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”What’s 43 Folders?”
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.

alexdesigns's picture

The most obvious tools are the most powerful

Merlin, just saw you at SXSW. This is actually my first comment on 43.

Mine is simple. Gmail. I manage 5-10 designers around the country and it is tough to keep track of new projects, current projects and follow-ups. We tried many web based apps - basecamp, project, ect. But we are moving so fast, we just use GMAIL now.

I have created a defined labeling system with filters in GMail that helps me keep track of everything that is going on. Using the colors and some third party plug-ins I can quickly get to a task when a client calls. Clients always want to add new requests in a new email, but we make sure to always respond in the original email conversation. Sometimes this can lead to a few hundred emails in conversation.

Also, we send all our PSDs with Gmail. I just purchased 45 Gigs of space. I never have to delete an email again. Custom labels are as also created for each client, for each designer / developer and for type of file (ie. zip or psd). This also helps with books keeping and accounting.

This works on many levels, because a lot of other companies rely on us as their design team. So they give me an email address with their company name and I use that to talk to the client. So in gmail, for that client I respond with the company's email address and my real email is hidden. It's very powerful. Save me a ton of time every day.

Hope that made sense.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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