Help Me Help You: The Non-Zero Sum Game of Email

Zero-sum email solution

From the beginning, our founders Fabrice and Alfred have been clear about the fundamental problem with the email status quo: the imbalance of power between sender and recipient (which I’ve already written a bit about here, if you’d care for a quick review).

To sum up, Fabrice and Alfred’s key insight was that by asking the sender to provide just a bit more information at the top of an email—namely, when he would like a response to the email and how he would like the recipient to respond—the recipient’s life becomes a whole lot easier.

Our work with Timyo has gone a long way toward validating this assumption, and as we prepare for launch, we are excited by the prospect that Timyo really will revolutionize the role of email in all of our lives.

This week, I wanted to talk a bit about a subtler side of this shift in email realpolitik: the non-zero nature of Timyo’s approach to solving email.

Non-zero-sum games: My Berries for Your Bananas

For a quick and shockingly reductive review on what “non-zero” even means, allow me to briefly pretend to be a (horribly unqualified) economics professor.

Basically, a zero-sum game is any interaction in which the gain of one party is exactly matched by the loss of another. If you and I bet a dollar on the flip of a coin, the result is zero-sum: after the toss, either you’ll get my dollar or I’ll get yours: you win if I lose, and I win if you lose. The total benefit adds up to zero, hence: zero-sum.

In a non-zero-sum game, however, both parties can win. For example, say I have a berry farm (always a secret fantasy of mine), and you have a banana orchard (my least favorite fruit, but I’m a sucker for alliteration). We’ve both had a banner year (meaning, yes, that you’ve had “a banner banana year”, which is pretty fun to say) and so we both have a surplus: I have extra berries, and you have extra bananas.

Let’s further stipulate that for some unfathomable reason I would like some bananas, and for obvious and delicious reasons you would like some berries: we can trade my extra berries for your extra bananas. We both win, because we both got something we wanted by trading something we didn’t. It’s win-win!

Timyo is Non-Zero Email

So what does this have to do with email, and specifically with Timyo? There are a lot of potential email solutions on the market, and most of them seek to make the life of the recipient better. But because of Timyo’s non-zero approach, Timyo makes the sender’s life better, too. How? Because Timyo lets the sender send better emails with clearer expectations, it ensures better replies from the recipient. No more rapid-fire responses full of sound and fury…just clear, calm, substantive replies: email that matters, when it matters.

Timyo helps the sender and recipient alike do better work, instead of more work. It’s a non-zero solution that makes life just a little bit easier for everyone, and that’s a change worth celebrating together. You bring the berries; I’ll bring the bananas.

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