January 04, 2012 // By: Christine Benton
Benton: What is the collaboration paradox and what does it have to do with the way we work?
Morrison: The collaboration paradox is the fact that more information is actually better. People seem to be suffering from information overload but due to machines’ abilities to make sense of all the messiness and to help users navigate the information, what’s coming about is a clearer landscape in which people can find other people and information they need to work with.
Benton: What role does email play in the new collaboration scene?
Morrison: When we did the research on collaboration, we were looking at a class of tools that allow many-to-many collaboration. Email is not that. It was originally designed as a one-to-one communication tool and eventually was used for one-to-one and one-to-many communications. One of the disadvantages is that you can’t share serendipitously with email. Sometimes there are people you don’t know who would benefit from what you’re posting and it would help to have that information accessible to them in the cloud. Email is not optimal for that, as least not as it’s currently designed.
In addition, people have become overwhelmed with email because it’s easy to send messages and they’re just cropping up everywhere with no prioritization. Every apparent task seems like it has the same importance, so you spend a lot of time doing your own prioritization and missing things that are important because so much email is consuming your time. What has to happen is a convergence of these kinds of communications and collaboration tools, also with calendaring and to-do lists so that they’re not separate functions – so there’s more context in which to know where to focus.
Finally, a lot of times in email it’s hard to retrieve something. You don’t remember who sent it, it’s slow to search it and you might not have the right keyword. It’s much easier to find things that you don’t remember the details of when you’re working in a second- or third-generation collaboration environment.