Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig told a reporter
for SportsBusiness Journal
that he’s never sent an email and never will.
Shocking? Maybe. Though the 78-year-old Selig is certainly not the most tech-savvy business executive, he’s also not the first
to say he shuns email.
However, key questions remain: How can one of the most prominent executives in sports not
use email? More broadly, can high-powered executives succeed without it? Many business execs think it’s turned into an outdated, time-wasting communication tool, Selig might actually be ahead of the curve.
In 2011, French IT firm Atos famously abolished internal email use from company communications. Two years later, the “zero email initiative” has been deemed a success
Many business leaders have followed suit. Ryan Holmes, the chief executive of social media management system HootSuite, has called email an “unproductivity tool.” There’s also Shayne Hughes, CEO of Learning as Leadership, who led an experiment abolishing all internal email use for one week.
“The first truth about email is that it facilitates lazy and thoughtless communication,” he wrote in a Forbes article
, adding that by cutting out the “distracting background noise” of email, leaders are able to focus on the high-priority items that move their organizations forward.
Though this drastic approach attempts to foster efficient internal communication and better collaboration, the other side will argue that it’s just a matter of better email management.
In a piece aptly titled “In Defense of Email
,” Dave Girouard, founder and CEO of Upstart, wrote: “to a large extent, email is how we [at Upstart] communicate and get things done. At Google, my prior employer, I can state confidently that the company would (and did) grind to a halt if email weren’t available.”
Girouard doesn’t understand CEOs who decree that their companies must give up emails. “Why?” he asks, “so they can go back to those oh-so-productive in-person meetings and phone calls? We tried that. It was called the ’80s.”
In some cases, email is the easiest way for a CEO to stay connected. The fact that Steve Jobs was easily reachable still remains one of his most commendable attributes
. Bill Gates has said he stays in touch through it. “You always wonder what might come up, what new problem,” he told "Today" in January
, “I first find out about problems often with a piece of email.”
Wherever your allegiance stands, the issue of executives with email comes down to clear channels of communication.
When it comes to Selig, you have to wonder what internal communication was like during the 1994 MLB strike? How about when he presided over the instituting of interleague play in 1997 and instant replay in 2008? Not to mention the countless performance-enhancing drug scandals. Through all the ups and downs of the game, Selig was without an inbox.
[RELATED: Hear powerful case studies from The Coca-Cola Company, Walmart and Whole Foods Market in October at Microsoft's HQ.]
He’s slated to retire after the 2014 season, which makes it even more unlikely he’ll ever send an email. But he’s reportedly upgraded to an iPhone—a newfangled paperweight for all his memos.
Do you think email is still an important leadership tool? Let us know in the comments.