Maybe something called Slack could revolutionize the workplace

So many people you meet will spend time pursuing/chasing “Inbox Zero,” denoting it as a badge of accomplishment. But then, er, IBM has done studies indicating that a clean, organized inbox holds no essential benefit. Maybe it’s better to not organize at all, and that’s where this new app called Slack might come in:

Slack is often touted as an email killer, promising to provide a more efficient way for teams to communicate internally. And there’s no doubt that email can be a plague upon our workplaces, eating up hours with unnecessary messages and turning simple questions into endless threads full of clarifications. Slack cuts through that partly by initiating any messages as chats before converting them into emails when someone isn’t available.

But the truly interesting thing about Slack is that it puts the whole fragmented list of ways we communicate beyond email, chats, messages, documents, and reports into one stream and makes it searchable. It promises to end the need to constantly categorize and sort everything we do. When everything’s already in one place, you don’t need to spend time creating folders to sort things into and trying to keep track of where the information you need is. You just search for it as needed.

This could be cool. One thing I’ve always disliked is when there’s a central e-mail system — be it Outlook or GMail — and then there’s still 90 attachments and 54 Google Docs flying around everywhere that you need to locate and categorize and organize on top of your e-mail. This is a little bit like how Box was going to change the way we work, but the basic idea is: have the stuff you need in one central place, and searchable. Forbes is saying Slack might be a next WhatsApp, and that company just got bought by Facebook for a ridiculous amount of money. Slack’s own motto is “be less busy” (a-men, yo) and their focus is on “improving team communications” (a-men, yo), so it could be something that becomes adopted pretty wide and changes the way some companies essentially communicate. There’s a good point in that Forbes article, too: it’s one thing when everyone needed on a project/discussion is in an office, be that the same office or different offices. In that context, they’re out there checking e-mail constantly. But what if you have people in the field (sales) or people doing basic job functions without e-mail (baristas)? Having an app that’s essentially text messaging first is helpful in that situation, right?

Bottom line is: no one’s really figured out how to make business communications wholly effective. As mentioned in the Quartz article, there are hundreds of new product categories related to the cloud and effective work that spring up every week. People are always looking for that competitive advantage in terms of easily organizing files/needs and quickly communicating messages back and forth; it’s going to be different for everyone based on the context of what they do and how they’re organized, but there are a multitude of tools out there for people to consider.

Ted Bauer