Email is not sexy but it is a powerful tool in co-creating anything

Pro(ductivity) Tip# 21

Email can be a bane to the existence of every man, woman and child however when it comes to the creation of knowledge content it can be helpful. Often when trying to write a new procedural document its important to gather the feedback of several people. Using email to gather this input is helpful because conversations are externalized. If I really want to crank things up a bit I cc several people on the email in order to gather several different perspectives.

The only caveat with this approach is that if too many people are on the thread people will disappear in the crowd and not respond. I find keeping the email chain limited to about five people works well. When managed properly email discussion provides a starting point from which information can be extracted and a rough prototype put together.

Look I know email is not as sexy as some cloud based collaborative tool. However I find email helpful not because it is cutting edge but because it’s ubiquitous. Just about everyone has email. Just about everyone knows how to use email. The barrier to participation is very low.

In creating collaborative products it is helpful to use tools that people don’t have to figure out. I always always try to leverage engagement channels that people are familiar with. The last thing I need is a sexy collaboration tool that looks good but is complex to use. If people find it difficult to participate in the co-creative the whole point is missed.

Here are a few helpful tips in using email for co-creation:

  • Put the request for feedback in the subject line. If you want people to give feedback on a document say that. Put it in the subject and be brief.
  • Format the email using bullets instead of full paragraphs. Make the email a quick read.
  • Chunk the email into sections using subject headers. This makes it easy for people to see all the important points of discussion.
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