No Email November. Why email gets in the way of new forms of team collaboration.

Here’s a joke.

John studied German abroad for a year and it had been a succes. Everybody in the German bar had tremendously improved their English.

If you move to a new country, it is easy to pick up the local language. Unless of course, you come from an English-speaking background. People will always switch to English as the default language when you are around.

Sticking to the default makes it hard to learn new things.

Email is a lot like English in that regard.

It holds the position of default communication tool in every organisation. Over the years we have developed various better techniques to work together on projects but email still claims a central role.

We use email not because it is perfect but because it is the norm.

It is a one way street where people send you stuff whether you like it or not. It is always a request for attention, never a collaboration.

And it gets in the way of new forms of collaborating.

Just like in the German bar, as soon as one person in your team sticks to email only, everybody switches to email. By doing this, all of our attempts to become better at collaboration are turned into ‘extra work’ not THE work.

What would it be like to ban email from your team for a while?

Imagine that ‘No Email November’ was a thing.

  • How would you prepare your team for it?
  • What arrangements would you make?
  • What would be the biggest challenge?

I have indeed met English students who learned a new language during their year abroad.

The way they did it, was by politely but systematically refusing to switch to the default.