Adam Gartenberg's Blog

Business Analytics and Optimization, IBM and Social Marketing

"Instant" doesn’t have to mean "urgent"

This was the opening line of an IM I received yesterday:

Hi Adam, do you have a quick moment ? it is not urgent. thanks

I have to admit, it's a rare IM that starts this far towards that end of the spectrum - far more common are the ones like this one I received the other week:

Adam, on bbery at airport.  one last q before we go into {customer-name} meeting.

The "it's not urgent" comment stood out for me because it was such a contrast to a market research interview we recently conducted with an executive who didn't use IM.  In explaining why she didn't use instant messaging, she said that her job didn't really require that level of urgency (although she had staff that did use it sometimes, "when they needed to find a quick, short answer right away.")

She was equating "instant" with "urgent" (and "brief," too).  And while that immediacy is certainly a key value proposition for IM, at IBM (and I know many, many other companies), IM has become such a common means of communication that it's regularly used for all things not urgent, too.  It's largely replaced the telephone for regular conversation, and for teams that are not centrally located, fills in for the impromptu knock on the door/poke the head into the cubicle type of conversation, as well.  Urgent topics or not.