We've added video to our docs! Because why should remote communication be defined by a single medium?
A baby is born
Like all babies (I know because I have one) ideas at Slite tend to grow organically with little adjustments here and there. Nurturing is a big part of our innovation culture, and that's what I try to foster first and foremost as a CEO.
For instance, our Cover Video feature is a 3-year baby that's almost ready to step out into a beta-curated world.
But let me back up a bit.
The story starts with when I hired Rob 3 years ago. He was our second product designer on a 12 person team. At the time, we were still in the business of building a "note app for teams." It was a time when were were obsessed with finding a product market fit, so I knew we needed innovators on the team.
When I was putting together Rob's assessment, I made sure to include one big open-ended question:
"If you could design and try just one crazy feature for Slite 🤪 what would it be?"
I would definitely not ask this again*—not that open anyway— but in this case Rob nailed it, and pitched me a simple concept that I never forgot.
*In hiring I feel it's better to direct the discussion to be sure you are verifying specific skills of the candidate instead of going too wide.
Here's what Rob answered:
"What if people could record a small bubble video and attach it to any doc? It would let the author present their work in a constrained 30-second time window, and bring some life to the monotony of text-only communication." 💫
Then we had a passionate discussion about it.
But at the time, I just saw it as good ideation work that eventually got buried in our idea cave.
This was back in 2018 when we were already partially remote. Rob lived in Seoul, I lived in Paris. And little did we know how important this idea would be for us, and for the world. We hadn't yet made the connection between a small animated bubble and the communication revolution that's emerged for everyone today.
The problem with "writing"
Fast-forward 3 years. Slite is now much more than note-taking. We've designed our product to be the ultimate way for teams to adopt the habit of writing and communicating without space or time constraints.
We experienced first-hand that great ✌️✊ writing ✌️✊ is the future of team communication.
I'm using ✌️✊ air quotes ✌️✊ here, as great writing is more than words. It's sketches, rich content, tables, and smart tables. You'd never talk with your hands behind your back or with your eyes closed for more than a second, so why should remote communication be limited to a single medium?
Remote communication needs to be rich, it needs to feel personal. And we're committed to building tools to support that.
Looking to build a better relationship with your remote team? Start here.
Now back to my story.
We found that we had this gaping hole in our toolset. In instances where people are writing the simplest of updates, we had a big limitation—it's incredibly difficult to go beyond pixels on a screen and convey... feelings!
As a fully remote team, we felt this first hand. And after talking to countless remote teams around the world, we found this issue was echoing with them as well.
Communication: there's a catch
"How do you convey subtleties in a message? You're not there when the person receives it, so you're unable to assess any social cues."
Here's how things usually go with remote teams.
For the sake of argument, let's say you're running a performance review. Your goal is to identify blockers and come up with clear solutions.
To make it useful in the long run for your peer, the best way to create something useable is by writing things down, black on white, on a doc.
This reduces misunderstandings, and makes sure actions or learnings don't get lost in the months to come.
But there's a catch!
Receiving a written doc that is personal—almost intimate—can feel a bit... intrusive? Impersonal? How do you convey subtleties in a message? You're not there when the person receives it, so you're unable to assess any social cues and readjust based on how things are received.
The same thing happens for our internal weekly updates. Their goal is to get the team excited and engaged in whatever's coming next (something I learned over the years).
How did we make our team updates more engaging? Read the story here.
But in a remote company you can rarely—and should NEVER—gather 40 people on a weekly Zoom call. So your best tool is to share information on a doc that each teammate can read when the time is right for them.
But how do you rally people? How can you raise their spirits? How do you convey excitement and joy beyond simple words and numbers?
Christophe Pasquier is Slite’s co-founder and CEO. Chris’ goal is to help teams do incredible work in better environments, by helping them embrace remote work and async communication. He currently lives in Berlin with his wife and baby Noé. Find him @Christophepas on Twitter!
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