E-mail not as productive as we’ve been told

Some of us have thought this for a while. The ability to passively offload a task or just type off a thought to remove it from our plate is a technique that has been honed for decades.

There is a recent article in The New Yorker titled Was E-mail a Mistake? that covers some research into this question. If you’ve ever wondered how your life was consumed by ‘communications’, it is worth a read.

I’ve had e-mail in one form or another since the 1970s. For a while back at the turn of this century I would received 300-400 work emails a day, EVERY DAY of the week. Each of these being hand crafted and critical to the individual who sent it. My role was global in nature, so I am not sure how it would have worked any other way, but I do remember many a Saturday being spent catching up on all the ‘communications’ for the week. I didn’t have the admin support that some of the leaders of that organization had to sort the wheat from the chaff.

It does make me wonder what the folks who wrote this article think about the proliferation of personal life, asynchronous communications techniques (e.g., twitter and blogging). The article was focused more on business decision making in an office environment. Based on the amount of time I see folks with their nose focused on their phone, that might be a minority of time spent in modern life.

At the end of the article it states:

The era that will mystify our grandkids is ours—a period when, caught up in the promise of asynchronicity, we frantically checked our in-boxes every few minutes, exhausted by the deluge of complex and ambiguous messages, while applauding ourselves for eliminating the need to speak face to face.

Based on the current use of technology today by digital natives, I doubt that our use of asynchronous communications is what will mystify them.

Unique is Where the Value is (a second look)

I was looking through my archives the other day as I was putting together some information for a presentation related to innovation. I came across a post I wrote almost a decade ago (2005) that included the following illustration:

Unique is where the value is

It is all too easy to allow our creative focus to concentrate on ‘normal’ – the areas we understand well, rather than delve into the fast unknown of unique thinking.

As I look at this model today one of the things that is missing is the collaborative nature that permeates live today. We actively need to mine there relationships for both value and ideas. The fact that others may not look at things ‘normally’ is something we need to take advantage. Other than that some of the concepts of cognitive computing and systems of action were there even back then.

A panel about unlocking innovation in business

innovation unlockYesterday, I had a call from Jeff Wacker (a retired Senior Fellow from HP) who had a conflict that prevents him from participating in an innovation panel discussion at a large, multi-national IT firm that has a significant presence in the Dallas area. Naturally, I agreed since pulling together material for a discussion like this is a rich opportunity to harvest blogging material (I’ll have to reference those posts in the comments to this one).

Innovation is an interesting issue for some organizations for a variety of reasons:

1) It is someone else’s problem — people allow themselves to say ‘I am not innovative’ when in reality innovation is part of the human condition. We just need recognize when it’s happening and then capitalize on it.

2) They don’t set themselves up for it to happen naturally — sometimes people think that innovation happens only serendipitously. There is no doubt that is true, but there are many things organizations can do to enable it to happen more often. I’ll likely have a whole post on this later.

3) Too often we let things stand in the way of innovation — My philosophy has always been that after two years in a position I am likely to be more part of the problem than part of the solution, so its time to give someone else a chance. Churn in relationships and personnel can be a good thing and helps address the ‘we’ve always done it that way’ issue.

Those are a few thoughts that sprang to mind as I sat through the initial discussion about this innovation panel. Now I just need to flesh them out with stories and arguments to make it relevant to an audience of people who probably are not going to be all that innovative — otherwise we wouldn’t have the session.

Abundance and the value potential of IT — things have changed…

Since I have moved to a new blog site I decided to update a post on my foundational beliefs about IT, the future and what it should mean to business.

A number of years back, I posted that the real value for business is understanding unique and separating what was abundant from what was scarce and plan to take business advantage of that knowledge.

I came up with this model to look at how things have changed:

abundanceToday, there is an abundance of data coming in from numerous sources. A range of connection options can move the data around to an abundance of computing alternatives. Even the applications available to run on the data continues to grow almost beyond understanding. Various service providers and options even exist to quickly pull these together into custom (-ish) solutions.

Yet there are elements of the business that remain scarce or at least severely limited by comparison. The attention span of personnel, the security and privacy of our environment and even actions based on the contextual understanding of what’s happening persist in being scarce. Part of every organizations strategic planning (and enterprise architecture effort) needs to address how to use the abundance to maximize the value from the scarce elements and resources – since each business may have its own set of abundant and scare components.

For IT organizations one thing to keep in mind is: almost every system in production today was built from a scarcity model of never having enough compute, data… Those perspectives must be reassessed and the implications of value for the business that may be generated reevaluated, since that once solid foundation is no longer stable. The business that understands this shift and adjusts is going to have a significant advantage and greater flexibility.

Networking in Dallas today, talking about mobility

dallasToday, I had the opportunity to sit in on a Dallas Metroplex Technology Business Council meeting where Steve Reiter (EVP of Entegra) presented on: Mobility, the art of the possible. Steve and I go back a long time, so many of the items he discussed I immediately agreed with.

One of the statistics he used (that was new to me) was that there are more cell phones in the world than tooth brushes. Here are the best numbers I could come up with:

There are 7.13 billion people on the planet. 6.7 billion cell phone subscriptions, but only 4.2 billion toothbrushes, based on 2013 estimates. That doesn’t even get into the whole IoT phenomenon.

He mentioned was the need for a re-emergence of Reengineering (remember Reengineering the Corporation?). I’d bet that few if any business processes in corporations were built based on this level of mobility penetration, pointing back to the need to rethink enterprise architecture.

He also mentioned the fact that many businesses look at the capabilities of devices before they assess what they are really trying to do, that is definitely putting the cart before the horse. There have to be better approaches to bring these two trends together.

And the focus needs to be on delivering, what I’ve been calling the Right 6:

  • having the right information
  • at the right time
  • from the right place
  • in the right format
  • to the right people
  • most importantly driving the right result.