Sharing Without Interrupting
Published May 1, 2023
While we love the boost of endorphins we get from being validated with immediate feedback from real-time communication, we're not fans of the feeling we get at the end of the day, when we realize we did more conversation juggling and bantering, than building and shipping.
That long term regret about not spending more time focused is one of the reasons we built Cardinal the way we did. It was our goal to give everyone a place where they're able to share without interrupting - where asynchronous work can truly thrive.
First, a Qualifier
It isn't wrong, or even questionable, to interrupt someone. There are times that it is perfectly reasonable to interrupt team members. If there's an emergency that immediately needs someone's attention, then by all means interrupt. If you've communicated with someone asynchronously and they haven't responded in a reasonable amount of time, check in.
What we're talking about is more the issue where in the modern workplace it can be difficult to stay focused because of constant incoming messages and notifications.
It seems that most modern communication tools focus on a shotgun approach to interactions. Send a message out to as many people as possible, send them all a notification (bonus points if it's to their phone), and then hope as many eyeballs as possible take a peek. This is an awful pattern that contributes to how many people dislike their jobs and are constantly in a heightened state of alert.
This is because most modern tools focus around channels. We define groups of people focused on a general topic within the company and then blast every detail and every conversation out to all of them. It's an easy way to set things up, but it's incredibly inefficient.
Sharing information at work - whether it's starting a discussion, writing a document about a new idea, or even just giving a status update, should be curated. Information usually doesn't need to be seen by everyone, immediately.
Most information isn't important enough to interrupt someone about it. Would you tap them on the shoulders, even though they have headphones on? Probably not.
That's why we buffer notifications at Cardinal. When someone needs to be notified, we save it for later. Then, after four hours, we send out an email with a digest of the updates that they have received. If they see the information they would have been notified about before that email gets sent, we leave them alone. This helps everyone stay up to date, but not by giving up their focus (and sanity).
If it is actually important enough to interrupt someone, we all have great options we can use to get in touch. Phoning or texting makes clear that it's an urgent matter, and lets people stay focused on their work otherwise.
Sometimes it's a good idea to avoid interrupting someone at all and instead let them eventually discover what you've shared. This type of information tends to be useful to the entire team rather than to a specific individual, and usually isn't urgent. It's very often the kind of information you'd consider to add to the body of knowledge of the team. Some examples might be information about a competitor or a quick description of how to use a tool.
Eventually discoverable information requires discovery, though, and usually that means search. You need tools that make it easy to find that information so that when someone else needs to find it they can find it, even when they don't know it's there. Ideally they don't have to ask the entire team if anyone knows where to find it.
Clear communication is hard, but essential, for successful work. It's our philosophy at Cardinal that communication at work should be thoughtful and deliberate, and we're trying to build tools that help teams do just that. If communicating without interrupting resonates with you, why not give Cardinal a try?
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