The Perfect Communications App

There is way, way too much noise in most communications channels. Altos, Europe’s largest IT services company, just announced its 18-month plan to shut down email and move its 70,000+ employees to face-to-face, phone, text and a wiki-like platform because it found  only about 10% of the messages employees receive are worth their time. Altos CEO, Thierry Breton, who hasn’t sent a work email in three years, says email is a “pollutant” and “an instrument to shirk responsibility.”

That noise rises up in systems that are built on control, rather than trust. It’s not just employees who shirk taking on responsibility either; management shirks giving it out. So, people send buckets of emails back and forth checking in, updating and butt-covering. Systems-heavy architectures, characteristic of control oriented organizations, is doubly debilitating. It hides poor performance all round and inhibits the professional development of people at all levels.

Increasingly I see rebuilding IT infrastructure as building trust infrastructure. (Heidegger is right: the essence of technology has nothing whatsoever to do with anything technological.) If trust is high, we don’t have to bother people with details. We let them get on with the work trusting it will be done right and done on time and trusting that if it can’t be done right or on time that we will hear about it in timely fashion. Trust fosters professionalism.

Thus, if I could build apps I’d build somehting like this, the perfect communications app, or more accurately, all the app you’d need in perfectly trusting environment. There are just three possible responses:

Yup – I’m on it, you can let go, I will take it from here and will deliver the goods on time
Nope – Can’t or won’t take on the task at this time
Groovy – I’m all over this and you’ll be blown away by what I produce

You really only need two–“Yup” and “Nope”–but I think playing to enthusiasm with a “Groovy” is a nice way to put a positive spin in the office. There’s no need to have any more back and forth. If the sender trusts me, she knows I have good reasons whatever my response.  

Groovy_app

5 Comments

  1. Reply
    Paul Clarke December 10, 2011

    How audacious a move… Breton shutting down work email I mean… from a guy who “hasn’t sent a work email in three years”! Wow. That’s different. And, I think, right on! But in my world, there are just so many times when, like right now, I want to talk to others, but it might not be convenient for others to listen. That convenience would be hard to lose. But your essential idea: “Leave it with me, I’m an adult and I can and will do this”, is lovely and empowering, and efficient. Nice “app”!

  2. Reply
    David Wees December 14, 2011

    I really like this app. Maybe someone can design an interface so that Gmail works like this as well.

  3. Reply

    […] culture built on trust might be able to get rid of a lot of email with an app like this, the Perfect Communication Tool. As a new exercise, I wonder what an email client that focusses on the sending process might look […]

  4. Reply

    […] Brad Overnell-Carter (@braddo) is an educator in Vancover, and he makes some smart comments regarding trust and noise: Brad Ovenell-Carter, The Perfect Communications App […]

  5. Reply

    […] Last week I wrote that we’ve built email upside-down, that is, even the best email clients help us manage the messages after they hit our inbox. They do nothing to prevent the flood from happening in the first place. So, I am proposing we completely rethink the business of electronic communication and build a platform that focusses on the send, not the receive. (Here’s another attempt, more thought experiment, The Perfect Communcations App.) […]

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