I came across this really interesting article from Seriosity – they have developed a product called Attent which runs with Outlook and attempts to manage email overload by allowing senders to attach “monetary” credits to their emails – called Serios. This currency signals importance, people tend to read a message tagged with 250 serios faster than one with 50.
As the serios have a value and can be used to prioritise your own messages it introduces a kind of internal market for attention – and attention is becoming our scarcest resource.
We have done something similar in the past in face to face meetings, giving participants “tokens” to spend each time they want to contribute, it has the effect of making participation levels more even. The high contributors start to run out of token and the low contributors feel the need to get more involved as their pile of tokens sits in front of them.
I can see some downsides to the Attent approach (primarily because it is the sender that attributes the value) but it is worth a try – they put the cost of information overload at $588 Billion – that’s a lot of emails.