My secret hardware weapon sits on the corner of my desk. It’s a phone. Plugged into the wall and everything. You can do amazing shit with it. For example, I’ve found that you can consolidate a 24 volley e-mail thread with a client down to five minutes if you call them on the phone. And, unlike e-mail, you can read people’s tone and awkward pauses. Not to mention you can actually hear them “LOL”.
I do not share Mike’s love of the phone itself. But the principal that underpins his point, that of talking to someone directly, being more productive and useful than email, rings true.
My version of this is the face-to-face conversation. At my current place of employment, email is treated almost as if it is the lifeblood that keeps the place alive. To my mind however, email, like blood, is prone to clotting, and can cause a project or idea to go into cardiac arrest. To avoid this, I like to get up from my desk and sit down with a colleague (or colleagues) face-to-face. Which, ironically, is better for my circulation, having spent so much time sat at a desk – staring at a computer screen.
The face-to-face conversation, like Mike’s phone call, is far more powerful and productive than an email, which can invariably turn into an elongated quagmire, diminishing your capacity to move forwards. I get to see what people really think from their reactions (facial expression / tone of voice) and walk away with decisions made, actions decided upon. Moreover, I think it demonstrates how valuable the topic, idea or project is to you – and that you want others to share in that.
So, while I am a proponent of the ‘paperless movement’, I am no fan of the ‘lets do it all by email’ movement either. There are better ways than email… and you don’t have to be constrained by time or by geographical location, either!