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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.

pharbeson's picture

Many tools; a few successes

I work with a design organization spread across three continents. We use email (doesn't work that well), PowerPoint and Flash to communicate design concepts (like taking a whole day to say "hello"), Lotus Notes applications (good for recording forever, bad for anything in the same decade you're inhabiting), and various custom software tools that are always more trouble than they're worth. We've had success with two things: the Boeing 777 (very effective, but very time consuming and expensive in several senses) and just recently a high-definition videoconferencing system that consumes a frightening amount of bandwidth, but really works. In fact, it's astonishing how well it works. Unfortunately it's also astonishing how much it costs.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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