Eliminating email, the new paperless office?

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Eliminating email is becoming a popular, at least every conference I come nowadays has at least one speaker about eliminating email. However they often don’t have really good reasons for quitting mail, they are trying to make a case based on the fact that email is time consuming, that it is old media or just by saying that nobody […]

Eliminating email is becoming a popular, at least every conference I come nowadays has at least one speaker about eliminating email. However they often don’t have really good reasons for quitting mail, they are trying to make a case based on the fact that email is time consuming, that it is old media or just by saying that nobody actually wants to do email. To be honest: that is quitting for all the wrong reasons. It is not because there is  new media (in this case: social media), the old medium has no place.

The medium has its uses

Some of you might recognize some arguments that were also used a while ago when people introduced the phenomenon of the paperless office. Since many years have past since the first time somebody introduced the idea of a paperless office, I think we can be sure that most enterprises will never have a paperless office anyway. Same goes for email, most enterprises will never be able to eliminate email. Not because they don’t have the ability to do so, but because email has it uses, just like paper has. The main reason some of us tend to hate email and want to eliminate email, is because some people don’t know how to use email.

Eliminating email will not result in suddenly transforming people this people in being great on the new medium. They are more likely to be as bad on the new medium as they were on the old medium. People who are bad at email, probably were also pretty bad with paper and are most likely to be an absolute horror in social media. It is not the medium that is bad, it is the people that are using it who make it a mess.

Eliminating email doesn’t transform people

If you just eliminate email and switch to social media, probably you will quit social media in five years. Since you think it is time consuming, it is old media and because nobody actually want to do something in social media. Switch to social media for some uses in which social media excels, for example for collaborating on documents, brainstorming or for sharing information. Though keep in mind social media is not the holy grail. For some things email still outperforms social media, just like paper is still outperforming digital on some things.

Don’t just switch and eliminate, but design and transform and make sure people know how to work with the new medium. Otherwise you will be eliminating the new medium in the next five years, since it has become old media and because it is time consuming since nobody knows how to use in the most efficient way.

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