How Slack use a raccoon to stay focussed

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Slack raccoon digital workplace

Popular work-based chat app Slack have an interesting way to stop in Slack conversations going off track.

Speaking at Techcrunch Berlin, Slack co-founder and CTO Cal Henderson told the audience:

“We still have to figure out how Slack can fit into many a company’s culture and how to keep Slack discussions from going off topic despite the existence of GIFs and emoji. Internally, at Slack, the company mostly uses a raccoon for doing this.”

“Internally, we have this idea of the polite raccoon,” Henderson said. Whenever a conversation goes off topic, the raccoon means that it’s time to take that conversation in to a different channel (or even offline).

Henderson noted, too, that a lot of the work that Slack is putting into machine learning is about making people more efficient and reducing the number of unnecessary messages. “There is definitely more we can do in terms of filling up people’s time so that can better separate between work and outside of work,” he said.

Cal Henderson’s comments tie in with the wider debate around productivity – recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show productivity levels in the UK have dropped. Some argue that new digital tools and smartphones in the workplace are having a negative impact on productivity.

On the other hand, these digital tools are designed to improve productivity, simply-communicate Founder Marc Wright predicts the rise of UK productivity as consumer grade tools like Workplace become more widespread inside organisations.

Cal Henderson went on to say:

“Something like Slack would have existed even if we didn’t build it,” he said. That’s in part due to the rise of consumer messaging in general and the fact that businesses are now comfortable with buying their software from multiple vendors, which has resulted in a situation where there is no obvious center for business software.

“Communication is the only obvious location to tie those together.”