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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Your Story: Throwing new tools at a communication problem?

I'm working on a (likely non-43 Folders) piece about a topic that seems to keep coming up whenever I talk with people about how their team plans, collaborates, and generally communicates with one another. I'd love to hear from you in comments if you have a contribution to make.

What’s your story?

Do you have a story about a time when your team or company tried to solve a human communication problem by adding a new tool? In your estimation, how did things turn out?


Yours doesn't need to be a horror story to be included here -- there are certainly ample examples in which a thorny problem disappeared by introducing a bit of high (or low) technology to the mix.

But, the anecdotes I hear from worker bees often focus on the frustration they felt when a wiki, a new CMS, a mailing list, or some other tool was introduced into an ecosystem that was suffering from a more fundamental communication problem. A lot of people tell me that this makes matters much worse all around, often amplifying the complexity of the original problem, in addition to piling on burnt cycles that were committed on getting everyone up to speed on the new "silver bullet."

If you have a minute over the next week or so, please share your story here. Redact details that you think need redacting, but please consider telling me how things went for you and your group. And, if you feel like a whole or partial solution to the core problem ever did come along, that would be great to know, as well. Already documented this someplace else? Know of someone else who did? Links to relevant stories are also greatly appreciated.

If things pan out, I may be contacting a few of you offline for more details, and conceivably, an interview or two. Thanks in advance.

nickc's picture

The best tools are the old ones

When we started our two-person graphic and web business, we bought into using several web-based systems for handling client communications and managing projects. We were told everyone was doing it these days: electronic CRM and job trackers were essential, said our local business support group.

After just a couple of months when we'd climbed the initial learning curve, we quickly tired of the added overhead in costs and time that the supposedly wonderful new tools had introduced. I now think that dropping the systems everyone else had told us were essential was the best business decision we've made this year. We're so much more productive on paper, and we've got to know our clients as more than numbers in a list.

We're now using a whiteboard for our project management, and simple paper-based calendars for client liaison and records. I think a lot of SMEs could benefit from this philosophy -- by avoiding the pressure to use systems that were designed for larger companies, they might prevent the usual headaches and admin that such software and tools introduce into their working weeks.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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