I read that Google is going to modify Gmail so that users can choose to not use the threaded Conversation View. Since it’s beginning, Gmail has threaded conversations together so it’s easy to see all my communication on each “thread” or “subject line”. However, that is not the chronological (sorted by date) way that Outlook and many other email programs tend to show messages.
Google has pushed hard and held firm to the “new way” of threaded conversations rather than chronology.
But they have “thrown in the towel” and will offer users a choice.
This isn’t the first innovation of Gmail that Google had to adapt to more traditional users’ expectations. Remember the folders vs labels war of a year or two ago? Gmail’s original author staunchly refused to provide folders, wanting to help people adapt to the much more flexible labels idea. But after a couple of years of users’ complaints, Gmail added folders.
What does this have to do with us? I’m glad you asked.
I think it’s important to push the technology envelope with innovative advances. But most people are not early adopters, and if you want many people to use your tools, you need to make evolutionary changes rather than revolutionary changes. It must be easy for people to take a small step in using your tool rather than a large step. You can more effectively introduce a new way to work by advancing in a series of small steps rather than large jumps.
Software designers in Campus Crusade: Take note! Stay connected to your users. We’re about advancing the mission more than advancing the technology.
What do you think?
I posted this article for my twitter followers and a few responded.
@runyonski: I agree with the statement, but not the foundation. HELP them change faster. Cast vision for the post-change environment.
@adamundefined: Sometimes people need to be pushed. Pony express to telegraph wasn’t evolutionary. Jesus was revolutionary too, just sayin’ 🙂
I really like the exhortation to be more about the mission than advancing the technology. This needs to be at the fore-front of the minds of technology leaders.
I also think people need to be pushed and demonstrated new ways of doing things. We really need to guard against doing the same old things with new skin. New tools bring new ways of doing things and new ways of thinking. I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would want to go back to the old way of email. This seems like a huge step backwards in today’s conversational, collaborative landscape.
If I have a cellphone, I should not only use it at home to make calls like when I had a landline. Carrying a mobile phone opens up new possibilities.
I think the leadership challenge is to develop a corporate culture that can proactively think about how to use technology in new and effective missional ways rather than being stuck in let’s keep doing things the same way, but with a new technology.
Thanks for soliciting input, Russ. Perhaps I stated too strongly.
I would like to clarify. By evolutionary progress, I am not meaning to imply not changing, or not introducing new ways to move forward. But there should be a pathway from the former to the newer that makes sense, and the pathway should be a series of evolutionary steps that users can proceed down at their own pace. Early adopters can move quickly to a newer paradigm while the bell curve of most adopters can move slower. The late adopters can still use the new tool, but in ways that are very familiar to them.
You and others did pick up on the most important thing I was trying to address. The main thing is to make sure that the main thing remains the main thing. The focus must stay on the mission. Success criteria must measure if the new tool helps us get to the mission more effectively, more efficiently, more excellently.
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