Edward Hopper, IBM and the death of email

A quick blog post to recount a very surreal but important experience I had this morning. I was taking part in the IBM Collaboration Diner at the Unified Communications Conference. The basic idea was to recreate Edward Hopper’s famous Night Hawks painting but revision it for a connected age where the alienated characters connect to the world through social media. While actors played out this scene there was a panel debate in the “diner” about the challenges and opportunities of social business. Hopper for 2012

Now I’m sure many of are thinking something along the lines of “what a pretentious load of ……” or “do some proper work” and I have to say that like you I wasn’t 100% convinced about it when I agreed to take part! However despite this it proved to be a very interesting experience.

The rest of the conference floor was full of standard corporate stands spouting standard corporate spin and the whole place was full of suits who had come to do “business” in the traditional sense. The IBM sponsored stand (run by Collaboration Matters) was designed to push people out of this corporate comfort zone and that is what it absolutely did. This is important because in my experience in order to fully understand the opportunities of Social Business, leaders in organizations need to step out of their comfort zone and embrace what might seem surreal and unnatural to them.

To be very clear IBM aren’t paying me to say this (although they do keep giving me free coffee which helps!) but I really like what they are doing in the Social Business space. Obviously they are selling software but they are also genuinely embracing the concept of being a social organization. Although I was too busy in the diner to see it, the topic of the key note speech this morning really illustrates this with IBM's Social Computing Evangelist Luis Suarez talking about how he has given up using email because it isn’t social enough as a business tool. You can read more here and see the presentation content here

So is he a visionary or completely bonkers? Well only time will tell but I’m pretty sure that he is right and strongly believe that in the future we’ll look back at archaic tools like email and laugh at how important we thought they were. If proving this means I have to spend the morning pretending to be in a 1940s painting then I’m more than happy to do so!

If you want to know more about what IBM are doing in this space they have a new Facebook page here.