A game of email

Johnny Holland Stephen Anderson discusses in some considerable detail how it might be possible to add game-like behaviours to email to help people be more effective and achieve Inbox Zero more easily. It’s a very interesting post and I’d love someone to go ahead and build an email client that takes these ideas on board. I think it would be fascinating to see how we might remake our relationship to one of the most pervasive communications medium of the modern world.

But HollandĀ Anderson doesn’t even mention the most important problem: That we send far too much unnecessary email for reasons which are emotional rather than logical. Encouraging people to process their email more effectively is only half the battle. We need to remove as much content as possible from the email system, especially newsletters, notices, FYIs and other forms of occupational spam. We need to empower people not to cover their ass, not to CC their entire department, and not to get sucked into endless and pointless – but very polite – conversations by email.

Until we learn to send less email, learning how to process it is only going to give us a false sense of success and may even encourage us to, well, send more email.

2 thoughts on “A game of email

  1. Thanks Suw!

    I completely agree we need to encourage people to send less email. The article was primarily about feedback loops, with email as an example. However, I run an all day workshop where we discuss dozens of such principles from psychology; improving email is one of the exercises. In that workshop we’ve discussed ways to use things like “scarcity” or “social proof” or “self-expression” to accomplish (encourage) exactly what you describe.

    Right now, the “game of email” is purely a concept, but with as much interest as it has generated, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of it becoming reality in the near future…

    Stephen P. Anderson

  2. Hi Stephen! Thanks for the comment.

    I’d love to know more about the different ways you’ve discussed to reduce email. Most attempts by business to reduce email have stalled because they’ve been based on the wrong assumptions and often require willpower to succeed. We all know that willpower is in very short supply for most people! If you have further articles that elaborate, I’d love to read them.

    Also, your comment reminded me that I got the blog name and your name mixed up – so that’s fixed now!

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