When software solutions recreate the most annoying aspects of the physical processes they’ve digitally replaced, do we want to call that ‘progress’?
Take your average Slack channel. How often do you watch with increasing anxiety as two colleagues back-and-forth over something (and not even in a thread, just line after line) only to decide to hop on a Zoom call to resolve the point 25 lines later. And if you’re one of the party, there’s then the process of creating the link, setting up your workspace, waiting to be let in the waiting room, troubleshooting shooting screen share… The physical workplace equivalent would be two colleagues shouting back and forth across the floor for 15 minutes straight, then taking it to the conference room, setting up the projector, trying to connect the laptop… Same same but different.
Slack, however, has realized this and in a daylight-grade lightbulb moment may have brought some progress to our digital workspaces. It’s the remote equivalent of: ‘can we just have a quick chat about this?’
Slack will introduce a ‘push-to-talk’ feature before 2021, adding an ‘instant audio’ feature into conversations without leaving the app. This feature will be added into channels, letting anyone who’s in that channel see what’s happening and dip into conversations if they want to contribute. It’s an attempt to capture the spontaneity of quick conversations when the need arises, rather than trying to schedule those moments in yet another Zoom meeting.
It’s worth pointing out that Slack already has a ‘call’ feature that nobody seems to use. The difference here though is instant audio sounds genuinely intriguing enough for users to explore. That novelty, if it pays off, might quickly turn into habit if users feel better connected to colleagues and ultimately, the organization feels like the team is performing better because of it.
Slack has realized a problem that it helped create and found a solution that might just actually make remote work more effective. You might even call it progress.