About this episode
Proximity bias creates an ironic situation for Phil Simon, a hardworking employee working from home, as his office-working colleague gets the credit due to their presence in the office, prompting Phil to research and write his fourth book, The Nine, to explore the powerful potential of hybrid work and challenge existing workplace norms.
What you’ll learn
- Embrace hybrid work models for improved teamwork and adaptability.
- Navigate the effects of inflation on business policies and resource allocation.
- Uncover the role of AI, automation, and cutting-edge tech in shaping the future workplace.
- Respond effectively to an evolving workforce demanding shifts in conventional work practices.
- Foster employee-centered workspaces focused on striking a healthy work-life equilibrium.
Frank Cottle [00:00:24] Phil Welcome to the future of work. Podcast. Really great to have you here with us today.
Phil Simon [00:00:25] Thanks for having me, Frank. Looking forward to our chat.
Frank Cottle [00:00:51] It’s my pleasure, and and I’ve enjoyed the conversations we’ve had already. And let me give our audience a little bit of a bio on your background. Phil Simon is probably the world’s leading independent expert on workplace collaboration and technology. He’s a frequent keynote speaker and award winning author of 14 books, most recently, The Nine the Tectonic Forces Reshaping the Workplace.
Frank Cottle [00:01:18] He helps organizations communicate, collaborate, and use technology more efficiently. He’s featured in the Harvard Business Review, the MIT Sloan Management Review, Wired, NBC, CNBC, Bloomberg Business Week, New York Times have all featured his contributions. And he hosts his own podcast conversation about collaboration, which, if you haven’t been paying attention to that, I would highly recommend. Phil, again, welcome. Really glad to have you.
Frank Cottle [00:01:48] I know you’ve been on our podcast some time ago, and our audience was quite delighted. So let’s just jump right into it if that’s okay with you. Let’s rock and roll. Okay. The nine. The Tectonic forces reshaping the workplace. In your book, you reference Cisco, Dropbox, LinkedIn, others that are reimagining their workplaces. Explain to us exactly what you think they’re doing or what you think they should be doing.
Phil Simon [00:02:46] Well, those are examples, Frank, as you know, of companies that are doing things correctly and have really leaned into this future of work and hybrid. If you go back to, say, Cisco, prior to the pandemic, their New York office broke down as follows 70% of the space allocated to individual workspaces and 30% for more collaborative ones. They’ve now inverted that. So it’s 70% for collaborative workspace and 30% for individual. If you’re going to the office, you should be meeting with people, collaborating, brainstorming training sessions, getting to know your colleagues, whatever. You should not be putting your head down, encoding or checking email or whatever. And Cisco is also, I think, particularly interesting because the folks there were really thoughtful about sensors, about reserving rooms, even about the geometry of the conference table. So, for example, historically, if you’ve gone into a conference room, there was a rectangular table. But if you’re sitting at the end of that and someone is on, say, a zoom call at the screen at the end of the room, a big zoom room, or the hardware that Microsoft Zooms and these companies make, people have to go like this. And that’s not really normal to sit like that. So they created this polygon type table that would be much more natural. So you were sitting looking at someone like this as opposed to like this. So they really did some thoughtful research and spent a good deal of money creating an office, really, as a destination. Frank and people will still need to go to the office. I’m a big believer that hybrid is the future. I’ve written about that in some of my previous books. But you need to make it purposeful.
Phil Simon [00:04:12] You can’t expect people to be excited about going to the office if they’re just going to sit on Zoom calls all day. In fact, people get really annoyed. Why couldn’t I have done that from home? So it is forcing organizations to think about things in a different way than maybe the manners in which they become accustomed. But I thought that it was important in this book, just like my other ones, to provide stories and examples of companies doing these things rather than just preaching, do this, don’t do that. That, to me, doesn’t make as a reader for good experience.
Frank Cottle [00:04:42] I agree. Cisco is interesting. They created a product called Telepresence quite a number of years ago, 1998.
Phil Simon [00:04:52] I remember we had that when I worked at Merck and Company. I remember we had that when I worked at Merck and Company. It was cordoned off in the executive wing.
Frank Cottle [00:04:54] But I do think it was a really good training ground, if you will, for setting up some of the things that you’re talking about. And some technology companies have an advantage over other non technology companies in this regard because they have been pioneers. So what about companies that are non technology companies reimagining their workplace? Are you seeing them as leaders, followers in between? Because the great majority of us don’t necessarily work for the big Ten tech companies?
Phil Simon [00:05:36] Oh, I couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, in the chapter on inflation, I write about how there are structural issues in the economy that aren’t going to be fixed with macroeconomic policy or tax cuts. And we can talk about that later if you like. But to answer your question, the notion that you have to be Google or Cisco or Amazon to embrace hybrid and remote work is absurd. We’ve now seen go back 20 years of the prevalence of software as a service. It used to be that companies needed to spend millions of dollars on technology or systems or applications before people could use them, or they needed to hire their own It staffs and run their own hardware. Well, thanks to cloud computing, they don’t need to do that anymore. So while tech companies may be pioneers to your point, I agree with you. That doesn’t mean that we can’t learn a few things from them. And the technology now is so much more affordable. Plus co, working spaces, satellite offices. These are things that have been around for a long time. And certainly it’s not something that requires any sort of programming background to take advantage of.
Frank Cottle [00:06:44] No, I think you’re absolutely right. And a person like myself that’s been in business for five and a half decades when I started in business, you had people entering technology and they were the only ones that understood it. Today, the layman, the individual user, understands probably 1000% more than the technologist even of ten years ago. So we have so much more comfort as we go forward with these things. I think we’ll see it. You mentioned inflation. That’s an interesting thought, because inflation I won’t say it’s here to stay. It’s always been with us in some form or another, just about. And I’ve been through half a dozen cycles, ups and downs. People are horrified today at housing prices. And I remember when the home mortgages were 14%, late 70s. Right. We all get used to our own reality in very short periods of time. But how do you think that’s going to impact the future of work and the workplace? I understand how it impacts companies and the sales cycles of products, but how do you think it’s actually going to impact the workplace as we go into the future of work?
Phil Simon [00:08:10] We could talk the entire show about it, so I’ll just be brief. But in so many ways. Many organizations for years offered nominal merit increases of two or 3% per year. Well, when inflation was seven or 8% per year, just by staying at your company, you were receiving a de facto 5% decrease in pay. And there were organizations like my previous employer. The four years that I was there didn’t offer me any sort of increase. So eventually I saw my pay erode and when it became obvious that I wasn’t going to receive any kind of increase, I started wondering, could I get something else? And that’s important in the context of dispersion the subject of chapter two. We no longer have to move our families cross country to take a new job. We might have to commute 2 hours once a quarter to an office or maybe once a week. But we really have made the world a lot smaller with the pandemic and the prevalence of tools like Microsoft, Teams, Slack and Zoom. So companies can no longer say we’re the only shop in town. Now there’s a benefit to organizations. They could conceivably find talent anywhere in the world. But employees are more empowered. They’re more willing to quit. We’ve seen this with the data behind the great resignation and the number of people who want to stop working for the man and start their own businesses. I want to say that something like 4.1 million small businesses I think got started in 2021 or 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So inflation is enormous from a labor point of view and also from an investment point of view. If it’s cheap to borrow money, then organizations can expand not only in terms of the number of employees that they hire, but also in terms of construction and product launches and other sorts of investments. So inflation is a game changer and it really does underpin a lot of the other forces in the book. If, for example, employees are more expensive and they’re asking for raises more frequently, then maybe it’s going to accelerate the adoption of automation technologies that are discussed in one of the chapters or generative AI tools like Chat, GPT. So you don’t write this book without covering the elephant in the room, which I would argue is inflation. I don’t see realistically how it’s going to revert to 2% anytime soon. I think it’s much more likely that it’ll be four or 5% for the indefinite future, especially with some of the geopolitical issues around Russia and Ukraine and China and all that.
Frank Cottle [00:10:38] No, I think if you look over the last again over my career period, I would say four or five or maybe even 6% would be that running average that you see a lot of times as a mean average. So I would definitely agree with you there. And I think that one of the things that we see as we look into that future of work, into our crystal ball, is that we’re always looking for things that impact people, employees and companies overall. When you look at you mentioned other technologies, augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, Chat, GTP, all the things that we know are on the cusp or actually in real use and accelerating today. How do you think that’s going to impact the way we hire, the change in the job structures, the way we use real estate overall? That’s a huge question. You could chat, we could spend a week on that one alone or a month, but these things are coming at us really fast.
Phil Simon [00:11:54] Sure.
Frank Cottle [00:11:55] I was just at an industry convention this last week in Chicago, and I was shocked and terrified that there wasn’t a single presentation on AI. And it was a real estate based convention. And the impact of AI on employment and the impact of employment on Occupancy and all of this chain reaction of things and how that’s going to impact the banks that have made the loans and the insurance companies that have made the investments. This ripple effect is staggering. And yet I think a lot of people have their head in the sand. They think it’s for somebody else.
Phil Simon [00:12:39] Sure. And I think that’s one of the real dangers of in chapter ten, I write about some of the strategies that you could adopt knowing all the information that I covered in the previous nine, getting back to at least one aspect of your question, Frank. To me, it’s silly to ignore AI within the context of real estate. If AI and automation and some of the immersive technologies like VR and AR mean that we don’t need as many employees or as many employees in the office, then it’s simply a matter of math. We don’t need as many desks or floors or buildings. So even though I want to say that Office Occupancy is around 50% pre pandemic levels, and just to give some.
Frank Cottle [00:13:17] Context, in utilization, in actual use, about 50%.
Phil Simon [00:13:22] Correct. It varies by city and by country and by industry. But generally speaking, there’s a chart that I cite in the book that compares I think it’s 97% pre pandemic levels with airplane travel, restaurants, sporting events, those types of things. But Office Occupancy is 50%, and you are silly and not a particularly judicious fiduciary of your company if you just automatically renew a ten year lease. With all these trends taking place, employees don’t want to be in the office Monday through Friday, nine to five. There was a LinkedIn study I saw a couple of days ago in the UK. Something like three out of four employees will quit if compelled to return to the office five days a week. So the question becomes, what do you do with this information? And I agree with you, it is naive and quite Frankly dangerous to pretend that AI or immersive, tech automation, some of the technologies that I discuss in the book, will have zero impact on real estate. That’s just foolish.
Frank Cottle [00:14:21] No, I agree. When you reference 50% Occupancy, there’s two definitions, if you will, of Occupancy I think need to make clear. One is the real estate industry’s definition. They would say, my building is 90% occupied because it’s 90% leased and 90% and the leases are paying me revenue. The other is the corporate definition, which would say I have 10,000ft of space, but people are only at their desk 50% of the time. And that’s the Occupancy you’re talking about.
Phil Simon [00:14:58] And that’s a fair point. And not to get too into the weeds here, but one of the statistics I discovered researching the book was around companies subleasing their office space. I know Dropbox One Quarter made something like $14.7 million by subleasing its space. So again, if it wants to get into the office space business, it can continue to do that. More likely, they’ll just rent fewer square feet in the future because why would you want that risk on your balance sheet? In the short term, it’s just risk mitigation. That’s a given. But long term, do you really want to compete with WeWork and some of the other companies that are doing co working spaces or satellite offices? So, yeah, I agree with you. You can own the space, but that doesn’t mean that it’s constantly used. And the pandemic, I think, has accelerated to your point from before, trends that were taking place, whether it’s remote work or ecommerce. And now that hopefully we’re post Pandemic or at least returning to this new normal again, I just think it’s foolish to think that people will willingly return to hour and a half commutes and not take advantage of some of the new freedoms that they have with remote and hybrid work.
Frank Cottle [00:16:10] No, I would agree with you. It’s funny that in our world of the flexible workspace, which is where I come from, we’ve seen a variety of cycles in the past and the one thing that we’ve seen consistent is that no one minds being in the office. No one is willing to commute if they can do anything to avoid it. It’s the time that kills people and it’s angry about it’s a waste and it’s a huge cost on people. So those markets in particular, that are dependent on importing their employees into the city, if you will, from 30 to 90 minutes away london, Paris, New York, Chicago big markets that import people to work in the city and then they go home at night. Those are the ones, I think, that are going to be the most impacted and that are actually going to have to repurpose a lot of those commercial buildings to lower the into residential so they can lower the residential cost so the people can afford to actually live in the city that they work.
Phil Simon [00:17:21] Yeah, it doesn’t happen overnight. I know that some cities have already had some successes. I think Vancouver’s one, British Columbia that did some major renovation work when they realized that people were not reverting to full time office work. But you can’t just, as, you know, hit a switch and in some cases it’s read a bunch of articles on this in the Wall Street Journal, in the New York Times. Logistically, it can be difficult, if not impossible, certainly expensive and time consuming to turn a commercial building into a residential one. But there is this opportunity and crisis and to the extent that there is a massive housing shortage in the US. I’ve read that there are a lot of factors at play stemming from the financial crisis and student loan debt and supply and demand. But it is this opportunity for some buildings to get converted. But I don’t think that we’re going to convert anywhere near 100% of them. And there are going to be, despite our best efforts, some buildings that are going to have to stand. Maybe at best case there’ll be mixed use.
Frank Cottle [00:18:25] I think that’s right. I think a great number of the buildings will end up by design and by effort being mixed use. And you see this in other parts of the world. You see in other parts of the world. If you look into the Middle East as a good example, or into Asia, you see a lot of the buildings. There are multipurpose buildings and doing quite well as a result of it. So this is a phenomenon maybe that we should be paying more attention to.
Phil Simon [00:18:55] Oh, 100%. Not just fractional real estate, but fractional employment. In that chapter of the book, I discuss fractional chief information or operating officers, or certainly an organization like Google or Amazon needs a full time CFO or CEO. But what if you’re a four or 500 person growing company and you can’t really afford to pay someone three or four bills a year as the CMO or chief legal counsel? But you do want to lock someone in for two to three days a week. So the fractions chapter is one that surprises people when they see the COVID of the book, because it’s got this icon for a chapter. I’m sorry for a fraction. But the more that I think about it, the more that even though it’s a nascent trend, if the book is about these emerging forces, then it was almost irresponsible of me to ignore it.
Frank Cottle [00:19:41] Well, I think you’re right, and I don’t think people are really focused on that. When we talk about fractions, I think there are two things to be talking about that you’ve actually spoken about. One is a fractional use of hardware, the way that we’re working out of data centers now and sharing computers and sharing systems, et cetera. The other is a fractional use of people. Some of that has happened by default. Some people are running two jobs while they’re working, with nobody knowing it. There’s a little bit of that going on. But the concept of expert for growth companies and an awful lot of companies that have these needs are startup or near startup, mid sized companies, ten to 100 employee size companies, and they can’t afford the full time people at the skill levels that they need without great expense. So kind of define fractional little broader base for people, if you could, how it will impact and how it’s it’s more than just a fad. It’s a true trending structure that will stick as we go forward.
Phil Simon [00:21:03]Oh, 100%. A friend of mine is a fairly senior person at a consulting company here in Arizona. And on one of our walks he said, I’d love to work four days a week and make 20% less. That would be ideal for me. So it’s interesting that people have had this opportunity with COVID to reevaluate their lives. And not for everyone. There’s certainly people who need a full paycheck, but depending on your station in life, the idea that you could work, say, for a client or a company three days a week and do a side hustle, just take some time off. So, yeah, I agree with you. In the same way that you don’t necessarily need to own your own servers, you can rent them from cloud computing companies like AWS and Google and Microsoft with Azure. You don’t necessarily need to hire a full time employee any more than you need to own a full time building or even lease an entire floor. And there are startups that are trying to figure out creative ways for companies to accommodate this flexible, uncertain world. There may be times in which you need to ramp up or ramp down, and a traditional ten year office lease doesn’t really lend itself to that. So could you do something on a more flexible basis? And of course, the answer is yes. So it’s been an interesting journey researching all these trends, but there are definitely startups that are aware of what’s going on. And when I hear about companies attempting to mandate a full time return to the office or poo pooing some of the other things I mentioned in the book, I just kind of smile and say, all right, you can do that. But these trends are in motion, and I don’t see how any one company, no matter how powerful, can stop them.
Frank Cottle [00:22:38] Well, even at the very bottom end of the startup phase, let’s assume you and I, as an example, we’re each going to start a company, okay? Now, we’re going to go into the same venture capitalist, and we’re going to each ask him for a million dollars. And to your point on flexibility, I go in there and he’s going to ask me what I’m going to do with the money. And I say, oh, I’m going to get an office, I’m going to hire a receptionist, I’m going to buy some furniture, I’m going to get some equipment, and then I’m going to hire a couple of programmers, and we’re going to build this world changing software. And you go in there and you say, in response to the same question, you say, oh, I’m going to move into IWG, WeWork or Spaces or any good coworking center and hire some programmers and build my software. Who’s he going to give the money to?
Phil Simon [00:23:39] It’s funny that you mentioned that because I’m old enough to remember the days in which if you work from home, you weren’t serious, you needed to be in a proper office. And now it’s like things have flipped 180 degrees. Now, if you’re, to your point, spending a lot of money on an office, you could say, well, couldn’t you spend that more on people and get together as needed, whether it’s in a we work or another coworking space or even just a company retreat or something? Because I think it’s insane on both ends. So I’m never going to the office as an employee. That’s ridiculous. Or you can never work at home. You always have to be in the office. So to me, the future is hybrid work from home. WFH Research has put out for the last two and a half years some fascinating data on attitudes for both employees and employers with respect to your remote work. And last time I checked, it’s about three and two. So in other words, employees typically want three days. Remote companies are offering two. That’s not a huge chasm. We are in sort of a zone of agreement there. Let’s say it’s two and a half or three or whatever. That’s a lot different than one versus four or zero versus five. So I agree with you. There are lots of benefits to remote work. And certainly, as I’ve written about in previous books, tools like Microsoft Teams Slack Zoom have made remote and hybrid collaboration a lot easier. But you’ll never hear me say that we never need to meet our employees in person, break bread with them, shake their hands, do some sort of cheesy icebreaker game or grab drinks or lunch or whatever. There is something to be said for social capital. Plenty of studies have manifested the animical effects of proximity bias. Even though you may be working harder, you’re at home, whereas I’m in the office and people think I’m working really hard, but I’m just schmoozing, I’m not getting anything done. It’s natural to think that I’m the hard worker and you’re not because you’re out of sight, out of mind. So previous books have touched on those subjects and this is why The Nine is the fourth in a series of books on the future of work and hopefully one that makes people think, because there isn’t really a simple solution. This is not a tactical book. Right on the back of the book, huge letters. This is not a tactical book. So folks who are looking for listicles and top ten lists are going to go wanting. But my favorite books are the ones that make you think.
Frank Cottle [00:25:53] I agree, spawn some good ideas and move forward with it. It is interesting that previously as we look back in time, or at least as I look back in time, I say, well, what are the things that all companies need in order to succeed? Well, they have to have customers and they have to have access to capital today. I would say customers capital and flexibility. If a company isn’t flexible today, and we talk about the workplace a lot, but if they don’t have overall flexibility, then they won’t be able to march into the future of work successfully by comparison to those that do. So whether it’s people or place or technology doesn’t really matter. All three of those things you have to be highly flexible on today and make it part of your plan.
Phil Simon [00:26:48] Yeah, and I think that’s one of the challenges because if you look at a lot of organizations, the people making the decisions are usually old white guys like me. And if you see some of the people mandating a return to work, it’s probably because they had to deal with 90 minutes commutes and that’s just how it was. Kind of like pledging a fraternity. You didn’t like it when you got your ass smacked with a paddle, but damn it, it happened to you and now it needs to happen to someone else as well. So I do think that there’s this massive opportunity for organizations to steer into the skid. And that’s kind of how I conclude the book. You can fight these trends, you can ignore them, you can try to get a little bit pregnant. But by effectively realizing, Frank, that artificial intelligence and automation and dispersed workforces and the other ones that I mentioned in the book are here for good, then the better off I think you’ll are for being successful in the future. But rigidly adhering to past dogma, I think is unlikely to result in a successful outcome.
Frank Cottle [00:27:44] No, I would certainly agree with that. One thing that one of the things that you start off with in the book, in considering, and it’s critical, is the empowered employee. How empowered do you believe the employees in the workplace are today relative to the past and by comparison, where they need to be, how they’re going to stay even or become even more empowered in the future?
Phil Simon [00:28:16] To answer your question, I think that they’re much more empowered than they used to. But forget what I think. If you look at the data, it’s pretty compelling. I believe that in the US. Something like 70% of the population now approves of unions or has a favorable view of unions. That’s the highest that it’s been in, I think, five or six decades. Companies like Trader Joe’s, Kickstarter, Starbucks that have all been branded as employee friendly have had to deal with union certification votes. I start the book off with the story of Google and how tens of thousands of employees and a bunch of other independent contractors walked out over what happened with Andy Rubin, the former head of Android with some sexual assault baggage. And when it was happening, put that in my head for future writing, thinking, wow, you’ve got an employee that employer that’s notorious for perks, like onsite massages.
Frank Cottle [00:29:10] Everything. Yeah, everything.
Phil Simon [00:29:12] And employees there are going out on strike. If that doesn’t scare the average CEO or small business owner, then I don’t know what would. We’ve seen this with the pandemic and yes, low interest rates had something to do with it. Certainly companies like Meta and Microsoft hired like Banshees and got ahead of their skis. That’s one of the reasons that there have been so many layoffs now. But if we look at even some of the series, whether it’s the dropout on Hulu about Elizabeth Holmes from Theranos or the Uber one, we super pumped, I think it’s called, and some of the other ones dope sick about the Sackler brothers with Purdue Pharmaceuticals. We’ve seen a lot of these executives behaving badly, and employees notice that. And even though their CEOs may not be evil, if you couple that with some of the layoffs and some of these mandates to return to work when by all accounts employees have been as, if not more productive, working remotely or in a hybrid fashion, I think that we’ve tapped into a lot of. Consternation among the employees in the United States and in other countries, even in China, employees are rebelling against nine nine six, this notion that you should work at least from 09:00 A.m. To 09:00 P.m., six days per week, and people just aren’t doing that as much.
Frank Cottle [00:30:35] I don’t think they did that in the Middle Ages, even.
Phil Simon [00:30:39] Not that old. But I’ll take your word for it.
Frank Cottle [00:30:42] Yeah, I am. I think that certain cultures have made absolutely unrealistic demands on their people in the name of patriotism, if you will, and put all sorts of outside pressures on people to do things that just aren’t normal. When you talk about unions and I don’t want to get into union, good or bad and everything, but I want to talk about timing and trends a little bit. If employees are if there’s a huge employee demand, basically, and they have great security and all sorts of wonderful benefits, et cetera, do they demand more or less? It’s my experience that when people have more, they demand more, they’re less threatened. As we go into a period that might be recessionary again, I’m curious how many people value having a job versus having exactly the job under exactly the terms that they want, how that will play out. Just because been there, done that and seen it a few times.
Phil Simon [00:31:54] Yeah, it’s a great unknown. And not just the potential for recession, but if you look about, look at automation and the chapter in the book.
Frank Cottle [00:32:00] Starts, oh sure, all these things drive insecurity in the potential employee. And does that insecurity, do they react with it by demanding security or by toeing the line, so to speak?
Phil Simon [00:32:17] Yeah, it’s a complicated question and there are lots of factors at play. But yes, you could make the argument that in a year, if we do enter a deeper session and AI and automation really take off, then that does reduce employee empowerment and by extension, reduce the effectiveness of unions. Or maybe it will increase the effects of them. We just don’t know. I don’t pretend to wear a Swami hat and be able to predict the future. If I told you some of the stocks I sold at the prices at which I sold them, you’d go, I’m never going to listen to this guy again. But I find it difficult to believe that employees will willingly revert to pre pandemic conditions. As I’ve said many times before, Frank, if COVID had been two weeks or two months, effectively it would have been a snow day, but it’s been now two. Plus, if you want to say three years, you wouldn’t be wrong. In which case we’ve really had the opportunity to ask some big hairy questions what does work mean? Should I be living to work? Should I be commuting 3 hours a day and not see my kid when I get home? Or be too tired or just not be present in my lives or take care of myself, do, hobbies, whatever. So I am of the belief that the pendulum will swing, but I just don’t see in the next three to five years the return of a docile workforce.
Frank Cottle [00:33:39] No, I don’t know whether docile or rebellious is the right term, but the workforce absolutely is in a sense of change. And I think that the employer, if you look at the two groups as separately a little bit, because the employer is also part of the workforce, the executive teams are going to ultimately be the ones that will be demanding change as well, because they won’t be able to keep up. They won’t be able to get the best talent. They won’t be able to accomplish their corporate goals and protect their shareholders if they aren’t competitive. And so competition, whether it’s national competition or corporate competition, is going to drive a lot of the decisions that are made, and the success of certain companies over others will be the models that we’ll be looking at.
Phil Simon [00:34:43] Yeah, I would agree with you. And one of the stats that I cite in the book is something like it’s almost a political. 89% of Democrats, 81% of Republicans want a fair degree of remote work or flexibility. This notion that an employer or CEO could say, well, we’re not offering that, I think offers a number of significant downsides, one of which is, well, all right, employees may not quit tomorrow, although in some cases they have en masse. But then you see the talented folks move away. And then Steve Jobs famously said, I don’t want to lower the bar because if we’ve got B players, they’ll hire C players, and it’s just a race to the bottom. We want the most talented folks possible. And the most talented folks are clearly saying we want flexibility with respect to where we work. So I reject the notion that someone like Elon Musk can will a company to bend a company to his will. I think it’s short sighted. I don’t think that it’s practical for most companies. And even if employees stay, I think they’ll be updating their resumes pretty soon.
Frank Cottle [00:35:51] Well, let’s use Elon Musk is a good example. If he is short sighted, he also changes his mind a lot. So maybe his short sightedness is short focused. He does change his mind a lot, so maybe he’s just a fast learner. Who knows?
Phil Simon [00:36:10] And I agree. One of the questions they ask at Google is, tell me about a time that you changed your mind, and if you can’t come up with an answer, they don’t want to hire you because even if you’re presented with conflicting data, you’re so stubborn that you’re just going to march along your path. I think the challenge, though, is that if you are so mercurial and are making decisions by the seat of your pants, you’re really affecting people’s lives. So do you really want to work for a CEO who’s going to wake up one day and make some sort of mandate only to reverse it. Only to reverse it again. I do think that there is something to be said for the employee friendly organization that will have to go through the trials and tribulations. Right. I am very much a capitalist but even in the end of the book I write about how the Business Roundtable has formally adopted a stance that the goal of an organization should not be just to maximize shareholder profits but to consider other stakeholders. Companies like Kickstarter and thousands of others have become b corporations and effectively codified the need not to make as much money as possible, the consequences be damned. So I think long story short, Frank, I think that we’ve arrived at an inflection point. And as I write in the end of the book, do with that information what you will, but I think that the intelligent and sustainable path is to steer into the skid, embrace these trends, try to figure it out, rather than pretending that they’re just going to be fads. Because I think too much has happened in too short a period of time at the beginning of COVID and now that we’re three years in pretending that COVID never happened I just think is a fool’s errand.
Frank Cottle [00:37:45] No, I would agree. I think inflection point is a good point for us to probably sum up real quickly as we’re starting to run a little long. I think we could go for quite some time on this. So steering to the skid, I like that analogy and I like that concept a lot because we are going to be on a kind of a rough rocky road for a while as we go through a period of change. One last thought. You want to leave it to us, Phil, that seems to be sum everything up that you’d like to.
Phil Simon [00:38:22] I just wanted to thank you for the opportunity and hopefully people will check out the book. I don’t expect everyone to agree with everything analysis, synthesis, predictions, interpretations but I like to think that it’s my best work yet and certainly relevant. I’m writing about things that in some cases happened last month or late February so hopefully people will find it relevant.
Frank Cottle [00:38:45] A lot of people know me and they know that I’m a news freak and that I’m a current events freak and I don’t read a lot of business books but I read The Nine. I liked it, I agree with it and I would recommend it highly. It creates good perspective on things that people haven’t ordinarily thought of yet, which is the problem of most books I have read is they’re three year old thinking. But The Nine is current so I would do everything possible to recommend it.
Phil Simon [00:39:13] Thank you sir, I appreciate it.
Frank Cottle [00:39:15] Okay, Phil. Thank you. We’ll look forward to the next time. Take care.
Phil Simon [00:39:21] Enjoyed it.
Frank Cottle [00:39:21] Bye bye.