In Defense of the Slack Ad

Why Slack’s ad was awesome and showed us how they embody passion and commitment to user experience.


Context: Microsoft makes intentions to make a “Slack” like product, Teams, and fully integrate it in the Microsoft suite. Slack responds a la Apple v. IBM and takes a full page ad out in the NY Times to draw a line in the sand. The ad showcases the CEO’s bravado and fulfills a snark-quota for sure. But before they drop the mic, Slack educates us on how to embody your mission.

Editor note: I took some pretty big extrapolations out of the ad and applied it to what I do as a worker in a customer centric mission driven organization. Whether you’ve ever heard of Slack or not, there are some solid points made here that should apply to everything you do, if you truly care about creating a culture that loves its customers. These are my takeaways and so I own them but I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Here are my takeaways:

Human interactions needs Human Centered Design

  • Copying and Pasting doesn’t work – features, communications, data – these things need context to which they are thoughtfully applied to in order to mean or do anything.
  • Make things for a purpose that solves a true need and don’t be so focused on getting a box checked off for the end of the year.
    • To change the culture and mindsets in an organization – we need to do things differently. Stop assuming legacy was correct. Take a challenger mindset to find real, new value.
  • I design and manage projects that our front line uses to service customers  – we are building enterprise systems  – just like SLACK – meaning we need to approach technology with the same vigor and passion these great tech companies do. USER focused – not capabilities focused.
    • The systems that our front lines use are the “hammer and nails” of the company – shouldn’t they have the BEST hammer and nails?
    • What do they need vs. What did the old system have? Vs. we’re spending a lot of money on X, so we need to use it for Y. Need should be more valued over the latter.
    • If we need our partners to think this way then we need everyone on the team driving this mentality.

Bigger Picture (Systems) thinking

  • Slacks focuses on achieving a human goal – improve collaboration and communication. EVERYTHING they do is laser focused on this 1 goal.
    • They are open sourced technology – this means that they are available and willing to work with ANYONE – links back to improving collaboration and communication. The devil is in the strategy and the execution.
    • They actually do respond to people’s tweets and deploy same day fixes – do we do that for our customers? Do we do that for our Front Line? (not to mention they have a much bigger user base than our front line – millions vs. few thousand)
  • Are we doing a good enough job getting ourselves and our partners to step back and care about the impact to our customers? And are we doing a good enough job of thinking through what it takes to be customer first? Staffing, budgeting, approaches, planning processes? Do they align with being customers first?
  • Slack doesn’t work in silos internally or externally – they co-design with companies to build better products. They unlock their own potential and their user’s potential through constant collaboration. Facilitate learning.
  • Incentives are directly tied to the customer. Are yours? They know what their customer’s success story is. They employ and incentivize people around this concept. Do you?


  • Slack made a feedback loop that turns their employees into a sponge – this takes effort. They don’t settle on surveys to tell the way forward. They continually seek feedback through customer interactions and analytics. ABL – Always Be Learning
  • They respect their users.
    • They understand it’s a tough job being a human and so they make every effort to be there for their users whenever, however they need it. This embodies their mission
  • They care.
    • It’s OKAY to have emotion and heart. Humans are emotional creatures. Our customers are emotional, our partners are emotional, our front lines are emotional. Show these people you care. Understand what they need and do it.