If you’re one of the six million Slack users, you probably appreciate how the business and collaboration app has made your work life easier. A former Google and Foursquare exec, Noah Weiss is Slack’s Head of Search, Learning and Intelligence. His team is behind AI-powered features like message and channel prioritization, and smart search.
Responsible for powering one of the most popular business apps in the world, Weiss has a unique view into how people do their jobs. At a recent brunchwork at Galvanize, he shared his insights into the future of work and machine learning’s role.
1. Expertise wins over hierarchy.
From corporations to startups, everyone adheres to some form of organizational hierarchy. You might think that the org chart is indicative of workflow, but according to Weiss, that’s not the case.
Workflow has little to do with an org chart. Instinctively, when someone has a question or needs advice, they will go to the next person above them in the org chart. The problem is that person often does not have the expertise to answer.
”You might ask your boss, and they’d asked this friend in Zurich,” Weiss said. “A week later, you find the person you should actually talk to.”
Within an organization, a person’s expertise is more valuable than title. “The people who are within your Slack work space are highly motivated to help you because they’re coworkers.” When it comes to workflow, managers should examine: Who do people go to when they need help? Weiss’ team strives to shorten and improve workflow through technology. Last year, Slack rolled out an expert search tool that identifies the best contact person based on knowledge and experience.
2. Machine learning will battle information overload.
Transparency has become increasingly important. A motto at Slack is “Default to the most public possible means of communication.”
“Share things that are works in progress,” Weiss said. “Reveal things that are not fully thought through yet.”
On one hand, this approach humanizes managers because it shows that they don’t always have the answers and need support too. On the other, it provides a platform so that everyone can learn from a coworker’s experience.
Companies should be aware that adopting this level of transparency can be a double-edged sword. With all this knowledge sharing comes noise. Slack’s sophisticated search tool reduces noise by directing queries to the best positioned team member.