Communication at Work

Monday, June 30, 2008

I've recently been thinking a lot about both organizational structuring and the forms of communication used at work. On a personal level, while I enjoy email and probably use it inappropriately at times, I increasingly feel like email is the bane of the corporate and academic worlds. At work I repeatedly find it quite confusing to figure out which form of communication is most appropriate in any given situation. I frequently waste a good deal of time at work processing email that is either inappropriate or misdirected (some of my colleagues spend up to half their day going through email). I also know that I often need to brainstorm ideas or ask quick questions of people. I have found instant messaging to be a boon to my productivity and creativity by giving me the opportunity to run ideas by people in real-time. Just as importantly, IM helps me to know when and if people are available. Even if they are not updating their statuses, I quickly find out if they are available by their response, or lack there of. With new IM platforms being developed and integrated (gtalk, facebook, meebo), I find it an interesting time to be thinking about new possibilities.

If we are all sitting at our computers processing email for most the day anyway, then why don't we start using more synchronous forms of communication that would render many of those emails obsolete?

I'm certainly not the first person to have these thoughts, but not having seen any solutions to this dilemma, I've latched onto the idea and the chance to come up with some practical approaches. While many espouse the Death of Email as our inevitable future, and many more offer practical solutions to solving your own email crisis, I have found few practical suggestions for enterpriselike implementations of new forms of communication. I am encouraged that in my academic workplace I am not alone in at least pondering these types of ideas, but I see little impotace moving in the direction of testing and implementation. So, I want to start developing a concept that would be something like a communications portal. I think we can create guidelines and rules for how to use forms of communication, but there is very little regulation or ability to regulate such things in the real workplace. This leads me to think that what is needed is a Place for a new way of communicating. My hope is that it would, if designed right, function like a magnet bringing people into new ways of communication by a bit of serendipity (giving them what they want without them knowing it).

I wrote up a few thoughts on the matter one afternoon, which goes along with a post by my friend Adam who is grappling with similar concepts in a different environment.

Any ideas?

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