Episode 10: Phil Simon
The Nine: The Tectonic Forces Reshaping the Workplace - Insights with Phil Simon
In the 10th episode of "Jack Rants With Modern Bankers," we have the privilege of hosting the brilliant Phil Simon, a distinguished expert in workplace collaboration and technology. With a wealth of knowledge, academic accomplishments, and a string of best-selling books under his belt, Phil brings a fresh perspective on reshaping the workplace. His latest book, "The Nine: The Tectonic Forces Reshaping the Workplace," is a game changer and essential read for bankers and business leaders.
In this riveting interview, Phil discusses the future of automation, the impact of generative AI, and the challenges of physical dispersion. Gain valuable insights into performance measurement, fractional roles, and how real estate owners are adapting to the changing workspace landscape. Don't miss this enlightening episode as we explore the cutting-edge ideas and practical solutions that will transform the workplace as we know it.
Phil Simon 00:00
John Madden famously said “If you've got two starting quarterbacks, you've got none.” So you do need to pick not only a topic and a style but personas. So for this book, I was very much targeting small business owners, executives, CEOs that type because, yes, these forces affect everyone in different ways. But, you know, your entry level analyst can't determine that companies work from home policy.
Jack Hubbard 00:26
I've had the privilege of being in and around banking for more than 50 years. Lots of changes during that time. We've gone from Ledger's to laptops, typewriters to technology. One thing, however, remains the same. Banking is a people business. And I'll be talking with those people that make banking great here on Jack Rants With Modern bankers.
Welcome to Jack Rants With Modern Bankers brought to you by RelPro, and Vertical IQ. Each week I feature top voices in financial services from bankers and consultants, to best selling authors and many more. The goal of this program is simple, to provide insights, success practices and to bring new ideas to the table that you can use to maximize your results.
My guest today is the Amazing Phil Simon, some would tell you he's the world's leading expert on workplace collaboration and technology. And after doing my interview, I'm a believer. Phil’s degrees span Carnegie Mellon and Cornell. He was a professor at Arizona State University and is the founder of Racket publishing. If he's not speaking, he's writing and his latest book, “The Nine: The Tectonic Forces Reshaping the Workplace” should be on every bankers must read list. It's my thought provoking interview with Phil Simon. Here on Jack Rants With Modern Bankers. Let's go.
So despite the fact that it's 118 degrees, where you are now, I always like to start the program with, “Tell me something good.” So tell me something good, Phil.
Phil Simon 02:13
I just finished watching season two of The Bear and it was excellent.
Jack Hubbard 02:20
You know, I think in this time, as we record where Hollywood and the writers are on strike, I think we're going to need to keep going back to programs that we've seen in the past. We just started over the weekend, The Lincoln Lawyer, which is fascinating. And so I agree with you. It's kind of neat. Well, I want to dive into your book, “The Nine”. This is unbelievable. And I told you before we started recording, every banker, every president, every company official, every HR person they need to have this book. It is a game changer and I couldn't stop reading it. However, having said that, it's a great book but this isn't your first rodeo. What are some other books you've written?
Phil Simon 03:08
This is the fourth book, Jack in my series on The Future of Work the previous three, were in order, Reimagining Collaboration: Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and the Post-COVID World of Work (The Future of Work), then Project Management in the Hybrid Workplace, which is hopefully self explanatory. And then the previous one to this was Low-Code/No-Code: Citizen Developers and the Surprising Future of Business Applications (The Future of Work Book 3). Before then I wrote 10 other books. But the last I'd say six including Slack for Dummies and Zoom for Dummies have all been about the future of work.
So I've been a busy little beaver the last five years cranking out all these books. And it's just fascinating to me, we're living through I think unprecedented times. And nobody knows the present company, including how things shake out. But I like to think I'm pretty good at reading the tea leaves. So I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow or next month or next year. But I thought the most interesting, intriguing thing to me about writing The Nine was looking at how these forces would collide in unexpected ways. And I'm sure we'll get into some of those today.
Jack Hubbard 04:16
We will. And you know, to me, you're a Pied Piper of this. And another Pied Piper that's really similar to you is a guy named Pat Lencioni, who has written some amazing books but Pat's books are more about the people inside the company and how they interact together. I view your book a lot like that, but it's also an infrastructure book. It's called The Nine: The Tectonic Forces Reshaping the Workplace (The Future of Work). I'm just fascinated by the title. Let's start there.
Phil Simon 04:52
I actually landed on that pretty early. The cover took some doing and I wordsmith the subtitle quite a bit because you want it to be descriptive and complimentary and evocative, but not verbose and clunky. And so it has to be SEO friendly. So I just couldn't get my head off of this subject of different forces colliding. And then I thought about the word seismic as opposed to tectonic. And then of course, the cover with the sort of the Gliffy font, and then the background with the shape shifting, because I do feel like the workplace is shifting or being reshaped as we speak.
So I just think it's very difficult to nail the cover, I've joked that I can write 14 books. And to get better at it, you know, bang out a chapter in three or four days, if I do my research properly. I type fast, I don't sleep, I'm always paying attention to what's going on. And then it helps if it's 150 degrees outside because you don't want to go out too much. But yeah, I didn't know of a book like it and I think it was Maya Angelou, who said, Ohh…Toni Morrison, excuse me, “If the book that you want to read doesn't exist, then you have to be the one to write it.”
Jack Hubbard 06:11
Well, you did, and I'm sure it's doing very well. And one of the reasons is it's so practical, it is so down to earth, the subject matter here is obviously pretty significant but it's very easy to understand. One of the things you talk about is a concept called physical dispersion. You write in the book about large companies; Google, etc, Chase, who's basically saying Goldman Sachs, you're coming back to the office, but people aren't coming back to the office. Where are we with this dynamic?
Phil Simon 06:49
Oh, it looks like and I was just reading the most recent research from Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom's Work from home research side project that effectively we're still in the same spot. Employees are willing, as a general rule, to come to the office two days a week and employers want three. We’re in a zone of agreement, right? I don't know the right number. But it's not like you have to be in the office five days a week, and we're never coming in at all. It'd be like if you were married to someone who was really into fitness, and wanted to live in a city and was very frugal, and you are the opposite of those things that marriage is probably not going to work out. So I feel like we're close when you hear about people like Musk at Twitter who are mandating in person work. But if COVID As I've said before, had been a two or three week disruption, then I think people would have said, ”Alright! Play time’s over. This is effectively a snow day.” But it's been two or three years, and people have had an opportunity to ask big Harry questions to reevaluate their lives pre COVID our personal lives revolved around our work lives. And we've inverted that, and we're not going back.
Again, there are exceptions to that rule but if you look at all the data, Microsoft's done some fascinating research around how our habits have changed, and so did the slack feature forum. We were as if not more productive, working from home. So this idea that we have to be in the office all the time to work is insane. It's a trust issue. That doesn't mean though, that we never should come to the office, there are certain things as I'm sure you'd agree. If I'm in banking, and I want to do business with someone and that person is my financial advisor and manages all of my assets, I probably want to break bread with that person.
In fact, when I was back in New Jersey, I finally met my own financial advisor we had never met before. But I told him, I was going to be in the area celebrating a birthday. And I released my book on project management. So it was great to meet him. But it doesn't mean that we always have to meet in order to conduct business. So for any kind of brainstorming, training, performance, review, orientation type thing, yeah, get to the office or get to the office once a week or once a month, to hang out with your colleagues to break bread. There's real value in that. But again, this idea that we have to be in an office to work is just patently absurd and it's my contention that companies that, as I talk about towards the end of the book, embrace this trend as much as they can as well as the other forces will do better. All things being equal than companies that try to deny that these things are happening.
Jack Hubbard 09:48
And I'm curious as an educator, when you've been a professor and a significant educator, you read about and this is a little off the subject of the book. But it's important because when parents were home and kids were home, I knew my own son and daughter in law. At the time, their twins were, I think 10 or 11. And talk about the emotion and baggage and all that trying to teach kids when you're a parent and you're trying to work and it's a nightmare scenario. I've heard that we are significantly behind, young people significantly behind in learning. How do we catch up? Where's where's that point where we say, “Okay, we're back!”
Phil Simon 10:36
I don't know if that happens. I mean, this is way beyond my expertise but from what I have read, they're talking about a lost generation of students who were unable to learn for a significant part of their childhood and there isn't a magic fix. So I'm not smart enough to know the answer to that one, I had a hard enough time distilling Nine Meaty topics into something resembling a cohesive narrative. And as I tell, I also work as a ghostwriter and writing coach, if your book is about everything, your book is about nothing.
So when I talk to prospective authors not to get off the subject, say my books for everyone, I say, know it isn't. John Madden famously said, if you've got two starting quarterbacks, you've got none. So you do need to pick not only a topic and a style but personas. So for this book, I was very much targeting small business owners, executives, CEOs, that type because, yes, these forces affect everyone in different ways. But, you know, your entry level analyst can't determine that companies work from home policy or maybe use certain tools but it's not going to be setting the policy for generative AI automation blockchain and some of the other technologies that have been discussed in the book.
Jack Hubbard 11:50
Well, you do talk about automation and it's just fascinating and you've got a simple model of automation. Talk about that.
Phil Simon 11:59
At a high level, and I think this is original work. But for all I know someone's doing something similar, I think it was in the 15th or 16th century that Newton and Copernicus independently invented calculus, and I'm not putting myself on that level. They're a lot smarter than I'll ever be. But so it isn't that difficult to automate an individual task of a job, whether that's recording a macro in Microsoft Excel, I mean, there are lots of different ways to automate my previous book, low code, no code discusses tools like Zapier, make.com, IFTT (if this, then that) So there are plenty of ways to automate lots of different tasks. Well, if you move that up a notch, then you can automate a process. So as someone who has a background in information systems, particularly Enterprise Resource Planning applications, many companies when we go in to set up a new system used to manually write checks, well, that's just not very efficient. So is it possible to use technology and it has been for 30 years to automate calculating overtime or direct deposit or printing checks or calculating gross to net? Then you could say, well, could you automate someone's job? And the answer is, yes, sticking with banking, there are plenty of ATMs that mean that you don't need as many proper bank tellers. If you watch an episode of Mad Men, you'll be amazed at some of the jobs that were totally legitimate back in the day, you don't necessarily need to go to a 24 hour auto photo anymore to see your pictures because you've got your phone. So there's that and then could you automate an entire department? Sure. That is certainly possible. And then the final step, the way I see it is, could you automate the entire industry?
So to me, the question isn't, whether automation is happening, Jack, Of course, it is. The question is where and to what extent and then by extension, what are some of the risks because I can automate a process And if it's 99% accurate, that's pretty good. Except that, that 1% were Oh, I don't know, going to subject me to a lawsuit. Maybe I don't want to automate that. But if I automate something 20% of the time, it's accurate. What's the point? Because I've got no confidence. But beyond just some of the simple examples that I gave earlier. I mean, we see companies like Uber that, as they did business in dozens of countries, were able to automate their accounts payable process, in large part using technologies called robotic process automation, or RPA, which are basically macros on steroids. And if you throw in some AI, they actually learn and get better over time.
So, again, going back four or five years, I did have an idea to write a book about automation, particularly RPA. I decided not to do that one, but I've got a big head and there's a lot of knowledge and they're not all particularly relevant. But the way my brain works, I file stuff or I'll put it in a tool like notion. And then when I have a dear friend, I have an idea for a book. reference those notes like a lot of good people do that. Adam Alter just out of NYU just wrote a new book, I think it's his third or fourth, called The Anatomy of a Breakthrough and he talks about how for 20 years, he's had this massive document that contains all these crazy ideas for businesses and books and classes. So I, yeah, my brain doesn't shut off, which makes it tough for me to sleep. But I like to think that I can generate a decent text pretty quickly.
Jack Hubbard 15:23
Yeah, it's, it's amazing. And as you talk about automating divisions or regions or industries, we can't do this in the restaurant business. Oh, wait, yes, we can. Talk about the automated McDonald's and where this is all headed.
Phil Simon 15:42
Yeah, it was fascinating to me, Jack. I'm a big believer in a technique that Malcolm Gladwell uses, which is to start chapters with a story. And I did it for every chapter in this book. So in a robot in Fort Worth, Texas, there's effectively a robot McDonald's, no employees, you show up either because you placed an order on an app or you go to the kiosk and you punch in a Big Mac or a quarter pounder milkshake or whatever, assuming the milkshake machine works, it often doesn't. But that's a different discussion. So it's fascinating. For a long time, we thought that the knowledge workers or the white collar workers would be safe from automation and AI. Well, that's not necessarily true.
I saw that Goldman Sachs, I believe a couple weeks ago, put out a study about how generative AI may be able to reduce manual work by 25%. So could that lead to a four day work week? Well, maybe could that lead to job loss? Probably. Will it lead to job creation? Yeah, we're seeing that with prompt engineers. With respect to automation. Again, it's silly to think that we can automate certain manual repetitive tasks. There's a quote in the book that I found from an English or British politician about how automation is actually very human, because it removes non-human activities, like hitting the same button or performing the same process and basically checking your brain at the door.
So I'm pretty bullish on these tools. Yeah, there's a downside but they've made such significant improvements. And if you factor in generative AI, no, we're not at Singularity yet. But that definitely was a game changer. So for people who think, oh, they can never automate my job. Oh, not necessarily look at some of these tools. I mean, I use Grammarly, which is a very powerful grammar check tool. And I still use an editor and a proofreader. You're silly if you're an author, and you don't, but I don't need as much of her time because I can give her a very clean manuscript even though I consider myself reasonably learned in articulate Grammarly will catch some things that I didn't think about. Now, sometimes there are false positives and to me, there is a comfort knowing that an editor with whom I've worked for the last 13 or 14 years has blessed this book. But I don't think that in 10 years, all the jobs of today will continue to exist.
Jack Hubbard 18:08
And part of the reason for that is the generative AI that you talk about. I'd love you to comment on what you're seeing in terms of best practices for people using chatGPT. And then there's Dolly, and now there's Claude.
Phil Simon 18:26
Yeah, there are a bunch of I mean, Dolly, I think you're talking mostly about images. And you've got stability, AI and mid journey, a bunch of other offshoots. Some are even open source. So in theory, anyone could fork them and do some pretty dangerous things with them. You can use it for voice. There's an example in the book of I forget the name of the famous chef, it wasn't Emmmy Real, it was one of the other ones, I think the one who recently passed away. Off the top of my head, the name is escaping me. But to complete the documentary, the director effectively used one of these generous AI tools to fake his voice and people were outraged. And I don't blame them, because where does it end? I mean, we see what happens when people watch videos.
I know that Putin did that with Russia, I'm sorry, with the UK and President about a year and a half ago, well, these tools will only get better. Ditto for the text generation tools like chatGPT, Bard, Claude. There are a bunch of other ones, I think Facebook's got one and it was called Lambda, even music generation ones. So there are all sorts of copyright issues associated with that. You probably saw Sarah Silverman, along with some other folks, filed a lawsuit because these AI tools can provide synopsis of her books. I don't think she'll win but that's just an interesting event or development for me.
So, look, I mean, there are people who are making hundreds of 1000s of dollars a year right now as prompt engineers, because they know what questions to ask these tools, garbage in, garbage out. They are impressive. They're certainly not perfect. They don't know what's true. I'd argue They're also by definition generic, although there's nothing that actually made this call, in my book about collaboration, how you can effectively use AI to summarize what's going on and to make recommendations that you wouldn't have seen. I wrote that book at the end of 2020.
So I was a little bit ahead of the game but again, I pay attention to enterprise technology. And it's kind of my wheelhouse, so to me, it's like when I predicted that slack would get acquired, I thought it might be apple. But I didn't think it would survive against Microsoft, especially given the price of Microsoft Teams is free. So it's a fascinating area, you could just go down the rabbit hole. I mean, at one point, I think in December of last year, LinkedIn was basically for me and AI feed just all of these different startups and projects and events and tips and cheat sheets for chatGPT.
I don't use it in my writing for a couple of reasons. For example, when I gave chat GPT, now this was using GPT, three, not four fours a lot better than three. But when I gave it a list of books for The Nines, bibliography, it got some things wrong. And I said, Well, if you can't get the date of a book publication, right, there's no way I'm trusting you with making an argument. Again, it can also be generic. I also take pride in the fact that writing is supposed to be hard. And if someone like you has me on his show to talk about these things, I don't come across as an idiot, because I clearly use either a ghost writer, or some sort of generative AI told to spit things out. If I'm doing speaking or consulting or workshops, I mean, I don't just want to say, “Oh, I don't know, I always ask chatGPT” that doesn't really convey a great deal of confidence. And then there is this generic aspect to it. I like to think that I can write better in many cases than tool.
Now, again, the summary aspect is interesting. And to me, the most exciting potential application of these general AI tools involves summaries. So if you go on vacation for a week, and you get 100 emails, or slack, or Microsoft Teams messages, and you come back and you've got 500, rather than playing whack a mole, could you have the tool tell you the five things that you need to focus on? I think that would be incredibly valuable. But as you know, these tools aren't perfect. So what if it missed two things? Well, if you have an assistant, you can say, “You didn't think this was important?” You can't really yell or discuss the matter with one of these generative AI tools. So I mean, we could spend the entire time talking about this. And at some point, maybe I'll write a book about some of these generative AI tools. But there are so many of them right now, I don't know if there'd be a way for us to easily differentiate one book from another. I would imagine that I was actually talking about this with my agent. He said, “Yeah, if you don't have that book, pretty much written by now, good luck, because a lot of the publishers have already signed off on future titles.”
Jack Hubbard 22:58
Well, and then that is indeed part of the problem. We're in the wild west here, you know, ChatGPT, Dolly, Claude, etc. The Congress recently had some hearings with the owner of open AI. And one of the things that he made a really good point about is Congress can't possibly move fast enough, you know, but having said that, where is legislation headed? Because this is the Wild West.
Phil Simon 23:29
Yeah, the short answer is, I don't know we're such a polarized society. Getting us to agree on the time of the day is a Herculean effort. I mean, I would say that there's a parallel Jack with maybe blockchain or some of the digital currencies like Bitcoin. It took a long time and a couple of crises like FTX. And what was Terra USD, the stable coin that went on there for them finally, to start bringing some builds up? And how do you balance the need for innovation with consumer protections?
That's a big question. I'm not particularly sanguine, though, because I think it's something like 5% of Congress members might even be fewer than those that possess a degree in technology or engineering. And this is just one data point, but I do think that it reflects a larger trend. So I think it was in 2017, after Cambridge Analytica, when Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook now Mehta got before Congress, and I think it was Orrin Hatch, who think is probably pushing ad, but in theory has staffers who can brief him on more contemporary technologies, asked Zuckerberg point blank, how do you make money and he kind of smirked and said we sell ads or we run ads senator, and it became a meme. They printed up T-shirts.
So you know, when you've got folks who are completely detached making policy decisions that they don't understand. I fail to see how anything good comes from that. So I Again, I I like to think that I've got a deep level of expertise in a certain number of areas, some business related, some related to TV shows and movies and rock bands. But I couldn't tell you the current state of it. And I doubt that it's a simple path to any sort of meaningful legislation. It's just it's, we're still in the early innings, and we're so polarized as a society. And I would argue that most Congress members lack anything near the technical expertise to objectively evaluate a lot of these tools.
Jack Hubbard 25:33
Yeah, and a lot don't know much about banking, either but that's another subject. So we've talked a lot about automation. Let's bring this back into the people's world. You rant eloquently about performance measurement. Where is performance measurement now and into the future?
Phil Simon 25:51
Yeah, I mean, for decades, people have hated performance reviews. And there's a disclaimer in The Nine about how this chapter of unhealthy analytics is going to paint me as a Luddite or a data phobe. Nothing could be further from the truth at the risk of being immodest written books about big data, databiz analytics, so I get numbers. But I remember at one point learning probably six, seven years ago about good hearts law, which, in layman's terms means the minute that someone knows that you're measuring them above a certain number, that measurement ceases to be effective.
So a perfect example. And I have this cartoon in the book, I think it's of nails. So the Soviet Union in the 20s, or 30s, said, Alright, we're going to evaluate you by the number of nails that you produce. So people would make small nails the size of a thumbtack that were basically impractical. No, no, no, we can't do that because they're too small, we'll pay you on big nails. So people would make nails. The legend has it that we're the size of a truck. While you can't really, I don't care how big your hammer is, you can't really use them.
And even as a student, if our professor excuses me, if administration or department chairs are going to bring me back in part check, because of my student evals? Well, it's easy to get better student evals. Give them a second bite at the apple, if they miss a test, you know, make the tests easy. But are you really doing them any favors? So to the extent that many of us are working remotely getting back to the topic of physical dispersion, it's very easy for Bob Iger of Disney saying we're going to evaluate you based on how often you come to the office, we've got the bad swipe data, that's fine. But you're assuming that people who come in the office are productive. There was an interesting Bloomberg article maybe three or four months ago about how people were less productive in the office. And the theory was that they were so angry about having to go in that they hemmed in hard and I can be incredibly productive in the office, I can arguably maybe be more productive at home, because I don't have to worry about commuting.
So I am pro data. But this notion that data is an elixir or a panacea is absurd. And it's not hard to juke the numbers if you've got companies that have installed spyware on their employees or surveillance software on their employees' computers. It's not hard to create a program that moves your mouse or types on the keyboard. But are you really making them more productive? So I do think that unhealthy analytics, as I write in the book, effectively ruined baseball, at least for the time being, until they made some real changes. And now the games are a lot shorter. But that same type of thing is happening in many workplaces. So people are just doing very performative work. So they can hit some arbitrary number and say, “Oh, I was in the office, or I did this many keystrokes.” Or if I'm a developer, I committed this many, many lines of code. Ronnie Mala of Vox had a good article a couple of months ago, about how bosses are hell bent on productivity, but they can't measure the damn thing.
Jack Hubbard 29:01
That's very true. But one thing we can measure, by some standards, are the number of people that are extremely lonely. And there was an article in the business section yesterday in the New York Times about this. So people don't want to go to the office as much as they did. But there is a sense of extreme loneliness. We need people around us, how do we blend those two together? And by the way, if I'm a young person, I'm 25. I'm just out of college, and I have a remote job. How does somebody help me understand what to do? How to become part of the culture and how do I get promoted?
Phil Simon 29:46
Yeah, those are two very lofty questions. I'd say that if I were a young person, I would take us to the office once a while because that's where you build bonds. That's where you establish relationships you run into your colleagues or your boss. Also the CXO at the watercooler in the elevator and you become more than just a Slack avatar. You know, with respect to loneliness, it is a real issue. And it's more than a little ironic, as you know, because we're surrounded by all of these Facebook friends and these devices that Zuck’s mission at Facebook for a long time was to make the world more connected but many of us feel disconnected.
There was a documentary I saw on Hulu about five or six years ago about a woman named Joyce Carol Vinson who died in her apartment in London. And no one knew about it for two or three years until finally the neighbors complained about the smell. But she was paying her bills because she had enough of a balance in her bank account. And then she had automatic deposit enabled, so no one complained she didn't make any noise. So yeah, we are again, I don't address this specifically in the book. But as it pertains to dispersion and managing a contemporary workforce, it is a good idea. I made this point in several of my books lately, to get people to the office.
Automatics is a great example of a company that the company bought and WordPress, that spends a good amount of money getting people together from dozens of countries every year, just so you could have that FaceTime, I do think that it matters. It's not going to solve all the social ills. But I think it's just a good idea. I mean, it's so much easier to demonize someone over email or when you don't know that person. I can remember a consulting gig over 20 years ago, when someone torn me a new one in an email. And I stood up, turned around and said to the woman “What the hell?” Although I didn't use the word hell, it still happens but yeah, it's imperative that you do meet your colleagues and interact with them on a regular basis IRL, as the kids say.
Jack Hubbard 32:00
Well, and I also think that there's, there's some responsibility on the human that wants to get the job. If I know that it's mostly remote work. And if I know I'm a people person, and that I would be horribly miserable, taking that job, then don't take the job just for the money. There's got to be other things in life around that. That's another story. One of the other things I loved about the book is your chapter called fractions. And this has to do with fractional CEO, fractional CFO, fractional HR person. Where's that all headed?
Phil Simon 32:39
Yeah, there's another side to that, just to complete the thought. Fractions applied to certainly positions and part time jobs, moonlighting gig economy side hustles ready to call it? I've been around for a long time, but I think that it is ascending to more senior levels. But there's a corollary to physical dispersion. I know that Jamie Dimon, speaking of Banking of Chase, has been banging the drum for everyone back in the office. And in fact, I think Manhattan office occupancy is about 49%, which is having real ramifications for local businesses for tax revenue, public transport. I mean, the New York Times had an interesting piece about the urban doom loop. That's a real issue and I certainly don't have all the answers for it. But then, interestingly, Dimon announced that Chase, JPMorgan Chase was cutting its real estate footprint by 22%.
So we can hem and haw about getting people back to the office. But the bottom line is that if we want everyone in the office, we need space for them. And space costs money. So if we can accommodate remote and hybrid work, we can do a number of different things. And I'll get back to your question on fractions in a moment. We can recruit from a wider talent pool, we can find happier employees, we can argue that that's a competitive advantage. And we can also save money when it comes to real estate.
Getting back to your initial question, Jack, I think that we are at the precipice of a massive trend in this if we've got AI and remote work and automation. Yeah if you're Google or meta or JP Morgan Chase, you absolutely need a full time CFO and CMO and CEO, yada, yada, yada but what if you're a three or 400 person outfit? What if you are starting to deal with some legal issues around intellectual property in general AI? What if you'd like to hire a chief legal counsel or chief legal officer? Can you afford 440 $50,000 a year plus bonus and benefits? Maybe not. But could you afford 60% of that? And then have somebody in that official capacity with a company email with the stature and the gravitas of being a full time hire versus a hired gun or consultant or a contractor and, oh, that person doesn't have access because it's a gmail.com email and all that.
So I mean, based on the discussions that I had I did my research, I do think blockchain is kind of an extension of that. You know, there's even fractional sports memorabilia ownership, I can own 2% of a honus, Wagner rookie card, the tobacco card that's worth over a million dollars. I can own startups like Picasa in California, I can own 8% of a home and in a way that I can legally prove maybe more so than with a traditional timeshare. So yeah, like I said, there, I mean, any one of these chapters or forces in the book could be multiple books.
In fact, I did take out a lot of books at the library, and by more than a few on Amazon, reviewing them, so I could distill all this information into a cohesive form because I know that your VP of financial services or your CFO at a bank isn't going to read six books about blockchain and four books about employee empowerment and two books about fractions. There are books that are on that subject. So, you know, hopefully, I did a good job of stitching together some key trends and themes and making people think and then towards the end, providing some sort of call to action, or basically answering the question, what do I do with all this information?
Jack Hubbard 36:15
Yeah, and we're gonna talk about that in a second. But I also want to ask you, because you talked about fractional, called fractional people, they're real people, 100% people. But you also discussed this in terms of buildings, what real estate owners are doing, how they're trying to modify the buildings, workspace talk about that a little bit?
Phil Simon 36:37
Yeah, we could talk about this for hours, there are a bunch of different things going on. First, even if you accept the fact that you need a traditional pre-pandemic office, then there are startups that are figuring out ways to split things up. So maybe you need the office every Monday or every other day or every other week. And you know, with a traditional lease, you're not likely to get that you can rent the whole thing, and maybe sublease it. But a lot of people don't want to deal with that responsibility.
So in the book, I mentioned a couple of startups that are exploring creative ways to break the very rigid, 10 year traditional lease. So there's that and that's if you maintain a traditional office, but companies like Cisco Marriott, Amazon, have spent quite a bit of money, reconfiguring the offices, my favorite example, there's the Cisco office in Manhattan, I just wrote a piece for this on Fast Company, I got some nice play and the title of the article is what an oddly shaped conference table means for the future of work.
So Cisco did a lot of research, a very data driven company, and they didn't want to relegate virtual or remote workers to second class citizens. And they realized that if everyone's in a meeting, but some people are remote, then a square table means and if you're at the center of it, now that I'm tilting my head like this, while doing that, over the course of an hour meeting, that's just not reasonable. And if they sit normally, then the people who are dialing in through since it's Cisco, they're probably using WebEx net zoom. So that's not reasonable. So they purchased triangular, poly agonal, conference room tables, that way people could sit normally, but also look at the people who are dialing in on WebEx, just like they were in the room.
So I applaud them for their commitment to digital equality. And as a consequence of that, they also ask themselves fundamental questions about the office. Why is it here? Well, they determined and I agree with them that if you're just going in to put your head down and your headphones on, and crank through email, or write or code or do whatever, don't show up, right, that's not a good use of your time. So prior to the pandemic, and their Manhattan office 70% of their space, they had allocated to individual workstations, cubes, desks, offices, whatever 30% for collaborative spaces, they inverted that. So now it's 30% for individual work and 70% for meetings and brainstorming sessions and training and all that. So it doesn't mean that you have to spend millions of dollars, you just need to recognize that we need to give people a reason to come into the office simply mandating it especially four or five days a week is unlikely to work, especially with talented folks. And we've seen this in the data. I was looking at a study on LinkedIn a couple of weeks ago about how workers who are professional or knowledge workers would accept seven to 10% less in pay to work in a hybrid way. That's significant. So again, companies can save money and access a larger talent pool by embracing remote and hybrid work.
So to me, there's a hopeful message in the book. Yeah, these things are happening. Go ahead and fight it if you like. But I'm a big fan of, as I say staring into the skid Embrace this stuff, figure it out. Don't pretend like it's not happening. don't actively fight it, Allah Musk and I don't have all the answers but hopefully the book provides a good framework and makes you ask some questions. And then they're going to be banks or healthcare companies or whatever people who bring me in writing, consulting, speaking workshops, whatever, to help them navigate this new path. Because anyone who says, “Oh, I found a future proof solution” is insane and you should run
Jack Hubbard 40:30
You don't have all the answers. But you do have some options, six kinds of thoughts you have on coping with these tectonic changes, give us a couple.
Phil Simon 40:40
One is to basically fight them, right, which is what Musk is doing at Twitter, I don't think that's going to be successful. You can ignore them, you can still wait to see how they play out. If you're 58 years old, and you've made some money and you don't like this new world of work, and you want to sell your company or take early retirement, you can certainly do that. And one of the main options I would recommend, as I said before, is to steer into the skid, embrace these things, and try to figure them out. Yes, they are scary. Yes, they are different. But they also can result in massive opportunities. And I just don't see how most people reading the book are going to say, “You know what, I'm just going to retire or sell my business or tap out.” And I don't think it's realistic to fight these changes or to ignore them. I mean, you could say, I don't use generative AI. And I'm a copywriter. That doesn't mean that other copywriters don't or other authors don't.
So how can these tools work for you? Could they make you more productive, I was just playing with a tool online called goblin. And the premise behind it is that you type in something and it tries to estimate how long it will take for you to do whatever. So how long would it take me to move and the results were ridiculous. But maybe there'll be less ridiculous next month, next year. So could that be helpful if you are planning a move? So there are all sorts of applications of these tools. But if you say, Well, I just don't use them, then good luck with that, Eric I always screw up his last name, Bjornsson, out of Stanford, formally out of MIT, I quote in the book, and he said, “In the future, there'll be two types of lawyers, those that use general AI tools, and those who used to be lawyers.” So I don't see how anyone can ignore these things you may not want to go all in, you may not want to turn over senior level decision making of HR or finance, marketing to a bot, I get that. But are there ways to use these tools to help you make better decisions? I think the answer is Yes and they will only get better.
Jack Hubbard 42:44
That's unbelievable. I'll tell you another thing that generative AI will help you with. I'm going on a golf trip in September. And everybody, all eight of us, we've played golf together since we were freshmen in high school, to give you an idea, so it's really cool. And so everybody says, “Well, what's your handicap?” And everybody sandbags. And so I thought, Okay, here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna plug in all my scores from this year with the course slope and rating. And I know exactly what my handicap is. And I'm going to print it out and show everybody. So I believe there's a number of ways you can use chatGPT where people didn't even think about that but here's one thing people do think about. And that is to have Phil Simon speak to them. What are some topics? And how often are you getting out of your house and heading northwest and east to talk about these things?
Phil Simon 43:43
I'm pleased to announce that I did in March, my first post COVID in person keynote, and it felt great to be in front of folks. I've been doing webinars for years, I think I've done 60 or 70. Looks like I'm going to be doing another one early next month. But as often as I can, I'm not a cheap date, I try to put a lot of thought into my presentations in person or virtual. And I mean, I like to think that my last four books have held up really well. Because they are conceptual. And they try to explain this vastly new world of work. So whether it's collaboration, project management, low code, or no code tools, or certainly the most recent book, The Nine about these different forces. Hopefully they'll prevent me from having to get a real job anytime soon.
Jack Hubbard 44:31
Well, you don't need one based on this book, and I'm sure the others were fantastic as well. And so if I had the capability to go to your files and pull up notions and you've got all these different outlines of books, what's the next one? Where are you headed?
Phil Simon 44:49
Yeah, I'm still. What's the word? Contemplating or incubating? Initially I thought it might do an AI but so many books came out on that and then I wrote the equivalent of three books in a year and ghost route 90% of a fourth I need to spend some time to put some fuel in the tank, and I am getting some speaking gigs and consulting gigs off of the new book. So I'm sure that there'll be book number 15 At some point, but I've written 14 books over the last 14 years, and I think six in the last four. So I've been really cranking and yeah, it's not even so much the writing Jack, the marketing is quite frankly, exhausting. It's submitting articles to media outlets, and then having them ghost you or come back with unreasonable edits or not being clear about what they want. And the promotional aspect to me, it's a necessary evil, but I enjoy writing, I don't enjoy present conversations like this, get me to talk about my book, twist my arm. But so much of the behind the scenes stuff about scheduling, and this person doesn't use this site, and it has to be formatted this way, or that they quote you out of context, or they love your book, and they're going to review it, but then that person leaves the company. I need to recharge my batteries for a bit, but I will definitely let you know. And anyone who wants to stay on top of my activities can just go to my website and sign up for myself.
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Jack Hubbard 46:34
Let me do what I can to help you. Brett Bankers, you need to read this book. He talks about It's Not Practical, It's More Theoretical. And even Phil even says this in the book but it is practical. It's something that you really need to think about. Because it's here, it's not something that “Oh, well, you know, we got to put a committee together” because it's here. So you outta read this book, you absolutely should. And if you have a bank outing, or a get together or some type of a rally, and you need to talk about HR and trends in, in people. If you're a Banking Association, and you are having an HR conference, this gentleman is somebody that you should have on your list. If somebody does want to have you speak to them, Phil or talk to you about these issues, how can they reach you?
Phil Simon 47:33
At philsimon.com It's pretty straightforward. I was very happy. I think it was 11 years ago now and I grabbed that domain for $70. I would have paid a lot more than that. So yeah, I'm pretty available online or LinkedIn is a good way. There are other Phil Simons out there. I know there's a Phil Simon art clinic and there's a Phil Simon doctor but if you look at big bald guys, I've written a few books I think I should show most, most likely at the top of Google search, but philsimon.com. But Jack, I really enjoyed the chat. Thank you for the opportunity and hopefully other people will enjoy the book as well.
Jack Hubbard 48:09
Thank you, Phil, thanks for your time. Thanks for listening to this episode of Jack Rants With Modern Bankers with my great guest, Phil Simon. This and every program is brought to you by our friends at RelPro and vertical IQ. Join us next time for more special guests bringing you marketing, sales and leadership insights and ideas that will provide your bank or credit union that competitive edge you need to be successful in 2023.
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