Speaker 1 00:00:07 Welcome to unleashing your edge, a Skillsoft podcast for learners and leaders alike to engage in thought provoking conversations and open dialogue on the topic of learning and growth in the workplace. And perhaps just a little bit more today because our guest is my good friend, our good friend, David Meerman Scott David is an entrepreneur and advisor, a keynote speaker, a wall street journal, bestselling author of an amazing book, Fen ocracy. If you haven't read it, please go out and get it. And I'm sure that we're going to spend some time talking about his love and fandom of concerts and musical recording artists and who knows what else we'll actually catch up on today. David always a pleasure and so much fun to have you here with me.
Speaker 2 00:00:56 Indeed, Michelle. And it's been a couple of weeks since we've last connected. I had so much fun at Skillsoft perspectives, 2020. I keep referring back to it and talking it up to so many people.
Speaker 1 00:01:10 Well, thank you for that. And I, you know, it's interesting because I think that's a little bit of what we're going to talk about today because I suspect that many of our listeners were at one point in time, frequent attendees of these in-person events that we're all used to, right? They've come in all shapes and sizes, whether for work or fun, but that has changed and is likely not going to be the same as we move forward. And so what's really interesting, I think. And what I'd love to chat with you about today is what the future of events will look like and how we can actually build meaningful connections with our customers, with our, our friends, with, with so many others as we go about trying to, to live in this new normal,
Speaker 2 00:02:00 It is a weird time. Isn't it? I mean, I think, um, I feel like it's almost a new normal now because for a while it was just odd, you know, oh my God, I can't go to a restaurant. I can't go to a meeting. I can't, um, speak at a conference and now it's, it feels like this is the normal. Um, but what is so important? I think Michelle is that, um, is that in person, connections are incredibly powerful for us as human beings. Uh, we're actually hardwired to crave those connections because it's actually a survival technique because when you're with people that, you know, and trust when you're with a tribe of like-minded people, then that's an incredibly powerful human connections. So the challenge that we all have is how can we create those kinds of connections even when we can't meet people in person.
Speaker 2 00:02:59 And so, um, there are a lot of different ways that that can, that we can do that, but it really comes down to the human aspect, the human connection, uh, one of the things that I've seen, that's so powerful right now is video and the use of video and the use of a video because our brains, um, through a power of mirror neurons, we don't actually discern between somebody who's on a video and someone who's directly in front of us now, intellectually, we know I'm on, you're on a video, but we don't know that, um, in our, in our deep brains and our mirror neurons say that we're actually together, which is exactly why you feel, you know, a movie star. So as much as we can use video in this period of time, the better, as much as we can connect with people using video and, you know, the, the rise of, of zoom meetings and Skype meetings and all these other sorts of tools, um, has shown the importance of that.
Speaker 2 00:04:01 And I don't know about you, but I actually connected with my old college friends. We hadn't seen each other for like 10 years and we connected on zoom and done some virtual cocktail parties with my friends. I had a virtual Easter dinner with my family. I mean, it's like, it's really kind of interesting. And, and of course businesses are doing that as well. Um, and I think that that's actually now becoming, as you say, the new normal for events and as we did with Skillsoft perspectives, the idea of, of having video is super, super, super powerful. Even when you can't meet someone in person, you can still have those human connections.
Speaker 1 00:04:41 Yeah. So, so, so that was, I think when we were last together in person perspectives 2020, it felt like eons ago. And even, even then, but perhaps even more now in person activities do feel like a thing of the past. I mean, what is it? 30 days it takes to become a habit. And we've been at this for almost six months. I mean, it's crazy. It has been that long, but one question I have for you, and I understand this concept of video and I agree with you, but how do we ensure that the depth of our engagements, you know, that, that, that high touch that I need to actually be next to you, that the depth of the relationship with, with our colleagues, with our customers, with our family, with our friends, how do we ensure it stays meaningful when we are truly just connecting via video?
Speaker 2 00:05:29 Yeah, that's a tough one because, um, you know, oftentimes people put on their video voice when they're on video and, um, you know, they, they become, even if they don't realize they're doing it either a little bit more formal or, um, you know, a little bit different when they're on video then than when they're meeting somebody in person. Um, so I think, I think important here is just making sure that as much as possible we can be our authentic selves. And that goes for companies as well as for individuals, how can we be our authentic selves? How can we engage with people in a way that, um, you know, that's powerful, that's interesting. That is a way that's valuable for those people that we're trying to reach. Um, you know, just, it doesn't really, it's not related to video necessarily, but what I've seen is so many organizations over the last couple of months, um, who have gone in one direction or the other when referring to the current pandemic one direction is they're doing a great job with saying, Hey, you know, we're in this difficult situation, we're all in it together.
Speaker 2 00:06:50 Let's support one another. What can we do for you? Um, you know, I w I recently ran across a company that recognized that many of their customers were having financial difficulty. They have some customers who are hotels or restaurants. Uh, this is a software company and they said, you know, what, if you're having trouble, give us a shout. We don't want to cancel your service. We want you to be a client for the longterm. We can figure out a payment plan that makes sense for you. That's a great approach. Um, the other people I've seen, which is, um, the opposite of that is trying to explain the situation and saying, oh my gosh, we're in the depths of a pandemic, uh, free shipping now on all of our products. It's like why you're trying to sell something on the back of this, give me a break.
Speaker 2 00:07:39 So I think the authentic nature, I think the idea that, um, you can, whatever tool it is, whether it's video or other ways of connecting that when you're being, um, true to yourself, when you're being authentic, when you're being truly helpful to people that comes through in a powerful way, and people will remember that when we were, were on the backside of this, um, hopefully soon, but maybe it won't be so soon, people were, remember those organizations that helped out they'll remember those organizations who were providing things of value, or who decided that they were going to work with people to be able to help them along. You know, one of the things that comes to mind immediately to me is, again, I keep referring to it because I think Skillsoft had such, and some total did have such a fabulous job with it, but Skillsoft perspectives 2020 was completely free this year. And you didn't need to do that. You could have charged a fee like you do in other years, but now let's make a completely free, let's provide something of value to the community. Let's get people together and celebrate all of these fabulous presenters that you had on this 24 hour virtual event. And people will remember that going forward. And that's a powerful thing that companies can do.
Speaker 1 00:08:59 You know, David, I think there've been some really great examples of brands of performers, even who have put themselves out there and done some really unique things to maybe give us a little bit of infotainment education excitement during a time when we are, um, frankly stuck indoors a lot of the times. And so I think about, you know, I think I might've told you this, but on St Patrick's day that Dropkick Murphys did a live concert, made it available online. They, they went back and did one at Fenway. I'm a huge Dropkick Murphys fan. So that was wonderful Hamilton now available to everybody who has Disney plus shore, there's a small fee, but, um, they made it accessible and then they made it palatable for younger audiences by removing a little bit of the language. But it seems to me that there are some amazing examples of companies, of brands, of performers who are doing right by their customers. What stands out for you?
Speaker 2 00:10:07 I think, I think that's absolutely right. And what was so interesting about Hamilton was that that the film was originally scheduled to come out. I believe it was a year from now the summer of 2021 in theaters. Wow. Yeah. I might be getting the exact date wrong, but it was next year. So 2021 at some point. And they said, you know what now is when this film needs to come out now is when we need to share this with the world now is when this is an important time to get out there. And, you know, in, in the, in the same vein, um, you know, so many of us miss the things that we love, um, we miss going to live music. In my case, we miss going to the theater. We miss these things. Um, uh, I'm a fan of regional theater. And in particular we frequent, um, a couple of local theaters on Nantucket island, um, where we spend time during the summer.
Speaker 2 00:11:12 And they're not, of course doing live performances now, but a couple of weeks ago they did a completely free table read. Um, and they had some, you know, some well-known well-known actors, John Shay and others who, um, there are four actors, it was done on, um, one of the video platforms and each of the actors was in a different spot. When was in Nantucket, when was in New York tour in New York city, and one was in Hollywood and they did an entire play an hour and a half play. Um, but each of them was on their living room, you know, in their living room or in their dining room. And they were reading from the script, but in a dramatic fashion and it worked and, and it gave people a chance to be able to experience a little bit of live theater. But, but what I think is the key here is that they didn't try to recreate the thing that's missing.
Speaker 2 00:12:08 They didn't try to recreate the theatrical experience because we can't have that right now, instead they re-imagined what they could do to interest people in, um, the thing that, um, that, that they do their art and they thought, well, let's do it as a table read, let's do it as four actors. Um, as if we're in the middle of our rehearsals and we're not quite ready for going onto the stage and, and, and having a dress rehearsal, we're still running through our lines and that's exactly how they did it. And it was great. And I think that companies can do the same thing. I think companies can just sort of step back and say, this is how we normally do something. And for example, it might be their events, or it might be the, the, the things that they do with their customers and say, this is how we normally do it. We can't do that now. Let's not even try to do that now, but what can we do? That would be something that's equally valuable, but completely re-imagined what that might be. Um, I think also in terms of restaurants, um, my wife and I are a bit of a foodie family here.
Speaker 2 00:13:26 And, um, we even though in, um, Massachusetts, where we live, that restaurants are very recently opened. We still have not chosen to venture into a restaurant. We don't feel comfortable doing that quite yet, but one of the local restaurants that we love to go to has done something that I think is super cool. They do, they have a takeout, um, wine and dinner package where you get two bottles of wine and you get dinner for two people and it's priced reasonably. It's not a ridiculous amount of money. It'd be it's way less than it would be if you went to the restaurant. But then the part that's the part that's really cool is that then at an appointed time, 6:00 PM on Saturday, whatever it is, uh, you know, you go pick up your meal a couple hours before that. And then, um, the, uh, some, I can't, I can never say it.
Speaker 2 00:14:21 I was going to say the whole world word, but I'll say that the abbreviation, the Psalm, um, actually actually does, um, the wine tasting with you. And he, and he says, okay, now it's time to open your bottle of white. This is white, this white is, and he describes it and it's paired perfectly with the salad that the chef prepared. And here's why the pairing goes really, really well. And he talks for 10 minutes or so. Um, and then the zoom kind of goes dark. And then, you know, 45 minutes later at the, at the next time timestamp, um, they do that with the main dish. And okay, now it's time to open your bottle of red. And here's the reason we chose this particular one. And it goes really well with this entree for this particular reason. And, you know, they, they, at the time restaurants were not open in Massachusetts, so no, they couldn't do a regular restaurant, um, wine pairing with, um, this I'm talking to you about those different, um, uh, wines and how they work, but they re-imagined to how they could do it. It wasn't the same, it wasn't better or worse. It was different and it worked and we would absolutely do it again.
Speaker 1 00:15:35 I love that. I absolutely love that. And I, you know, I think the creativity, um, that we've seen from so many, it's just been magnificent and that's a perfect example of a very creative way of still engaging while offering, you know, what, what would normally be, uh, a pretty standard dining event, but it, it almost makes it a little more special, David, at least that that's how it sounds to me. I'm like,
Speaker 2 00:16:04 It was, it was, it was particularly special because the app, the added benefit of feeling safe, because we picked up the food ourselves and, you know, we didn't venture into the restaurants, we felt safe. Um, but then we were sharing an experience with other people. Cause you could see the other people in zoom. And then also, um, um, having the, um, a much more involved experience with the song than the normal sort of forty-five seconds that you would get. If he, if, if the song he or she was working with, you know, for 30 or 40 tables over the course of an evening, um, they spend a lot more time talking about each individual wine and why that individual wine works really well with that particular course. Uh, and the food that was chosen by the chef. And it was like, you know, my, my wife and I finished and of course we had a couple of glasses of wine, so we're feeling pretty good. And we was like, that was fun. Let's do that again.
Speaker 1 00:17:09 You know, it's interesting to me because I think you're right, we've gotten into this pattern of what is now our normal, but I will tell you, there are certainly some things that are happening that I, I, I'm not sure we could have predicted even as we started to get used to video and zoom and WebEx and all of these other, you know, means with which we communicate. I know you can't see me, David, but I actually am wearing blue light glasses because, um, my eyes, I just been on this video for so long that I've actually succumbed a bit to video fatigue. And when I think about it, I think that's actually a metaphor for what we are all experiencing right now, which might be a, a higher degree of fatigue. Initially, we thought that this pandemic was going to be a short duration type event.
Speaker 1 00:17:58 We all heard, you know, we'll, we'll be back together again in a month and two months, but now we recognize, and I think we've come to terms with the fact that we're talking about a prolonged sustained event where we are likely not going to be back into an office we're working workplace are divorced essentially. And, and so, you know, I think we all need to decide what that looks like and how we do engage in how we do continue to build the connections with our teams and how we continue to work together. Because my fear is that that productivity, those productivity gains that we saw early on and we saw them, we saw people's productivity going up. They weren't going into the office. They were, you know, there was no commute and, and yes, people were working more hours. I'm not saying it's a good thing, but we did see productivity go up. I have a feeling that we're going to see some productivity losses as this continues, this, um, separation of work and workplace. And you know, what do we do about that?
Speaker 2 00:19:03 You know, it's really interesting that you say that first of all, did the blue light glasses work? I don't have one. I probably a pair I probably should.
Speaker 1 00:19:11 I think they do. Um, you don't have the same headaches anymore. I do recommend either like a filter or something because we are staring at these screens
Speaker 2 00:19:22 All the time, all the time. Well, you know what here's, what's interesting to me about this is a very perceptive and interesting question to me, what, what I've noticed. I'm, I'm, I'm gonna like go way back, you know, 30 years here. And when, whenever there's a new way to communicate, um, the pattern that I think you're describing, which I totally agree with by the way, um, seems to be the case. Um, so for example, when email first came around, um, at first it was an incredible productivity gain because people could more easily communicate then picking up the telephone or sending a fax. Remember those things. I'm old enough to remember a fax and, um, and so product to their productivity gains. And then we got, uh, just, uh, just an overload of emails and people would copy too many people on those emails. Aren't just got overwhelming.
Speaker 2 00:20:26 And we had to figure out how to manage email. Um, the same thing has happened more recently as new channels develop for communications in the last two or three years tools like Microsoft teams and slack that allow that form of channel text-based communications to happen. Initially there was productivity gains as people realize, oh, this is a really cool way to communicate. It can bypass email and we can go back and forth and instantaneously in real time texting this similar boat, by the way. Um, and then people went, oh my God, there's overload. I don't need another Microsoft team or slack message right now. Thank you very much. How are we going to manage this? The same thing happened with physical meetings. And I remember, um, back about 20 years ago when I was working for a technology company and, um, you know, if people felt they were busy when they called a meeting, so you call a meeting, invite six or eight of your colleagues, or three or four of your colleagues, you book the meeting room and you chit chat for 45 minutes and you feel like it's productive, but did you really need to do that meeting?
Speaker 2 00:21:40 Not necessarily, but people could not accuse you of not working because you are busy in a meeting. And I think that's exactly what's playing out right now with video with video is that initially there was a productivity gain because we didn't do in-person meetings. We didn't have to commute to the office and productivity went up. And I think what we're seeing now is that it's too easy to book and video conference it's to peop there's so many people who do it that, um, that now it's like, oh yeah, well, let's just jump on zoom. And it's like, well, every time you just jump on zoom, it's 30 minutes minimum. That's a lot of time in a busy person's day. So, um, I think you're absolutely right. And I think we need to begin to get a sense, uh, in our, in our working world of what is the right approach to this kind of communication, how much is too much? How can we politely say, no, I don't think we need a video meeting for this. Let's just trade an email and we can get it done in four minutes rather than
Speaker 1 00:22:51 Yeah, I think that's right. And I think, you know, I'll, I'll let everybody in on a little secret. I have block your calendar set aside time just to think and stay off video. Um, because I think you're right. If, if you keep your calendars open, I've just found people will just schedule video calls and it, it is, um, it, it becomes a little wasteful. Um, you know, David, I, I want to actually switch gears if that's okay with you. I think you probably, um, you might've heard that we held, um, a leader camp recently on how to lead inclusively. And clearly this was in response to some of the current and tragic events that, that remind us constantly that injustice and inequality exist in real and tangible waves, both right. Both our communities and in business. And I know that you recently had a conversation with your daughter Reiko regarding diversity and tokenism, and I I'd love, you know, in light of the discussions that I think we need to have. Can you tell us a little bit about that conversation and what you highlighted for marketers is as they try to reach diverse audiences authentically, because again, like we talked about before, there are some companies that I think are doing a good job, but then I see a lot of performative activism. Um, that's, that's challenging, right?
Speaker 2 00:24:27 It is, it is now, you know, I've gone through life as a, uh, a white cisgender male. I can't change that. That's how I've gone through life. Um, but I am incredibly fortunate that I lived for 10 years in Asia. Um, I lived, um, uh, just over seven years in Tokyo and another two years in Hong Kong. So I lived as, um, somebody who stood out, I lived as a minority in those countries. I lived as somebody that was extremely different than everybody else walking down the street. So I'm fortunate to have had an opportunity to live in for an extended period of time, a decade, um, in a place where I was, um, not part of the, uh, of the, of the typical person who was walking down the street. Um, and, um, my daughter Reiko is half Japanese. My wife Yukari is Japanese Raker was born in Tokyo.
Speaker 2 00:25:28 She lived in Hong Kong. She moved here when she was a child to the United States. And so I'm constantly bugging her, you know, what would a millennial woman say about this, but what a, um, an Asian person say about this. And, uh, she identifies as a woman of color. Um, she looks way more Asian than she does, um, um, uh, Caucasian, even though she's half. And, um, she has some really interesting and her husband, by the way, Ben is half Korean sort of interesting combination there. Um, but she has some very interesting ideas on how to truly be diverse. And it really starts with making sure that as we, um, people, we, we, who are running businesses who are running marketing departments are truly building teams that are diverse because when there's a team that's diverse, it's much easier to create marketing. That's inclusive and marketing, that's diverse and communications that's inclusive, um, than it is.
Speaker 2 00:26:39 If it's a bunch of people who all look the same or trying to create that. Um, so she says, Reiko says it always starts with making sure that, um, that there's people who are conscious of what it's like to be LGBTQ plus what it's like to be a black person, what it's like to be a young woman in a particular environment. Reiko, as you know, Michelle has just started her career as a, um, as an emergency room doctor at Boston medical center. She graduated from medical school a couple of months ago, and, um, she sees it often with her older male colleagues, um, sort of dismissing her opinion as, uh, as a young woman. And, you know, she sees that she sees that very strongly. Um, and, um, and then once you have that diverse team, it's way easier than to bring true diversity into, um, the outward way that, that an organization communicates with its customers.
Speaker 2 00:27:43 You know, the, the danger, there's a couple of dangers in communications. One is tokenism, which, um, I th I actually think is worse than not trying at all tokenism the idea that you have, you know, if you're going to have eight people in a photo, one of them needs to be black, and one of them needs to be a woman, you know, that kind of approach, right. Um, because it feels fake and because it looks fake, um, and you know, thinking about it from the perspective of truly being diverse, um, is, is, is way, way, way more important. You know, the, the cliches that get built in, sometimes we don't even see them, um, as marketers, but customers see them. One of my, one of my favorite cliches is the financial services firms that are selling retirement products. Everybody that everybody that they show in their advertisement is older.
Speaker 2 00:28:46 They're in their sixties or seventies. And we're wait a minute. Retirement products are actually built for people who are young, who are trying to save for retirement. So the cliches seem to be built in there, um, something else. And I know I'm rambling on here, um, for a long time, but something else that I think is really important. Um, and it's something I've studied a lot over the last couple of months because I got fascinated about it are the artificial intelligence engines that a lot of our businesses use are actually introducing bias, and we don't even know it. So for example, um, and AI, by the way, most people know this, but our artificial intelligence, AI is just math applied to a huge set of data to predict things. So for example, Netflix and other services, like it can predict the sort of, um, uh, video content that you might based on what you've already seen.
Speaker 2 00:29:43 Um, and so AI engines are powering a lot of the services that marketers use. So for example, marketers use, um, stock photo libraries to choose photos, to put into their, um, their marketing programs. So for example, if I go to a stock photo house and I, and I type in CEO to get a picture of CEO, the AI engines actually re typically return only men and typically only white men. And that's because the AI algorithms are biased because the people who built them for whatever reason and the people who use them for whatever reason, or are assuming that CEOs are white men, um, uh, the, the social networks, um, services, um, that our marketers use, for example, the Facebook ad serving algorithms that are AR AI powered. Those also discriminate by gender and race. Um, so for example, advertisements about homes for sale are shown to a larger percentage of white users. Well, advertisements of homes for rent are shown to a higher percentage of black users. That's just built into the AI, but it makes the people who are doing that advertising look bad, even though they don't even know that that's happening. Um, uh, and there's an organization that I personally support called equal AI. Um, and their mission is to eliminate these biases from the AI algorithms. Uh, but an AI AI algorithm is only as good as the people who built it. So it's a challenge to remove those biases from them.
Speaker 1 00:31:29 So I do have one last question and I, and I think that it, it, you know, we would be remiss if we didn't, again, just, um, take a moment to, to talk about the times we're in. And I must ask, how is Reiko doing? She is an ER doctor in the midst of a global pandemic. Um, I think fortunately we've seen, um, Corona virus cases, uh, or the, um, the numbers have gone down here in the Northeast, but even still, this is, um, this is a challenging time to graduate from school medical school. How is Reiko doing
Speaker 2 00:32:03 It is, oh, thank you for asking. I appreciate that. And I'll pass that on. She's doing great actually. Um, when she originally graduated her two months early, they graduate graduated her instead of June in April, because they thought for sure that they'd have to take all of these doctors and put them on the front lines immediately. But what they didn't realize was that so many elective procedures, um, would not be happening. So for example, if, if you need, um, knee surgery, um, because your knee hurts, but you can wait for six months, um, then they, they make you wait. And therefore you've got all of the doctors who practice new surgery, who are not doing anything. So they assign those doctors to, um, support the COVID care. And then the, the, the, at least here in Massachusetts, the social distancing and wearing masks helped a lot so that the curve was in fact flattened, and it wasn't as dire as they originally predicted.
Speaker 2 00:33:05 So Rachel Reiko ended up starting at the normal time, which was a couple of weeks ago. And, um, and she, she works at Boston medical center, which has, as you may know, is the, uh, is the safety net hospital for Boston. They, they, uh, will take anybody regardless of your ability to pay, if you have no health insurance and you can't pay, and you're homeless, you are still welcomed there. So they're getting a large percentage of patients who do have COVID, whether they come in for a COVID or whether they come in for something else, they do have it. Um, and so she says, it's a challenge to be able to manage that aspect of it, where you always have to be dawning all of this protective gear, but at the same time, the people that she treats are so appreciative of the work that they're doing and that they, that she truly is on the front lines.
Speaker 2 00:33:56 And she thinks she will probably get it, but she's only 27 years old, so it should be okay. Um, but I, you know, I really give a lot of credit to her and everyone who's doing that because it's such important work. And I particularly think that she's, you know, I'm so proud of her for the fact that she didn't go into, you know, some high, um, uh, high paying aspect of medicine she's on the front lines doing emergency and sheriff, her choice of the hospital to work for was not the prestigious hospital in Boston. It was the safety net hospital in Boston. And I just think that says a lot about her as a person.
Speaker 1 00:34:37 Uh, absolutely. And, and, you know, I can't wait for the day when I can to thank her in person and David, you know, thank you for joining me today. This has been so much fun and it's always great to connect. I actually, um, can't wait for our next event for our next perspectives, um, when hopefully we'll have an opportunity to co-host again, because I think that, um, not only was it, was it fun to do, but I think that we learned a lot about, um, resilience and how people are, you know, really able to take what is a truly difficult and challenging time and find ways find those silver linings. As we talked about whether, you know, whether it is something like Hamilton coming into our homes so much earlier than anticipated, or, or people who are doing amazing things like graduating early so that they can go work on the front lines of this pandemic and help to solve one of the greatest challenges of our time. So, um, thank you so much for joining me today.
Speaker 2 00:35:45 Thank you. I really appreciate that. And, and I'm, I have to commend you and the entire team, because the perspectives 2020 was pulled off in a very, very short period of time. There's a huge success. And so many creative things like bringing in black violin, for example, 24 7 approach. I mean, it was really super cool. So, um, and I also look forward to something that you and I promised we would do, and it's probably going to be a while till we can do it, but we promise that we would find an evening that we can go out and have dinner and maybe have a glass of wine and just chit chat about life rather than work. And I'm looking forward to that at some point, too.
Speaker 1 00:36:25 I am. So looking forward to that and the minute that we can, um, you name that the time and place, and I'll be there done. All right, everyone. Thank you for joining me for unleash your edge. It was a pleasure to have David Meerman Scott. Here we are so fortunate. If you have not read his book, Fen, autocracy, go out, get it now or better yet. Go to Percipio where you can read it for free. Thank you again to David and look for another episode coming soon.