A refreshingly hopeful conversation that doesn’t downplay the seriousness of the current situation we’re all in. I think there’s a tendency to focus on what we’ve all suddenly lost by being fully remote, but this discussion highlights how it could also be a really exciting opportunity. Listening to someone who’s passionate about running distributed companies talk about his experience is very inspiring (Matt is managing a distributed workforce of ~1200 people, working from 75 different countries). He’s also a very thoughtful and efficient speaker so it’s an excellent listen, if you have the time. Also, he reveals that he likes to have a candle on his desk (which would definitely be frowned upon in a traditional office setting) — love this guy!
The core of the discussion is centered around what Matt describes as the “5 levels of autonomous companies”, but he also talks more generally about good communication practices, some potential solutions for businesses that are struggling right now—like restaurants—as well as useful advice for individuals navigating the mental anguish of this global pandemic.
Some of my favourite bits:
14:50 Sidebar on how Matt doesn’t believe in muting during meetings, but thinks everyone should invest in better audio such as this good yet inexpensive headset. He also mentions Krisp.ai an app that uses machine learning to remove background noise — cool!
19:18 When you shift to asynchronous your decisions can take a little longer, but they can be better and why Matt thinks most meetings are bad.
31:50 Top 3 tool recommendations: Zoom, Slack and something to replace email — for Automatic, this is an internal blog. Good explanation of why that works better than email for them.
46:06 The importance of good communication. API: Assume Positive Intent, and Postal’s Law: “Be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you send.”
58:00 How businesses like restaurants might become more resilient. Cloud kitchens! Prediction of how we might start to treat delivery people as an essential service in the near future.
01:10 How much of the spread of COVID-19 was due to the social stigma of working from home? Some bosses will literally have blood on their hands.
01:18 It’s going to be really bad. But, “adversity creates clarity” — when things get tough there’s a much higher bar that everyone has for information, especially when we’re talking about a life or death situation (which this obviously is).
01:27 The concept of strategic reserves and how more organizations should have them (not just the oil industry). China has a strategic pork reserve!
01:35 How meditation can help us all during this time. Book recommendation for engineers that uses technical metaphors for meditation instruction: Search Inside Yourself
Email’s nice cause it's asynchronous, but unfortunately it’s private. Part of Levels 3 and 4 is you start to move towards being a lot more transparency internally, so information isn't locked up in private things like inboxes ... I get under 5 emails per month (from my colleagues) everything happens on these internal blogs ... communication is totally flat and accessible.
If there’s anything the current Covid-19 pandemic has made us aware of it’s how often we are in contact with things other people have touched, like doors, sinks, money or food. No doubt we will see a surge of touchless products from startups and enterprise alike addressing our new reality in the months ahead:
Manual revolving doors, ubiquitous in cities like New York, are rare in Hong Kong, Shanghai or Beijing, where automatic doors are the norm. Most public restrooms in Asia’s big cities have automated faucets and soap dispensers, and are equipped with self-flushing toilets. One advantage these cities have is that most of their malls and office towers were built within the past two decades, meaning they could incorporate modern technology from the outset.
Another big gap between the U.S. and the rest of the world is the way U.S. consumers pay for things. “We are significantly behind most of the world,” said Jordan McKee, research director at 451 Research, part of S&P Global Market Intelligence. “If you look at countries like Canada, the U.K., Australia, contactless [technology] is a way of life there.”
In Australia, 90% of retail transactions of less than $25 are completed through contactless transactions, such as tap-to-pay credit cards or mobile devices. In contrast, just 2% of in-store transactions in the U.S. were contactless in the last year, said McKee.
What surprised me about this article is how much farther ahead of the U.S. our country is in touchless payments. Credit to the good work of Interac for leading the charge – and watch for more innovation on the touchless payments front (developed in part with TWG) to roll out later this year.
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