OBSERVATION: Emailing is NOT "Collaborating"…

There are several truths that the modern IT-savvy workers of the world have to come to grips with in order to take the next big step in work-related productivity:

1. True synergy comes from people COLLABORATING; and
2. Email is NOT “Collaborating” – rather it is merely “Communicating”.

The first thought in most people’s heads is “WHAT is the DIFFERENCE?”

The difference is HUGE – it’s the difference between people being truly EFFECTIVE all day long (and enjoying themselves after work KNOWING they actually got WORK done), or merely pounding keys on computers, laptops, PDAs, Blackberries, iPhones and the like…

Most dictionaries would (poorly) define Collaboration as “working with others – typically enemies”. I shit you not – that’s what some dictionaries state.

But in order to truly understand the significance between “collaborating” and “communicating”, we need to come up with some better definitions…

When you are merely COMMUNICATING with someone, all you are actually doing is SHARING INFORMATION. This is something that Email is actually quite good at – especially when you’re broadcasting information out to the entire company.

But if you imagine a scenario in which you’re convinced you’re actually “collaborating”, and try to describe it in more detail, what you’ll undoubtably see is that the NATURE of what is being communicated changes & expands into the following categories. When you’re collaborating you are:
1. SHARING information about a common goal or effort;
2. DISCUSSING aspects of the common goal or effort;
3. ASSIGNING TASKS related to that common goal or effort – this is perhaps the MOST important distinction betwixt Communicating & truly COLLABORATING;
4. TRACKING issues related to that common goal or effort;
5. ASKING questions related to that common goal of effort;

These ACTIVITIES of Discussing, Assigning and Asking are what separate true COLLABORATING from merely communicating…

Sadly, since even the early 1990’s Email has been the ONLY technology available to most organizations, so people throughout the past 20 years have tried to beat, bend, modify, cajole and otherwise manipulate poor little email into a tool it was NOT meant to be… and with DISMAL results:
1. People still send out epic-long emails they THINK contain tasks, assignments, and other collaborating activities, but it all gets lost in the verbiage;
2. Email gets deleted, and hence the tasks they (tried to) contain;
3. Documents get sent & re-sent & re-sent, and pretty soon NO ONE knows which copy is the “authoritative” one
4. Collaboration is BURIED underneath Communication

Email is a PERSONAL tool, but Collaboration is PEOPLE…

So what is needed to truly effectively collaborate is – simply – a “people” tool, and luckily there are LOTS of them out there – we just don’t GET HOW TO USE THEM YET.

Watch for my next post wherein I describe the simple-but-oh-so-necessary tools & best practices which are need to truly begin COLLABORATING…



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