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reflections of the team

eXchange: why we use Slack

The 21st of February, Arboth will present Slack at the conference Top100 tools for learning by Stimulearning.

First things first. We're not trying to convince you to drop all other chat tools for Slack. We know these things take time. If you've tried other chat tools that didn't work, there's no guarantee that Slack will succeed.

We can only tell you in how we use Slack and what we really like in this tool.

Why Slack and not other tools?

Before we dive deeper into the Slack features we absolutely love, let's discuss our tool history. Which tools did we use already and why we did opt to use Slack as well? What gap did it fill that others did not?

Arboth is a team of 5 people. I hear you thinking: such a small group of people should not have any problems communicating! One of our team members is a full-time out-house consultant, so a tool to stay in touch comes in handy.

It's Arboth's policy to judge performance based on results, not on hours you've been at the office. People can work from home should the need arise. That drives the need for instant communication as well.

  • E-mail: when working from home, our web-based e-mail app doesn't provide a good oversight. Another thing I don't like about e-mail is the dilemma "Reply" or "Reply All".

  • WhatsApp: we use WhatsApp for quick & informal announcements like "Traffic's bad, will be 30min late".

That's it, there were no other tools in place, so there's hardly any "platform fatigue" at Arboth.

Trying something new: when we introduced Slack to the workplace

When our team grew from 4 to 5 people, it grew more difficult to "work out loud". More and more projects were team-based. Colleagues would work from home, which impaired our training support for large companies. We needed to be more agile in knowledge exchange.

We introduced Slack where we created channels per client. All questions we have, are now grouped per client. This is what we call "Medium Structure". It's not a WhatsApp group where everything's criss-cross and at random. But it's not well-thought-out filing system either. It's a focused conversation. Team members exchange around one topic and can ask questions or give feedback per client.

Slack allows us to have an informal yet focused conversation.

What is so great in Slack is that we can integrate it with other tools we use. For instance, per client, we have a planning sheet in Google Drive. Every change in such sheets feeds into Slack as a notification. Work doesn't happen unnoticed, we know what our team members are doing. And this isn't for controlling purposes: we use it to increase our efficiency and collaboration. It's easier to track when you need to review the work of others.

By using slack, we can talk where we work and work where we talk.

There is also a channel dedicated to resources. Every now and then, we stumble upon an amazing e-learning resource like icon lists, stock pictures, great ideas for interactions, … The channel "Learning" clusters these discoveries. It's a non-invasive way to manage knowledge. By integrating content curation app Anders Pink, we're not the only ones stocking this channel with knowledge either! We're letting the content come to us.

There's room for informal chatter as well, using the Random channel. Every January, we celebrate the new year with a special dinner. By integrating a polling tool, we've set a date and chosen a restaurant in no time.

The best part is: by using medium structured channels and trusting the search bar, Slack is basically our communication-and-knowledge-management-tool-in-one.

Exchange: the social dimension of learning

The most-used learning theories have something in common: a social dimension. Learning doesn't just happen in books and classrooms, it also happens in the interactions between people. In every learning ecosystem, you need to give proper attention to the social dimension.

However: the social dimension works best when it's informal and non-controlled. Medium-structured.

In our aXles model, eXchange is one of four important cores. Slack is just one application of how you can frame the eXchange quadrant.

Hope to see you on the 21st of February in Brussels, where we can talk some more on how Slack is a versatile tool for collaboration and knowledge management!