Warning: This is a blog about filing and productivity. It makes the case that social tools like Yammer help people to be less busy and more productive.
I took a day off a few weeks ago. When I returned to my desk - eager and refreshed - I found that 120 emails had arrived in my inbox while I was away. And I found that the combined size of the attachments to those emails had pushed me way over the allowed size limit for my inbox.
It took me 45 minutes just to open Lotus Notes that morning, and the rest of the morning to delete enough emails to bring me back within my 300mb allowance, in order to regain my ability to send an email from my official account.
While I was doing this I posted a message on Yammer expressing my frustration. And later on, I received a message from someone - who I've never met - explaining how to set up linked folders in my mailbox. It explained how I could systematically file important emails and attachments in a shared repository as I receive or send them, rather than storing them in personal folders for my own reference, as was my habit. It offered me the promise that I would never find myself in this oddly hamstrung position again when I return to my desk after days away. I followed the instructions and they worked perfectly.
It was a great result for me, and provided some evidence that internal social networking can lead to productivity benefits. Without Yammer I probably would have just been grumbling under my breath. With it, someone heard my grumble and was able to intervene to offer practical help. It was an outcome that email, or intranet guidance, or a telephone hotline couldn't have provided on their own. It reminded me of behaviour I see all the time on Twitter.
I used this anecdote yesterday to introduce a workshop at DH titled "How to be good at work". The workshop was about knowledge management and productivity. And - while I appreciate that I might be a bit one-eyed about it - I think the culture and tools of social networking can go a long way to improve how people manage and share knowledge inside an organisation, and increase individuals' productivity at work. Lots of people could be a little bit more productive if they used more of the behaviours and the tools of social networking routinely at work.
Personally, I am much better at my job because of social tools. I'm better informed, often helped by others, better connected, more grateful, and more ready to share my own thoughts than I would be without tools like Yammer, Twitter and blogs.
Use of social tools is only one way to "be good at work" of course. But I'm struck by how well social tools can encourage the types of behaviours displayed by productive people.
The underlying theme of the discussion yesterday was the difference between being busy and being effective. In my experience, there's rarely a correlation between busyness (which tends to manifest itself in the stressful lurch from one urgent deadline to another) and effectiveness (which is more often seen in the calm delivery of planned objectives). I think social tools can help us all to be a bit less busy, and a bit more effective.