Email is Organic

One of the things that I’m not sure everyone appreciates is that email is a de facto part of modern collaboration. I’m sure for many people, this goes without saying. However, there is a vocal minority who find email to be a distraction, a poor substitute for vocal communication, a poor form of written communication, or a poor substitute for a discussion board in a content management system somewhere. Sure, it’s all of that. But, it’s more than that too. It’s an organic form of collaboration.

If you think about email in terms of starting discussion threads, you soon realize that most of your attempts to start a discussion are failures or minimally successful. You could judge this by the number of back and forth responses in any particular thread. Most email pings one or more people, gets a response, and dies. The communication value is high, but the collaboration value is low.

However, once in a while you hit a jackpot. A back and forth flurry of emails from a wide variety of participants with input from various perspectives. In these instances, the communication value is secondary to the collaboration value. Moreover, you’ve experienced an organic form of collaboration where you didn’t have to establish a topic in a discussion board, wait for responses, perhaps deal with a moderator, etc. Email has provided you with a rapid, organic collaboration experience.

Additionally, email allows you to collaborate on different levels. There are times when your collaboration is through the substance of the text you are sending one another. There are other times when the collaboration is through versions of files being sent back and forth. There are even times when email becomes a substitute for RSS or alerts to let the collaboration participants know you’ve updated a web site or another collaboration medium.

Finally, email is good at keeping history. Each message is a snapshot in time. For example, when I need to go back to a more successful version of the cabbage soup recipe I’m sharing with my friends, I can easily look up the version I sent last Thursday.

So, don’t hate your email. Let’s embrace it for the rapid, organic collaboration medium that it is.

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