When Email Goes Away

The Buzz

Email has long been dead and buried.  It is as dead as the notebook and pen.  I saw this info-graphic last week and questioned when email and communication were somehow ripped apart by collaboration technologies.

There is a discussion around email that I have heard for years around the death of email.  It doesn’t make any sense to me considering so many people still depend on email and use it on a daily basis for work and personal business.  There are other technologies introduced that are different but do I think that they are better.. short answer is “no.”

If there were a better technology that was more effective for personal, team and enterprise knowledge and collaboration, it has yet to be introduced to the masses.   Text does not replace email, text is text and I find that in text messages because the lines are blurred, it is very easy to send an unprofessional message.   It is also hard to understand context in text.  There is a place for text but it isn’t a replacement.

There are a lot of good tools out there that do different things and that are good at what they do but they aren’t email and they aren’t replacing email.   I consider that all of these technologies are just adding more to the madness instead of solving a problem or THE problem of email.

I think back to a time when I would go to a meeting with a notebook and a pen.  I would write stuff down and then go back to my work area and sort through whatever I needed to organize or keep.  Today,  when I go to a meeting there are cell phones, tablets, laptops and …. notebooks and pens.     I hear all about the millennial generation and the way they work but the funny part of it to me is when I see 20+ somethings come to meetings, they also come with notebooks along with all the other technologies.

The funniest part of it all is that we try to replace the notebook with electronic devices that we can write on but we still bring the notebooks.  I think the same thing applies with email.  We are bringing all this extra stuff to the table but at the end of the day someone is going to send an email.

If you have recently looked for a job, you may have experienced sending or receiving and email to a recruiter, then uploading a resume to an hr system, then sending an email to someone else with your resume in it and then having emails go back and forth about your resume or arrangements for your job interview.   This is one example of many that shows how people and behaviors override what makes sense in a logical order of operations.

Email is Here

Here is my advice to all of the folks planning on ditching email for something better.  Even if you take email away somehow, people will still use it.  If you don’t use email, that is fine, it like a fruitless boycott of a known and working technological capability that changed the world.   If you are thinking that email will go away..  check back with me in a few years and send me a note in whatever the popular non email technology is at the time to tell me I was wrong.    Otherwise, I would plan on ways to realize the benefits of email and look for ways to make it easier for email to blend and interoperate with other organizational technologies so that we aren’t doing another 10 things to be more effective and efficient in collaboration.

Don’t Throw Your Kindle Away..

Barely Broken but not Fixable

A few weeks ago we found that one of our Kindle’s wouldn’t take a charge.  We called Amazon and went through two tiers of support.

1) Push the button and hold it for 30 seconds..  “Umm, did that work?.. No … ok, I need to send you to the next level of support”

2) Next level of support.. Push the button and hold it for 30 seconds.. “Oh, that didn’t work, well you can buy this newer one for x amount of dollars.”

I asked if Amazon if they have a repair service because my general desire to take things apart has decreased over time.  They don’t have a repair service.  They have a replace service, meaning you give them money and they give you a new item.  I have to wonder now, what all the people do with the old Kindles.

One Device at a Time

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I couldn’t see buying a new one and throwing this one away.  They didn’t offer an exchange service or anything that I could even consider as leaning towards being green.   So, I looked into the matter myself.

Come to find out the pins inside the charging port were misaligned and damaged.  This may or may not have been the result of an 8 year old jamming the charger cord into the port.  I went online to see how to repair this kind of problem and there were many links on taking apart the Kindle.  Example here 

The point here is that most people with a small screwdriver, credit card <–for technical purposes, and a little desire can fix / resolve problems with relative ease.

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Getting the outside case off was probably the biggest challenge.  Taking the screws out and pulling out the little motherboard was pretty straightforward and simple.  It took about 10 minutes in total.

The Tricky Part

I got the board out and looked closely at the charger port.  This part of the job was going to take some time and effort.  I didn’t want to invest the amount of effort in soldering the charger port off the board, plus it is pretty small and I don’t have all the equipment needed to perform microsurgery.

Lucky for me… there is a service for that Charger Repair Service $18.00 shipped.   I sent the (board only) out to the repair service and in 3 days got the board back and simply put it back into the Kindle.

For 18 bucks someone else put the charger port in for me.  If I bought the replacement charger port on my own after shipping and tax it would have been 12-15 dollars.  For an additional 3 bucks, it was done for me.

Fixed

It took me less time to fix the Kindle than it would have taken to replace it.  It cost me less money to fix it, even though I sent the part out than it would have been to replace it.  I can’t imagine how many people are just setting their devices on a shelf or throwing them in the garbage.   If you have a device that has a problem, just do a quick search on take apart or repair services, it may be a lot less to fix it.

The bigger picture is that on first glance these things seem complicated and the perspective on the “easy fix” is to purchase a new thing.  Consider taking the time to take a shot at fixing the thing yourself, it may be good for the environment and your wallet.

Questioning Practice: Why we keep questioning what KM is…

What Knowledge Management is .. not..

I need to implement a system to get our people to share information so that when they or others leave, our company can continue to make widgets and make money.

I need to build a process to suck the brains out of our staff so that we can shed them (the people) when we are finished with them.

I need to buy a technology so that I don’t need to consider people at all.

I was a consultant not long ago and I was part of a lot of discussions that sounded very close to this.   Currently, I read articles, blogs, tweets and books about what knowledge management is “as defined.”   As a practitioner I am pretty frustrated about the lack of continuity in discussions around this subject.   Over the years I have had the benefit and honor of meeting hundreds of people working in this field.   We have a challenge that we as KM practitioners must address and that is the questioning of the KM practice itself as opposed to the challenges of the practice.

The bottom line here is that no matter how it is discussed, knowledge management isn’t a thing and it certainly isn’t one thing.  It is an area of practice, it has a an ecosystem of people, process, methods and tools.  What is most often missed is the focus on the outcome of knowledge management over the implementation of some one system or process.

KM is multiple disciplines used in patterns to accomplish various outcomes all in support of getting the right information / knowledge to the right people, at the right time, to help them achieve their purpose.

The complication of this work stands in the nuance of the details in practice.   A medical doctors job is to heal or to exert a healing influence.   I never see articles that question why medical doctors research new tools, process and practice to heal patients.    In fact,  this year at the APQC event one of the speakers in a Neuroscientist.  Will someone question how the brain is related to KM?  There is a clear connection with the relationship of how people work and perceive the world and how they share.  If we are worried about the connection over the objectives, we have a problem here.  I have to wonder if our community is doing a good job of framing the practice.    As a consultant.  I found myself consistently defining KM.

“We know there are many definitions for KM and…so, we are going to say that KM is..”   What I did that may have been different than other consultants was check myself at the door.   As part of the SKIM Leaders yahoo group led by Stan Garfield https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/ I listened to some of the 500+ members of the group as they have and continue to define and normalize terms and practice.

In other words, I am looking to demystify the practice of KM.   We keep questioning what KM is as opposed to questioning what we can do to help each other accomplish our goals.  It is like arguing about what art is as opposed to working together to create a beautiful or compelling piece.   As we continue to question the practice we have an iatrogenic effect in that we confuse the people we seek to help.

The Wake Up

Unless the Ray Kurzweil has a new epiphany on the singularity, we will have a little time before the rise of the machine. 

This means that we have a need to share knowledge and we have had that need through all of human history, no matter what it was called.   Are we going to continue to scratch our heads around this need or start levering our best tools, lessons learned, practices and stories to be as effective and impactful as possible?