In excerpts taken from his upcoming book, "Business @ The Speed of Thought," and published in TIME magazine, Gates writes that e-mail is a "key component of our digital nervous system."
"There's no doubt that e-mail flattens the hierarchical structure of an organization. It encourages people to speak up. It encourages managers to listen," he says.
"I read all the e-mail that employees send me, and I pass items on to people for action. I find unsolicited mail an incredibly good way to stay aware of the attitudes and issues affecting the many people who work at Microsoft."
Gates says companies need to have a "nervous system" that enables them to run smoothly and efficiently, respond to emergencies and opportunities, interact quickly with customers, and make speedy decisions.
12 step plan
Gates also outlines 12 steps he says companies should take if they want to reinvent the way they work and succeed in the coming digital decade. Here are Gates' 12 steps:
Insist that communication flow through e-mail.
Study sales data online to share insights easily.
Shift knowledgeable workers into high-level thinking.
Use digital tools to create virtual teams.
Convert every paper process to a digital process.
Use digital tools to eliminate single-task jobs.
Create a digital feedback loop.
Use digital systems to route customer complaints immediately.
Use digital communication to redefine the boundaries.
Transform every business process into just-in-time delivery.
Use digital delivery to eliminate the middle man.
Use digital tools to help customers solve problems for themselves.