As startups find solutions to innovate email interfaces, email users may have to transform how email is used to make the technology more relevant and productive.
First, for all its faults, instant messaging puts conversations in real time. Collaboration tools often feel a bit like an old-fashioned water-cooler talk where everyone knows who is part of the conversation. On the other hand, email is a bit like having a conversation in a vacuum (where no one is listening) and you may not even know who is part of the conversation. BCC and Reply-All are a bit to blame, so perhaps those buttons come with clear rules of use in the next email design, or disappear altogether.
A second way to make email effective has nothing to do with buttons but how email is used. Email is best used it to support conversations, not have them. Sending off an email may seem like a fast way to get a point across, but hurried decisions and responses almost always costs more time in the end. This is only compounded when emotions are involved. Most people would agree that sending a screamer email in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS TO GET YOUR POINT ACROSS does little to build relationships, but most people in the workforce have seen at least one of those screaming emails in their inbox (or Twitter account). It may take about 30 seconds to send a colleague a note to let them know you are frustrated, but it could potentially take years to repair the relationship if the other person takes offense.
Bottomline: Building relationships and having crucial conversations can’t be done in an e-mail. And no technology can replace walking over to someone’s desk or picking-up the phone to build better working relationships and have more meaningful conversations.