Every day presents opportunities to optimize personal and professional efficiency

Outsource thinking through knowledge indexing.

Outsource the organizing through knowledge indexing.

Engage in previewing.

Practice self-messaging.

Use active filtering, screening and prioritizing.

Rely on co-workers and use the features of the tools.

Be conscious of orientation.

Eliminate remembering stresses.

Source: Pitney Bowes

Best messaging practices will fuel workplace innovation

Pitney Bowes study highlights organized-thinking tips

By Nikolina Menalo

Business messaging tools and practices play a major role in supporting continued innovation in companies of all sizes, according to a study on messaging practices released by Pitney Bowes.

“The ability to drive or create innovation is a powerful attribute of successful personal brands. We learned last year that communications or messaging practice was the single most powerful common skill among highly-successful people and now we know why. In addition to laying the infrastructure of the social networks that provide the raw material of innovation, we know that messaging tools also help individuals think,” said Meredith Fischer, co-author of the study and vice-president at Pitney Bowes.

“We anticipate that traditional corporate enterprises, Internet start-ups, small business owners and individuals who internalize these research findings can begin proactively fostering an environment in which innovation is more likely to happen, gaining competitive advantage in the New Economy.”

The study, titled Messaging for Innovation: Building the Innovation Infrastructure Through Messaging Practices, builds on four years of trend data compiled by Pitney Bowes. The recent study identifies the role business messaging tools and practices play in supporting continued innovation in companies of all sizes. Workers employ messaging practices to effectively use digital and paper-based communications tools to manage workflow and thinking.

Fischer explained that in the past, there was a tremendous amount of frustration and anger about the pace at which these tools were landing on the desktop.

“There was no real thought process to ‘How am I going to learn these tools?'” Fischer said. “At the same time, with the arrival of the new tools, we never quite used any of the old tools. The message volume started rising pretty precipitously. What users told us was this is really getting out of hand.”

IDC collaborative computing research analyst Robert Mahowald said companies that employ collaborative tools do so because they’ve made the decision that it contributes to the return on investment in productivity.

“They really only provide 20 per cent of the total solution toward effective collaboration,” Mahowald said. “You’re going to be relying on phone calls, face-to-face meetings, which of course include things like facial and body language expressions that you don’t get from other software-based tools.”

Mahowald said there is a lot of value in sending a message the old-fashioned way, via paper.

“It forces you to commit to paper and words – you review [thoughts] before you hit the Send button,” Mahowald said. “Talking with somebody is still the gold standard with collaboration.”

The Pitney Bowes study reveals that the most productive workers let the tools organize their work or enhance their thinking. Among these best practices were practicing self messaging, engaging in previewing, outsourcing organizing, outsourcing thinking, eliminating reminders of stress, relying on humans, using active filtering or screening, and being conscious of orientation.

Of these, Fischer said the most important are self messaging, previewing and knowledge indexing.

“Instead of worrying about it or trying to think about ‘How am I going to remember this tomorrow?’ you just pick up the cell phone, call your voice mail system at work and leave yourself a message,” Fischer noted on self messaging. “That is absolutely key to reducing the stress you feel.”

Previewing is researching in your mind the list of events that will take place tomorrow. “Go through the bits and pieces; who is attending, were all my materials assembled? In doing so, I plan exit strategies or coping strategies in case.”

Fischer said knowledge indexing is putting together the required materials before or while working on any given project. “We have to make sure we’re on the right material,” Fischer said. “Top performers succeed by not thinking of everything at once. Instead they use tools and people to segment, prioritize and schedule thinking as well as tasks, actively forgetting about the next project phase until it becomes an A-level priority.”

Mahowald said people expect workers to co-ordinate multiple processes, whether it is a Palm Pilot, phone, e-mail, etc. “If you’re not good at it, people who are very time sensitive will quickly drop you. You won’t be effective anymore,” Mahowald said.

Fischer agrees with Mahowald. “If you can’t use the tools efficiently to communicate, you’re going to be less successful than somebody with similar experience who really knows how to communicate.”