Episode 1: COVID-19 is changing online communication
In our first episode, Barbara Sharp and Aishah Hamzah chat about how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed online communication, and what this means for leaders who need to stay connected with their people. (Read transcript)
EPISODE 1 TRANSCRIPT
Hi, I’m Aishah Hamzah. This is The Pax Podcast, where we talk about very smart and very human tech to help you be a great leader in challenging times.
Today in Episode 1 we’re talking to Barbara Sharp, the CEO and co-founder of Pax Republic. Pax has built Platos, a virtual deliberation forum that makes it easy for people to discuss, debate and resolve the issues that might otherwise divide them.
Hi, Barbara, thanks for coming on.
Thanks, Aishah. Good to be here.
So, COVID-19 has forced a really big shift in our mental mindset when it comes to technology. We can’t travel internationally, social distancing, people are more isolated than ever. So, these are really big challenges for leaders.
That’s right, if it wasn’t hard before, it’s certainly harder now. There was a term called VUCA which came out, I think about in the 1990s, which means that the world is now more volatile, more uncertain, more complex and ambiguous.
That was already the operating environment, but a crisis is always a test of mettle, and there’s not been a pandemic like this in living memory.
But what it has brought is a mental mindshift.
So, what’s happening exactly to communication now. What does that look like now that we’ve all been forced to do pretty much everything online
This has hit at a really interesting time in the evolution of the workplace, and that is the shift from baby boomers who are retiring, to millennials. They were already ready for virtual workplaces, they were already on conversation platforms. So the pandemic has meant that mindshift that was described as the Future of Work is actually happening now.
What we’ve seen, of course, is that there’s also a search for near, or like, substitutes. So what we’re seeing is like a horses-for-courses approach. You choose the tool, the technology that works for the task that you need to have. Video conferencing, as we can see - the share price of Zoom has gone through the roof - is the app du jour, because it’s like a live meeting.
But of course, it has its limitations, because it’s… like a meeting. (laughs)
A company director told me the other day that he’d spent 18 hours in video conference calls for his board meetings over 2 days. I reckon he would’ve needed 2 days to recover from it, because it does actually require a different sort of brain function. And you’re reduced to a little square in a box, which might be one of 20 squares and it’s really draining.
I couldn’t imagine doing it for 18 hours - that sounds insane!
But speaking of technology and tools, you’re part of the team behind the newly launched Platos. What makes Platos different from other online communications tools out there?
We come in because there is still a need for a different sort of conversation. So we built a virtual text-based conversation, um, but it was built for a very different horse-for-course! A different task.
It’s built for deliberation. It’s built for long-form discussions and particularly so that people can actually interact about more complex stuff. The stuff that you’d probably do in a workshop or maybe have in a town hall meeting. It’s, uh, very topic focused, because there are a lot of issues in the workplace that really need you to burrow down and get different points of view.
And again, responding to that Future of Work concept, it’s about getting diverse opinions about the big stuff if you’re to get the insights as to what needs to change for lasting, and uh, well-informed change.
So we built a platform that’s different because it’s doing a different task from a video conference or a chat platform.
So in light of that, then, what would a great leader do, today, if they could?
A leader can address their community and actually say okay - particularly in a crisis situation - here’s the plan. We haven’t locked it down, we need your insight, we need you to tell us what you think and we will collect all of those data and we will form the last mile of what we do. That’s a powerful way to say, “you’re part of this organization, I care about what you have to say”.
So Platos is technology for enabling that inclusive leadership.
The ability to include people in that last mile of plans that you’re about to lock down. So it’s not just about the pragmatism of making better informed decisions, it’s actually about a powerful gesture of you including the people who make your business work or fail.
So you’ve just made the ability to listen and include, possible. And that’s really, really good to know, so leaders, I hope you’re listening. Um, and thank you so much for joining us today, Barbara, it was really good to hear your insight.
Thank you, Aishah, it was fun.
If you want to tune in to more of our chats, just like this one, join us next week right here, for Episode 2 of The Pax Podcast.