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Slack’s CEO takes the Flack

Someone wise once told me, “success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.” And it’s true of course. When something goes well, everyone wants to associate themselves with it. People clamour to be the first to send the congratulatory email with everyone and the world on copy. Everyone takes their turn to bask in the reflected glory. But when something goes wrong, you don’t hear a peep out of anyone. Our natural reaction is to hide.

So when Slack’s open letter to Microsoft bombed last week, it was refreshing to see CEO Stewart Butterfield publicly take the flack.

The open letter probably seemed like a brilliant idea in the brainstorm. And then for some inexplicable reason, Slack actually decided to do it. The day before the open letter was published, Slack must have still thought it was all going be great. I can imagine them thinking, “well, this is going to get people talking.” And it did. But unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons.

@Stewart couldn’t have imagined the reaction when he tweeted; “That feeling when you think "we should buy a full page in the Times and publish an open letter," and then you do,” It wasn’t a great reaction to be honest.

The media’s reaction to the open letter made for uncomfortable reading. The comments were far worse. Reaction to Stewart’s tweet was instant. And you wouldn’t really blame Stewart if he quietly turned off his smartphone for a while. But he didn’t. He responded to the critics directly and he stood by the idea. He replied to negative tweet after negative tweet. I thought it was admirable and actually quite rare. Of course, his actions are never going to make everything all right overnight. But by taking the flack, Slack will no doubt bounce back.

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