← Nathanael Silverman

A collection of thoughts from one human being

How Life360 Used Slack to Establish Its Company Values

I work at Life360, where 5 values drive decisions. Everyone there knows those 5 values. Not only that, anyone there can point out countless examples of those values put in practice. How? I'll tell you.

For a while we used "high-5 cards." Employees received actual physical cards. On each one we'd fill out the name of another employee and describe an awesome thing they'd done. Then we'd give them the card.

It worked, kinda. Giving and receiving high-5 cards felt awesome. But by 21st century standards, it was a laborious process. Real cards were printed and distributed on a schedule. People had to write, not type. The reward came long after the fact. And cards usually went to the people you worked closest to, over and over. The practice eventually died.

In the midst of this, we started using Slack—aka. IRC 2.0—as our main communication tool. Slack is great for a lot of reasons, and it has one notable feature called "emoji reactions." React to a message with an emoji, it'll appear below the message in question. Simple & easy. But here comes the best part.

It also works with custom emojis. And so we created 5 new emojis, one for each Life360 value.

Artwork by Amanda Clark.

Left to right: "Know Your Users," "Respect," "Commit to Excellence," "Be Accountable," and "Take Big Swings." 

Near everything we do gets discussed in a Slack channel. Including every value-driven decision and value-embodying action. When that happens, people now react with these value-emojis.

Our Slack bot then reposts these messages to our #values channel.

Deployed on February 2nd, our Slack bot has recorded over 300 value-reactions. That's an average of 5 per work day for a team of 50 Slackers. It feels like values have become a routine part of conversations. It's easier than ever to show appreciation. And extraordinary contributions are surfaced across teams and channels.

Well played, emojis. Well played.

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The Right to Be Engaged

I grew up in France. I went to school there, where I developed a keen sense of criticism. One of my recurring complaints was this: We had textbooks, yet teachers made us transcribe their own paraphrased version of all the lessons. There I was, spending hours a day copying information I already had.

Over the years I became less and less motivated. At one time an allegedly bright student, my grades started to deteriorate. Eventually I was described as a slacker.

Now, teachers dedicate their lives to education. They're meant to help us discover and reach our potential. We rely on them to produce well-adjusted, happy adults. We give them about 20 years of our lives... But for all that responsibility the only advice they ever gave me was "work harder."

See, I thought being a teacher meant being responsible for teaching. They thought it meant dispensing information. Whether us students learned the material was of little concern.

Here's the thing, "teachers": If we don't learn, you haven't taught.

But I suppose I did learn something, albeit outside of the curriculum. Me, you, students, all people... We do our best work when we're engaged. If you're any kind of leader, a manager, a teacher... own that fact! Give your people the right to be engaged. When they're not, see what you can change.

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Black Mirror

I just watched the first episode of "Black Mirror". Set in the near future, the story begins as the prime minister of England is woken up in the middle of the night. The princess of England has been kidnapped! She will die in a few hours, unless...

The prime minister fucks a pig on live TV.

I'll let that sink in. It's bizarre, but why not. It's a novel plot. Of course the prime minister won't do it, he says so himself. But who would make such a demand, and why? That's the question I expected to see answered. Not so.

The prime minister's temperament quickly deteriorates. He assaults his closest advisor, calls her a "bitch". Polls shift to show 86% of the population is in favor of him fucking a pig to save the princess. His staff starts to pressure him, stating it's the only way to ensure her safety. The prime minister breaks down. Spoiler alert!

He fucks a pig.

Which is fine. Prime ministers have been known to do that. That's not what gets to me. What gets to me is the strategical incoherence of giving into a kidnapper's demand. There's a reason why governments state they don't negotiate with terrorists. If you give in to demands, you are demonstrating that kidnapping WORKS.

"Need something? Kidnap the princess! Last time the prime minister fucked a pig to get her back, clearly there's not much he won't do." Princesses and all public figures immediately become targets.

Prime ministers would never make that dumb of a mistake. F, would not watch again.

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One Thing Schools Should Teach: Good Posture

Fact: you are very likely to experience a back problem at some point in your life. One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year. Tens of billions of dollars are spent on it.1

But did you know that some indigenous populations have never heard of, much less felt, back pain? That's right. And studying their posture suggests we're doing it all wrong. Or so The Gokhale Method argues—quite convincingly—while offering its own recommendations.

This is where schools come in. A 2007 study found that 38% of school children already had poor posture.[2] Is it any surprise? There we sit for years and hour on end. On cheap chairs. Bored out of our minds. It's a god damn recipe for hunched backs...

But the epidemic could just as easily be reversed through awareness and simple exercises. Thanks for the history lesson teach, now can I learn to sit and stand?

1. Back Pain Facts & Statistics from the American Chiropractic Association
2. Kratenová J, Zejglicová K, Malý M, Filipová V. Prevalence and risk factors of poor posture in school children in the Czech Republic. J Sch Health. 2007 Mar; 77(3): 131-7.

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Speed Writing

Writing is badass. It's an accessible and indelible way to make a point. And you get to polish that point for as long as it takes. I enjoy that process, and admire the product. Simple, clear, penetrating words that propagate new ideas and change minds.

But I suffer from perfectionism. I write slow, edit a lot, and often give up midway through. What I share must be worthy of my romanticized view of writing, or so I feel. And yet, what I've realized today compelled me to write and share this as fast as possible.

My expectations are too high. Amateur musicians don't compete with Yo-Yo Ma. Nor do they expect to delight their early audiences. Getting good takes practice, lots of it. I'll never learn to write good essays if I never finish them. I won't learn to penetrate people's minds unless I share what I produce.

And so my experiment begins: Anything I publish I will write in one hour or less. Anything I start writing I will publish. No expectations, just determined practice.

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