I’m sitting down right before lunch hour, and for one last time in my life I click that Outlook icon. I have to confess this still makes me a little nervous, with the memory of those times I had 200 e-mails waiting for me, which would drag me through the morning before I could start some productive work. I close my eyes for a second in fear of the blue number that will show in the right side of the “Inbox” tittle. I open them slowly to find “Inbox (0)”. A little ashamed, I look around to observe if anyone saw me trying to open e-mail. It was nostalgic though. Almost like when you enter an old house you lived in, and hope to find that little memory you left behind long before. It feels like some time ago e-mail was the only thing I’d do, and now people don’t even keep that icon anymore. It’s almost like it never existed. And for a second I doubt it did.
I guess it was never meant to be from the beginning. Just by its name of baptism it was meant to fade. E-mail: an electronic version of our mail. All that junk we received and had to sort out the 1% that was worth reading, and then I thought: “at some point we had to figure that one out. We can’t spend such amount of time in something we will end up using just — very optimistically — 10%. How we could not see that before”!
In that winter of 2012 (yes, it’s 2012), I realize that those who lived 2011 were able to witness something comparable to the invention of the computer. When I arrived this morning at the office I found a completely different world. I see great excitement in people’s face. They walk fast paced through the office in lively conversations with colleagues, as if they can’t wait the moment to continue working on that innovative idea. In the café, I spot executives having a coffee with a peer in Asia Pacific, who is not physically there. They are sharing their beverage sitting across the same table, yet in opposite parts of the world. One is having his morning fix, while the other, his relaxing evening tea at home.
The breakthrough to achieve such result is clear anywhere I look. The dynamism, passion and connectedness are tremendous. Long gone are the walls and the inboxes, which were made to drag people in this world of isolation and misconception of relevance. A time when accomplishment meant having a clean inbox. Whether that resulted in anything of value was irrelevant.
I hear this excited buzz at the end of the hallway of this open office space and lots of people going there. From afar I can see a large monitor showing the celebration of the Chinese New Year. 4,709 The year of the Dragon. And once again I think in disbelief: “2011, the year e-mail died”. A tool which modest purpose was just to bridge us to a forthcoming new way of working. A solution which meager innovation was to translate our physical world in an electronic format that made it faster, then yet, kept the same counterproductive concepts. Now e-mail RIP. Long live Social Collaboration. Who could have thought!
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