News & Views

Opinion / Kill email and start communicating

by Will Sansom

Contagious Insider – our dedicated consultancy arm – works with clients across the globe which means that our small (read ‘agile’) team of ten is split across four regions and five time zones. Recently, we congregated in London for a two-day, Haribo and tea-fuelled brain-meld (read ‘summit’). As is ever the case, being able to see the whites of each other’s eyes proved hugely valuable and above all, we were reminded that the team is greater than the sum of our parts. Put simply, despite the often lone-wolf nature of consultancy projects, we kick ass harder when we work together.

It’s why at the heart of Insider is a commitment to collaboration and communicating not a little but a lot. And central to this is killing email. Let me explain why.

Despite email being a ‘best thing since sliced bread’ invention, it’s actually forced us to take a step backwards in many ways. In the office of yesteryear, if you wanted someone’s opinion on something, you’d walk over and ask them, or if they weren’t within walking distance, you’d pick up the phone and call them. With email, we don’t do either and the response is rarely as instantaneous. Be honest – how many emails do you send in the office every day to people who sit with a ten foot radius of where YOU sit? We all do it and I have no idea why.

More importantly, the presumption that email is a progressive technology is based on the fundamental fallacy that an email thread = a conversation. Let’s be really clear – an email thread is not the same as a conversation. How many long, difficult, business-related email threads have you experienced in which people misjudge tone, or take so long crafting a reply that it’s irrelevant by the time it’s posted, or in which a senior colleague, late to the game, dives in 38 emails deep and sends the thread down an entirely new rabbit hole of thinly-veiled squabbling? And how often have you said ‘THIS WOULD BE SO MUCH EASIER IF WE COULD JUST SIT DOWN AND TALK ABOUT IT’?

It’s for this reason that we have all but killed email on Contagious Insider and instead opt for technologies that allow us to have proper conversations. This could be a table in a local coffee shop, it could be the telephone or it could be Skype. We also use Slack. A lot. The entire company adopted the communication tool a year or so ago and it has transformed how we work. It has, however, proved most valuable for the consultancy team because of how we’re distributed in far-flung locations. Our channels include one for requesting help on a project, one for archiving all collateral (with its own librarian), one for discussing new business and a ‘clubhouse’ for general chat – not to mention smaller ‘groups’ that are created for every live project and one-to-one chats.

I’d hate for you to mistake this for a piece of Slack advertorial; make no mistake, the transition from an email-driven communication culture to one that is more akin to elaborate instant messaging was a tricky one for us to make and it’s not without its own challenges. It requires a ruthless archiving of groups and channels, an economy of participation (don’t have everyone on every channel when you actually only need three) and above all, you must be restrained with the Giphy integration.

Broadly, however, working in this way is enabling a team of ten, spread across five time zones, to communicate and work more productively than if we all existed in the same big building. And on that note, we are actually about to start looking for a new consultant to join Contagious Insider, working out of our NYC office, so if the above sounds like it suits you and YOUR way of working, feel free to contact me at will@contagious.com. It may just be the last email you ever send.

Picture credit: xkcd.com