I love that title, I wish I could take credit for it (credit here). But I do have proof to back it up.
Anyone in a business environment can relate to this. Email has really become a necessary evil, tied us to Outlook and our smartphones. “Email is where knowledge goes to die”. Think about it. Think about how many emails you get during a day at work. Someone sends you an email asking for help, and you respond with the answer to the question (never mind the fact that the person knew enough to send you the email – that is another story). The answer is received, and both the asker and the answerer move on. The asker is a little bit smarter because they asked the question and got an answer, and good for them for asking and saving themselves some time.
This happened over email, the answerer probably deleted the email, and the asker may decide that it is a good thing to keep. So they file it in a folder in their mailbox, and never look at it again. This transaction on both parts probably only took 5 minutes of time, not a big deal, but how many times does this happen? Worse off, I bet sometimes you find yourself asking the same question to someone else, because you can’t quite remember the answer, or have a slightly different permutation of the problem you are trying to solve.
The transaction, the knowledge gained, has died in your email, for you to forget and for no one else to see. And what about the next time someone asks the same question? In fact every time someone asks the same question over and over again, we are wasting time. And we all know that time = money.
I am going to get technical for a second – I was onsite with a customer making some changes to their production system, and I was trying to figure out how to get a “program running” status from a robot, and pass it to a usable input on my controller. I posted this question on www.controlsoverload.com, a site I have recently started for the controls and automation community. Since this site is just starting out, I also emailed a couple people that I knew would know the answer, and included a link to the question. And I knew who could help me because I have been in this business for a long time – how many times do you know exactly who to ask to get an answer?
The next morning I had two answers to my question, and was able to map the status from the robot to the controller. Yes email would have worked just fine, but now this question and answer is alive and well in the cloud, and one day if you ask Google about monitoring the program running status of a Fanuc robot, you might just get that answer. By the way, at the time I asked Google the same question and did not get anything close to the answer. If you ask now, Google will give you the right answer!
Part of the premise of using social collaboration tools at work is to be able to quickly identify who the experts are, and get answers to your questions. Q&A is a great source of knowledge sharing between 2 people, so why not capture this transaction for the next person?
So the next time you answer a question over email, ask yourself – What could I do to ensure that the answer to this question is available to everyone?