Skip to content
Who's in the Video

Michael Schrage

Michael Schrage examines the various roles of models, prototypes, and simulations as collaborative media for innovation risk management. He has served as an advisor on innovation issues and investments to[…]

Tech expert Michael Schrage calls voicemail “an anachronism” whose time has come and gone. Could e-mail be next? The author of The Innovator’s Hypothesis explores different modes and styles of communication looking toward the future.

Michael Schrage: I’ve been very interested in voicemail because, like many people, you know, when it first came out I immediately hung up the phone. I didn’t want to leave a message. And then, of course, I became upset when people didn’t have voicemail so I couldn’t leave a message. And then much to my shock and horror, I became upset when the person I had called answered the phone because I didn’t want to speak to them. I just wanted to leave a message. And I thought that voicemail was a very interesting genre of communications. But as we went forward and as corporate voicemail took hold and then as texting and other forms of communication, e-mail, et cetera, and mobile devices materialized. It became clear that voicemail was, deservedly so, an anachronism. It was more and more work, less and less efficient for the value derived. And so I think going forward one of the most interesting things that we’re going to see is how people have different technology communication styles. Increasingly I believe you’re only going to have conversations, voice conversations with people who you know and you’re going to use texting and e-mail to set up a conversation before you have a voicemail, or, excuse me, real-time conversation with them. I think voicemail is an anachronism.

I don’t think people want to listen to 15 or 20 messages. I think they’re happy to scan 15 or 20 texts. So I think we’re in a stage where basically you’re going to tell a lot about somebody’s personality whether they want to communicate with you via e-mail, via text, or they want to talk with you on the phone. And the last quasi-useful thing I can say on this is this is really a demographic phenomenon. I don’t think there’s anybody I know under the age of 30 who listens to their voicemail. And I think most people over the age of 50 are just too tired to go through their cues of voicemail. Voicemail is a great idea whose time has come and it’s gone. So Coke pulling the plug on their voicemail system, I don’t think people will care. In fact the irony is for the majority of people they already have a voicemail system. It’s through their mobile phone provider. Corporations are going to get out of that kind of a business. And I’ll go one step further. I think the era of corporate e-mail is going to vanish too because I think people are using LinkedIn and Facebook, Yammer and other “enterprise social media platforms” to manage interaction. Yes, I think everybody will always have an e-mail address, but in terms of time invested and time spent I think within the decade e-mail is going to sound and smell suspiciously like voicemail as a platform for where work gets done.

Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton