From Luxury to Nuisance: The Evolution of Paper Based Processes

In the past decade, we’ve seen paper go from being the life-blood of business to an interruption in productivity and even an environmental concern. And still, paper is functioning as a tool in the business communications.

But lets take a step back and remember paper helped disseminate information in an age when books and newspapers were the property of only the wealthy elite, and when literacy was not yet widespread. Paper has served as a tool in the hands of revolutions and enlightenments, discoverers and inventors, entertainers and warriors. Paper has been mighty tool.

As our tools and information distribution methods have changed, paper is now seen as a nuisance—a problem that we have yet to fix in modern offices. How did this progression happen? Let’s take a look at the history of paper and examine its place in today’s business world.

The Beginnings of Paper

Paper has been around for centuries. In Medieval times, individuals would create paper out of diluted cotton and linen fiber. But humanity has been using other materials to record and draw since long before the dark ages. Papyrus and rice paper are some of the earliest examples of record-keeping materials, and before that, Egyptians and cave-dwellers recorded their history in stone.

There’s something uniquely human about choosing to write down and record information, whether it’s recording history, stories, or your latest budget report. Recorded information has always been valuable to us.

Enter the Information Age

Today, we live in an age where information is king. We don’t rely on papyrus or stone to share information anymore—and it’s a good thing too, because we process, collect, send, share, and save more information in a modern day than humanity did in any century before the internet. Information is a key factor in success.

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But paper has become an inadequate purveyor of this information. Although we no longer use linen and cotton to create our paper, and we’re long past the days of faded carbon copy paper, we’re still churning out reams of printed documents in our offices. For most business professionals, though, paper is a wasteful and frustrating medium.

Paperless is on the Horizon

Paper has served humanity well for time immemorial, but perhaps it’s time to leave this (literally) ancient method of recording and distributing information behind. Paper is faulty, prone to error, easy to lose, and subject to all sorts of perils. With our many technologies today, business at the speed of paper isn’t necessary anymore—and it’s quickly becoming obsolete. It’s time to evolve.

Paper document workflows have forever changed the way we do business, but we must remember that we should never stop there. We must always look for ways to improve processes.

So the question we must ask ourselves is: How do we use paper in an efficient way in a modern office? Or better yet, do we even need paper at all? Answering this doesn’t happen over night, but it does need to be answered to stay relevant in today’s world.

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