Podcast 2 of 2: UpLift (BetterUp) Conference – Thriving in a White Water World of Work

Remote from the airport - David and Nicole give their final thoughts on the UpLift Conference hosted by BetterUp. The conference focuses on EX (Employee Experience) and how to build a team that thrives in a "White Water World of Work".

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UpLift (BetterUp) Conference – Podcast 2

[00:00:00] David Staley: Alright Nicole. We are here in a rented booth. What is this?

[00:00:04] Nicole Brennan: It’s called the Jabber box.

[00:00:05] David Staley: Oh, a Jabber box. Okay. Right. A Jabber box.

[00:00:09] Nicole Brennan: Typically a phone room that you see in the airport. We had to pay a fee to use the Jabber box.

[00:00:16] David Staley: It’s a dollar amount. Yeah. We paid a dollar a minute. No, no, no, no. I guess we pay 50 cents a minute.

[00:00:21] Yeah. So feel special. Folks. You’re worth. 50 cents a minute to do this episode. Uh, but we’re, I think

[00:00:28] Nicole Brennan: I think you just wanted to test this out to see we should get them for the office.

[00:00:31] David Staley: I knew I wanted them for the office, but every time I look at these things, they’re like eight to 12 grand. They’re insane. But it comes with like a nice touch screen and a camera.

[00:00:38] Nicole Brennan: It is pretty nice.

[00:00:40] David Staley: While we’re here, we’re here in the airport. We’re leaving the uplift conference. We’re about to catch our flight. It was delayed. I saw the Jabber box. I’m never allowed in the maternity box that they rent out at the airport. So Jabber box I’m allowed in so. Yeah, it’ll have to do.

[00:00:55] All right. So in this episode, where are we talking about?

[00:00:58] Nicole Brennan: We are talking about, [00:01:00] um, a whole bunch of stuff, a lot of key takeaways from the uplift conference. We dive into some of the key note sessions. We talk about social connection and what that means for happiness. We talk about behind the scenes information we learned from Ed Catmull, from Pixar, Pixar. Um, what else did we talk about?

[00:01:20] David Staley: We talked about the Experience Economy.

[00:01:22] Nicole Brennan: Yup. The Experience Economy and really going from a commodity based business to services to experience. Then ultimately to transformation.

[00:01:31] David Staley: Talk a lot about Hilton, uh, and examples cause health and was a big theme of this conference. I didn’t realize, and it’s your favorite fact now, so I’ll let you say it.

[00:01:38] Nicole Brennan: They were ranked number one best place to work two years

[00:01:43] in a row.

[00:01:44] David Staley: On planet earth.

[00:01:45] Nicole Brennan: Yes. I am still blown away. I’m going to be telling everyone this thought. It’s the, I can’t imagine, you know, getting on that list of lens, but two years in a row, I don’t know who else did it right.

[00:01:55] David Staley: No one else has ever been on the list twice, I think is what they said, let alone number one twice.

[00:01:59] Nicole Brennan: Was it [00:02:00] Forbes?

[00:02:01] David Staley: That was Forbes, but then there was best workplaces. They were number two actually best workplaces. But yeah, Forbes is the number one two times.

[00:02:09] Nicole Brennan: Impressive.

[00:02:10] David Staley: Yeah. So we talk about all kinds of stuff. Basically. We really recite everything we learned at the conference and pretend it’s our own ideas.

[00:02:17] Nicole Brennan: We give credit.  We try to recite a lot of notes in front of us. So it’s

[00:02:21] a lot of good information.

[00:02:22] David Staley: Yeah. Yeah. All right. Well if that interests you, tune in..

[00:02:26]     Okay. So let’s see. Let’s cover a couple topics that were, I don’t know, we’ve had an interesting or whatever want to ruminate on from the conference while it’s fresh.

[00:02:49] Nicole Brennan: Yeah. I think one of the big key takeaways for me was the first keynote speaker and it was Shawnee Kaur who is the author of both the happiness project [00:03:00] and then his newest book, which is called Big Potential.

[00:03:03] David Staley: He seems qualified cause. He’s a happiness researcher and his wife is also a happiness researcher. So it seems like they have a pretty happy life or you would hope they have a very happy life. Um, all right. So what’s his, what was his big takeaway or what was he covering? Cause I, I do think it helps set the stage for the entire conference.

[00:03:20] Yeah. And I feel like he probably covered the most content and the least amount of time. Like number one, he talks super fast. So you kind of were trying to keep up. But I think he also just tried to give you really, like, he did a good job of weaving stories in with the data and the research. So it wasn’t just numbers and studies, it was real life examples of how those could be manifested.

[00:03:44] Yeah. He seemed, um, well, my big things from him at least, and this is the theme that I felt like I kept carrying throughout the rest of the speakers and the conference was. He was like, basically there’s a negative cycle that can happen with people where if you, um, [00:04:00] he gave an example of insurance, um, or not insurance tax adjusters, and he says like this, the company that he was helping, um, was, uh, it was a tax company.

[00:04:11] And so these folks who are trained to look for errors inside of tax documents, and then they were rewarded for this obviously, because it’s like, now you’re great. Person and finding tax errors. And he was saying that because of that, it was putting these folks into a negative mindset, uh, that they would take home with them because all day they’re just looking for flaws.

[00:04:29] And then when they got home, he had the example of one individual who ended up just looking at flaws, then his wife or his children. And he didn’t even mean to, it was just, he had been conditioned. Um, to, to find flaws and to be rewarded for flaws. And so, um, he had ended up this, not to go too deep in this story, but that individual had ended up making Excel saying, okay, well here I’ve identified all the flaws of my wife.

[00:04:53] I’m gonna set a time and we’re going to talk about these and get them worked out. And that didn’t go over well with the wife. And so now the [00:05:00] guy wasn’t having a very happy life. And so what Sean, right, but he said was, okay, that was the, that’s this negative feedback loop. And so, um, he gave another example of a feedback loop with Tetris.

[00:05:13] So he was saying that, I think it was Harvard did a study where they, they forced the kids that play Tetris for, for eight hours, and then they started seeing Tetris in their life. Like dreaming about Tetris, like all the. Grocery store shelves, like look like they were treacherous blocks because they were, they had been conditioned themselves to see this pattern.

[00:05:30] So if you are conditioned to see patterns, that’s terrific. You can become very efficient at what you’re doing, but you have to be cognizant of what they can do to you with the rest of your wellbeing and your life. And so a lot of his recommendations at first, like key takeaways that he said, when, you know, as you leave this session in the conference, was more about how do you.

[00:05:50] Develop these positive reinforcements or these positive things so that you can reinforce happiness as opposed to things like, like error, like the spotting errors, like in the, in [00:06:00] the case of the tax prep guy. Um, and so little examples he gave were, uh, gratitude. So he says, I, and I’ve heard of this before, I’ve heard of the gratitude journal, but I didn’t really understand.

[00:06:10] I mean, I’m, I’m usually a very concrete individual, so I didn’t understand like the point of gratitude journals. Like, why. Why people do it. But now that it’s the science behind it has been explained to me now it makes sense why you would say, okay, so for Sean, he was like, you should make a habit of spending two minutes each day.

[00:06:27] Um, just Roy, just two minutes a day, writing down three things that you’re thankful for, that, that you be grateful for. And he says that, that after, after three weeks, he says, okay, you’ll see good things, but if you stopped doing it, then you lose. You lose the momentum and it’s gone. And usually people think of three weeks as a habit.

[00:06:44] But he said, if you do that for six months, then that’s when kind of this crossover happens, where now after six months, you have this crazy momentum of this, uh, of this self fulfilling cycle about gratitude where now you will [00:07:00] have conditioned yourself to see the heaviness and things instead of just the like sad and things.

[00:07:06] Nicole Brennan: Yeah, it’s super interesting. And he talks a lot about the way your brain processes information. So almost re training and rewire, rewiring your brain to focus on, um, positive things that are happening in your

[00:07:19] David Staley: life. Right, right. And then he, um, what did he say? Oh shoot, now I’m going to blank on it. Six months training.

[00:07:27] Oh, he, one thing that was like starting to concern me, cause I liked where he was going, but when he was talking about this, and I was thinking about it was during the session. I was like, well shoot, does this mean that your tr, you’re basically training people. You want people to be blind to the negatives?

[00:07:43] Because he was talking about folks that are, that are risk assessment people. And that if they, um, you don’t want to train them to not see the risks. Right? And he talked a lot about pessimists first optimists, and he says the difference between the two groups is pessimists believe that their [00:08:00] actions won’t, won’t impact the situation versus optimists believe that their actions.

[00:08:05] Like henceforward may impact the situation. And so he says like, you can be pessimistic in some parts of your life and optimistic and other parts of your life. But where the concern came in for me was at first was like, Oh shoot, are we going to train people not to have their eyes wide open where they may see an error or something like a failure point?

[00:08:24] Because that is conditioning the negative part of their brain. And he was saying, no, no, no, no. That’s not the problem. Hence, the pessimists are the optimists. You can have an optimistic, um. Tax adjuster or what have you. So this person is like, Hey, I’m going to spot something. You know, the great thing is I can do something about this versus like I spotted a failure and there’s nothing we can do and we’re all doing.

[00:08:46] So I thought that was a good takeaway for me too. Cause at first I had got worried about getting too down the happy track, you know, what am I going to cut out of my life? You know, whatever. And he, as he explained it a certain, to make more sense how I can actually adopt this moving forward.

[00:08:59] Nicole Brennan: Yeah. [00:09:00] The other thing that he’d talked a lot about was the aspect of social connection.

[00:09:05] So we briefly mentioned I think on the first podcast, how better up talks about the employee experience, and they did all this research. This is, there’s 160 components that go into employee experience, but then they boil down to six and those six are authenticity, engagement, optimism, social connection.

[00:09:26] Belonging and then meaning and purpose.

[00:09:29] David Staley: And are these the same six? Sorry, that that you’re saying, this is part of his research that matches with better up, right? Was just kind

[00:09:37] Nicole Brennan: of setting the stage. This is the better up research. And he talks a lot about how social connection is the number one predictor of longterm happiness.

[00:09:48] So he gave a lot of examples about, you know, obviously we’re living in this digital world. Loneliness, rape. Are actually up 200% so, you know, [00:10:00] we’re more connected than

[00:10:00] David Staley: ever since like 1980. Right. Which surprised. Well, yeah, surprise me. He, cause he was saying we’re in the most connected world we’ve ever been in, but yet we feel the least connected.

[00:10:12] And, and so having us, is that basically alone.

[00:10:16] Nicole Brennan: Yup. And he was also saying that because of that, um, you know, one of the. More, I guess, takeaways or action items you can do is relate to have a strong social network. So there’s a ton of studies that he talks about. Um, but one of them was the perception and reality study.

[00:10:34] So basically they put all of these individuals, um, and showed them images individually of a Hill. I’m assuming it was in California, cause I think he said it was, um, where did he say that something was done?

[00:10:47] David Staley: I don’t know where he said this study. It was done, but the Hill, that’s all it matters. Yeah, it’s a Hill.

[00:10:52] Nicole Brennan: Yes. So he showed them, he does have a Hill and then he did that same experiment, but this time they were with a group of [00:11:00] people and with the group of people, the verse participants responded that the Hill was 20% less steep than the individuals. So it’s like, I’m kind of watching this set up here, but if you are in your, you’re by yourself.

[00:11:15] The Hill is 20% more steep than if you’re with someone else. So the whole takeaway there is that, you know, are you with someone and or are you alone and not really, um, kind of affects your ability to see if you can conquer challenges. So really having a strong network and connecting socially, um, there’s just so much value in there and how that’s related to your happiness.

[00:11:36] David Staley: Yeah. Well that’s how I do that a lot to the whole coaching overall theme that they were, that obviously this conference is about, since that’s a better up. Does, uh, but to just to hit hit home, what you’re saying is if you’re, if you’re doing a task alone, it appears 20% more difficult than if you’re doing a task just with somebody else.

[00:11:54] And so that, tying that back to coaching, they said like, if you’re trying to make a transformative [00:12:00] change in your own life or take on like a new skill, if you, if you’re just doing it on, on your own with no support it, that 20% may be so much that it feels impossible to do this thing are insurmountable.

[00:12:11] Versus if you, if you just have someone else, you know, holding your hand or doing it in tandem with you, now that 20% may be enough, that that seems doable and we can put the first step forward. Right. So, um, I thought was really interesting about some of, at least the research he cited was the mirror test and it makes total sense.

[00:12:31] I mean, we had done this, I think we talked about this on the Google, um, podcast, but at that conference we had Eric Coleman was the, was the author that. That they used as one of the primary speakers, and he had us do the smile test where you basically grabbed someone that you’ve never met before and one person has to try to keep a blank face and one person needs to smile real big at them.

[00:12:51] And, and you see how difficult it is that if someone’s smiling at you that you can’t about not smiling back, you’re just basically a cold hearted [00:13:00] individual. You can’t smile back. Um, which I was next to an HR person from Stanford and she smoked me when it came to like not smiling. No, she later she lied and said that she did when she raised her hand saying, Oh, I cracked.

[00:13:15] I’m like, well, if you, if you cracked this is

[00:13:17] Nicole Brennan: her version of smiling.

[00:13:18] David Staley: Yeah. Yeah. Uh, but anyways, I didn’t even try to hold back since we’d done it with Eric Coleman. I was like, F it, it’s way less uncomfortable here to be smiling back at the person than it is to like try to be the, the jerkwad that doesn’t smile.

[00:13:32] Anyways, the mirror test, what I thought was fascinating is he took it further than Komen. And he said that, that, uh, he cited another study that said, okay, now let’s say that you’re standing on a train platform and someone starts like shaking their leg or looking at their watch nervously or whatever, that, that nervous energy transfers to everybody else in the group as well.

[00:13:52] And that surprised me. And he called. It actually is impactful as secondhand smoke. So he said that, uh, basically nervous energy or [00:14:00] negative energy and, and you know how I am about when people say about . The energy, Nicole of this individual, like how sometimes I’ve had trouble with, when you talk to energy, when people talk to energy, like about your aura or whatever.

[00:14:14] Nicole Brennan: Yeah. That does

[00:14:15] David Staley: not connect with you. Usually. Not usually, but back to this, I understand the nervous foot tapping, the looking at the watch and if that happened, like if then he’s saying that that transfers to the rest of your group and the rest of your team. So if you have one person that’s like. Not really engaged in the conversation or checking their watch and a meeting or whatever, or distracted on their thing that that is infecting the rest of the group, just like secondhand smoke would be.

[00:14:38] And that nervous energy in a culture can, can have a significant impact just because people are mirroring in effect. Reed, I were just, um, talked about too about that with a consultant that we were looking at on the engineering side. He was like, you guys need this. Like, I feel the energy and the passion, but you guys really need to just like calm down and like, um.

[00:14:58] You know, cause this, this is [00:15:00] not healthy to be as, I guess, amped as we are all the time. So that really stuck with me. Yeah. That’s great.

[00:15:07] Nicole Brennan: One. Um, something that I think we could take back, I mean to digital for sure, but to really any organization, um, is that he did, uh, a lot of research, um, on both employees and company side, but also students and universities.

[00:15:24] Um, and really kind of gauging their excitement from when they first start something to when that excitement starts to taper off. So when you first hire someone, they’re super pumped. Maybe the first few weeks they’re like excited, ready to go. Their energies is really high. Um, but he said it was unanimous that in both sets of both the company side and the students.

[00:15:47] That four weeks in excitement starts to wear wear off. So really just having that knowledge and being aware of that, I think is really helpful to just kind of pay attention and say, okay, well what can we start doing around a month after [00:16:00] someone’s been here to, you know, keep them engaged, keep their excitement up, um, and just really pay attention to that data.

[00:16:06] David Staley: That actually connects a lot with the session they did on the second day or third day, however you want to say at the end ending day. But they had said that. Someone needs or someone is most engaged with basically making new behavior changes on their own. To your point, like in the first four weeks of them starting a new job, new position, being hired, taking on a team or a new team member.

[00:16:30] And that’s when folks are sort of like the most, who are willing to accept. Um. I don’t know if I want to say change, but most willing to to work on something such as he talked about like if you just start a new job, you’re super into time management. Or if it’s your first time managing, like you’re super entered into time management because you’re, it’s a new gig.

[00:16:48] You don’t know what’s up. And so like you are consuming articles naturally and having conversations about that stuff. It’s present in your mind. So all I’m saying is they were saying like take advantage of that is kind of [00:17:00] right. That’s

[00:17:00] Nicole Brennan: kinda what I was thinking. How do we maximize those first few weeks when someone is operating at that type of level

[00:17:06] David Staley: and also not firehose them too much.

[00:17:09] Right. Cause we, we suffer with that now.

[00:17:12] Nicole Brennan: Yeah. I think that’s a, a lot of companies suffer with just . The onboarding process, but I do think I, when you first joined, there’s just so much, just so happened, so much to learn

[00:17:20] David Staley: that right. We can definitely get better there. And with us in, in our, we have a more formal process, the first two weeks that someone joins, but after two weeks it breaks down a bit and it becomes almost like a, now it’s your responsibility to self-learn and some folks are better at that than others.

[00:17:36] So certainly we could do, I mean, we have ongoing lunch and learns and things like that, but it’s not as it’s structured. Um. As far as a formal training, and I know that’s one of our goals this year that we’re working on with

[00:17:49] Nicole Brennan: each team does it a little differently too. So you get such a different experience and we want to try and make that a little bit more cohesive.

[00:17:57] David Staley: Right. So back to your point, like, okay, great. [00:18:00] Our first two weeks are, let’s say our first four weeks. There’s a lot of concentration on that, but four weeks in and you can’t, um. Well, you just can’t sit back on your heels. You really should, as you’re saying, like that’s when someone’s going to be less engaged in naturally anyways, is after four weeks.

[00:18:15] And so you almost need to be more present than as a, as a leader or manager or coach. Yeah. Well, I thought I got a lot out of his session. I don’t know if you want to go through anything else in particular with him, but I thought overall, I, I guess I’d heard of happiness researchers, but he was the first.

[00:18:34] I guess happiness researcher that I felt like the intensity of the passion coming off of him. He went way over his time and he just, he just like rambled on about things and had these wrecks, like he had zero slides. Um, and it seemed like zero note cards. He was just from the hip and, but yet it was super well-structured.

[00:18:55] He had,

[00:18:56] Nicole Brennan: everyone was engaged to like super engaged.

[00:18:59] David Staley: Yeah, it was great. [00:19:00] Yeah. His passion was like palpable. It was, it was awesome. So I thought he did a fantastic job. I can’t wait to read his book. Uh, particularly, he said his favorite work ever was that, um, was the second book was

[00:19:11] Nicole Brennan: the day of a big potential,

[00:19:12] David Staley: big potential.

[00:19:13] I, I can’t wait to read it. It seems super interesting, but I didn’t, uh, I mean, I’m sure we could spend an hour on each of these, but did you want to hit anything else? Whether then, or, uh, or now, or anyone? I did this. I also

[00:19:27] Nicole Brennan: feel like I can talk about that session. Um, particularly for awhile. I have a lot of notes on it, but I think we can move on.

[00:19:34] David Staley: Cool. Alright, well let’s move on then. What’s next? What’s next? Next key take away. Oh, I have so many notes from his

[00:19:42] Nicole Brennan: session. I’m scanning.

[00:19:45] David Staley: Um, well, this is, I feel like, right when I started, uh, the next session was actually the employee experience session. And I didn’t have nearly as many notes on this session, but I guess I should have been maybe more engaged with the word employee experience [00:20:00] because that came up constantly.

[00:20:02] And now after, like, I don’t know how many hours of like hearing like having it forced fed my, my ear tubes. Um, basically. You know, everyone talks about customer experience now folks, and I’m sure that anybody that has any, you know, touch of HR would be like, you didn’t ever hear about employee experience before.

[00:20:23] It’s like, no, it was not on my radar. It makes sense though. So employee experience came out of directly like customer experience. If you talk a lot about customer experience, then it’s like, well, let’s talk about how our employees are, are what, what their world is like when they join a company from every touch point right.

[00:20:41] It’s so broad though that I felt like that was a challenge. When they talk about like employee experience scores, it’s like, shoot man, someone spends more, we always hear this more at work than they do with their family. So then where can you really get the best bang for the buck on the, like trying to improve your employee experience.

[00:20:59] And then [00:21:00] frankly, we were trying to get at this with the Hilton, so maybe we mesh the two sessions here, but Hilton was, is a big customer of better up and they were. I’m talking about their improved scores and in particular their thrive program. And, uh, it’s, there’s so many angles, like Hilton was talking about, like redoing the uniforms, about redoing the, like inner workings of a, would they call it the heart of

[00:21:23] Nicole Brennan: the heart of house.

[00:21:24] So basically the behind the scenes area for staff or meals, um, locker rooms, things like that.

[00:21:31] David Staley: Right. And then they were talking about trying to measure. The ROI of things. So for one, uh, I’ll give one thing, uh, those listening to this, um, podcast may have been at Optech, uh, that November of this last year, night 19, and that was held at the hotel Anatole in Dallas.

[00:21:51] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Hilton Anatole. And they said that that, um, hotel employs more than a thousand people and that they were suffering [00:22:00] from 60. Something percent turnover rates,

[00:22:02] Nicole Brennan: 66% and turnover rate every year.

[00:22:05] David Staley: There you go. Insane. It’s crazy. Insane. And so they, um, they ended up launching Hilton thrive and in particular this heart of house.

[00:22:12] So heart of house is basically anything that th that normal patrons wouldn’t see. So it’s like, you know, the kitchen or the hallways or the laundry facilities. And, and in particular, it seems like a big initiative they did was the rework, the lunch rooms. The lunch room was like fluorescent lights. I did, it did look like this was, they were aware of this for PR for a little while, cause that the picture of the old lunch room had a different colored walls.

[00:22:37] Nicole Brennan: So it’s like

[00:22:37] David Staley: we tried, we painted the wall orange. Uh, but it’s still fluorescent lights and you still have like cafeteria style seating. And so this gets, this is really depressing. So they returned, they, they spent money to dress it up and make it look like a pub. So now the lunch room still has fluorescent lights, but it’s got like

[00:22:56] What looks like reclaimed wood, like bars and tables and stuff. So [00:23:00] it feels like a pub when you’re there. And there was that in particular. They focused on harder house at Anatole and they said the first year they ended up reducing turnover rate by, do you remember Nicole?

[00:23:13] Nicole Brennan: I think it was 12%

[00:23:14] David Staley: 12% after two years, 9% after year one and an additional 3% in year two.

[00:23:19] And they said that just in that first year that saved them over one point. I think it was. Well, yeah, 1.5 million bucks. And just the turnover from that one building just by redoing their like lunch and some other, some other areas. So I thought that was really interesting because they were saying that they were aware that this was an issue because they had a, on their annual employee survey, they have, I think they said a 96% response rate and people were complaining about the facilities.

[00:23:48] Anatole is a very nice hotel, but apparently for the working staff on the inside, it wasn’t super nice. Yeah. Then they just sort of humanized it as an edge and all of a sudden they dropped 12 points and they [00:24:00] save, you know, over 1 million bucks a year get significant. How did I get on this track? Oh, employee experience.

[00:24:06] So employee experience is everything from your facilities, which, I mean, we’re investing in new office space. So that made me feel good. Like, okay, there’s a value here. It’s not just having some cool digs, but there’s actual like human happiness value here and ROI associated with that. But it also impacts as you’re like every touch point, that the way you receive your paychecks, the way like the uniforms you’re required to wear.

[00:24:27] Like I remember we have some clients out in California and they, the highlight of their summer is the fact that they get to wear like jeans on Fridays in the summer, and it’s like, just that little thing just sparks it for them. Um, so I just, it wasn’t, I mean, I, I guess I’ve thought of our employees and what life is like for them.

[00:24:49] But I hadn’t thought as much about like how do we treat employees? Think of them like employees or customers, like employees are our greatest customer.

[00:24:58] Nicole Brennan: Yeah. I mean that kind of ties to the [00:25:00] whole, um, theme of, I think it was that panel where they were talking about how your employee experience mirrors your customer experience.

[00:25:08] So whatever your employer employees are experiencing internally is really what they are projecting when dealing with your customers. So I thought that was a great way to kind of connect those six pillars of what employee experience means. Um, and know that, you know, if we’re doing things as an employer to raise that overall score, that’s going to affect the way that our employees

[00:25:29] David Staley: handle our customers.

[00:25:30] So I think that

[00:25:31] Nicole Brennan: was a great time.

[00:25:32] David Staley: Yeah. I also thought it was, well for me really. I don’t want to use the word unique, but he’ll, I mean, Hilton was like all over this conference, which I thought was great because there’s a lot of parallels from hospitality and property management. So for us, this was helpful, but, um, they said that when you, a lot of times, um, and this ties into a later speaker, but he talked about the shoot, the economy of [00:26:00] experience.

[00:26:00] Yeah. The economy experience. Thank you. And he was saying like, you can start as a commodity and then you move up from a commodity to a service, and then you move up from a service to an experience. So his example was a commodity, his coffee, and he said, uh, and I have this in a later thing, but like a commodity is coffee.

[00:26:17] And then it moves up to, um, . Uh, like, uh, the grocery store, which is like selling coffee beans or whatever, and then it moves up to a bodega or a seven 11 that might like brew coffee, but then it moves up to an experience and that’s where Starbucks came in and Starbucks completely rewrote it because Maxwell was thinking of themselves as a commodity, Maxwell house and Starbucks and sales experience.

[00:26:41] And so that’s how they were able to get now like four or five bucks out of a cup of coffee versus Maxwell house. He was saying was getting. A couple of cents, like 2 cents per cup of coffee. So, um, and he talked about the different economics of each of those levels. And he said, well, this sounds great, and you’d think, Starbucks, this is great.

[00:26:57] You’ve hit the top tier. But he says, the problem is [00:27:00] experience is, is what it makes you feel at the inside. And on the inside. You usually get that feeling the first time, but not the second time, not the third time. So he’s like, you have to keep innovating on your experience. Otherwise it will become stale and it becomes a commodity because anything that’s real that you can replicate is a commodity.

[00:27:19] And that’s, that was really, I guess, eye opening for me. Cause you guys, the team always hears me talk about like, how can we make this formula account? Can we scale this? How can we like make it where it’s just an on frickin autopilot? Um, but as I heard it from him, it’s like, that’s true. Like, I don’t think of Starbucks isn’t experienced anymore.

[00:27:38] It’s like, okay, it’s around that ubiquitous and I know what I’m going to get. And like, here I go.

[00:27:42] Nicole Brennan: Well, I think what he also did a good job with tying in there was the mass personalization. So I think that was a way around how can you, either at scale or for things that are like repeatable, um, how can you bring in mass personalization.

[00:27:57] Into that experience for the customer. So obviously if it’s [00:28:00] Starbucks, you can customize your drink thousand which ways, and that keeps the customers engaged and coming back and that they feel like they have this personal attachment or relationship with Starbucks. So I think that kind of ties back loose leave, but I’m gonna make the connection to what we do, where it’s like the order of which, you know, you’re engaging with us or the services that we’re providing each are a slightly tailored experience.

[00:28:24] David Staley: Well, yeah, that’s what you hope and, and it’s funny cause in a lot of ways we’ve internally been talking about removing cuff customization from things. Maybe that’s the wrong word, but it’s, if we do too many custom things, then then we find ourselves matchmaking too much of the individuals that are working on things.

[00:28:41] And then that gets hard. If we end up getting too much, I’ll see a customer interest in something that needs a custom  thing that ends up really relying heavily on one individual. So I’ll make this super easy. And let’s say that every client, all of a sudden on Tuesday wanted a data science QBR done. It’s like, [00:29:00] well, lurch has himself that basically does this as our chief data officer, and he’s only got so many hours in the day, so he can’t flip all those around on Tuesday like everybody else wants.

[00:29:09] So how do we make this. A repeatable, but also still feel because of the customers, the client. And what I thought was interesting about the, um, the experience, the experience economy that, that he was talking about was that it’s not, a lot of times when people think of experience, so when he says, like, if you are trying to make a Starbucks competitor or whoever.

[00:29:30] You. A lot of times people are thinking about like, it’s a, it’s a time exchange. So it’s like we need, people are going to spend a lot of a lot of money here if they spend a lot of time here. And so that’s not it at all. It shouldn’t be. You shouldn’t equate time to dollars necessarily as a movie. Theaters do that.

[00:29:46] And he said, movie theaters are basically six. You’re paying 6 cents a minute to be at a movie theater. But he said, now when you, when you think are sick between six and 20 cents a minute to go to a movie. But when you are go to [00:30:00] a, um, like escape room, people are willing to pay 80 cents a minute for, for their time there.

[00:30:05] And he said it’s because of the, the personalization of things. Um, and uh, and how well, again, people don’t necessarily equate a single minute and the dollars that takes, they, they like the experience. So those are the two ends of the spectrum. In the middle he said Disneyland or Disney world, it’s about 40 cents a minute.

[00:30:23] And so like, great. Yeah. Disney world is, people say it’s expensive, but at the same time, they’re really enjoying the experience and they’re willing to pay more for Disney world and they’re willing to pay for a movie theater.

[00:30:34] Nicole Brennan: Yeah. And just think on your time thing. Um, to break those out. And he talks about services being time well saved.

[00:30:42] So you’re paying someone for a service. It saves you time, experience being time well spent. So you’re experiencing something, you’re having some kind of emotional connection to it. And then, um, were the goal or the ultimate, um, results should be as in transformations, which is time well invested in. So you’re getting something back for that time [00:31:00] that you put into it.

[00:31:01] David Staley: And the reason I got on this whole thread, uh, was because back to Hilton, what I thought was interesting is how they think of the employee experience is an experience of one. And some folks know that, know this, but I, I’m a big runner, so I do a lot of ultra distance racing stuff. Runs that are over a marathon in length.

[00:31:22] And whenever we talk about, um, like nutrition or training or whatever it, we always say, Hey, it’s an experiment of one because as much as you, well, well as much as we’re all similar as humans or as runners in this case, everyone is very different. And what works for me is not going to work for you. And so I’m equating this back to Hilton because Hilton says the employee experience is individual.

[00:31:46] Yeah, it’s not, it’s not a group. It’s not something you can really replicate if you’re going to do it right. If you’re really going to be nurturing, growing an individual, you can’t treat them like everybody else. And so their example is they try to customize it even as much [00:32:00] as they can to the person, but just even an even bigger groups.

[00:32:02] So just down to the country or the city, or the state or the or the property. And I thought one of the really touching stories was they had said Saudi Arabia just two years ago. Ended up making legalizing women to drive because women were not allowed to drive there prior, I guess to two years ago. And they said as soon as they legalized driving in in Saudi Arabia, they decided we are now going to provide free driving lessons to every woman at, at Hilton and Hilton in the country of Saudi Arabia because they’d never driven before.

[00:32:34] They had no idea, made them nervous. And as to your point about the whole person as the whole person, if this stress now is in your life. That’s going to impact your work life. And so they said, Hey, this is something we can do to, to make a difference to our people and calm their nerves. So let’s give everyone driving lessons.

[00:32:51] Nicole Brennan: Yeah. I thought that was super tough. Chang, really great story, but really focuses on identifying with what people are, what they care about, [00:33:00] what they want to S, you know, spend their time doing, um, nurturing the whole person. So.

[00:33:05] David Staley: Yeah, that was great. Yeah. Plus Hilton has some big ass parking lots, so you have lots of cones you can hit.

[00:33:10] Made it real easy.

[00:33:11] Nicole Brennan: I had so many cones

[00:33:14] David Staley: like to know like their data and their like parallel parking success. After going through training, you say, all right, you’re up now.

[00:33:24] Nicole Brennan: Well, we kind of jumped around. I think we hit a lot of key points, but I do think that we cannot end this podcast without talking about dr ed.

[00:33:35] David Staley: Dr. ed.

[00:33:36] Nicole Brennan: Yes. The Pixar guy. Come on.

[00:33:39] David Staley: Oh, I was thinking about the horse, mr ed, you don’t need to know that. Right. You

[00:33:45] Nicole Brennan: know that referring to mr led, but I was

[00:33:47] David Staley: not going there. Well, he’s like mr . All right, go for it.

[00:33:53] Nicole Brennan: Um, ton to dive into. So I really think that you should probably set it up. Um, but they were giving out his book, [00:34:00] which is creativity inc.

[00:34:01] I think he mentioned that he was rewriting it, updating a lot of the themes in the book to make it more clear and understandable. Um, but why don’t you start by giving a quick summary of who he is for those who don’t know.

[00:34:12] David Staley: So he’s one of the founders of Pixar. He’d been there, um, actually I think he said he worked in any Steve jobs for more than 30 years.

[00:34:19] He had said that he had actually. Had the longest tenure of anybody that had ever worked underneath Steve. Um, so he said he really got to see Steve’s transformation over time, but he didn’t start there. He started with the journey of Pixar and how it started as a hardware company, and then, and then failed, and then they went and they did, um, next, the computer company.

[00:34:42] And that didn’t do too hot, but Hey, ended up surviving and making it, uh, making it out, uh, being acquired by Apple. And then Pixar, uh, took another, uh, another leap at things. And, um, Nicole’s just checking our flight. Are we boarding it? No, we’re delayed. [00:35:00] Say tuned. We have to wrap this and stuff. All right. So, um, then they, uh, that Pixar went off, you know, went off and did the things that did 22 movies, and he said, 20.

[00:35:10] Out of 22 movies. They started, they finished 21 movies now, and he re really talked a lot about their process. So he said they did have a very strict process as a company and how they did movies, but at the same time they tried to make sure that of course, creativity was built into their process, and that’s what really sets him apart, I guess from the Disney animation studio that was struggling during the time that Pixar was taking off.

[00:35:33] Nicole Brennan: Yeah. He talks about creativity being the process by which we solve problems. And he kind of opened up with a, a funny quote by basically saying all of our scripts at first suck. It’s like they all suck. I don’t mean that in a self deprecating way. I mean that in the genuine sense of they suck. So he kind of walked us through some of the examples.

[00:35:56] Um, and how the script goes from, you know, what, it starts [00:36:00] out as to what we all know it as, whether it’s toy story or up. It’s like, where it ends is so, so different than where it starts. And for him and his team, that’s all part of the process. And it’s very intentional. Like they, they want it to suck. Um, if they, you know, not, if they have something good, they discard it, but they want to go through that process of.

[00:36:21] Um, it being super rough and then turning into you what it will become,

[00:36:25] David Staley: right. He talked to us specifically, he used up, he was like, when ups started, it was two brothers up in a castle floating castle in the sky. And then they somehow fell out of the castle

[00:36:36] Nicole Brennan: or at war with the group on the ground having this fight between the casserole warriors and the on the ground and warriors.

[00:36:43] David Staley: Right. And then they fell out of the sky that landed, and then there was a big ass bird. Great. And it’s like, and this sucks. He’s like, this idea was terrible.

[00:36:52] Nicole Brennan: It was the birds.

[00:36:53] David Staley: So the bird, Oh, and the, and the word up. Yeah. Word up remained. And then the bird, and then he’s like, next version was like, uh, the [00:37:00] dude and his wife.

[00:37:00] Um, nice emotional story. They thought that emotional story. I was going to take 40 minutes of the movie before. Um, he ends up taking off and going, flying through the Amazon or whatever on and finding the bird. And he’s like, the problem is like when, when they did that, the 45 minutes or whatever, they thought that was the setup of the store was going to be of gold, ended up turning into four minutes of diamonds.

[00:37:22] He was like, no, this is great. But the problem is now we have four minutes of moving at 45 minutes of a movie. So this is an issue. And then he talked about how finally they ended up getting to towards the later version or to the final version of up. But it’s like, and this is what I asked him at the end, you’ll remember I grabbed the mic and I was like asking him like, so.

[00:37:41] You have these commercial, um, you have these, these deadlines, you must hit as a business, these commercial deadlines. But yet as he’s saying, like they’re going through massive changes in the movie and iterations. And so I’m like, how do you stay on schedule and how do you force force the issue or, or get to the [00:38:00] point that the 21 movies get made out of 22 because you’re not, he, he sort of, he just said the difference in the business model between Pixar and Netflix is.

[00:38:08] Netflix is shotgun approach, threw everything at the wall and maybe some stuff will stick and that’s cool. And then the other stuff like, you know, it’s like survival of the fittest. And he said, that’s not how they do it. He said in particular with their ideas, if they take the elevator test, if you can explain the movie and an elevator pitch style not going to work.

[00:38:27] Nicole Brennan: Yeah. He was even saying like some of the leadership goals there for, um, the, it was for all about the crew. Right. So he was like, one of our struggles was how do we protect the crew. While working on something that we know doesn’t work because it’s not going to work until maybe eight months before it’s released.

[00:38:44] And the crew has been working on it for four years and everyone is just telling them it sucks. So how do they protect their mental wellbeing?

[00:38:50] David Staley: They’re

[00:38:51] Nicole Brennan: working on this project that’s just not connecting,

[00:38:54] David Staley: right? Right. Yeah. He didn’t give me, he didn’t seem to, at least I didn’t take away like actionable [00:39:00] advice about how you keep someone happy and Oh no, he, he did.

[00:39:03] He said it was like a captain. He said, you have to tell the. The captain of the ship. It’s not that like you succeed or fail on a daily basis or with your tasks on a daily basis. He said it’s, it’s, did you lose the crew? So as long as the director or the person running this project hasn’t lost their crew, then success, but goes back to me like, now how do we keep these people on time?

[00:39:24] Because I could have a crew and we go to the moon bounce every day and guess what? I’m not going to lose my crew, but I’m not getting my crap done. Right? So I’m, I need to dive back into his book and figure that out.

[00:39:35] Nicole Brennan: Yeah. He talked a lot about appreciating the problems you can’t see. So knowing that there’s going to be all of these roadblocks along the way, all of these things that you’re going to stumble upon, that you didn’t predict for, but really appreciating that that’s where the creativity is going to come from, and that you have the right talent, the right team to embark on those obstacles together and then overcome

[00:39:55] David Staley: them.

[00:39:56] And I hear, I totally, yeah, I remember that [00:40:00] part. He also though, and this, uh, this got me, uh. But he said, there are zero, uh, Oh, sorry, how do I phrase this? He was like, if people track metrics a lot in businesses, and so I kept, I loved how this guy kept bringing it back to business stuff, but he’s like, when you’re tracking metrics, it’s not always a good thing.

[00:40:19] So he said, if your number one metric is that there need to be zero dumb ideas, that is a bad idea. Right? Meaning like, he’s like, if you walk into a meeting and or. If, if I walked into a meeting tomorrow with the team and I was like, all right, the goal of this meeting is zero dumb ideas. He’s like, you are going to lose the deal.

[00:40:39] Zero ideas, your creativity because it’s like, is it, you don’t then have the psychological safety and do anything cause you don’t want to mess up. He said, on the other hand, you can’t. He’s like, there is a spectrum here. Right. And he said, that’s kind of the million dollar question. He’s like, you can’t decide to have a hundred.

[00:40:55] Bad ideas. Right? And so he’s like, he hasn’t even figured it out yet, but he said it was very [00:41:00] important. And, uh, and he, he brought this up and so did other people in other, in other sessions. But the whole Google Aristotle study that was like, it’s all about the social connection, the team, and the strength of that social connection where people had the psychological safety to give them ideas and give candid feedback on the ideas they’re getting and not get their feelings hurt.

[00:41:20] Um.  speak up and he’s like, that’s what he ended up calling the brain trust. Take a breath. Staley, you almost went a little, a little much. But when he said the brain trust, he said the biggest indicator of how smart Steve jobs was was that he never joined a brain trust meeting. So they did this once a quarter on every film, and it would sometimes be a two day offsite, but their whole thing was.

[00:41:44] Uh, has to feel safe in the room. And you can’t have someone like Steve famously, people say there’s a reality distortion field around him where like people just act different in his presence, right? And so they could only have people in the brain trust meeting where everyone felt safe and [00:42:00] cool. And so he said Steve would call him the night before and be like, what’s, you know, what’s the plan?

[00:42:04] What’s the plan? And then we’d call him the day after and be like, how’d it go? How’d it go? Um, but never would. Ed ended up telling Steve what had gone truly gone down in the meeting. He just said, Hey, it’s good or it’s bad. Um, and then they moved down like that and Steve knew not to press the issue cause he knew he would have his distortion fields kick in and that would ruin the creativity of the group.

[00:42:25] Yeah.

[00:42:26] Nicole Brennan: Then some of the rules of the brain trusts and the principles they saw, you kinda hit on them, but peers talking to peers, so they removed the power structure from the room. There was no hierarchy. It was everyone was present as a peer. Um, and people don’t start, but they enter the discussion. So I think that goes back to the psychological safety and then having that presence.

[00:42:49] So peers, power, structure. Um, and then some of the guiding principles were you have to say what you think. So

[00:42:57] David Staley: you

[00:42:58] Nicole Brennan: give honest feedback, you’ve [00:43:00] listened. Um, but then also he talks a lot about just being very conscious of the dynamics of the room. So. Are people, to your point earlier, checking their watch, are they engaged?

[00:43:10] Who, who is in that conversation? Are they picking up on these micro facial expressions? Things like that.

[00:43:15] David Staley: And when he said, enter, he meant specifically for leadership or someone’s a boss spend at least the first 15 minutes not saying anything. Right. And just, and so

[00:43:24] Nicole Brennan: exiting, soaking it in. You know, leading that discussion because that person is probably so used to leading that it’s natural for them to jump in.

[00:43:35] David Staley: I thought it was interesting was ed was like, he’s like this, these drain brain trust. Quarterly meetings weren’t 100% success. He said they often like resulted in nothing, but he said that was part of the process of the suck of getting through it. And so the, the objective was, again, for, for the director not to lose the crew.

[00:43:53] And to, to try to keep the energy and the culture alive

[00:43:57] Nicole Brennan: and to remove the ego. So he talked a lot about [00:44:00] removing ego from the situation and then removing your attachment to ideas. So he said the magic happens when you’re in this flow state ideas are coming and going. There’s no attachment to them. So it’s not like if I raise an idea, I’m now married to that idea and I’m fighting for my idea.

[00:44:15] The real true beauty comes when it’s like everyone is just kind of. Throwing out these ideas, seeing what sticks, iterating on them, but not having ownership to them. 

[00:44:25] David Staley: I ha, I know that we were trying to get out of here, but I have to say this too, cause I think this is applicable to, to us and our client base.

[00:44:32] But he was saying that when they first were launching toy story, they were just doing it all internal with their own people. But they, he’s like, the problem is we’d never made a movie before. Nobody had ever been involved in a movie. And so they had to end up relying on production people and producers from Hollywood as they brought people up from Hollywood to come to come help work on toy story for them.

[00:44:51] Toy story is released and it’s a smashing success. They go public that week after tour stories launched, but then they’re like, sweet Pixars [00:45:00] working public offering great success. Let’s keep doing this thing. And they went, and those production people that they had did, they had hired from Hollywood or like, yeah, cool.

[00:45:10] I don’t know that I want to stick around. And he, he was like knocked back. He, he was on, on his heels cause he’s like, what do you mean you want to stick around? Like, we just did special cool stuff that like, yeah, no toy story was great and it was super cool. Um, and, and it was definitely something special we did.

[00:45:24] But, you know, we’re kind of treated like second class citizens here. And the reason that rock ed to his core, he said one of their values at the beginning was that there was no inequity. At stake that the creative people, and then the engineers had the same pay curve as as as one another. The same responsibility, options and opportunities is one another.

[00:45:44] And then the hear that they had brought in some people from Hollywood and, and they felt like second class citizens. He said that it just. He, he had never been so surprised in his life and when he really dug into it, what he found was that what they found was that the folks from Hollywood are used to working as a [00:46:00] union, sort of like contract labor, economy, a gig economy.

[00:46:03] And so he said that they’re usually on a project and off the project and onto the next thing. And their thing is not speaking honest and open about things because they don’t want to piss off the director because they may not get hired for the next project because they don’t have any permanency. And  that was very different than than obviously what they’re trying to do at Pixar, where everyone, they’re building a culture and he said, so what happens is people just put up with the suck in Hollywood and till they get in till they get to the next gig and hope grass is greener.

[00:46:30] And so they had to completely like rewire the company. Um, and so the reason I say that’s important is because I think when you’re hiring outside contractors or teams or agencies to work on your stuff, whether it’s us working with contractors or it’s our clients working with us, you have to think of the impact that can have on the overall project.

[00:46:49] Because if, if the two teams don’t feel really integrated and like there’s a different power dynamic that can really impact the quality of the work in the project itself.

[00:46:59] Nicole Brennan: Yeah. And [00:47:00] really keeping in mind those core values of both teams. 

[00:47:04] David Staley: well, Nick, we’re going to be late for our meeting or our meeting, our plane.

[00:47:08] Uh, so we gotta we gotta get the heck out of here. I have more than I made that I may want to talk

[00:47:13] Nicole Brennan: to him. I want to do a followup a lot.

[00:47:15] David Staley: Yeah. Yeah. Not to overdo it as if my professor, uh, David and Nicole over here, but I’m, I just, I’m so, uh, I guess like in passions now about the subject, which I think is really.

[00:47:28] Well that was, that’s a great take on it. It’s a

[00:47:30] Nicole Brennan: prize, like going into it, I guess I wouldn’t have accepted that for you. I definitely knew that we were going to get a lot of out of it out of it, but you are very fired up. Very engaged. And so I think that, um, it’s surprising to me in a great way.

[00:47:42] David Staley: Yeah. Cool.

[00:47:44] All right, well let’s get out of here for now and as we, you know, ruminate on this stuff in the next couple of days. Maybe we’ll do another one if we think there’s a reason.

[00:47:53] Nicole Brennan: Let’s do it.

[00:47:54] David Staley: Alright, thanks. See ya.


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