73. The evolution of collaboration and the Future of Work | Lisette Sutherland, Director of Collaboration Superpowers


Lisette Sutherland | Director of Collaboration Superpowers


This week we turn the focus of our conversation to collaboration and the Future of Work. Our guest is Lisette Sutherland, Director of Collaboration Superpowers.
Finally in Episode 73, we start by looking forward to what collaboration might look like before consolidating things with some practical applications of collaboration and some of Lisette’s favorite researchers in this area.


Lisette Sutherland web


Lisette Sutherland is the Director of Collaboration Superpowers. Her company, provides individuals, teams, and managers with a roadmap of how to work together anywhere – successfully through online, interactive workshops given by professional licensed facilitators all over the world.

She is the author of the Work Together Anywhere Handbook, the host of a podcast featuring interviews with remote-working experts, and a facilitator of workshops on a variety of remote working topics.




[00:00:00] - Lisette Sutherland
There's a number of things to job satisfaction, but the ability to be an expert of your own productivity is a huge thing in job satisfaction. I think that's, where the collaboration and the remote aspect plays into why I think HR and leaders, in particular should care about this.

[00:00:25] - Doug Foulkes
Hello, and welcome to episode 73 of Chaos & Rocketfuel: The Future of Work Podcast. This is the podcast about everything to do with work in the future. It's brought to you by WNDYR and Pattyrn. I'm, as always, with Claire Haidar, who is the CEO at WNDYR. What's been happening in your world this week, Claire?

[00:00:44] - Claire Haidar
Hi, Doug. We're in a different hemisphere to you so you can definitely feel that end of year lull, where people just really need to go on summer holidays and just really switch their brains off for a while. It's come up in conversation with so many people over the last few days, where it's really time to just do a bit of a reset.

[00:01:08] - Claire Haidar
You guys are in the middle of winter right now, so cozying up in front of the fire. Really looking forward to this conversation with Lisette today, because Interestingly enough, she's all about collaboration. I'm thinking to myself, this is the exact thing I don't want to be doing right now. I just want to go to the beach.

[00:01:26] - Doug Foulkes
Yeah, so this is the last time we're chatting with Lisette. We sort of bring it all together. We start to look, I think, bit more of the practical applications. Anything you want to say before we get stuck into Lisette's conversation?

[00:01:38] - Claire Haidar
Yeah, I think it's important for the audience to know what we'll actually be talking about from a practical application perspective. One of the very interesting pieces of the conversation that we had with Lisette, where she actually provided a really striking alternative view, is number one, what are the characteristics of healthy collaboration?

[00:01:58] - Claire Haidar
We covered that in segment one, but then we loop that back in this segment to, how do you actually measure that? It's very easy for somebody to walk around and say, "Oh, I'm highly collaborative." But what are you benchmarking against? You may be collaborative as an individual, but is that effective in the team setting? Which is ultimately what makes or breaks a company.

[00:02:20] - Claire Haidar
We spoke about that. We spoke about, how do we actually change company cultures to become more collaborative? Then we spoke about research that she's doing in this area right now. Because naturally, with the huge changes that we've seen in work over the last 2-3 years, collaboration is having to be looked at from a completely new angle in different areas. We dug into that with her, which was also very interesting.

[00:02:49] - Doug Foulkes
Okay, I'm going to stop you there because I think it's time that we had a chat with Lisette.

[00:02:53] - Lisette Sutherland
I've actually been promoting the use of virtual offices and telepresence technology for almost 10 years now. I always thought it would move faster than it did. My hope is that these tools will quickly integrate. But what I'm seeing in reality is the urge for experimenting is not as high, as I expected with you. Like, we're all busy.

[00:03:17] - Lisette Sutherland
Actually, what I should say is we should also never underestimate the overhead that comes with switching to a new technology or to a new style of working or a new tool. In the beginning, it's always clunky and awful as you start to learn your way around. Then it just takes time and it screws things up. Like you're throwing wrenches into things and that's never any fun because something could be late or whatever it is.

[00:03:42] - Claire Haidar
Let me also provide some more context there, Lisette. Because we can see in the customer work that we're doing, some of our customers are definitely pulling back to what was familiar before, you know what I mean?

[00:03:55] - Claire Haidar
It's like the pandemic forced into a new reality. But now that we have the freedom to move forward in the new reality or go back, you can definitely see to your point that you're making. People are just reverting to their old neural pathways, their old ways of doing things, their old habits. What is it going to take for technology to kind of pull everybody forward into these new ways of working?

[00:04:20] - Lisette Sutherland
Well one, it's going to have to be a lot easier to use. It's still a little bit too difficult, and it's going to have to be a lot less expensive. If you want to play around with an Oculus Quest, it's going to cost you €500 or something like that.

[00:04:35] - Lisette Sutherland
That's not like small change for most people, that's an investment, right? You're going to have to really want it. For a company who's experimenting, like, you're not going to just buy telepresence robots to experiment with. They can be 2,000-20,000 per robot. If you're going with holograms, like, Hologram technology is still hugely expensive to do anything realistic.

[00:04:59] - Lisette Sutherland
When we're a little bit far off from some of these technologies, just because of price and also internet bandwidth. Most people are still having trouble connecting to a Zoom call with a decent amount of bandwidth. Like, we can't bring Holograms into the mix yet, until we can at least all get on a Zoom call together, right? There's just sort of a sophistication level.

[00:05:20] - Lisette Sutherland
But what I do see happening is there's a lot of 2D programs that are simulating the 3D world. You can even say things like Fortnite and video games, where you're actually on a 2D monitor, but you're simulating the 3D world. That might be something that is a little bit more open to people, like virtual offices. Like Welo or Sococo, Remo and Hopin, all of these platforms, they're doing pretty well because it's a simple 2D structure.

[00:05:49] - Lisette Sutherland
In terms of the future, where we're going to go? Well, we're going there slowly, but there's also going to be a much bigger divide. Because the people that want to go back to the office, they're going to find, there are the people that are required. But the rest of us, we're going to find new jobs and new ways to be.

[00:06:04] - Lisette Sutherland
Because there's a lot of people out there that are just never going back. I think the main reason is the commute. It's like, nobody wants to go sit in the train or drive. Before, it didn't seem so bad to just commute an hour a day. Now after the pandemic, it seems like insanity.

[00:06:23] - Claire Haidar
Yeah, it seems like total insanity. The way I phrase this to people, basically, when I'm doing talks and things like that. I say to them, "Do not ever underestimate the power of a washing machine." The fact that somebody can literally walk down the stairs and put a load of washing, in a washing machine and then just go back to work. Because that 10 minutes, is 10 minutes more on the couch at night. It has a major pull on people.

[00:06:53] - Lisette Sutherland
I always said a bad commute can ruin a great job.

[00:06:56] - Claire Haidar

[00:06:57] - Lisette Sutherland
No matter how much you like your job, if you have to do it every day back and forth. We're going to go back to the office to a certain extent. But there's a lot of us that, it's never going to be full time again for many people.

[00:07:10] - Doug Foulkes
But also that is very current, at the moment, is companies who have said, "Okay, we're going back to the office." They're starting to lose talent because, as you say, people are walking out. I mean, recently one of the Apple exec's quit.

[00:07:24] - Doug Foulkes
There's going to be that push from the other side. There's one thing talking about, how a company is going to embrace technology and VR and AR. But if they're being pushed from the back as well by their workforce, it might speed things up.

[00:07:40] - Lisette Sutherland
I really have to say after the pandemic, I don't understand the mandates for going back. It's people wanting to do the right thing but doing it in the wrong way, I feel. But let's treat people like adults and we're all experts of our own productivity. We know when and where we can get our work done. That's why the focus on results should be so important.

[00:08:02] - Claire Haidar
Lisette, I want us to move the conversation into the really practical parts of this. We've spoken about the definitions, we've spoken about whether collaboration is measurable or not, and we've also been looked at the evolution of it.

[00:08:17] - Claire Haidar
Moving on to those really practical pieces, I'd like us to explore things like, should people leaders be caring about this topic? Should they be putting metrics behind us? I'd also like us to look at how we actually change the company cultures. Starting with that first one, talk to me about the role of HR. When it comes to collaboration and how this should be or shouldn't be on the HR agenda?

[00:08:48] - Lisette Sutherland
With HR, I'm not like an HR expert for sure. But I would think with HR, what we want is we want people who are happy at their jobs ultimately, right? We want people who are happy at work. Because when we have happy workers, we have higher quality of work being produced, innovation. That's just where the magic happens when you have a happy team.

[00:09:07] - Lisette Sutherland
They need to care about collaboration because one, you want your workforce to be happy so that you're retaining the people that you have. I think that's the number one thing. One of the things that we know is being able to have control over our work and our work day and the amount of work that we have and the kind of work that it is, has a huge impact on job satisfaction.

[00:09:29] - Lisette Sutherland
It's one of many components, right? There has to be like safety conditions and there's a number of things to job satisfaction. But the ability to be an expert of your own productivity is a huge thing in job satisfaction. I think that's where the collaboration and the remote aspect plays into, why I think HR and leaders in particular should care about this.

[00:09:53] - Claire Haidar
I like that. I like that a lot.

[00:09:55] - Doug Foulkes
The next question then I suppose, is how do you change a company culture to become more collaborative? Obviously, it needs to be sustainable.

[00:10:03] - Lisette Sutherland
I really think about this a lot. Because when I have a lot of people coming to workshops and they're all wanting to change. Like they're all coming because they're challenged with something and they want to change something to work. I can really only speak from experience.

[00:10:14] - Lisette Sutherland
But the thing that I think is most important for companies is just putting regular feedback loops in place of various kinds. Regular retrospectives, regular town halls, regular one on ones, regular team surveys, like how is the team doing? But then not just getting the feedback, but then doing something with the feedback and being open about what you're trying and transparent about the results.

[00:10:39] - Lisette Sutherland
To me, I think changing a company culture just really comes down to iterating. But in order to do that, you have to have it be deliberate. That's where I think coaches come in, and I am a huge fan of coaches. I have various coaches for various things, but my business coach and I have been working together for years now. What I've learned from the process of working with him is that change happens in small increments over time and the best thing to do is to be deliberate about it.

[00:11:07] - Lisette Sutherland
To design an experiment, to collect the data, to learn from the data, and then to iterate on that experiment over and over and over again. I think that, that's the only way to change culture in an organization is to collect the data, design, experience, and then do something with the results.

[00:11:24] - Lisette Sutherland
It's going to look different for every organization of course. There's no one, I wish there were one size fits all. We would all, like make a million dollars selling the Silver Bullet Formula. But every organization has its various feedback loops. But I think on a hybrid, it's just a critical component so feedback loops and coaching.

[00:11:42] - Doug Foulkes
Who in your opinion is leading, or are leading researchers in this area? What sort of discoveries are they making, that we should know about?

[00:11:50] - Lisette Sutherland
Two people came to mind immediately, when I was thinking about this question. One is I've already mentioned in other segments, I've mentioned Jurgen Appelo from the Management 3.0 community. He wrote a book in particular, called, Managing for Happiness. That is one of the most brilliant books that I've ever read on leadership.

[00:12:08] - Lisette Sutherland
What's great about the book that it's deceptive. It's very colorful and very cartoony and lots of pictures and all kinds of things. But when you dive into the depth and the breadth of what Jurgen's talking about in terms of leadership and happiness, it's mind blowing what's in that book. Don't let the cartoony look of it deceive you. I'd say Jurgen Appelo is definitely a leader here. The next one I'm going to say is Cal Newport.

[00:12:33] - Claire Haidar

[00:12:34] - Lisette Sutherland
He's the author of Deep Work, of course. He just wrote a book called, A World Without Email. He talks about the whole phenomenon of the hyperactive hivemind. In terms of hybrid working and remote working, he didn't mean to write the book on hybrid work. But I think that this is probably one of the best books out there.

[00:12:51] - Lisette Sutherland
If you want to learn about how to tame all this unscheduled, unstructured, unnecessary messaging and meetings going back and forth and actually how to design workflows. I like how he says, that tame this hyperactive hivemind behavior. Those are sort of the two thought leaders out there, that I'm really inspired by lately. It changes over time, of course.

[00:13:14] - Claire Haidar
Yeah, of course. We always are finding new people to inspire us. Okay, Lisette, honestly, this has been a great conversation. I know that our audience is going to benefit hugely from it, so thank you for giving us your mind share.

[00:13:30] - Doug Foulkes
Lisette, also from my side, thanks so much for your time. It's been really interesting and high energy, as Claire promised. Thank you for that.

[00:13:39] - Lisette Sutherland
Thank you, both.

[00:13:40] - Doug Foulkes
That is the end of episode 73 and our comprehensive look at collaboration, past, present, and future. If you found this podcast of value, please share it with your friends and colleagues. Catch us on Spotify, Google, or Apple podcast, or of course, on WNDYR's website, wndyr.com. From Claire and myself, bye for now.

Similar posts

Get notified on new Chaos & Rocketfuel episodes

Be the first to learn about WNDYR’s latest work and productivity insights to drive a successful enterprise digital transformation