Lions, Tigers, and Emails, Oh My!

Well, no lions or tigers, but certainly lots of these:

This week’s blog post is a summary of the discussion article regarding the issues of the email phenomena. Our very own professor Jerry Kane interviewed Phil Simon to get his thoughts on society’s over-reliance on this one form of communication and to see whether he had any ideas on how we can break from this stranglehold.

His quick summary was:

1. Email is not bad if used properly. The problem is no one uses it how it was intended and instead uses it as a “catch-all” for essentially conducting one’s life. Instead of being a quicker way to respond to potentially greater than one person, it is now used for personal and business communication, project management, and task management. Or as this chart additionally shows:

2. The percentage of the work day that email consumes is staggering, and growing! The current data shows we receive an email every four minutes and that we spend 14 hours per week just responding and sending emails. The best part: this number is growing at 15% per year!!

3. There are more efficient programs than email to solve our everyday business problems and break our reliance. Scheduling programs like Doodle and and task management programs like Slack and Hipchat exist to make the day-to-day activities more user friendly. Which method would you prefer??

4. Why don’t people leave email? We can’t now! We are too deep as a society! We like seeing new emails in our inbox because it confers status. And we just don’t have a better option and are too resistant and lazy to change.

The class discussion was actually pretty interesting given the great divide between those who have been in the working world and those still in undergrad. I feel the working folk snickered at this article since we are knee-deep, maybe neck-deep, in this phenomena and there is no way to get out. The business world is so intertwined inter-company and intra-company that we couldn’t even “go off the grid” if we wanted, lest we want to be fired. And those students who haven’t been indoctrinated…well..ignorance is bliss. A few group project email threads and you think you understand, but that is just the tip of the iceberg!

The good news is that as business continues to evolve, there will be new changes. From the yesteryears of no internet, when old-fashioned phones and fax machines dominated, to present when email dominates, perhaps in the future a new and more efficient form of communication will take the torch. Whether it is through wearable technology and people having fewer characters to get their message sent (no one wants to read a soliloquy on their iWatch), to the increase of webinars, Skype, and GoToMeeting, to the further evolution of remote conference and virtual reality, who knows where we will be in 10-20 years. So while executives may be old-fashioned, resistant to change, and technology-grumpy, bottom-line and maximizing shareholder wealth always win in the end and managers will force change if it is in the best interests of their company in the long run.

If nothing else, Lil Wayne and Wesley Snipes approve, and perhaps one day Samsung’s Board Meetings will be conducted while surfing in Thailand.



  1. Great summary. I think that people still like emails mostly because they are written proofs of whatever you (and whoever you are interacting with) are doing. For legal reasons or just to back yourself, you ask people to send you a mail to just recap what you’ve been saying on the phone. I think we’ll really be able to move from email when we’d found an easy way to have this “storage”. However, I feel like the content of emails has changed over the years: mass emails have slowly been replaced by more personalized ones.

  2. Thanks for summarizing the article. I was definitely surprised by some of the stats in the article. I think it would be super cool to know what is the best balance for email versus other communication tools (Slack, etc.). For example, is there an ideal amount of information that should be shared in broad, public channels within an organization? It seems like there’s a lot of fine lines to be discovered when finding a balance.

  3. I hate going through my inbox and just deleting all of the promotions or coupons or deals that companies have sent my way. I also believe that emails are a more formal way to contact someone, but it is definitely not the most efficient way to communicate for groups and scheduling. The examples that you presented such as Doodle and Slack are great ways for companies to be more efficient in this email driven business world.

  4. Nice summary. Ironically, I was just interviewed on this very topic recently.

  5. Great summary of what we talked about in our group, and it still boggles my mind why people don’t embrace new technologies and methods of work (e.g., doodle vs. outlook, google docs vs. word google spreadsheets vs. excel), especially if it’s much quicker and more efficient to get our work done! I loved how you related the overload of emails to students with the reference to group projects, and I definitely agree, that’s the closest comparison until they get into the real world. As you said, there will be changes down the road, and what those changes are, we don’t necessarily know right now, but I’m looking forward to the day when I don’t have to rely on email to accomplish almost all things at work.

  6. This was a helpful summary. I noticed in the comments that the issue of keeping a record of conversations is a major reason for email use which makes me wonder why other communication tools don’t just offer more comprehensive archiving features. That would solve all the problems right there! Although as noted in the piece Professor Kane shared above, we might just end up being overwhelmed by these other channels as well.

  7. This was a great summary, and I particularly liked the chart that showed the percentages of what email is typically used for. I completely agree with your point about why people aren’t leaving email. There are clearly more sophisticated ways to communicate with the continuous advances in technology, but as you said, society is too entrenched. I also liked how you incorporated the Samsung commercial with Lil Wayne and Wesley Snipes at the end. Although these commercials use celebrities and humor to draw the attention of the audience, it will be interesting to see if VR can one day partially replace the need for constant email communication.

  8. i am not a huge fan of email. Over the summer i interned with NYL and they used a chat application that was much more useful than email. Mass communications were still done over email. but all other correspondence was done over a chat feature that worked similar to imessage. realistically, if email is ever replaced i think it will be by something drastically different from email as we know it

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