54. Communication in remote and virtual teams in the future of work | Josh Little, Founder of Volley


Josh Little | Founder of Volley


This week is all about communication in remote and virtual teams. Our guest is Josh Little. 

This is the second part of our conversation with Josh, where we move on to Josh’s option, Volley. How it works and the practical applications it offers.


Josh Little web


Josh is the founder of four tech companies–MaestroBloomfireQzzer, and Volley. They have collectively been used by hundreds of millions of people and featured in TechCrunchMashable, Entrepreneur, Inc, and Forbes. Josh is currently on a mission to provide the world with a more meaningful way to communicate with his fourth creation, Volley–a video messaging app.



[00:00:07] - Doug Foulkes
Hello and welcome to episode 54 of Chaos and Rocketfuel, The Future of Work Podcast. This is the podcast that looks at every aspect of work in the future, and it's brought to you by Wndyr. I'm Doug Foulkes and I'm with Claire Haidar, the CEO of Wndyr and Pattyrn. Claire, how are you today?

[00:00:28] - Claire Haidar
Hey, Doug. Really excited to be doing this conversation with Josh Little. I've got some carrots and almond butter here, which I'm going to be munching on soon. And the reason why I'm saying that is because I know we're also going to be talking to Josh about pickles but enough about that. Let's not go down that rabbit hole.

[00:00:45] - Doug Foulkes
Yes, that's something for a little bit later in the podcast. And what are talking to Josh about specifically today?

[00:00:52] - Claire Haidar
So, Doug, in this segment specifically, I mean, Josh is the CEO of a company called Volley. It's an amazing communication tool to enable teams to bridge that gap, which is created by Slack and Zoom. And just enables them to communicate in a very unique and different way to what we see in our current tools.

[00:01:12] - Claire Haidar
And so in the segment specifically, we going to be talking about where and how companies can approach their communication strategy differently. And actually really become very proactive in thinking through how tools today are either working for them or not working for them and move into a more evolved form of communication as a team.

[00:01:36] - Doug Foulkes
Yeah, we had a lot of a lot of fun chatting to Josh. Let's see what he's got to say. And we're going to move on to what we loosely termed segment two, where we're going to look maybe a little bit more practically at practical applications. And before we dive specifically into Volley and it's something that you have started to hint and talk about. I want to get your take on the various chat and applications that are out there, things like Slack. We've spoken about Zoom, obviously Teams. They're good to a degree. Where do you see that there is a deficiency in the ability to meet the needs of the evolving virtual team?

[00:02:12] - Josh Little
Yeah. So let's let's put those in two buckets. A slack or Teams is largely, and when we talk about those, we'll talk about the chat side of those. And that's an asynchronous communication method. Essentially, you're typing to your coworkers and you really have two ways to communicate. You can either type or you can talk and slack or teams represent the typing. And I know they each have video calls.

[00:02:35] - Josh Little
But then we'll put the other side Zoom or the video call side of of Slack in the other bucket and that's talking. That's synchronous at the same time. So we have asynchronous methods chat, email, those sorts of tools and then we have synchronous methods, anything that's either getting on a zoom or getting in a room. And both of them have their pros and cons.

[00:02:56] - Josh Little
When we type to our coworkers were choosing to do something we're seven times slower at and that is missing 93 percent of the communication picture. It's a very thin medium, so it's missing tone of voice. It's missing body language. And the classic example is we need to talk. Well, if you type that to someone, you're going to either give them hives or get them excited. They have no idea what that could mean.

[00:03:19] - Josh Little
We need to talk. Oh my gosh, that could be horrible. But if I say, Hey, we need to talk. There's no mistaking that, you just got from my tone of voice and my body language, I've got something exciting and get ready for it. And for that reason, we need to talk to move work forward. And that's why 51 percent of a knowledge workers day is spent in meetings because we need to talk to move work forward for all of the richness that exists in it.

[00:03:46] - Josh Little
But the downside of talking is I have to stop what I'm doing. I have to get out of the flow of work. If you tap me on shoulder, I might have been writing the last line of the manifesto or the last bit of code to like squash this bug that we've been working on for weeks. You don't know what you're interrupting. So the problem with talking is that it's interruptive and you've got to deal with all the technical difficulties. Getting in the same room, meaning of the conversation, small talk.

[00:04:10] - Josh Little
So neither is a perfect solution. That's why we bounce between meetings and chatting throughout the day. But each of them work consciously making trade offs for them. Does that make sense? Each of them have their deficiencies, which lead to why we've built Volley. And we're trying to attack the middle of the problem, bringing the best of both worlds into place.

[00:04:32] - Claire Haidar
Yeah. And you know, Josh, for our listeners listening into this, I really do want to recommend on your guys actual website, the volleyapp.com website. The article that you guys have written on your blog, the space between Slack and Zoom. It's a brilliant article because it visually essentially shows what you've just spoken us through.

[00:04:53] - Claire Haidar
And I love the summary that you guys have. Pretty much like halfway through the article where you said Slack's job is to write or share something with my co-worker without interrupting them. Zoom's job, is to talk live with my teammates without being in the same space. But what if I wanted to talk live without interrupting them? That's a new job.

[00:05:13] - Josh Little
It's a new job.

[00:05:14] - Claire Haidar
Yeah, and it's a perfect summary so I highly recommend that article as well. Josh, here is the other bigger problem. We've spoken about the actual realities of the limitations of the design of these tools that we're talking about. And in many ways, you can actually flip it around and say they're not deficient. They're actually brilliant at solving the one particular problem that they do, but they are spaces that need to be filled.

[00:05:37] - Claire Haidar
The other big issue has actually got nothing to do with the tools at all. It's with the volume that we're dealing with. I personally am just so software fatigued right now, and I know I'm not the only one. What's the compelling case? Why should I go and convince my team that we should use Volley?

[00:05:56] - Josh Little
That's a great question. And I'm in the same boat. I think we all are, especially after the pandemic. App overload, software fatigue. We hear it every day like another communication tool. Are you kidding me? And so it's a valid question, but no one is software fatigued with tools that put money in their pocket. If you could download an app that put money in your pocket, you download it today and you'd use it every day, of course.

[00:06:21] - Josh Little
We're suffering fatigue for things that actually don't bring us value or that create more friction. And so hopefully the promise of Volley is that it can put money in your pocket. It can help you communicate better, increase connection and reduce meetings. Now, if you're not interested in any of those three things, you're probably not interested in Volley. Do you want to just go about communicating in the old way, having as many meetings, then you're good. Just use the existing tools.

[00:06:48] - Josh Little
But if you want to reduce meetings, if you want to increase the connection between remote team workers and make it feel like you're in the same room, but not. And if you want to just communicate fundamentally better, then Volley might be something that you'd want to look at. But it's only if you're really interested in those potential outcomes.

[00:07:05] - Claire Haidar
Yeah. I'm being vulnerable on this call because I think a lot of our listeners are in the same position. I love the idea of Volley. I really find it compelling, which is why you're on the show with us today. But the thought of having to bring my team into it is even more fatiguing to me. But yes, my deal with you, Josh, you've promised me a money tree. I'm going to try it. I'm really, really going to try it. I'm going to get my team into this because, interestingly enough, the whole meeting thing is actually something that I'm genuinely concerned about as a CEO.

[00:07:44] - Claire Haidar
I see one of my primary jobs as being removing obstacles for the team to get work done more easily. And right now, I would put in my top three obstacles, internal obstacles that is, meetings is one of those things. They absolutely essential, but they just really tiring us all out. And you can see it, the week just started today and I can see the team zoning out on these calls. I can see the team multitasking and not being fully present. I'm going to give it a try and I'm going to get back to you with the results.

[00:08:19] - Josh Little
Well, do. But I want to make sure that I'm clear in saying it's not just downloading the app does not aid the change in behavior make. You have to be willing and ready to make a mindset shift. What we're finding is the creator consumer dynamics, the 110 one playing out across every workspace. And it turns out that Slack is a communication tool that you can hide in. You can write your slack message and look at it and edit that word and think about it. And you don't have to send it right now, and you can just look at it. And then you can. You can send it right and you can turn your camera off in a Zoom call and multitask.

[00:09:01] - Josh Little
You can choose your opportune time to poke up in a meeting and say the thing you need to say. Volley is very much a communication tool where you're going to be seen. And if you're not ready for that, it's not for you. And if you have a culture, a team that is more interested in just hiding and getting through the day, it's not going to work for the team and we've seen that over and over again. But if your team is ready for something better and really wants to move, work forward faster, then you might be ready for something like this.

[00:09:34] - Claire Haidar
It's actually for that reason why I think we are ready. So one of the things that we've done in the company from day one is, we've insisted that you can't be cameras off in a Zoom call. You have to be present, you have to be there. And the general sense of we need to get better at our meetings definitely is there in the company.

[00:09:54] - Claire Haidar
I think as you've pointed out, and I'm so glad you've said, what are those early real needs or what's the fertile ground that a company needs to be and to be ready for this? I think we have that. But it's good. It's good that you've called it out because I think there are many companies that are not there and that are not ready.

[00:10:14] - Claire Haidar
Which is why I wanted to chat you specifically about volley at scale. There's a lot of very conservative work environments out there. And when I say conservative, I'm talking about places like health care education where sensitive data is being dealt with. There's very strict protocols in place, for example. That's what I mean by the term conservative. How does Volley at scale play out in one of those type of environments, like a hospital group with 20,000 employees, for example?

[00:10:44] - Josh Little
Well, it's a great question, and I wish I had a good answer but my answer is it doesn't. Volley is really not built for them, and that's what we're finding. There are Volley accounts from teams at Facebook and Netflix and all kinds of cool companies and bigger companies as well. But they're not ready. They're just not culturally ready for something like Volley.

[00:11:06] - Josh Little
Meeting behavior is so ingrained. We've not even thought of these problems because we've not had a way to solve them. Therefore, we just deal with it. And we're so entrenched in meeting and now chatting behavior that it's really hard to break them out. A larger company usually doesn't have the team that's ready to really innovate, to really get after it, to really change behavior. And in order for a large team to use something like volley, it's an all or nothing proposition. Everyone has to be on board.

[00:11:39] - Josh Little
If you want a product like Volley to increase connection, to reduce meetings, you're going to need to replace Slack with Volley. You need to be ready and willing to do that. And most teams, especially at large companies, are just not there yet. Volley is disruptive, it is a new way to communicate. It has immense benefits.

[00:11:58] - Josh Little
But what we're finding is that the only companies really ready to do this are young companies who are trying to do big things. Stakes are high. They're remote, therefore communication matters. The way that we show up matters. Every interaction counts. We're trying to move faster. For those types of companies, Volley makes a lot of sense.

[00:12:18] - Josh Little
For a 20,000 person health care company, I just don't see it working any time in the near future. Unless you have a radical team and a radical leader with a tone of not only authority, but influence and a lot of gravity that could get a team to try to stand up and be willing to be seen. Because while he's just very much a communication tool. There's no way around it, you're going to be seen. When you hit record, you better have something to say. And if you don't have something to say, go back to your Slack message.

[00:12:48] - Doug Foulkes
So if 20000 is too big, what are you finding is the sweet spot? Where is Volley really helping out?

[00:12:55] - Josh Little
It's single digits teams less than 10 that are getting the most value of Volley that are tearing this product up. Startups, side hustles. I hear almost every day, hey, I tried to get Volley to work with my team, but nobody wanted to do that. But we're using for my side hustle because if you think about it, that recipe is right. Oh yeah, your side hustle, you're not getting together. You do need to communicate. This matters almost more than your day job to get it right, and you are trying to do something big and maybe flip this into something you could do full time. Well, the communication need is much, much higher and therefore Volley makes sense for those sorts of teams.

[00:13:35] - Claire Haidar
Josh, just a point of clarification because you said something very provocative there. You're saying that for Volley to really work, a company needs to get rid of both Slack and Zoom.

[00:13:45] - Josh Little
No, not Zoom. There are still really good reasons to communicate synchronously. We came out at the beginning of the year saying, well, the end of meetings as we know it in. Cancel all your meetings and download Volley. But even the team at Volley, we have one synchronous meeting a week. But for everything else, there's Volley.

[00:14:05] - Josh Little
So there is a communication spectrum that exists and we all play along the spectrum, everything from sharing a link to a co-worker to terminating a coworker right across that spectrum. We know we're not going to schedule a meeting to share a link. And we also know we're not going to slack a co-worker to terminate their working relationship. We're going to get on a call or get in a room together to have that meaningful conversation.

[00:14:33] - Josh Little
And then there's everything in between from presentation to sharing documents to interviews to daily meetings, project planning, all of these other things. And there is a line there is a break point between synchronous and asynchronous, and it's usually in the middle of that spectrum.

[00:14:47] - Josh Little
With Volley, we can move that breakpoint much deeper into the spectrum so that you're doing things like project planning and sync-ups and check ins that would have otherwise been meetings as just asynchronous Volleys. So there's still good reasons to combine conversation, emotionally charged conversations. You're going to need to get synchronous. You're going to want to talk to each other at the same time in the same place, otherwise things can go sideways too quickly.

[00:15:13] - Josh Little
You shouldn't text a friend some emotionally charged. We've all done this text or emails, and we know you shouldn't send the email, but you also feel the friction of like, if I schedule a meeting for this, it's going to be even worse. I'm going to send the email and I know I shouldn't. But yeah, for the small end of the spectrum, you're still going to need something like a Room or Zoom. But for everything else, there's Volley. And that's what I'm proposing by replacing something like Slack with Volley.

[00:15:41] - Josh Little
You're going to make all of your asynchronous communication, even the things that you don't think need to be spoken, they're going to be better. And we just did a study of 2,000 remote workers, and it was something ridiculous. It was like, I think it's 99 percent of them said that they have to clarify a message written in chat or an email once a day because of a misunderstanding. So every day we're re-clarifying, we're misunderstood.

[00:16:09] - Josh Little
Now imagine all of the messages that go misunderstood that we don't even get an opportunity to clarify, that we don't even understand that the other person read them the wrong way. So there's just a lot of room for misinterpretation of a of a written message because it does turns out it does matter not just what we say, but how we say it.

[00:16:30] - Claire Haidar
Josh, I'm actually thinking of my co-founder in the company right now as you're talking. She's visual, she's highly visual. She can't absorb information if it's not on the page in front of her. For example, when we have Zoom meeting, she will not let anybody else handle the mural board if we are working in mural. Because her managing it actually helps you to absorb the information better. So it's her designated job. Is Volley better for certain communication preferences and learning preferences than others?

[00:17:03] - Josh Little
Well, you would think Volley would make a lot of sense for extroverts, people who like to talk. But actually what we're finding is that it levels the playing field. Introverts largely, I'm one of the largest introverts in just about any room, I am almost silent in a meeting that I'm not running. Just because I don't know what to say. The stakes are high for speaking up. I don't have a good idea on the spot. I'm trying to manage what may be going on in the room.

[00:17:33] - Josh Little
But for introverts, Volley is kind of the magic tool where everyone has an equal opportunity to hit the record button and I can take time to think. And that's what I need in a meeting. I don't know when a person is going to stop talking. Kind of like this podcast, you don't know what I'm going to stop talking. Therefore, you're got to think about your next question or where this conversation is going.

[00:17:52] - Josh Little
Which means you're listening to me, but you're in your head trying to think about where this might be going and who knows? I could just stop talking and that was two seconds. Did he really start talking? I don't know what I'm going to say next. There's a 200 millisecond gap that we're all looking for in a conversation to cue me to start talking next. And you never know when that is.

[00:18:17] - Josh Little
I'll quote [inaudible 00:18:17], he said, you know my friends on WhatsApp or Snap, they think I'm funny. They think I'm confident. But no one at work thinks about me in that way because I just don't know what to say in a meeting. I just don't know how to stand up. Every time I walk out the door and I think, Oh, I should have said that. Oh, this is a good idea. And Volley gives me that ability. Volley gives me that ability to to collect my thoughts and present myself in the best light.

[00:18:46] - Josh Little
And that might just be a few seconds. Educational research shows us that just waiting three seconds in between a question and response for a student, creates a fundamentally better response with immensely more depth. But with Volley you can take three seconds. You can take 10 seconds, 10 minutes if you need to to to think about it, do some research and get back to that person. Because that's really what we want. We want the best response. We want to put ourselves in the best light. We want the work to move forward.

[00:19:14] - Josh Little
But I may or may not have the answer to your question while we're sitting eyeball to eyeball. And because of the stakes being somewhat high, especially as you increase the size of the group, I might have a harder time actually coming up with something that's valuable in that time in moment. Volley just changes that and levels the playing field, I know that's not exactly what you're asking, but that's what we're finding, is this might be the zen communication tool for introverts.

[00:19:41] - Doug Foulkes
Sydney sounds very, very interesting and worth, I actually downloaded it today. Obviously doing a little bit of research for today's for the podcast now, so I just need to find some friends to invite. Claire, me and you will do it.

[00:19:56] - Claire Haidar
I was just going to say, Doug, you've got your friends at Wndyr. You work with us all the time.

[00:20:01] - Doug Foulkes
You will be my first friend.

[00:20:04] - Claire Haidar

[00:20:05] - Doug Foulkes
And that's all we've got for you today. If you missed the first part of our conversation with Josh Little, then you can check it out on Spotify, Google, or Apple Podcasts or on Wndyr's website. That's wndyr.com. We will conclude our chat with Josh shortly. From Claire and myself, we'll see you soon.

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