HBR recently ran an article from Anthony Tjan, CEO and Founder of the venture capital firm Cue Ball, in which he argued that people rely too heavily on email and we need to push for more live conversations to occur. While his points against email are valid – it’s hard to pick up on emotion, people become too reactive, debate can be unnecessarily prolonged – he fails to acknowledge how much has come about because of email.
Email was the spring board for so many other communication innovations that have been hugely beneficial in the evolution of business and the world in general. Think about it – after the emergence of email came blogging, then social sites, then Twitter and geo-location-based tools (the list goes on!) – all designed around communicating in a new and varied way. These new options provide myriad benefits that the physical world can’t – bringing global communities of people together around a common passion, globalization and democratization of information, real-time spread of significant world news and events, the concept of endorsement (i.e. retweeting a tweet), and even just teaching people how to drill down to short messages to get a point across quickly. And given the psychology behind real world interaction between humans, we can certainly expect the innovation in this space will only continue to evolve the way in which we communicate with one another.
While Mr. Tjan may argue that in-person conversations are a dying art, I’d propose that these technologies haven’t taught us to stop communicating, they’ve simply taught us to socialize in a whole new, and arguably more productive, manner. Certainly with the digital nature of our world, we should remember not to abandon the value of real, live conversation, but let’s not forget to appreciate the new and innovative communication and relationship building opportunities that do exist as a result of these technologies. Innovation and developments in this space will continue to grow, and new tools will emerge to mimic human behavior in a powerful way – not to replace it, but to enhance it. At the end of the day people are people and we’ll always value a live conversation, and now with geo-location software, chances are we’ll find a lot more people in the same location than we’d otherwise ever have been aware of.
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