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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.

cbowler's picture

Shapepoint will solve all your problems.

Our team struggles with more basic communication. And yet when Sharepoint became available in our organization, our team jumped at getting on board. The group think was that this would solve a lot of problems by giving us a tool which was communication based.

Reality was that the same bad habits were then applied to the new tool just like the old tools. And soon the new tool was just as cumbersome and ineffecient as the old ones.

Here is a small list of some of the bad habits or misconceptions that beleaguer our leadership:

  • Email is a good document repository
  • An Inbox with 4000 messages is good for one's productivity
  • You can never have enough sub-folders
  • Spend all your time reacting. Then you don't have to waste time planning...

I wish I could say that these habits have been resolved and that all of our tools are benefitting our team because we have worked on producing good habits. But that is not case. I try myself to lead by example and to work with people one on one when I see some of these poor habits. I find that most times people are more than happy to take advice in this area - they usually soak it up. And with great resources out there like David's book (GTD) and sites like this, I find that a small bit of my time is enough to get people started. Then I just point them in the right direction.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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