Notion — A New Paradigm for Working in Teams

The New Quip?

Your first encounter with Notion will be perplexing. Product Hunt describes Notion as the new Quip. It will be better because it won’t have to serve the agenda of the great evil overlord Salesforce, it will serve you.

Notion: A New Paradigm in Workplace Collaboration

To understand why Notion ushers in a new paradigm in workplace collaboration it’s useful to understand what a paradigm is, the role it plays and when & why new paradigms emerges. [1]

What is a paradigm?

A paradigm is a worldview underlying the theories and methodology of a particular subject, often associated with a scientific subject. In more practical terms it’s a set of constraints, expected behavior and outcomes a large group of people agree on. For example, a paradigm that we use to fly across vast distances is fluid dynamics, which explains that with enough speed a surface that meets a perpendicular fluid force will experience lift.

Why do new paradigms emerge?

But over time as we apply the paradigm to new situations, cracks sometimes begin to emerge. At first we patch the cracks by placing artificial boundaries around the paradigms and call them exceptions. However, when so many exceptions are made to a paradigm, no one ends up knowing what the paradigm explains and what it does not. Case in point — the padphone.

The Transitions

Physical Documents

As physical objects, documents in the workplace helped us record information that could be used later to help share knowledge, make decisions and keep track of events. But it was difficult for physical documents to accomplish these tasks alone and so we created a set of external tools to support the role of a document. We relied on a printers to make copies to share; binders to organize relevant information for a decision committees; forms to standardize sets of information to be captured over time.

Local Digital Documents

When we transitioned to locally digital ones, we removed the physical property of the document but they were still trapped within our computers. The internet had not arrived and in the early days connection speeds were so slow that there was a running joke that a USB strapped to a bird would be a faster way to transfer information than over the internet. In the end we replaced the printing with USBs, binders with power points and forms became project management software. Documents remained at the center but again we relied on a set of external tools to support the role of the document.

Cloud Hosted Documents

The final transition to cloud hosted documents — an environment where documents were connected to be shared instantly, searchable at scale and standardized to be interoperable — finally provided the fertile soil for the document to support itself.

  • To organize we have Dropbox, Box, Google Drive
  • To track we have JIRA, Asana, Trello

Notion — A New Paradigm for Working in Teams

When a paradigm begins falling apart, multiple groups will emerge with competing theories on what should replace it. For the document paradigm it was no been different:

  1. Quip focused on the intersection between communication and collaboration.
  2. Dropbox focuses on integrating your cloud storage with collaboration.

Notion — Documents as a Workspace (DAAW)

To be a valid self-supporting workspace you need to fulfill two criteria:

  1. Not be reliant on other tools to organize, share, discuss and track progress

Notion’s first bit of magic; break a document into collection of rows where each row is a block.

The second bit of magic; blocks are draggable.

The third bit of magic; most blocks share a common data structure.

Currently — Product @FB; Previously — Sr. PM @UJET, PM @Intercom, Head of Product @Yoapp, APM @Meetup

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