Is email your primary method for communicating with your colleagues?
Then you have picked up a dangerous habit that is killing your company.
1. Email exacerbates knowledge hoarding
What is your companies most important asset?
It might not be booked to the balance sheet but your value is inextricably tied to the ‘accessible knowledge’ you and your colleagues hold now and create in the future.
So it must stand to reason that the more knowledge you share, the more valuable your company becomes?
And just as companies power-up from knowledge sharing, individuals will power-up at your companies expense, from knowledge hoarding.
Interestingly, whether personal hoarding is driven wilfully or incidentally doesn’t matter.
Sharing information via Email guarantees that it will only be accessible for short periods of time to a limited number of people.
2. Email cultivates machiavellian environments
A Machiavellian culture would be one where individuals attempt to ‘win’ through deception, scheming, and other unscrupulous behaviours.
It’s not the case that email usage always leads to unwanted cultures. But email is the perfect tool for those with machiavellian intent.
There are many senior executives who have climbed to positions of power because they skilfully used email to manipulate others.
3. Email proliferates opacity
The more opaque an organisation is, the less likely it is to succeed.
Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates, has clearly demonstrated the benefits of radical transparency in everything from removing unconscious bias in decision-making to building confidence across individuals and teams.
Email’s capacity to reduce transparency is boundless.
4. Email etiquette is too antiquated for an exponential world
Email was revolutionary when it was introduced, but sadly many of the rituals from the days of letting writing were needlessly carried over.
So emails must be written in a certain style to conform. Pleasantries must be extended. Paragraphs must be formed. Sentences must be conjugated correctly. To’s and Cc’s need to be considered. The list of expected do’s and don’ts is endless.
Put together this simply wastes significant time for all.
Worse still, you cannot easily bypass these customs as it would be deemed rude and likely bring scrutiny from the ‘values’ police.
5. Email conversations delays decision-making
Wait some more.
Follow up email.
Receive a response.
Now you have no time to respond.
Write a response
Email is a perfect system to prolongate conversations from minutes to weeks.
6. Emails exacerbate the levels of hyperbolic discounting
Hyperbolic discounting occurs when you choose smaller, immediate rewards rather than larger, later ones.
Email platforms provide the perfect environment for this cognitive bias to manifest and proliferate.
For example, the desire to clear your inbox can be overwhelming. Hours are wasted deleting, archiving, tagging and filing. In the worst cases, you reply to emails, which didn’t even deserve to be read.
These lost hours, become years of wasted labour efforts when multiplied across the workforce.
7. Emails increase stress levels
Managing emails in a corporate environment is stressful at every level.
Why didn’t my boss respond?
Did the “CAPS” response mean my colleague is angry?
I’m worried I might have offended someone with my last email.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have included Bob in my last response?
I didn’t understand the last email. Everyone else probably did and I now feel stupid.
I don’t know whether email is the number one stress inducer within a corporate environment, but I’d hypothesised it’s got to be there or thereabout
8. Email normalises and magnifies dysfunctional behaviours
Email has created a communication system as powerful and complex as any social, political, legal, religious, criminal, educational or monetary equivalent.
And like all such systems, it works because of viral network effects that induce individuals to conform with the many.
The downside is that individuals start to wilfully ignore the dysfunctional aspects and become naturally resistive to embracing change.
The ubiquitous and habitual nature of email elevates these negative aspects exponentially.
So while email remains the prevalent workhorse within your company, the opportunities provided from using more productive systems are foregone.
How do you break the email habit?
Well, it’s not easy but it is doable.
I’ll be sharing a few ideas in the coming weeks, so make sure you sign up to my mailer so as not to miss it.
p.s. Remember: The only thing necessary for the triumph of ’email’ is that good people do nothing!