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The Remote Show

Show Notes:

Jeff Chow's links:

InVision Blog




Tyler Sellhorn
Hello everyone my name is Tyler sellhorn and welcome to another episode of the remote show where we discuss everything to do with remote work with the people who know it. Best. Thanks so much for listening the remote show is brought to you by we work remotely. The largest community of remote workers in the world with 220000 unique users per month. We work remotely is the most effective way to hire Today. We are blessed to be learned out loud with Jeff Chow Jeff is chief product officer at invision where he is leading efforts to reimagine how organizations work by bringing visual collaboration and inclusivity to full organizations prior to invision Jeff led product and product design at the consumer experience group. Tripadvisor was product lead for Google's Newsstand experience now Google news and also founded and ran several startups in the mobile consumer and marketing spaces Jeff pleasure to be here with you learning out loud. What problems are you all trying to solve at invision.

Jeff Chow
Hey, Tyler. Thanks so much for having me thrilled to be here. Yeah, you know in vision we're obsessed with having people work better together and honestly a lot of it is around. Um, you know that remote and hybrid work. You know so we have over 40000 customers and 8000000 users who use our products through freehand 1 of our products our real-time collaborative canvas. Teams can easily brainstorm idea ideate plan review and execut execute and synchronously and asynchronously and I think that's really the key and some of the things we'll I'm sure we'll talk about um and the fun fact is invision itself is a fully distributed organization since its founding in 2011 have over 400 people distributed across the world. Um, and you know so not only have we built collaboration tools for the success of our customers but also have built the tools for ourselves as a way to better connect and get work done.

Tyler Sellhorn
Really cool. You've used some of the hot buzzwords out there right now and I'm super let's let's pull some of those apart right? You you put these 2 words together that have been in the mouths of so many of of the thought leaders here and.

Jeff Chow
Oh I am Jargon Jargon Lingo of Bingo going on right now.

Tyler Sellhorn
Business and the future of work here in 2022 but you you put the words remote and hybrid together and then you also described invision as distributed when you think about those 3 words where do they intersect? where do they? um.

Jeff Chow

Tyler Sellhorn
Split apart from one another defined for us. What what is remote? What is hybrid what is distributed.

Jeff Chow
Yeah, you know I mean I think it's interesting. So remote is really kind of There's no headquarters. There's no actual center of gravity right? and I think that is I think that's a very powerful signal right? There's a there's kind of flipping on its head the idea of that people can focus on a little bit more of a balance and flexibility while you know you can still get your the best work done hybrid I believe is a little bit more of the yes there should be kind of meeting centers where people can get together have a little bit of Facetime. Um, you know and I think that's a real loaded area that everyone's still kind of experimenting on figuring out what would work best and I think it's one of the most fascinating trends that we're seeing and um, very interesting. You know, distributed you know like when we talk to some of our biggest customers and we have you know a hundred of the fortune 100 customers are are working with us. They're all over the world right? They have offices across the world and in a lot of the times the teams are working in a distributed fashion. So you know. It you can be in office but still distributed and and just it like it honestly, the entire world has these pain points and so this is kind of you know the pandemic really accelerated a lot of the acute nature of this. But. You know everything from even when your child is sick at home and you have to dial in and you've got 4 people in the office talking and you are basically the outsider. That's that's a hybrid right? and I mean that's that's never been in ah a different kind of circumstance.

Tyler Sellhorn
Thanks for drawing that out if I'm hearing you correctly, you're saying that remote is suggesting that there is no headquarters right? and and that and and also just that you're saying that that hybrid situation includes.

Jeff Chow
Yeah, in my mind that would be the case for sure.

Tyler Sellhorn
Both that single remoter that maybe is dealing with some caretaking responsibilities as well as organizations that have meeting centers right? and we're kind of in the midst of some experimentation around that. Ah you know, kind of mode of showing up to work. But 1 thing that I'd like to. Learn more about is you're describing ah well congratulations to the invision team for winning the business of 100 of the fortune 100 so that's really cool but also that you described some of those multinationals as distributed companies. Even. Like say in 2019 right that that they are that they're distributed in the fact that they they have offices all over the world and so they they may be in office cultures in terms of like how they show up to work but in terms of the ways that they have to work together. They are distributed um help us. Like maybe think about that kind of version of things because of you know the the deep experience that you all have as vendors to those companies. Um, what does that mean to help those people collaborate well when they are in office yet distributed and and maybe is there a difference between That remote distributed and that in-office distributed in terms of our collaboration.

Jeff Chow
Yeah, you know I honestly don't believe there's a massive difference other than everyone's doing it now right? And before there were sort of either. You're a giant multinational organization or you know. You had these moments in time where you know you were expected to be in person but something was up right? like a kid was sick. You know you had to work home from home from home because you had a repair person coming over or things like that right? and so but we've all experienced how painful that is. Right? And the dynamics and the lack of equity and all those other things and so I think there's a little bit of this is just a massive amplification of instead of you know instead of ah. You know the rare circumstances this is kind of now the the rule not the exception. So I think that's maybe fundamentally where we would start. Um, but I you know you know I kid around a little bit about some of these kind of situations but I don't think anyone has ever thought that. That that hybrid sense has always been super effective right? You know there's always been that um lack of equity or people in a meeting room with not the right technologies or you know, um, you know, asking someone to turn the camera to the wall and. Try to see the whiteboard because you can't actually see it. You know like there's a little bit or or worse case the one I really love is they forget to even log in right? So then the meeting starts and they're like someone someone has to slack over be like hey I'm on the call or you guys there so these are all like they always feel like they're sort of you know. And afterthought not the the primary thought you know a lot of what we're working with our customers on though is a new way of engaging right? and a better way of engaging so making sure that customers can figure out. It's not really about Facetime. You know is a meeting the most effective thing. How do you actually connect as individuals really less about the technology and more about those types of kind of cultural habits that makes people feel included. And then the technology follows suit right? like those are just basically the problems that we're trying to solve and like leveraging the technologies. But really, it's the personal connections. You know, ah we obsess over meetings as in if now's the time and the great change. Do we need to have as many meetings.

Jeff Chow
Right? Like that whole Zoom fatigue. Um, that was a little bit of a symptom of everyone trying to apply kind of old working norms into kind of a new working way of like yeah back-to backto backto- back meetings where 1 person generally takes the airwaves and everyone else listens right? It's that's that's it. Increasingly tiring. But if you actually had back-to-back Zoom meetings where you're working actively with each other. You're collaborating. You're actually engaging. You know the most junior person is sharing their feedback and there's a little bit of equity that's energizing. No one's complaining about being like I'm exhausted I had to log onto a video conference this entire time and that's really where we're we're trying to head and really work with our customers to say how can you change the way you're approaching work and yet the technology will follow suit.

Tyler Sellhorn
Really cool you you mentioned something right? off the top and then you were kind of ah, riffing as well in you know, describing video conferences and and communicating and collaborating synchronously and asynchronously were the words that you used right off the top and you know. My day job. That's something we're very engaged with in terms of communicating but I'm curious to learn what what you all have found as you're working on this problem with with companies. How do we split out. Those asynchronous and synchronous moments those times that are we're working together in the same moment and when we are working on our own time. What? what? What does that look like for you all first of all add invision because you guys are a distributed organization. But then also with other organizations that. Um, maybe are trying to become a better distributed team as well.

Jeff Chow
Yeah, for sure you know I think that the starting point is synchronous. Is you know there are these really magical moments because that's around connection right? and I think that's ah a huge opportunity which is building those relationships. And those connections and it's invaluable. It just doesn't have to be all the time right? And in fact, when it's not all the time when it is synchronous. It's even more powerful right? People are more focused people are more engaged most of the time. Ah, you know the the most. Valuable thing is to get the best participation and the best signal from your employees and a lot of those times is it's not a performance art that synchronous is right? It's not the hey I need everyone in this room at this moment and I need you all to bring your a game at this moment and so. Offering that level of flexibility where you bias towards impact quality of say feedback or or contributions is really key so you know one thing that we've learned at an invision being distributed is time zones right? Um, you know we have. People across the globe and so there are moments where you have to be very thoughtful and empathetic that if you're scheduling a meeting at ten a M Eastern time that might be 7 am on the west coast right? It might be but then if you move to 1 pm it might be 8 pm in somebody in Europe right? And so like these are the types of things that forcing so many of those moments is very tough versus hey we have this great bit of ah. Ah, project that we need you to contribute to here. Please do your contribution asynchronously and and there's some great value in terms of what we've seen is the the quality of contribution is is just through the roof when that happens now the key is though is everyone has to. Agree to this is the the habits right? I think sometimes meetings are the lazy way of forcing people to do something at the same time and so there needs to be a little bit of a cultural transformation and accountability and you know. Generally people who aren't used to it feel like oh that's you know, asynchronous is just going to take forever. You're going to what could have been iterated really quickly in 1 meeting is going to take you know weeks instead. Um, and if you do it one way. That's true if you do it another way where you actually hold people accountable then people rise to the occasion.

Jeff Chow
And I think that's ah, that's kind of a beautiful thing.

Tyler Sellhorn
You went deep on the synchronous. Asynchronous! Thank you so much I'm gonna say some things back to you just that you know when we are making the synchronous moments about connection. It makes those moments even more powerful because it's not all the time right. And that we're not, We're not biasing towards the performance art of being in a meeting or in a conference room. We're biasing towards the results and outputs of the meeting right? and having to deal with you know if you aren't a distributed organization. This is something that multinationals have been dealing with for a long time long before telework remote work distributed work was a thing but that the sun only shines on one half of the world at a time and we have to be you know responsive.

Jeff Chow
That's right.

Tyler Sellhorn
To you know where people happen to be dialing in from that's really great. Thank you for for talking some more about that. One of the things that you said earlier was mentioning the idea of there being a lack of equity. In certain modes of of working together in a distributed fashion tell me more about what it is that you're speaking to there because you you mentioned it you know, kind of as an aside and I I'm just curious to learn more from you. What? what? you mean by that phrase.

Jeff Chow
Yeah, yeah, oh yeah, it's it's pretty loaded. Um, we have a term that we use a lot at invision called inclusive collaboration right? and I think that's um, that's really saying that the. Best products that you deliver are the best you know sales kickoffs that you can perform the best you know okr process that you could do is only the best if there's equal participation from everyone and I think that's really powerful because. Generally speaking. There's real power structure. Um, you know, different alignment that is you know the heritage of working. Um, you know we joke about the idea of like the smartest man in the room syndrome and if you're all in the office together and you're in the meeting. Even if it's meant to be a nice collaboration. There's a power structure where somebody who's kind of a more senior member tends to speak up and then all of a sudden everyone shuts down and then that person talks for the next forty five minutes right and and I think there's a little bit of. Making sure that all voices can be heard right? and and the value that we're trying to push on. There is transcends everything right? It's the wait. What about even in a hybrid sense is there equity if you have 4 people in the room and 4 people dialing in. But in the room people are kind of you know, talking on the side a little bit off the mic and things like that and the people you know on the camera are not able to these are real challenges that are just going to get exacerbated. So. You know we push on a lot of things one one trick that we've we really work with our customers on is this idea of quiet collaboration right? Um, even the even in an ah in meeting session which are very valuable right for that connection or. Say it's a controversial subject and you need a lot of rapid iteration and feedback having a moment of quiet collaboration which is basically using say you know ah in our world freehand ah collaborative canvas but any any honestly kind of real time tool where people can contribute and just saying for the next five minutes everyone drop your ideas down right? You actually take the idea away of you know, maybe the introverted more junior person who's like I am not gonna speak up looking at this grid of 8 teen faces on the camera There's no way I'm gonna speak up and all of a sudden you're saying like yes. Ah.

Jeff Chow
Drop something in I'm going to absolutely I'll I'll write something down for sure, right? and I think those are the types of moments where you're really kind of leveling the playing field almost right and again the spirit is deeper engagement better signal better contributions. Better business. Output right? And so. I Think that's a lot of what we mean by equity.

Tyler Sellhorn
Interesting I Think one of the things that I'm hearing as a theme through all of the things that you've talked about so far is that it's It's not only the experience of you know. Are we going to be in the office. Are we going not going to be in the office. Are we going to be distributed or are we going to be remote or any of these sorts of questions I think the thing that you're inviting us into is to go up a level right? and think about the Mindsets and the the structure. Of of the ways that we're choosing to be in coordination and collaboration with one another that we're going to work in a way that invites and includes the contributions of everyone at the table or. Everyone Well Okay, so we we you know I just use an in-person kind of metaphor of being at the table but you just had the idea of of the grid of of boxes that all the boxes have something to bring to this meeting right? How are we going to include that how are we going to? um, have that become a part of the output of a meeting or Of. Of a time of collaboration I Guess maybe the thing that I'm curious to learn more about from you is to like what what does it mean to have a mindset that is inclusive. What does it mean to have a mindset that optimizes for the business output that you're describing right? What? what? What is. What is it that we haven't quite grabbed a hold of as an entire working society that that has left out that equity that isn't as inclusive as you describe like what? what is it that we need to do better.

Jeff Chow
Yeah, um, look I think that it it really starts in your right spot on Tyler that it we're elevating a little bit higher um around what we're seeing as an opportunity. Right? Like this is if I were to distill the future of work and how we all talk about the future of work. 1 it's a term that's so overused that it it almost has been left with no meaning anymore. But 2 is it's not about. Point solutions and technologies or others. It's really around now is the time that we can actually change the things that we hated about work to begin with right? and and I think that's because the pandemic accelerated the appetite for change people are now thinking. Okay. Need to go back. But the Pandora's box is open and and workers have had a voice now and said actually I don't want to commute 2 hours a day ah missing my family and I've actually demonstrated that I'm just as capable of doing that. From home I'd love to see my coworkers I'd love to you know, have a drink with them I'd love to connect more deeply with them. So I don't want to return to the pandemic but I don't need to return to everything so there's an entire society now that is ready for change. And I think that's the moment where instead of looking at it as yeah, finally we get to go back wasn't that horrible. We just have a belief that we have to rewind back generations to look at like wait. We've been doing it this old antiquated ways. Forever right? But this this is no different than dad with the briefcase you know going to work and like really we haven't enhanced that in a while right? and so you know the things that we want to upend is 1 putting the people at the center of everything. It has to be about powering the people and and look this is not new. We all say it. But what if we actually meant it right? and I think that's the key is what if you actually prioritized the flexibility. The. Excitement unlocking the full potential of everyone at the center of everything figuring out a way for them to all engage better together understanding the whys and the whats and the ideas and everything about your your business and what you're trying to do and then the tools. How do we make it work for you I would say that to.

Jeff Chow
To begin with is generally speaking mostly you know power structures and tools and so the power structures are you know the c-suite people would dictate this and the tools generally bias towards tracking and efficiency and I think that's what ah. Culture has turned into right. It's like okay, how's this going? What's the burn down is this sufficient. How do I know right? like that's the executive mindset. That's also the you know one one of the most insidious things is the idea of Facetime. Right? Oh that that's a great employee. They're the first in the office the last to leave that really doesn't mean anything right? and so like those are all the things that we're saying like hey do we really need to do that like do we really need you know up an octave. Do. We really need to do that right? And so I think that's the whole idea here is. We can rethink this and I think that's you're right? This is why we've sort of elevated that and and you know as ah as a technologist that's been through many generations of disruption the why this is the most exciting is the culture is leading the charge the cultural changes leading the charge. Not the technology disruption. And and I think that's the most exciting part.

Tyler Sellhorn
You asked some questions in there and I'm just going to underscore them here for a moment you you asked the question of of of a leading you know cultural leader on the internet Tim Urbans his his question. His blog is titled wait but why. Ah, you ask the question what if we actually prioritize the people right instead of spending 8% of our day commuting right? We got to spend that on our work or with our family right. And then you ask the question of that's on the minds of of many executives. How do I know and whether or not we're going to prioritize the answer to that question and which things are we going to emphasize what what are we going to emphasize the outputs are we going to emphasize the people. Or are we going to emphasize the inputs that generate those outcomes and I think it's really important for us to be very reflective right to be thinking about what is it that we want to be doing here together. Um I want to um, kind of transition to one of my very favorite questions of right now. It's kind of been a theme that we've been talking about here is is the the different periods of time you know, kind of surrounding. Ah, this pandemic that has kind of prompted us to ask these reflective questions. But when you think of 2019 and before right? What do you think of when you think of remote work right? and then when you think about during the pandemic. What it what is on your mind when you think okay. This is what remote work was or is during the pandemic just just to timestamp things here. We're talking on the fifteenth of March Two Thousand and twenty two we we can remember two years ago what what may have been on our mind on that same date. But then let's think you know in in 2023 and beyond. Right? Let's think of of you know what is March Fifteenth Twenty Twenty three going to be for remote work. How do we think about those different periods of time as as remote workers.

Jeff Chow
Yeah, for sure and you know I think um, pre pandemic you know 2019 vintage I would say that even myself I would have said you know niche opportunity. Not for everyone and frankly, not for me to be very honest, um, you know the pandemic happened and and and I wasn't working at invision at the time. So um, the. Pandemic happened and it was a forcing function right? like you didn't really have a choice and so that's where for my personal journey. It's like oh my god this is gonna be really hard I honestly I speak very passionately about the changing of leadership mindsets because. I was the dinosaur right? like I was the person that was like oh how am I going to know if everyone's doing it and having that force and funk function to kind of um, honestly like caring about the employees the pandemic that the early phases of the pandemic. You're just like okay it's less about the. Work continuity and it was more about the health of your employees right? And so all of a sudden you had to prioritize that first and then it was very clear. That's you know, having to see everyone rise to the occasion to see everyone. You know, really deal with all of the stresses of managing families and. Loved ones and also getting work done but really self kind of initiating that was an eye-opening experience for myself and many other leaders right? This is you know you kind of hunkered down but then you watched your employees prosper. Maybe not under the kind of like the the ruling gaze of leadership making sure that everyone's ah, efficient, right? So I think that was for me the most eye-opening experience and it worked really well. Um I joined in vision midway through the pandemic and ah. I will be honest I think you know remote work has the the knocks that remote work has gotten is because it's related to the pandemic where you can't actually see people in person remote doesn't mean never physically seeing somebody in person right? But that's what the pandemic was asking you to do so. You know I actually found it very difficult to build relationships faster than you know say you know in a meeting room or having a one-on-one or going to the bar after work or whatever and so that was a little bit of ah ah, an awakening where I kind of got the religion of remote work when the pandemic started.

Jeff Chow
When I joined saying I'm going to hit the ground writing this is fantastic. It was harder to kind of get ramped up and but again as we went forward. You know you started developing these amazing rhythms. So. That's my personal journey and I think there's a little bit of you know, really kind of as I've talked to kind of my peers very similar journeys of like this this kind of almost like awakening of like oh like I get it that makes sense. And yeah, if I let go a little bit and really focus on the employee experience. they're going to give more and they're going to kind of contribute more and and what a wonderful experience. Um, you know, moving forward I think there's something very interesting. That's going to happen. Um, this experiment is continuing right? I would say that I would believe in a year from now. Um my guess is you know following the patterns of the past this is going to be a little bit of a pendulum. Um, and the people who do it really? Well are going to kind of stay or go extreme and maybe you know even hybrid will be more about meeting spaces. Um congregation spaces places where people can kind of um. Get together but used rarely. Um, so no cubes. No you know whatnot is just more about kind of pulling together and then um and there's probably a little bit of a pendulum where others are going to say yeah we tried hybrid. But now we're going to go all in person right? We tried that right um. My optimist in me says that hopefully more than the majority will will keep running with the great experiment. Be optimistic assume the glass half full and keep working towards that better tomorrow. But you know we'll see.

Tyler Sellhorn
Well thank you very much for describing that transformation from thinking of remote work as being something that wasn't for you to joining a fully distributed organization and getting the religion as it were ah. Yeah,, we're very excited Obviously here at we work remotely on the remote show like it's very clear just in the name What we're about. You know we're we're out here in the internet streets for remote work. But I think it's really interesting to hear you describe you and your cohort of leaders. Um, starting to say things like I get it right? I understand what? what is it that we're optimizing for. Are we optimizing for the ruling gaze of of the executive or are we optimizing for the the employee's experience and their contribution to the work. Um. Thank you very much for sharing your story and the story of Invision. Um blessings.

Jeff Chow
Thanks so much Tyler. Thanks for having me.

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