Skip to content

Kian Gohar on the new world of work

Competing in the New World of Work looks at the innovations that organizations need to deploy to be successful in this post-pandemic world. A conversation with author Kian Gohar and Snackable CEO Mari Joller.
Mari sat down (virtually) with Kian to discuss the new book, which he co-authored with Keith Ferrazzi. Watch the video -- chapterized on YouTube by Snackable -- and read the full transcript below.

Chapters

00:00 Kian Gohar on the future of work
03:09 How these things apply to the development of Snackable
07:12 The importance of mental health and resilience
11:04 How tools like Snackable can help with mental health and collaboration
13:12 What are some of the most important exponential technologies in AI as a service?
19:13 What’s your one piece of advice for people to thrive in the new world of work?

Kian Gohar on the future of work

Mari Joller:
Hi and welcome. So this is our first in a series of talks with people who are lending critical insight to the conversation around how innovation can help us all navigate this increasingly complex world of ours. I am Mari Joller, founder and CEO of Snackable AI. We help businesses find and share the most compelling moments from their video and audio content, and we do so quickly and seamlessly, and at scale, with the help of AI.

So while people talk a lot about the future of work, the reality is that that future has already been delivered. So work can't go back to what it was before the pandemic. What's happening instead is the world continues to throw more challenges at us. The world events, for example. And it's making it even more complex. And getting a handle on how we manage this complexity is becoming more critical. And more so, this topic is quite wide-ranging, from how teams collaborate to mental health. And with that, we are talking today to my dear friend and author Kian Gohar, who with Keith Ferrazzi has written the Wall Street Journal bestseller Competing in the New World of Work. It's a highly-studied look at the innovations that organizations need to deploy to be successful in this post-pandemic world of ours. So welcome, Kian. It's great to have you here.

Kian Gohar:
Thank you, Mari. It's lovely to be with you.

Mari Joller:
I know you've been working on this issue for many, many years and speaking passionately about the future of work. So this is not new to you from way before the pandemic. So can you give us a little bit of history of how you got to where we are today?

Kian Gohar:
Yeah, you know, I've been talking about how innovation and technologies are disrupting every major industry and how we live and how we work and how we play for a long time. For the better part of a decade, actually, I've been coaching executive teams and companies from all across the world about innovation and disruption. First, as my role as an executive director at the XPRIZE Foundation and also as an executive director at Singularity University in Silicon Valley. And I realized probably about five years ago that the best way to compete and win in this new world of work that is going to be bionic, with man sitting side by side with AI and robots, is to really double down and develop the behaviors that make us more human and make us more competitive vis a vis technology issues like collaboration, problem solving, resilience, empathy and collaboration.

Kian Gohar:
And so I really shifted my focus from thinking about how we do research and maximize exponential technologies to maximizing exponential teams. And so my research has shifted over the last four years from looking purely at the world of AI and robotics and automation. But also how can humans work most effectively in this new bionic age to be able to thrive in a world where AI and augmentation will help our work in the future? So that's a little bit of background for how I came to this world. And I've done a lot of research, as you mentioned, through this past book and in the past, sort of figuring out what are those behaviors and what are those technologies that we need to work together to be able to really create this new world.

How these things apply to the development of Snackable

Kian Gohar:
And so I'm curious, Mari, does this sound like any of the things that you've been thinking about as you've been developing Snackable?

Mari Joller:
It is definitely. So one is transparency, for example, and that's core to Snackable. And we're looking at it from a content creation perspective, all the content we create in the process of working and running organizations. And of course, since the pandemic, video has become pretty much the primary way of communication, and there's increasingly more and more of it. So it's made all of us content creators, you know, you and I right now are creating content here as we speak. But in our day to day lives, where we're recording webinars, we're recording customer conversations, marketing messages. And so there's more and more of it. And so being able to see inside of that content and extract what's most essential and do that quickly is especially important in this what we call the Digital First World.

Mari Joller:
And there's also another layer to that. So when teams can find insights and trends within content, they get clarity about where they should be focused as a business. So for example, like what are the most important topics that surfaced in an industry panel? What are the last video interviews with customers teaching us that we can put to use either internally or externally. So in a way, this can inform everything from product development to customer advocacy to marketing to organizational leadership.

Kian Gohar:
Yeah, this is really interesting because it brings about a broader conversation around how we collaborate in this new world of work. And, you know, I think what we realized in the pandemic is that this made us reassess all of our assumptions about how we work and what does it mean to collaborate. And collaboration, you know, right now isn't about where you work, but rather how you show up to work and what are the kinds of tools that you use to be able to work, regardless of whether you're working on what we call the collaboration stack, whether you're working asynchronously, fully off. Line and in a different time zone, too, versus working in a hybrid or remote environment or whether you're working in a fully in-person environment. And so collaboration in this new world is all about how do you think about what are the tools you used to be able to most effectively access the information you need to be able to then accomplish a task with people who are distributed or maybe not in the same time zone as you.

Kian Gohar:
Before the pandemic, I think there was about 4% of the U.S. working population that was working remote. And so obviously a very, very small percentage. And that was really a rarity and more the exception than the rule. And in March 2020, everybody obviously went fully remote, at least people who are working in offices because we had to as a result of the pandemic. And then over the last year, as teams have started coming back into some sort of office environment, there's been more of this hybrid world to the point that, you know, we started 4% in 2019, but fast forward to 2024, we actually expect that over 50% of all work will be done in a hybrid environment. And so how does it feel? What does it mean to be able to collaborate in that kind of context? When some people are physically co-located and some people are not co-located, how do you use the kinds of tools to be able to, you know, facilitate collaboration effectively, productively and maximize innovation?

Mari Joller:
So true. And I would say from looking at it from my side AI is an excellent tool to facilitate collaboration. So as you said, a lot of work does happen asynchronously and teams are distributed. So obviously it's really important to collect information, document it and share it effectively between teams and where you need eyes to cut through all that information and quickly digest what's important so that you can align your teams around that insight. You can communicate with your customers in a way that speaks to their pain points or their areas of interest. So A.I. is, in a way, a really great way to reduce the cognitive load on people. So when they're overwhelmed with information, they're struggling to digest it all. I can remove that load and really kind of surface what's truly important to me for people to be effective and also to be stress free.

The importance of mental health and resilience

Mari Joller:
And so that leads us to another topic I wanted to cover with you, which is mental health. And it's an area that you dedicate a lot of time to in your book. So can you talk more about that and what were your most important learnings?

Kian Gohar:
Oh, man, mental health is such an important aspect of how we thrive. And we realized in the pandemic that everybody comes to work with different levels of resilience. And so prior to the pandemic, we always thought about resilience being an individual responsibility. And so, you know, the distinction between personal and professional life, you know, have the stiff upper lip and just get the job done. That was sort of like the office mirror memoranda in corporate America, in the corporate world. And we realized in the pandemic that people come to work every single day with different levels of resilience. The distinction between personal and professional melted away as we were able to actually see into each other's lives like you're seeing into my life right now. And we recognize that people have different levels of resilience. People come with different levels of financial support, and so they were able to afford different things or people had different kinds of emotional and social or family support that were able to support them in different things.

Kian Gohar:
And so the pandemic really opened this aperture of why mental health and resilience is so important as a result of the pandemic. The level of anxiety in working adults in America increased four times to the point that 40% of the working population actually had issues of mental health or mental anxiety, mental well-being that they were really struggling with over the last two years. And through our research, we actually identified that the teams that were most successful to be able to deal with this world of uncertainty and with radical change and disruption over the last two years were those that prioritized not just individual resilience, but rather team resilience. And so how do you make sure that your team has the tools that it needs to make sure that everybody comes to work, whether it's in-person or remote or virtual, with the tools that they need and the support that they need to be able to really accomplish that task.

Kian Gohar:
And we realized that, you know, there's a really strong lesson for team leaders to think about how they can create a culture of resiliency by being the first people on a team to actually offer insights about where they were in their lives, to invite others to learn more deeply about them.

Kian Gohar:
And one of the things that I love is that the teams that were really good at diagnosing the team energy level were using very simple questions to be able to say, Let me find out from my team on a scale of 1 to 10, where is their level of energy or the level of anxiety by asking very simple questions. For example, what's sweet and sour in your life and as a team leader asking that from your team on a weekly or every other week basis to find out and open the aperture of what are the things that are really sweet, that are making you happy and things that are sour or maybe not going as to plan.

Kian Gohar:
And so we created a better awareness of sort of where people were on different parts of the team. So that as a team you can think about how do you de-stress these behaviors and these stressors so that you can together as a team, be able to cross the finish line together? Because we realize, frankly, that, you know, no man is an island or no woman is an island. And so we always accomplish great things together as a team.

Kian Gohar:
And if you have one or two people on our team who are really struggling rather than letting them be the weak link on a project, how can we come together and make sure that we are committed to each other success and to each other's mental well-being, and to make sure that we can accomplish a task really in the best possible way together as one team. That became such a powerful indicator of success from our research that, you know, I just can't stop talking about it.

How tools like Snackable can help with mental health and collaboration

Kian Gohar:
I'm so glad you brought it up because it is really, really critical as we go into this new world of work that we don't go back to the ways that we used to think and that we don't forget about these innovations and focuses of the last couple of years as we go forward. And I'm curious, Mari, do you think tools like Snackable can help in this regard in terms of mental health and collaboration and resilience?

Mari Joller:
Absolutely. And I think it's very interesting that you said about, you know, sticking to the new habits and the things that because of the shift from how we used to work, how we work now and everything, that's become possible, that we hold on to that. So one of the things that I find very interesting is that a lot has been said about how remote meetings, especially video meetings, how they democratize participation because everybody in theory has an equal seat and equal real estate on a video screen and no voice is necessarily louder. So it helps people who are not maybe as comfortable in in-person meetings. And, you know, all these conversations about having equal seats at the table, an equal voice at the table, those feel like they can be more accessible now for people.

Mari Joller:
What's also interesting is that, having said all of that, an organizational design still plays such a big role. So this democratization works well when everybody's fully remote. But if some people are in the office and others are remote and possibly across different time zones, it's easy to let the information asymmetries creep in again. So it's more of speaking up about tools. It's more important than ever to have this common, accessible, collaborative knowledge base where you get easy access to that information, like important meetings that you may have missed. I mean, we see that in even in our own team where people say, hey, I was on vacation. Let me look at that recording and let me kind of find the important bits that I missed, you know, insights that your customers have provided, messages that your marketing team has put out and do all of that in a way that's very fast and very effective. And that goes a long way in reducing stress and anxiety and keeping teams aligned and for moving forward in the right direction.

What are some of the most important exponential technologies in AI as a service?

Mari Joller:
So let me switch topics a little bit. So I wanted to speak about one thing that you said in the book. So in one part, you talk about how technology can actually help detect change. And so quoting from your book, the slightest shift in any of these technologies could open new unforeseen opportunities or create new unexpected threats within your industry. So I'm curious, what do you see as this kind of A.I. as a service businesses that, you know, are some of the most important exponential technologies in this regard?

Kian Gohar:
Yeah. So I think this is an area that's going to blossom over the next few years. And some people are calling AI as a tool to study very large amounts of data and then try to create generalizations or statistical estimations of how something can be improved. I think actually this is a really interesting point that you bring up, Mari, in terms of AI, because people are using it in ways to look through vast amounts of data and then be able to generalize particular trends or particular correlations. And that can be used in terms of identifying better business practices. And AI has been around for a long time and it's sort of been this buzzword for the last maybe five or six years has been really hot. But the reality is that AI has been hard to implement for most organizations, and the reason for that is because it's been very costly to do that and to build these kinds of algorithms.

Kian Gohar:
First you had to, you know, buy these machines and computation and hardware and be able to actually like have those servers to be able to do the algorithms. Then you had to hire the coders to really be able to program in the right language and be able to infer data. And then the third was that you actually had to have the right kinds of data to be able to plug into the system, to be able to think about what are meaningful inferences that you can make.

Kian Gohar:
So because of these three things, it was actually really hard for the last five or six years to really build your own machine learning or AI platforms. And of course, some companies did so, but it was very costly. And so what we're seeing now over the next few years is this sort of democratization of access to A.I., which is what we call AI as a service. So instead of owning and buying the equipment and the programmers and the data, you’re actually renting it. And so we're seeing this increased movement towards putting a lot of these softwares on the cloud for the for example, in the pandemic, we saw everything had to go in the cloud for better access to collaboration tools, whether it was documents or other things.

Kian Gohar:
And so because there's been this dramatic push to the cloud for the last two years, we're now also seeing a lot of these smaller AI services actually join these larger platforms to then have this overarching platform that smaller companies can tap into and rent as a service on a pay per use basis and be able to scale it when they need it, rather than having to build it internally on their own. And so this has been like really powerful.

Kian Gohar:
And I'll give you some sort of ideas or some applications that are happening right now in the world of AI as a service. And a lot of it is still pretty much under the radar and it's not being advertised. But for example, we're seeing GitHub using recommendation engines to software developers to be able to identify the right kind of code that they need to be able to then, you know, build the new programs. We're seeing chat bots on AI as a service use natural language processing to be able to provide better customer service. You're seeing this across so many different companies across the world that have chat bots. They're all being powered by A.I. as a service. You have also, for example, Grammarly, which is a real time recommendation engine for grammar, being used on Microsoft documents.

Kian Gohar:
And so, you know, think about all of these various narrow AI that's been developed over the last few years. And instead of buying those individually, they're now being democratized access on platforms that we're familiar with, for example, Amazon Personalize or Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure. And so I think what we're going to see over the next 5 to 7 years is that you're going to have A.I. built into everything that we have. And it's not that you're going to buy it. You're not going to buy or build it in house. You're actually going to leverage these A.I. as a service platforms to be able to accomplish the things that you want.

Kian Gohar:
And we'll get to the point where, and I love this quote from Mark Weiser, who used to be the CTO of Xerox PARC. And he said, You know, the most profound technology just disappears and they weave themselves into everyday things and then ultimately become indistinguishable. And that's the technology that wins. And that's what's going to happen in the world of AI is going to be on the cloud being use as a service. And we're not going to know whether it's on the cloud or as a service or we don't, we don't really care what it's called, but we know that in the next 5 to 7 years, it will be built into every single platform that we have, and you'll either have an AI-led company or you won't have a company. And so this is sort of where I see like this future of technology emerging to be able to then lean in to people to use these collaborative tools in a much more effective way, even if they don't have either the computation in-house or the software in-house or the programmers in-house to do that, you don't need to do that anymore. You just basically rent it and then you scale it up.

Mari Joller:
Yeah, so interesting. It's really about scaling new capabilities and leveraging the tool to kind of level up or level up to 100 x what you can do with your teams and competencies with the right tools. So I want to wrap it up. You know, this is Snackable. So we try to keep it short. Our whole, you know, mission is saying that people don't have to do audio too long doing this. And so we definitely don't want to trigger that in people. But to wrap up, I couldn't let you leave without asking, you know, what's your one piece of advice to people listening to this and wondering how will they thrive in this new world of work?

What’s your one piece of advice for people to thrive in the new world of work?

Kian Gohar:
Yeah, that's a great question. And as we think about sort of this new world that we live in and we're revamping assumptions again, you know, we're no longer living in a remote world, but it's going to be a hybrid. What does that mean in terms of how you collaborate? Who goes to the office, who can work remotely, what task can be done differently? My recommendation really is to step back and do an inventory of all the various collaboration tools that you might have at your disposal in your company right now and figure out what are those digital collaboration tools that you can use. And some companies may have more than others. And then I would say, let's, you know, map out what are some of the tasks that you need to accomplish to be really effective at collaboration on your team, and then compare this map of the tools that you have versus task I need to accomplish and see where is the shortfall.

Kian Gohar:
Right. And then if you have a shortfall in particular areas, then go out and identify those collaboration tools that can help you be more effective in this hybrid role, which I think, you know, Snackable is very powerful because like you said, we're going to be consuming so much amount of video and audio content. How do we make sure that our teams that are distributed are getting access to the most important piece of information that allows them to work effectively? And so my recommendation is to do an inventory of the digital tools that you have for collaboration and then map that on to sort of task the needs accomplish. And if you have a shortfall, then go find those digital tools like Snackable, which will help you collaborate more effectively.

Mari Joller:
Thank you, Kian. So great to have you here today. Let's wrap up with that. Congrats on the book and we'll talk again soon.

Kian Gohar:
Thank you so much. Yeah, it's been a real pleasure. And if you want to learn more, you can always Google me. And thanks again Mari for having me. I'm a big fan and just really grateful for the time we had together.

Mari Joller:
Thanks.