Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield is an intelligent guy.
Before building his $2.8 billion startup Slack, which many consider the fastest-growing business app ever, Butterfield ran another hot startup called Flickr, which was sold to Yahoo for over $20 million.
He also has a master’s in philosophy, with a focus on biology, cognitive science, and philosophy of mind.
Nevertheless, Butterfield doesn’t use any abstract words or needlessly complicated terms when describing the type of work culture he admires.
He likes to rather use a simple restaurant analogy, as told to The New York Times:
“I really admire good restaurants. I don’t necessarily mean expensive ones. I mean restaurants that are well run with a seamless kind of flow. I notice things like whether the servers keep an eye on each other’s tables. If someone needs the check, they’ll tell each other. I think everyone likes working in an environment like that.”
Butterfield knows what it’s like to work at a company that struggles at nurturing this kind of collaborative environment.
When he worked at Yahoo after Flickr was acquired, he says he saw how difficult it was to get the support and resources he needed internally.
“It was so hard to get the resources that we needed [at Yahoo]. I think we missed out on so many opportunities where Flickr could have been a lot bigger and more successful than it was as part of Yahoo — because of Yahoo’s internal ‘screwed up-ness,’” Butterfield once told us.
It’s why Butterfield looks for people who could “empathize” with others when he looks for new employees at Slack.
“If you can empathize with people, then you can do a good job," he told The Times. "If you have no ability to empathize, then it’s difficult to give people feedback, and it’s difficult to help people improve. Everything becomes harder.”
“One of our values is that you should be looking out for each other," he added. "Everyone should try to make the lives of everyone else who works here a little bit simpler."
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