Work in the Age of Slack and AI
Human beings are lazy — I know I am! But work is just one of those “facts of life”. We might not be able to get rid of work entirely, but can we at least get rid of the things which really ought not be part of ‘work’ in the first place?
So much of what we call “work” is exactly that: work! Yet so much of what we do at our jobs are not our job. Simply staying on top of all our team communications — email, messaging, texts, physical meetings (for those of you unfortunate enough to still get sucked into those) — is often a job in itself, leave alone scheduling tasks with other team members or other firms.
What do you actually do for work? You want to say “X” — I sell stuff to people, I write code, I run a startup, and so on — but how much of your job is work which is not integral to your job? Too much!
This is a double edged sword that cuts both management and employees. Management hates the fact that it’s not seeing the full productive potential from their (expensive) human workers who get bogged down in keeping up, and employees hate the extra work distracting them from what they are meant to be doing.
I personally feel this frustration nearly every day, and I don’t have a particularly demanding or intensive job. I work for an internet company in the Bay Area that provides legal information to consumers and markets lead generation services to attorneys — I’m the guy who calls those attorneys.
I can’t tell you how many times I’m at my desk looking at the phone calls I have for the day and my manager asks “What’s your top three phone calls?” and I say “X,Y,and Z” and then he says “Is it on Google Calendar?” and I think — “Shit, no it isn’t, because I can’t be bothered to disturb my actual work and adding things to my Calendars and CRM when I know what time the phone calls are anyway!
But.. that’s what they call accountability. My team needs to know what I’m doing and vice versa. Keeping everyone on the same page takes so much time and it ends up taking over my actual work.”
But of course, it’s important my manager have access to my timetable, and that can’t happen if the timetable exists only inside my head. That’s why we use Google Calendar at my workplace, but if I added every single phone call to it or even just the important ones, I’d have to spend 10 hours or more every week finding the events in SalesForce and creating events in Google Calendars, filling out the info and sending out the invites — and that’s assuming the phone calls don’t get pushed around the calendar during the course of a working day (which they usually do).
I need to keep my manager abreast of the important phone calls I have on the schedule, but I hate wasting my time going back and forth between my communication stream and other tools to create a backlog of items that are assigned to me. This is where I wished an personal assistant could keep track of work for me more efficiently.
That’s when I came across Fireflies.ai, a new start-up in Silicon Valley that wants to tackle project management and workplace productivity in the era of Slack and Artificial Intelligence.
Fireflies.ai is a very useful tool which eliminates a lot of the clerical tasks which go hand in glove with a communication platform like Slack and other project management tools. It is the first digital secretary that helps me actually track my team’s work so easily.
With a press of a button or the stroke of a key, Fireflies can generate tasks in Slack. It can connect and link events, tasks, people, messages from Slack across multiple different work management platforms — Trello, SalesForce, Google (Gmail, Calendar, etc.), and
A useful tool like Fireflies frees you from the cumbersome organizational tasks, the ones which drag you down, freeing you to instead focus on the work that drives your company forward — the ones which are actually what you are being paid to do. I don’t get paid at my job to create a backlog of work tasks and updating my calendar.
It often happens where I speak with an attorney as part of my job and he says “I’ll email you to let you know a better time to follow up with me.” — and then my manager will message me on Slack, asking “Whatever happened to Attorney Bob?”
With Fireflies, all I would need to do would be to type a reply over Slack to my manager “I’ll call Attorney Bob at 11:30 AM tomorrow”, and Fireflies would snag it and autopopulate a Google Calendar event and with a click of a button also creating a task in Salesforce to call Attorney Bob at 11:30.
The technology is just getting started, but it’s already a very impressive intelligent system for teams on Slack, and if there is one thing the past few years have shown us, it’s that technology makes massive leaps and bounds in a very short space of time. I have no doubt that soon Fireflies will go from being useful to being indispensable in the workforce.
AI truly is the future in this regard. While undoubtedly AI will be responsible for enormous changes in the world, perhaps curing cancer or making all cars driverless, all the many (infinite) little tasks must not be forgotten either. If humans can be liberated from the stupid and mundane, they will be left free to focus on the monumental and phenomenal.
The great thing about this step forward is that everybody sees the benefits. Management gets increased productivity, of course, but the employees benefit too by being free to focus on the work they want to do, the work they are there to do, the work they are getting paid to do, not the enervating tasks which require a tiny fraction of brain power — yet a disproportionately large amount of time and energy.
AI is not going to replace all human labor (certainly not anytime soon); we are all still going to have to work, but AI will at least make the task of working easier and more efficient.