. There are also many other platforms out there with Slack (great name) possibly leading the field with a corporate twitter-like microblogging platform.

So next time you are about to hit the ‘send’ button, with multiple cc addresses, stop and think is there a better way for me to communicate. I for one think that ‘yes’ maybe the answer.

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