This time around we sit down with this unique consulting firm that helps organizations align user experience, content and technology across the core processes of knowledge management.
Join Yenza3‘s Anuj Rastogi, Shveta Malhan and Martin Byrne join StartWell’s founder Qasim Virjee in this fun conversation that explores some of their own career history that lead to forming this consultancy, why people need to feel empowered within organizations and how important culture is to companies.
[expand title=”Podcast Transcript”]
Qasim Virjee 0:11
Zach once again for this 17th episode of the struggle podcast. I am circles founder and CEO Qasim Virjee. Sitting here in the studio is always well, not always I don’t only sit in the studio, I go to other rooms at our campus on King Street in Toronto, regardless, but we are back in the studio this time with very interesting trio that call themselves Enza three. I’ll let them explain what you guys do and introduce yourselves and your thing. Roll call.
Anuj Rastogi 0:44
So this is a new Jogi. I’m one of the three co founders of Ian’s three.
Shveta Malhan 0:50
I’m Shweta. Mohan, part of Enza three.
Martin Byrne 0:53
And I’m Martin Bern, also part of the Enza three.
Qasim Virjee 0:57
Okay, so straight up. Obviously, the three is the three of you, is it No,
Anuj Rastogi 1:01
it’s got the sort of many, many layers to this. So yeah,
Qasim Virjee 1:05
Anuj Rastogi 1:06
Yeah, totally quadruple entendre. So we we had already kind of settled on this name Enzo, which actually, Martin came across. It’s a Zulu word of all things, to create something in such a way with a group of people that ensures buy in. So it’s essentially the Sulu word for design thinking. And as we start to think about, you know, what we want to be when we grew up, three kind of just worked its way in because there’s three of us. There’s three different perspectives on looking at the problem of learning and knowledge management in organizations. And it just sounded funky. Yeah, three is a
Martin Byrne 1:42
magic number. Yeah, absolutely. De la
Qasim Virjee 1:45
for life. For life. Della Absolutely. Mandy Tong.
Martin Byrne 1:51
I saw them at the beer festival a few years ago. And I would you say the beer festival? Yeah, the beer festival de la Sol came to the beer festival in Toronto and played? Well, it was it was wonderful. It was wonderful to go back. And remember how great there was that period where there was like rappers going through this really, fellas? It’s
Martin Byrne 2:06
a great time.
Martin Byrne 2:07
It was a great time. You know, it’s funny, it
Qasim Virjee 2:09
happens almost every time and listeners, you know, regular listeners on our podcast will agree with me on this hopefully. Something about being in a studio makes people feel like it’s a safe space, and you can open up. And we always get nostalgic every time that awesome old man.
Martin Byrne 2:30
Rapping the day. You don’t know hip hop?
Qasim Virjee 2:33
Drake? Call yourself a hip hop artist mumble rap? Yes,
Anuj Rastogi 2:41
yeah. So that’s the end of the three.
Qasim Virjee 2:45
How did you guys come together to form and we’ll talk about the work that you do. But what’s How did you meet? And how old is this firm?
Anuj Rastogi 2:53
We’re almost a year and a half old at this point. Right? But with a lot more experience behind
Qasim Virjee 2:58
it, of course. So yeah, how did you come together?
Shveta Malhan 3:01
So we were fortunate to get together at clique clique has been instrumental in bringing us together, click out, right, we were part of clique learning solutions at clique. And we just happen to get assigned to a really cool project that was going on at clique. And that’s where our adventure of working together as a team dream team started Dream Team. That’s right. It is a dream team. And once we, we moved on from like learning solutions. We said why not continue this amazing dream team adventure together? And that’s the beginning of fianza. Three.
Qasim Virjee 3:39
I guess, individually, you each have, I’m sure. A whole career before this in in marketing and creative and design services. What’s the other commonalities in your experience? Or what are you individually adept at? So
Anuj Rastogi 3:57
what when we maybe let’s talk about what we actually focus on kind of where we’re coming from. So the problem that we’ve decided to orient our skills around is around knowledge and learning within Enterprise, primarily. So all organizations in some way, shape or form have to train and educate their people on policies on ways of working on culture. But what’s happened over the last few years in particular, a lot of the old mechanisms that we’re using for learning for knowledge management, are shifting the way people learn has changed. So no one really wants to sit through three hours of like, click Next elearning anymore to learn about something. If you want to learn about something, you’ll just go straight to Google or YouTube, watch a video or like consumed two or three minutes of content and then you’ll go about your day, right? So the way that people are learning is changing the platforms and technology stacks that organizations have are changing. So the old way of using learning management systems, many of those systems are already kind of going away the dinosaur and there’s new platforms that are much more daresay sort of web 2.0 like modern user centric platforms that organizations have at their disposal. And the so the learners changing, the technology is changing. And in the context of all that changes a whole bunch of uncertainty. So when organizations are trying to make a call on where do we make our investments, they’re not really sure where to begin. Because putting a new piece of technology alone doesn’t solve all the problems, you need to think about who your end user is, you need to think about the content strategy. You also need to think about the operationalization and marketing of that learning offering. So we come from three related but different worlds, but we’ve oriented our skills around this particular problem. Okay.
Shveta Malhan 5:45
Like my background is purely in the learning space, I’ve been doing work in the learning and development space since the year 2000,
Qasim Virjee 5:54
which means tools for disseminating knowledge, or actually focusing on how people learn.
Shveta Malhan 6:02
It started by creating products that people would consume to enhance their learning experience. And, and then it just got into this domain and space have, we’ve done enough work to, let’s say, even move from classroom space to a digital space when it comes to learning. But since they are 2000, the pendulum has swung too far, people have been just focusing on how to product create a product around learning, whether it’s internally in an organization or learning as a business, but there hasn’t been as much focus on how the brain and mind works. And how do we create learning that’s conducive to actually opening up the consumers mind to first learn rather than purely focusing on creating the product?
Qasim Virjee 6:49
Okay. So we your history shows is the before this, it was in learning as applied to customers and customers, not internal teams at enterprise? Both? Oh,
Shveta Malhan 7:04
my experience is not in K 12, or higher education. Yeah. So I was always doing corporate learning in some shape, form or fashion, whether it was sitting in a business unit in a corporate environment, or in an HR function in corporate environment, or even as a vendor who would create products when somebody from a company would come knocking on the door. He gave me a bonus sales training program for you.
Martin Byrne 7:27
Yeah. My background has been in technology, their digital technology and digital experience since 1991. When I built my first website, right and that, and it’s funny because I was 1991 1991 91. Website. Yeah, well, the Yeah, myself and a few other kids from literally kids, like from high school, we started a little web shops, building web pages for bands. It’s right, let’s just, what year was that? Again? 1991.
Qasim Virjee 8:02
So you had to ask three times. I asked why she said it three times. Yeah. Mozilla had
Martin Byrne 8:06
just basically become a mosaic had just become a browser. Yeah. HTML was still not ratified by v3 yet. The the image tag was a new thing, which was changing that horse before a gift born. This was before all of it. Yeah. And it was. But it was interesting, because the first people who took it up the first people we got interest from one of the group had a relationship with the band. And they said they wanted one of these web pages. And so he said, Oh, guess we’ll make one for 100 bucks. And so we started off. And then, after a few months, we got this call from one of the band saying, hey, our label would like to meet you. And we’re like, well, who’s left? And I said, it’s Warner Music Canada. So for teenagers put on the best clothes we’ve gotten, you know that teenagers have the worst formal clothes or worst case clothes. Yeah, basically, it was our funeral clothes, right?
Qasim Virjee 9:00
Martin Byrne 9:02
Shoulders three sizes, too wrong. And we show up at Warner Music. And we’re like, trying to explain Oh, 19. And we’re rocking. And there’s marketing executives from Warner Music. And they said, we want we hear about these web pages. And we’re like, yeah, they’re, they’re cool. People look at them. No, it’s no pitch. They’re like, and they paused and said, Okay, can you guys do one for us? Right? Yeah. And they said, How much is it? We might have? We don’t know. And they said, Well, how about $10,000? And we all looked at each other, like some just put a bag of gold on the table course. Like what? Who would pay $10,000 for one of these? Right? And so it began right like that’s, that was like the Wilder days. So that’s where I started. You know, I’ve always lived in kind of one foot on either side, the experience side and the technology side. Yes, they they’ve gotten together so I’ve just, you know, built and or run websites and web businesses ever since.
Anuj Rastogi 9:59
So we’re We ended up coming together in the in the problem that we’re seeing in, in learning specifically, people who are coming from a learning background, haven’t had the same luxury of access to forward thinking and progressive technologies. And two ways of buying and procuring those technologies. So marketing has always been kind at the forefront and enterprise, they know how to use data and analytics to constantly measure a campaign, and then go about optimizing that they understand. There’s all these platforms that have been been built around, you know, CRM, social media campaign campaigns. And so there’s an entire industry oriented around marketing, right. But in the learning world, a lot of these systems are now old, right, they’ve got old ways of working. So people within that function haven’t necessarily been as exposed to buying new technology, right. And so they buy what might be new technology, but it’s actually already 10 years old, in terms of the way that it works. And the relationships with it have been at points not perhaps as strong as it could be. So it is not necessarily helping HR, in all cases, find the right technologies for its needs. And it doesn’t actually understand the world of learning. So they go out and they look at systems, but they don’t understand the end user, they don’t understand the stakeholder. And so they can’t even necessarily outfit the business with what they need. Meanwhile, marketing and learning are actually doing the same thing. Your your chief marketing officer is trying to get people out there in the market, thinking about their product or service, going from awareness, or from being unaware to aware and then actually considering it, doing something with the information at each stage so that they either buy or tell a friend or what have you. So they’re already doing the same things that learning is doing, which is I’m giving you this piece of information, with the intent to help you change your behavior, you can do something right, either to get better at something or to learn our policy or whatnot. So they’re essentially doing the same thing in two different audiences. But they’re not talking to each other. Right? So we said to ourselves, what if you had your chief technology officer, your chief learning officer and your chief marketing officer all at the table, speaking a common language with you around this problem, or opportunity around learning. So we’ve basically taken very different histories and skill sets and oriented them here, which has been amazing, because when we have these conversations with people, they’re like, you speak our language, but you speak their language. And now we’re speaking the same language. And all of a sudden things change, of course. So we’ve been able to really create a great dynamic with our clients as a result. And it’s, I mean, the market needs this. So here we are.
Shveta Malhan 12:36
And the learning domain specifically, because if you look at where learning is coming from the its origin, specially in the corporate space, it’s coming from the military. So the approach towards learning was, how do we create structure and consistency. And the mindset was that once we create structure, consistency, and a product around learning, we can push and the people are ready to they’re hungry to lap up learning solution. But the reality is not like that. But since I think, last five to 10 years ago, the mindset for even Clos and people leaders in the learning space was like just bump out volume, let’s just push content at people and package it either as a face to face solution, or a digital solution or even a blend of both. But nobody was looking at it from the lens of a customer. That’s where marketing plays a huge role and technology is now conducive to address the user’s needs or customer’s needs. So we can create learning products very differently now.
Martin Byrne 13:35
And the fundamental challenge is has been around forever right organizations of any kind any organization of people, their biggest challenge, the the underpinning of its very survival has been the ability to make sure be confident as to the right person knows the right thing at the right time, whether it is a village passing down agricultural knowledge from one generation to the next, or a CEO addressing board of directors. What’s changed for enterprise though, and in the last little while is that because the speed of industry now. And organizations used to be able to tolerate a certain level of ignorance in an organization you can have, there’s Bob and Bob’s job is to process form 32. And Bob didn’t need to know anything else. It’s a type of process. And you could have a pile of Bob’s in an organization and it was viable. But now you can’t afford to have people in your organization that not only are not informed, but you can’t quickly re inform and move them and change them around liquid. You hear a lot of people talking about agility and pivoting and moving. But if you don’t have the mechanisms if you don’t have the anatomy to enable them and the enablement is starts with knowledge, you’re not going to pivot, you’re gonna change you’re not going to adapt, because that’s where knowing is where it starts. Going to avoid saying knowing is half the battle, but actually when it comes to innovation, that is the truth.
Qasim Virjee 14:51
Let’s talk about culture. How does culture, corporate culture come into your purview? I mean, it’s I’m leading the question a little bit and then I’ll talk about, you know, my experiences working at this big blue elephant of a company. But which I think is an interesting kind of tentpole in the enterprise world. But you know, and show complete shit show.
Anuj Rastogi 15:16
Can we say shit show?
Qasim Virjee 15:17
Why not? Show?
Anuj Rastogi 15:19
Are you gonna beat this out?
Qasim Virjee 15:21
Martin Byrne 15:22
It’s only a matter of time before that’s the name of one of their new products. Sure.
Qasim Virjee 15:27
The box should show the box. It’s on prem. That’ll do everything you need. updates automatically? over USB? Yeah. over USB thumb drives? Absolutely. Yeah, you got a set of 500 of them every month in the mail. But no, so yeah,
Anuj Rastogi 15:47
it cultures. So it’s funny, you mentioned culture, because we’ve got three pillars, it culture, capability and technology yet, right? Those are the really three pillars, because we kind of orient ourselves a level up from learning, learning is just one subset of knowledge. So backing up on knowledge, most teams, organizations, groups of people, at the end of the day, the one thing that usually holds them back is a gap in knowledge. So if you work in a company of 10 people, and you’re the only one that does that particular function, and now you win the lottery, and you leave, yeah, that organization slows down because of the knowledge gap. It doesn’t, it doesn’t know what you know, to do your job to keep the organization running, right. Meanwhile, you might be in a meeting. And it could be a $5,000 meeting, because you’ve got all these executives around the room. And now a questions pose, and they don’t have the right answer available to them to make a decision. Again, there’s a knowledge gap that’s holding things back, right. So there’s always this knowledge gap. But in order to close that, you need to have both, you need to have culture capability and technology, all in alignment cultures. And personally, I think one of the biggest parts of that, because if you don’t have an organization, or team or group of people, that’s big on sharing, right, and valuing knowledge, and disseminating that knowledge and sort of treating it in the same way that you would treat any other asset in your organization. Right, then it just kind of falls to the wayside. But
Qasim Virjee 17:10
if you could promote the culture of learning within an organization to be able to out assume, you know, make any tool that you roll out beautiful and interactive, it is, yeah, Want to be used.
Shveta Malhan 17:22
Absolutely. And I think culture and actually knowledge and learning go hand in hand, because learning is technically when somebody has changed their behavior. And with behavior change, you acquire abilities, and you upskill yourself. So if the culture is not conducive, there’s the right knowledge. And you’ve pumped enough learning content into the ecosystem. But there is no desire, because you might be saying that we promote risk taking, but every time somebody wants to try out something new, that’s when people learn the most when they’re trying to do something differently. And you you get a stick, there is going to be no your brain is not ready to learn, right and experiment. So that’s where culture kicks in, you have to have the environment conducive to support learning and behavior change, so that people can continuously pivot and rescale themselves,
Qasim Virjee 18:12
which itself is reframing of I think the concept of innovation, right? Encouraging a culture of integration really is reliant on people’s want to or ability I should say, to pivot thinking to workshop soundboard things and not be stuck in bias.
Martin Byrne 18:28
And what’s fascinating is, this is a huge blind spot for enterprise. When you think about it, like the, the the granularity to which an enterprise can dissect it supply chain flow, or is enterprise infrastructures or things like that as shocking. Yet, when you ask an organization, how much do you know about the collective intelligence of the organization? Is it good? Is it bad as strong as agile? They have no idea.
Qasim Virjee 18:52
What do you think? Bob’s home life? You
Martin Byrne 18:53
know? Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And all the factors that influence them, like, you know, you know, it’s interesting, you watching sports, and we were talking about this other day, like a sport, sorry, a professional sports organization, a basketball team, baseball team football team, couldn’t imagine not having super granular statistics on the performance of an individual. And not just their, like their, their quantifiable, but also like observations like, Oh, they’re injured. So they’re, you know, they’re taking some time to recoup they’ve had, you know, a slow patch, where no level actually look at the human KPIs. There are tools out there that are accounting, like performance functions and these performance management tools, but they really are superficial, right, think about the most expensive asset most every organization has in their organization is people 100% And yet, we as an organization, culturally spend so little time looking and under looking at and understanding them, and that the core the fuel that enables them is their knowledge. And if you don’t, if you can’t measure that if you can’t see that, then how do you know anything else? You Investing in your organization is worthwhile investment. What’s the point of buying new computers for people who don’t want to use them are new redesigning your, your startup style community putting it a slide
Qasim Virjee 20:13
out to Corus entertainment.
Anuj Rastogi 20:17
Exactly. I think I think that’s actually a good example. Because you see some, particularly here, big banks, you know, we’ll go and take a huge lease on some gutted old warehouse building and try and create a startup vibe. And we’ll put a bunch of open workspaces and coffee and donuts and cookies and a foosball table. Because when they walk into startups, they see this stuff. And okay, we’re going to take this physical observation of startup, and we’re going to put into our space. And now it’ll be hot and happening, right? But it doesn’t work that way. Because there’s not a culture around being. Everyone says, We want to be innovative until someone innovate something, and then you slap them on the wrist. Right? And so that that culture isn’t just foosball tables, and no, you know, open workspaces. There’s something more than that that’s happening in startups that generates those types of ideas and innovations. Yeah. So you as an organization can say, I want this and then when you see it, like slap it down like a game of Whack a Mole, no,
Qasim Virjee 21:15
here at start? Well, we’ve evolved a bunch of tools and methods to enable our teams that work here to be agile, reduce friction in their relationships, and their sense of belonging to each other, and their common mission, and done it in a way that, you know, and that’s subject for perhaps another session, but we could bring in a company to actually workshop this or explain this. But we’ve we’ve really looked or I’ve really looked at how to reduce friction in early stage ventures, process and the everyday experience of these teams. And that’s some of the magic to enabling that startup mentality because even in startups, it’s wonderful for enterprise to look down the chain to say, Oh, we can we can up chain, you know, innovation and we can look and learn to whatever depth the monocle is applied, you know?
Anuj Rastogi 22:11
Just say monocle. I did. monocle. Okay, there we go.
Martin Byrne 22:16
For those viewers who are too young to know, it’s half of a pair of eyeglasses
Anuj Rastogi 22:21
if you happen to be eating, like from a jar of planters peanuts right now.
Qasim Virjee 22:25
Yeah, look at the label. Yeah, look at the Label Label are playing Monopoly. Alright. Sorry, continue. Okay, thank you. So for those of you who’ve never seen a picture of me, very dusty. No, I’m not that old. I just speak like I am. But the no matter how, you know, enterprise kind of looks down the pipe for where they can learn from companies that rely on a fast pace of innovation. It’s really interesting to us here at start well, to say, those are not codified things. And those are not, the lessons have to be provided within the context of whoever’s trying to learn them. And so even here, we’re seeing, you know, it’s not an industry specificity thing. But we have so many different companies doing so many different things, all with needs to grow. And different means to grow in terms of whatever their resources are, from the early stage staff, who all individually have different motivations or wants to see that company succeed, to provide them with value in their life, to, you know, monetary motivations and capital restrictions on the ability to grow at the rate, which even customers are demanding of these companies. There’s just so much at play in that kind of like, you know, embryonic stage of venture. But yes, on the flip side, to take a page out of my history, you know, with working for a monolithic, global 400,000 person company in technology, who thinks or culturally has been indoctrinated themselves for decades to believe that they are technology and innovation? There is this kind of baked in cultural bias to assume that any interaction enacted from the company to any other person as a partner, whether it’s a startup or otherwise, is one of patronage. Right. Yeah. Which I find fascinating. Because the biases of that mentality, necessarily limit the potential to learn and interact, and take lessons that help innovation. Well,
Anuj Rastogi 24:44
if we take start well as an example, because I mean, I’ve known you for almost 15 years at this point, right? If you think about the culture that you’ve created here, so you have open workspaces, and you have I don’t know if you have a foosball table, but like this fields table
Qasim Virjee 24:58
that no one uses so we just fold it up. It’s in the corner.
Anuj Rastogi 25:01
Amazing. So I mean, you’ve got you’ve got a busy, you’ve been, you’ve got that vibe here in this space that you know you’ve created with with your team. Yeah. So physically someone will walk in here and say, Yeah, okay, I get that. But behind that is your entire history of being an entrepreneur, in digital in community in open source, right. So you’ve already kind of been living and breathing that you’re able to kind of bring that here, someone coming from a fortune 500, old school, tech or other giants, trying to start this up, without your background wouldn’t necessarily understand the pulse of this, right. And what you’re creating here is interesting, because although we’re focused on enterprise, the world is changing so much in terms of that it’s a cliche term saying the gig economy, but many of the people that are here are probably doing a number of different things, they might have multiple side hustles at a time, they’re in the middle of a startup, they’re working for some small organization or satellite office or something here, the way that we work with each other, the way that we generate income for ourselves, all that’s changing. So in any one day, you might have to do, you’re not Bob, you know, stamping for 32, you might be doing 10 different things. And so the rate at which we have to learn every day is increasingly crazy. So the people that actually take that learning into their own hands are the ones that are successful, right, the organizations that don’t understand that you need to have multiple ways to help people learn. They’re the ones that are going to fall behind because this industrialized factory farming form of education, which got us to where we’re at, you know, pass World War Two, and you know, sort of in this latest economy, it worked up until a point, but it’s not working anymore. It’s not working in K to 12. It’s not working in enterprise. So we have to change.
Shveta Malhan 26:48
And this also speaks to unboxing of the learning experience, because typically, what traditionally, we saw learning as was a boxed experience, whether it’s a textbook or an elearning course are going to want to acknowledge a
Qasim Virjee 27:00
narrative, even if it’s like, yeah, provided digitally to you.
Shveta Malhan 27:04
That’s right. So there’s a lot of research that has happened in the learning space to speak to social aspects of learning peer to peer learning, informal learning, absolutely. And organizations typically haven’t been able to capture that a sense effectively,
Qasim Virjee 27:19
there’s power dynamics at play, though, you know, like, one of the things that we’re doing with our member companies, which is very interesting, is we have a one year cycle of this, it’s a once a month meeting of minds, we curate the groups, typically their five people come hell or high water, they have to dial in or be in the same room, ideally, with each other once a month. The schedule is preset, we facilitate the first meeting. And then for 11 more sessions, they meet, they sign NDAs. And they have to just openly discuss whatever’s on their mind. But it’s a peer group, so they can learn from each other, and they don’t fear the penalty of expressing themselves. And something like that, you know, is such a wonderful thing. It’s a tool that we’ve been talking to some of our potential partners in part existing partners that are more enterprise like banking, financial sector, whatever people saying, this would be amazing if we incubated this as a culture at our company. I’m like, but what happens when it becomes just throwing stones, because it’s too, too nuclear a group. So there’s so many things that like, there’s tools that we could develop, I think for people to feel empowered to be able to express themselves, but it’s a massive cultural problem to, to try and affect change in enabling that mentality, like, the water cooler, shouldn’t be a water cooler, should be 5000 places where people can, you know, meet, grow, learn, and take their work off site. It’s not limited to a building and you know, and all this sort of thing.
Martin Byrne 28:51
And you’re I mean, the, the, I think one of the problems around the kind of cultural leadership startup training is that leadership has been treated so much as processed in a skill set as opposed to a state of mind. And like any state of mind, you got to get into it, you got to be brought into it through mentoring exampling because reality is it all starts with the leadership. The leadership has to be learning minded. It has to be organic minded, it has to be flat organization minded. There was a I remember watching a met a young startup, the late 90s Calella, rewards kind of Tron ledger came achievers started, I met them when they were like 20 people. I was raised on the resume on tax and it was a billion dollar assets. It was a Canadian unicorn exit. From day one, they nine o’clock they did a start up leadership was there or stand up and they all come together. And it was a physical circle. They would share it was tribal. They continue that up into the hundreds of employees and then even then they tried to figure out from leadership level, how do they participate, but that started with the leadership being in a leader shift mindset like a spiritual space of like, how am I going to be a guide? How am I going to be responsible? How am I going to be accountable? How am I going to listen to this collection because one of the things I think is lost by a lot of organizations especially when they scale is the realization that you know, the difference between be competitive advantage a large organization has is it has a collective brain. The problem is it was as organizations scale the leadership’s forget to use that collective brain, they silo it, they cut it up into little pieces and put it in Neverland pigeonholes the power of it. And this is where you see like organizations, even still, you can say this about organizations like Google and even Facebook, the reason they can still move the way they do is because they don’t silo brains as quickly. They don’t silo knowledge, because the leadership sees knowledge and organ cultural knowledge is a holistic tool, not a toolbox of little individual pieces you use to put out fires when you need to. But it has come back to leadership.
Anuj Rastogi 30:58
I mean, with with Google, Facebook, Twitter, you know, anyone that’s been born and grown in the modern sort of digital economy, I think they already were kind of living that. So it seems like a natural evolution. But if you’re coming from, you know, 200 year old, you know, global enterprise that started, you know, in the pre war era, and rose out of very military style, leadership principles, and functions and whatnot, that cultural transition, it has to be more than just window dressing. Yeah, where you handled ice cream on Fridays and stuff, right. And so but But it’s more than an SE, this is where, again, we’re we’re coming together, we kind of focus on learning, but learning is about more than just the content and lesson, the curriculum and learning objectives and stuff. Like if you’re, if your people don’t actually believe they’re gonna get any value out of spending the time learning this thing in some way, then they’re just not going to be bought in. So we also have to think about when you’re trying to get people in your organization to learn to move forward. What are you doing actually resonate with? Right? What are you making? What are you doing to make this sound like there’s something in it for them? Of course, you couldn’t sell a product and say, you must buy this product, because it’s awesome. But you’d have to find some way to resonate with the individual. Right? Like,
Qasim Virjee 32:17
unless it’s crack or something. Yeah,
Anuj Rastogi 32:19
yeah. But I mean, even there’s a very clear value proposition Right? Like that, like crack has kind of had its head states figured it out. Right. You know, you know what you’re signing up for? Yeah.
Martin Byrne 32:28
Yeah. It’s like the king Kuhn of the mind relates quick, you know, escape and then back. You know what they should? Probably the crown. That’s the problem cracks just had bad marketing.
Qasim Virjee 32:38
Oh, my God. Okay, cool. I was just in Cancun last month. And normally I’d go to to Lou, you know, and like a little quiet yoga place or something. But we were late booking this holiday, it was a last minute thing. And we’re like, okay, let’s just go to Cancun, the flights were quick. And we got some sort of deal with the hotel. And, and I had never been to, like that party area. Look, Cancun is a place where young people go to, like, cut loose, you know, and, and then one afternoon, we were like, my wife and I were like, Let’s go and get some souvenirs. You know, because there’s got to be like a town. You know, this Cancun place. It’s gotta be, it’s gotta be a town there. And we stayed away from it until the last day. And then we go down there. And we caught a bus. This fun, rode the bus down to Cancun. And it was the daytime. And I think that was our big mistake. It will be so scary and sad. You know, like, when black paint turns gray in the sun. And there’s a sort of nostalgia and fear. That’s yeah, you know, that evokes that but that that, for me, was what I felt when I saw the cages for dancers at nightclubs on the street. fading in the sun. Before we quickly grabbed a couple T shirts and ran back of the mind.
Martin Byrne 33:59
You know that the freedom that comes on quickly. It’s super exciting. Yeah. Afterwards, you feel really gross. Kind of sad, but weirdly want to do it again. Just don’t go outside in the day. Yeah.
Qasim Virjee 34:08
Keep it at night. Yeah.
Martin Byrne 34:09
It’s like seeing New Orleans in the morning. Right? It’s like, oh, oh, yeah, no, I’m just gonna go have been Yeah.
Qasim Virjee 34:17
So tell me about last year and a half guys. What’s what’s been going on for you as a would you call yourselves an agency? No, no, all yourselves. We’re from Ian’s at three.
Anuj Rastogi 34:26
Well, aside from ninja three. No, we’re it’s a we’re professional services consulting organization focused on enterprise learning technology strategy. Yeah. We also have development capabilities to do custom tools, custom tools, custom content, content. Yeah. And we’re also very big on. We’ve talked a lot about this philosophy about being boundaryless. So until, until and unless it makes a lot of sense to have, you know, commitments to leases and office space and whatnot. If we’re not where our clients are, then we’re not really doing our best work, right? So being in the client’s environment, understanding the dynamics and politics within their environment is actually really helpful. So we’re boundless in that sense. Now we’ve got, you know, clients between Canada, the US, Australia and whatnot. And we live in a great time where we can do all of that.
Qasim Virjee 35:15
Yeah. Fly around. You mean? Yeah, exactly.
Martin Byrne 35:18
Yeah, actually good question for you, because you’ve got a lot of organizations that kind of come through here, and there’s 100
Qasim Virjee 35:21
member organizations, right? Like,
Martin Byrne 35:24
are you seeing that change? Like, is it? Is it just the minority community that are building kind of these fluid organizations? Or do you feel given the spectrum organizations you’re seeing? This is a thing like this is the future like,
Qasim Virjee 35:37
the answer for me is loaded, because it’s intertwined, at least in my brain with something that I’ve been trying to teach a lot of early stage companies we’re mentoring is that market opportunity exists globally. And as Canadian specifically in downtown Toronto, we have a huge opportunity to not only test foreign markets with local populations that represent those markets, but be able to access them via Well, I mean, similar Lee cultural links, whether you’re hiring people that have access to those foreign markets, or otherwise, I think the opportunities there, I feel like there is still it’s changing very quickly. But there is still a kind of this Canadian overly polite kind of thing where it’s like, yes, we know, we’re great, but we don’t want to shove it in someone’s face. And literally, it’s a weird thing to say. But as a mentor, investor, and kind of incubator that helps companies grow, we see this as a sticking point for a lot of companies, we want to help them and we’re kind of like you need to develop your internal capacity to welcome the world. And not only just welcome it, but Chase opportunity, if an opportunity comes to you from a foreign country, don’t dismiss it, because it feels difficult to, to, you know, to jump on. And of course, it’s a necessity, I think, for these modern businesses that are digital, particularly because of the nature of the geography of this country, like, we live in this wonderful kind of city, massive, I don’t know, city country, of the Greater Toronto Area, with many highways and such and people everywhere. But you know, as you travel across the country, there’s only a few kind of tier one cities in Canada, where you can find enough of a market for let’s call it like SAS products, you know, small business focus SAS products, which are some of our customers are our member companies are providing, so you necessarily have to sell globally. Now, a little anecdote of this from my own. Again, history, which was really, really interesting is that the how this, the cultural dogmas hold people back from realizing global opportunity in North America, how pervasive that that phenomenon is, is not some, it’s not an under note, I think, or a sub note in the story, I think it’s like a huge point. I’ve seen it personally, when before I was at IBM, I was at SoftLayer, which was a cloud infrastructure company based out of Texas that IBM then acquired to create its cloud offering because it didn’t really have a real one. But software’s how they even got on the chopping block to be acquired, was they built this kind of $400 million annualized revenue business, which is great. And Cloud at the time when there was Rackspace, SoftLayer. And Amazon had now come out of nowhere and was taking over right. And the opportunity for this company was maximized. Within the US, they had pretty much rolled out as many data centers as they could manage in the States for the American demand. And now global demand was coming on strong, they needed to be in Japan, they needed to figure out what their plan with China is, you know, which takes so much effort to figure out just because the demand was coming from the globe. And the customer base, no matter what country a company is based in, the customer base for them and for their services, was necessarily global. People needed quicker access to their data. In a data center that was not in Canada, even if it’s a Canadian company or an American company in America, they needed a data center in Morocco, you know, because their African business wanted faster load times other web pages. So it was really interesting to see then that the founding team of that company, now there’s some infighting and other dramas, but they literally they were kicking trot, don’t Torontonians Texans, they didn’t want to get on a plane to go to Africa. They literally did not want to they were like I don’t see why I have to. And that was the stumbling block that limited the growth of that company to go into the billions of dollars of revenue. And IBM picked it up for a song because of that. It’s really interesting.
Martin Byrne 39:52
Oh, yeah. Beta kit, which is a great startup blog here in Canada, shout
Qasim Virjee 39:57
out Douglas and beta kit. Great guys. Residents here and though they’re all of the basic of podcasts that can call in podcasts, etc, is actually produced in this very room.
Martin Byrne 40:04
That’s me. Yeah. Well, yesterday, they just posted an article where they, because PwC just dropped their learning money tree report where they were talking about the investments in seed and early stage. Startups is up 30% over 2017 in Canada, but then, but they said the fact that the mid stage and late stage funding, or Canadian businesses are way behind, it’s like, regretted startups. But you’re right, then we stall. And this articles have been all about like, a lot of the reasons and part of it is cultural, that Canadian, we become a great startup culture. But we’re not a great kick it out of cricket out into the world culture. And part of that, you know, is, you know, I don’t know if organizations are having enough mentoring guidance, examples like this, of how to be fluid, like how to not anchor themselves down, because it’s almost like there’s this expectation, it’s like, success in Canada sometimes seems like getting an office, locking it down, filling it with people having a receptionist that there’s kind of these old notions, and I’ve sometimes feel that some of the companies I know, are so preoccupied by achieving the optics of scale, as opposed to actually chasing the opportunity of scale.
Qasim Virjee 41:19
Yeah, yeah. Sorry, jump in there. Because yeah, I
Anuj Rastogi 41:22
think that there’s, that is a uniquely Canadian thing. It just I think, because we, we see ourselves as this very large an area, but smaller population country, that’s you kind of like the kid brother that no one really thinks about, even though there’s so much opportunity here, and there’s so much talent and skill here, we don’t take our own market Seriously, that’s so I’ll be at the market in Canada is small, you know, it’s the size of California in population, and it’s very disparate in terms of its geography, there is still a market here, we still do have, if you’re in tech, at least, there is still, you know, connectivity through most of the country, you know, broadband connectivity. So that shouldn’t be a limiting factor. We, we we don’t take our own market seriously. And then we’re hesitant to go across the border, where there is a huge and you know, stable market in the US, let alone the rest of the globe. But any, I’ve seen very similar observations about the US with its you know, it’s got a huge critical mass of people in population and markets. So people will very quickly, you know, start out in Cambridge, or Boston or Silicon Valley, they’ll find some population somewhere within proximity that they’ll test out and offering, right, whether it was the you know, the guys at Square way back when or any of these new tech startups, they’ll figure out a way to start testing out stuff quick. I was just in India for three weeks. Same thing with, you know, even one of our partners out there, because the critical mass of population is so big. They’re constantly rolling out stuff, and they’re testing in this market. And when it shows promise here, then they’re able to go to the next place. I imagine it’s somewhere in China. I think population and market size is one factor there. But there’s something more about being Canadian, that’s, we’ve got a good idea. We think it’s a great idea. But we’re not going to tell you it’s a great idea and how awesome we are, because we’re going to be too humble about it. So I think your observation is completely right. Well, now and
Qasim Virjee 43:11
there’s a kind of a side note to this that I’ve been observing, which is the question of marketing. So this has come up in a bunch of discussions for myself that I’ve had with a number of companies in the last two, three months. Everyone’s starting to see the ads being pumped out through Facebook and elsewhere on social media, for our friends at Clear bank, right, Michelle Romanov and Andrew D’souza etc, and their other 100 people or how many staff they have now that they’ve closed a bunch of money. They’re not doing anything specifically New, you know, the pound of flesh business has existed for a long time. But the idea of kind of taking companies who have a proven model here, that can be leveraged globally or otherwise to a larger market share when more customers simply through marketing and digital marketing is what particularly they invest in. It’s that old idea of revenue businesses that just need a little bit more money to turn by bigger revenue. And so yeah, the couple of questions I’ve had from people lately is triggered by their advertising and thinking about opportunities to lever up with you know, people like clearbank is this question of their timidness that kind of like, well, how aggressive can we be with marketing you know, like there’s people i This is my Canadian moment okay, like a little while ago and I’ll just shout it out for anyone who catches this it might be an interesting little it’s not meant to be political or a stab in another company because again, see I’m being Canadian. Oh my god. But here’s the thing okay. I saw an
Anuj Rastogi 44:49
ad the monocle and say I no
Qasim Virjee 44:50
doubt the the thing that really irks me there I’m gonna be full full frontal on this is
Anuj Rastogi 45:01
Good thing we’re not on camera
Qasim Virjee 45:04
is Okay, so we’re not I don’t believe start well is a co working space, it’s in our marketing right now we’re changing some of it. Because we’re more aligned with facilitating growth and global scale as well, for a lot of companies, we do incubation. And we have a fund, which hasn’t been announced. But I just said it on the mic, that will invest in some of our companies and stuff. So we’re doing a lot more than just co sharing space for companies. But what’s interesting is when I did a competitive analysis recently of some co working spaces in Toronto, local brands, I found one, particularly and I know the founder, I mean, I think they’re, they’re a great little company. They got lots of locations, workhouses, the name of the company, and I saw an ad that specifically was targeted against us against start well, so if you search for start, well, it would come up with an ad that says, try try a better working solution instead. And it was like, you know, obviously, Google has its ad guidelines, you can’t specifically in the copy of your ad, call it another brand. But you can target the people searching for that brand. So it was particularly, you know, Sniper it against our potential customers, let’s call it if that’s who the people on Google are. To say, this is better. And my immediate reaction was so Canadia I was I was hurt. You know, I was like, I know you, Adrian, why would you do this? And then I kind of was like, hold on, you’re being stupid. Who gives a shit, right? Because if he’s not, if I if I had an accord with the guy, and he doesn’t do it, there’s 20 other people that are going to do it. And that’s advertising and that’s American, as well as to say, Fuck the other guy, excuse my language, you know, I’m doing my thing. I gotta make my money. He’s gonna make his money. I’m gonna do everything I can to make my money. It’s very interesting.
Martin Byrne 46:46
Yeah, no, I think you know, I think doesn’t seem to get called out a lot in Canada. And one thing I haven’t, you know, worked with clients in the states in Europe. One of the training gaps I find in organizations is actually the marketing departments. It is never cease to amaze me how little marketing departments actually know about the toolboxes when I go and meet like, marketing people in the States. Yeah, senior executives and marketing teams in the US know, their tool, right. They understand search, they understand programmatic marketing, they understand database marketing, like hands on, they know the tools, they understand how they work. I, I and peers of mine often discuss the fact that here, when you sit down in front of a lot of Canadian market executives, especially senior executives, at large organizations, you spend a lot of time educating them right on the fundamentals. And the reality is, is that marketing strategy and concepts can, you know, doesn’t necessarily require a lot of technical skills. But you need to know the execution. Yes. And a lot of people don’t like, you know, you don’t see Canadians leverage data nearly as effectively as US does. You don’t see affiliate marketing in any way the way the US does. And a lot of advanced tooling, you don’t see them used up here, you see a lot of organizations kind of pacified by getting their hands on a CRM, and in a company marketing platform, and basically just want to be able to push buttons going fire out campaign number one fire campaign number to push
Qasim Virjee 48:12
base. Yeah, old school.
Martin Byrne 48:14
And also, the the skill sets to build programs are adaptive. I had a client once that was doing search work for them. And there’s a campaign that was knocking out of the park, we said, hey, there’s a lot more room in this Google’s shown us, we can see the numbers right there. It’s purely quantified. You guys are leaving money on the table, we should amp up the budget. And they said, Well, we only allocated this much budget for search this year. And they were in lysines. Why are you even advertising? Exactly. So like, why don’t you pull some of that money? And they’re like, No, we’ve committed that money to other other channels. That’s and you hear that all the time. Like, that’s such a mindset, whereas in the states, like, their marketing teams have a culture of hustle, right, like, wherever they can move money, they move money, right, they and but again, it comes back to the training and learning all the way from the most junior marketing person through to senior executive, they know their toolbox, they know how to do stuff. And they know how to bring it all together. And that is a training gap that I find in Canada, we don’t see as much that you do run into a lot of marketing people who are good idea, people, you know, they’ve gotten great marketing ideas and things but they have no background on the tools and things and it’s it’s hard because it’s it’s probably one of the fastest moving little kids in the business. But it’s also necessary you got to be if you want to help if you want to hustle on a global scale, you need to know your marketing toolbox inside out all the way up to the CMMI level.
Shveta Malhan 49:34
But if you go and ask the same organizations learning and development department, what’s there in terms of supporting the employee performance? They’ll say we have a nicely packaged marketing fundamentals training program. We’ve trained people to do what they’re supposed to do.
Martin Byrne 49:49
We also have a course on how to use a fire extinguisher and ladder see.
Shveta Malhan 49:53
That’s exactly what I’ve realized is work happens in organizations but it’s so bits and pieces like the As an organization who will be focused on coaching, there’ll be another organizer, same organization focusing on onboarding experience, but they haven’t connected that there are other pieces that the employee in an organization or the marketing person would need, so that they can actually do the right thing. You know, like, if you’re onboarding somebody into the organization, just shoving a pamphlet about your organization is not good enough. If they don’t have the right equipment, they want that they need the toolbox that they need to do their job. So all the disparate pieces of what happens to create that employee experience has to be connected. Yes, not to say the work is not happening. It’s just in pockets, to bring it out.
Anuj Rastogi 50:41
So we’re here back to this knowledge gap, right? Because you don’t like the people in organization don’t know what people in the organization need to know to do a better job. Right? Right. Right. So I don’t know that the marketing function in this organization is mediocre on its best day, because I don’t even know what the best of the best of breed tools and methodologies are in marketing for the space. Because I might be just comparing myself against this set of competitors in this market, not looking at it more globally. So the any of the teams and organizations that look at what’s the best of the best happening anywhere, regardless of what country what market that’s in, and are finding ways to bring that knowledge into their organizations are the ones that are going to continue to succeed. And I think as, as it’s a cultural thing, too. And Ken, I mean, we have the big five banks, the CEOs get together, like, you know, once a month for lunch, and they kind of agree to, here’s how we’re going to do business. And so there’s almost this culture of everyone’s going to kind of get the their piece. But in order to do that, if anyone is an outlier, and is over competitive or hyper competitive, and innovating too much, it’s almost like it’s disrupting everybody else, or there’s this unsaid agreement here. Let’s not do that. There’s many markets where that’s just not the case. Right. And those are the ones that we can learn from
Qasim Virjee 52:01
what we’re finding, also from our lens of start well, is that there are increasing amounts in the last two years, right. I mean, it’s triggered by politics south of the border, but there’s increasing amount of foreign players in all sectors coming into Canada. And this is a market that, you know, most people in the states have ignored for decades, because it’s so small and disparate, and all these things. But now we’re seeing it definitely in Toronto. And in tech, a lot of technology companies that are global, because it’s easier to hire and bring foreign workers here and all this sort of stuff, real estate, and might be still, even though we think it’s crazy, cheaper than you know, San Francisco, we’re seeing this and what’s really interesting is, is there will have to be that learning curve will have to happen for to maintain competitive edge, I think for some Canadian companies that are going up against these entrants. And, and also, there’s this whole thing, I don’t know what’s going to happen with this culture, or this, this bias that people have seemed to adopt in the startup world anyway, which is, you know, m&a, or IPO is considered to be a goal, or a nice outcome.
Martin Byrne 53:16
And the irony is that anyone who’s lived through either an m&a or an IPO knows that should be no one’s choice of life, right? That is not a good life choice, they are both, you know, challenging ends to a beautiful thing. Yeah.
Qasim Virjee 53:28
If you have something good, you know, you really have to consider just what it feels like to make it better for the people that enjoy it, and see what you need from it. Because I think people have this like unlimited growth kind of goal. And then they never reach their potential as an organization to provide value for the people who belong to
Anuj Rastogi 53:50
it. Yeah, or your or the Met, or your goals for success are very short term in nature, like you’re going to try and have maximum activations or members or users within the next 24 months. So you can increase the valuation for an AI, an IPO, as opposed to how do we actually build this from scratch to add, you know, a mutual sense of value amongst our users, right, and actually build a long term viable revenue model. So those are two very different things, right? I think that is,
Martin Byrne 54:18
and they said, There’s something inherent in you know, building a business is hard. We all we all know this, like that. We all have different experiences. So to build a good thing, you need to be willing to go over the edge for it, you push yourself far into it. If you know you’re building a model home that’s going to get torn down and a few months, you definitely don’t put the effort into that, that you do if you’re building your own home, right so and the market will know, right? Like the market can tell the difference between something that’s being built to flip and something that’s being built to exist to to have longevity and consistency. You see product teams that are really like committed and like they love their product, and you can just feel it and In the consistency, the flow from the UX all the way through to the customer service, there’s a there’s a tightness you can’t even kind of describe. And then you, you know, you run into products or basically built a flip. And it’s like, oh, this thing’s fragile, it’s glitchy it’s, you know what I call customer service, and I get, you know, they recording that tells me to go to the website,
Qasim Virjee 55:20
the grant writer, I know, when we answered the phone, people are thankful. And I’m like, don’t be thankful. Just
Martin Byrne 55:31
it’s never at that point. Now. It’s like, hello, human.
Qasim Virjee 55:35
People are so inundated with inbound, horrible phone calls from, you know, Caribbean vacation lotteries, or whatever it is this fake Revenue Agency. That when they start, again, it’s a Canadian apology thing, you start a conversation, you almost feel bad for calling someone.
Martin Byrne 55:54
Yeah. Anyway. Oh. And, you know, the the, there is this kind of theater of experience that organizations are trying to create. We, you know, we, in the last few years, we we’ve been in front of a bank several times to open up an account, even though you know, it’s 11 o’clock, I had
Qasim Virjee 56:15
a meeting about this with Van city actually about how if we can ever work together to try and change some of these experience experiences, because it is it Yeah, so I cut you off. But like, is a new business a new venture, you’re not allowed to bank
Martin Byrne 56:31
money, it’s brutal. And yet, at the same time, it’s 11 o’clock. So at least one of the banks has at least bought another AI company today. Yet, you know, there’s 15 flavors of chat bots being developed right now. And you know, the right hundreds of people in these kind of faux startup spaces. Meanwhile, if you’re a new business, you’re going to spend an hour sitting in front of a office person in a cubicle, as they type in your details, and walk you through stuff. And then and we had a horrific experience with a bank, where we were migrating from our sole proprietor arrangement to incorporation, common normal moves. Right, you would think that that experience is one of the things that banks would streamline, that they should have a button on our account, blinking all the time, good and ready to incorporate. And they had to rekey in all of our data from our small business count to our incorporated a totally different things. And yeah, and even then they weren’t able to transfer over things that the history rules that they’ve given us. And it’s like, what
Anuj Rastogi 57:37
it’s like, brand new to them. And it was like,
Martin Byrne 57:40
so you guys, we know you guys have spent literally millions of dollars this year buying startups in innovation, creating innovation, cultures, hiring, unlimited directors of innovation of this and that, yet this thing, this day to day is so brutally flawed. And again, it’s that notion of the if this is your company, you and this is you’re building authentic grow, you would you would see that pain, you would feel your customers pain, you’d hear their phone call fix, you would fix that long before. And that I think is the difference is that you’re right. Like, there is this kind of cult of exit in Canada.
Qasim Virjee 58:17
But but even taking that lens back on on enterprise, I think it’s very interesting to consider this right. Or maybe it’s just rephrasing what we’ve been talking about for an hour. But let’s say Bank X employs 50,000 people. And really, 40,000 of them don’t need to be input in right, because they’re all step step pass. But no one wants to tip the boat, because that’d be chaos and entropy for the stock price of Bank X, because it’s a public company. So it just keeps going. And then innovation is great. And they’re investing in innovation. They’re investing in learning and enabling their staff to learn things. But they can’t push the full too much to empower them to say, I’ve learned so much I want change. You right? Because that massive rush towards change questions the employment model, you can have 40,000 or this is conventional wisdom cannot 40,000 People all doing what Google does, which is take a third of your time or whatever it is and create something new, it’s going to be owned by Google. But go have fun, go have fun on Friday, they should all do that. And the bank will be immediately amazing, right? Or it would be moving towards that culture. If they said okay, all these human resources that we kind of like in a secret Wink, wink, nudge, nudge could fire if we were allowed to instead could be turned around re educated and enabled. The bank could be something completely different.
Anuj Rastogi 59:44
You’ve hit like on like this, this tsunami is coming like between automation, increased globalization, more offshoring of back office functions. More and more people are going to be out of work. or doing less meaningful work if we can consider some that work meaningful tomorrow than they are today. Because the world is just changing, right? Like, you might not need 40,000 of those 50,000 people, and the 10,000 that are left are doing super high skill. Very, like they’re from a cognitive and cerebral standpoint, they’re very intense functions that you need to have a PhD or masters to even execute a whole bunch of history. But now, we are going in a direction where many people will be out of work. And now they’ll need something else to do, but they need to have the skills to be able to do that, right. So part of what we’re thinking about is not just how do we educate people in the enterprise today and make that better, but because most people are struggling with how much work sucks, I mean, that’s actually like one of the first videos together, work sucks, and it’s anxiety for people, right? It creates stress, people go home, and then either they take it on their families, or they drink so that like society as a whole suffers, because work sucks, and work. Work is the majority of your waking life. Yeah, and work sucks, in part, because this is what we inflex here, but it totally works sucks, in part, because I mean, there’s culture and all those things at play. But oftentimes, your boss doesn’t even know what you do. Or your boss doesn’t know what he or she needs to be able to do to be a good leader, or you don’t have the information, you need to make this decision that you’re being asked to make by nine o’clock tomorrow morning. So all these things kind of create anxiety. And part of that is because there’s constantly a knowledge gap about, you know, information and need the people at play. But the world is going to change, I think in our lifetime in our kids lifetime is going to change a lot. So we need to get ahead of that. And that’s partly where I think us orienting around how we can help people and help organizations help their people learn write better, quicker, more responsibly is a big piece there because we can’t continue to keep doing things the same way.
Martin Byrne 1:01:57
Yeah, I mean, you know, when you think about it, the what I’ve tried to explain to people, you know, kind of what it is we do so everyone can relate to that moment where you’re standing in front of you worked, have worked in a company, you’re standing in front of the photocopier, there’s no toner in it. That moment is super stressful. And when you think about all the things someone has to do at that moment, they either have to rely on social learning, they have to find someone, where is the toner? How do I change the toner? Do I call it? What’s my relationship with the power structure around me? Like there’s people in desks? Do I know them? Do I not know them? Am I allowed to talk to them? Should I go talk to my boss and my boss is gonna think I’m an idiot, because I don’t know how to change the toner. But I don’t know who has the toner, what is the toner? You think of that micro moment cuz it’s so super relatable. And it’s, it’s a combination of knowledge gaps and a number of levels. And that problem started long before the toner ran out. And yet, it’s a micro multiply that by, you know, 1000s of moments, hundreds of 1000s if not millions of employees across the country, you think about how much energy is lost. In that simple tasks. The reality is the that piece of information quantitatively is probably two or three sentences of information. The toner is in the closet in the corner, the manual for it is under the thing or you know, like, or the internet and FAQ is there. But that teeny little knowledge gap has this impact. And if that person loses an hour to that day, they that hits them hard. Like they’re like, now I didn’t do this thing. Now I’m late on this report, I go home, I take it out on my family, this compounds, other things. And if you if that photocopier event is one of a dozen crises that have happened because of knowledge gaps in the day, that just ripples on through. And it’s such a simple little thing. But you know, the little attention is paid to what the mental health and social impacts are of as you said, we spend most of our living lives in our workspace. And yet we tend, we take so little care of people in our workspace. And
Anuj Rastogi 1:03:53
when we walk by printers, Martin usually uses shit. Yeah, just kick
Martin Byrne 1:03:57
a hammer, I just hit them. Now I don’t
Shveta Malhan 1:03:59
know. It’s such a beautiful example, though. Like I’m just building on to where you were going with this, Martin, you triggered an emotional reaction in that person because they could not get what they were looking for in time. So you actually clouded their mind to be receptive to all the learning moments that they would have had throughout the day. Yet that same company would have invested millions of dollars, packaging content as a learning experience to support that employee. So that’s, it’s coming back to the neuroscience of learning how to get the brain ready and receptive to learn through peers through social interaction through experiencing the day to day life when they’re in the work context or outside it.
Martin Byrne 1:04:41
Yeah. And then the irony is, is that photocopier has more technology capability than any Apollo rocket ever did. Right? Like it’s indicated, super complicated device that is the technological product of years of engineering, design development. And yet, you’re right like, that little gap of knowledge creates this flow there and then and not just short term, but you know, and if they can’t find that key person, their relationship with the organization gets hit, as they often say in relationships, you know, people rarely break up over an issue. It’s 1000 little issues that culminate in an opinion. Right and if if that photocopier moment compounds 1000 Other things you’re gonna lose that talent you lose that person and move on. And yet your organization spent millions of dollars on retention strategies, right? Or it’s like again, ice cream on Friday Open Office a foosball tables meanwhile, because no one seems to know how to get toner for the photocopier they lose their mind and eventually like to hear so
Anuj Rastogi 1:05:39
so message all Fortune 500 If you want to increase your earnings per share this quarter, like put your toner right beside the printer.
Martin Byrne 1:05:46
Yeah, seriously, like, or just get rid of photocopiers was when when we get to the paperless office, I’m still
Qasim Virjee 1:05:55
waiting for need a piece of paper to make a copy on a piece of paper. I don’t really remember
Martin Byrne 1:05:59
seeing brochures like in high school in that would have been in the 80s. About the future is paperless. Really? How’s it going?
Qasim Virjee 1:06:06
Honestly, people print we have unlimited printing. And if people use it, yeah, they use it. They use like crazy. And most of its throw away print like oh, people don’t print for a reason they print because they feel they have to Yeah, a lot of the time. It’s really interesting to watch. And I have definitely seen those moments where people just lose it just completely lose. And it’s it’s the printer. It’s always it’s always
Martin Byrne 1:06:32
like turn Yeah, printer photos, like Yeah, actually walls.
Qasim Virjee 1:06:36
I’ll say this. I’ve seen it a few times, which is a couple of people. Okay, out of the 500 odd people that operate in this campus regularly. It was only a couple people. And those are the same people. Very few. It’s a great ratio for success for us and what we’re doing with our population, but only those couple people are the people that wouldn’t ask anyone around them to help them. Because we have this collaborative culture here. Everyone helps each other. Because I can’t staff this place. Like if imagine this was a 500% company. How many people would my team be? Exactly can’t afford to staff at that way because our business is not.
Martin Byrne 1:07:11
And that speaks exactly to the problem, the thing that that training because again, that that training isn’t you know, making sure there’s a manual, obviously, there’s a manual somewhere that for a copier, it’s that level of training, and is pure example, if an organization doesn’t train and encouraging leadership down collaboration, right? It can’t be agile, right? Exactly the case you just illustrated there. Like if you have to staff up to bridge knowledge gaps, you can’t be efficient, because you’ve got all this kind of extra overhead of basically just knowledge Sherpas Filling in the gap for an actual strategy of how to make sure everybody knows what they need to know we’ve played
Qasim Virjee 1:07:48
this. Really interestingly, here at this campus where before I had complimentary barista service at our reception before is officially complimentary. And it was just one day a week that we’d have a barista here making drinks for for free for our members. People would go to whoever was at the front desk to solve problems. It is really interesting, they would go to them more often than not to solve some problem that they could have solve themselves or ask for help from anyone else in the population. As soon as we flip that upside down, and only have concierge in the morning at the desk, and have barista full day, Monday to Friday, complimentary barista drinks, people will go get what they need to calm themselves, a tea, a sparkling water, a cappuccino, take a moment, think about what their problem is not even express what their problem is to anyone behind the desk, and go and solve it. Or go back to someone that’s near and talk about it and socialize the experience that they’re going through. And that that that’s I think what it is, is you need these cues to help people be able to feel social in an environment where you know, fear and anxiety and I can’t lose my job. I just had a new baby, all that plays up in
Anuj Rastogi 1:09:08
people’s mind. Yeah, well think about what you’re what you’re doing there you’ve created. I mean, you have a building, you’ve created a certain physical vibe. And the space flows a certain way you’ve got your your kind of barista and desk at the front, there’s a lot of light. So if people are working in one space, and you need to kind of change your thinking, to challenge an idea, you’re going to move physically, that’s just something that we like to do, right. So you’re gonna move there, you might run an idea by somebody, but you’re creating almost these these pockets within the infrastructure where someone can change their perspective on something or engage with somebody. And that’s a very physical thing and interior designers and architects and whatnot have been doing that thinking about that for a long time. We’re trying to think about that from your sort of your cultural infrastructure and architecture standpoint, right? So you might be in two different offices. And the solution might not be here’s one hour elearning and a 50 page PDF on how to solve your problem, it might be that you’re able to connect Person A with someone in the organization who’s dealt with that specific thing. If I don’t know how to build pivot tables, or I don’t know how to run this particular function in this, in this application, I could spend a whole bunch of time learning about that, from some elearning course that I could find, or if you if I could quickly within the organization, run a search for who knows something about this, right and pull up that person. And then culturally, if you have an organization focused around, when someone has a question, if you’ve got time available, entertain them, you’ll give them that two or three minutes, now I might have saved half a day of frustration, I’ve connected with somebody I didn’t know I’ve shared a problem, I’ve learned something from them. So in all of that you’ve learned something technical, you’ve built something culturally. And it’s kind of it metaphorically, what you’re talking about here, right with you kind of going and sharing the problem, or even just being in a new space. So the problem of learning is not just the content, it’s not just the technology, it’s the culture, being oriented around creating that sharing environment of osmosis and, and transparency and whatnot. And these are things that some organizations do better than others. But even I mean, I would humbly argue even the best, still have a long way to go. Because I personally, I find the best way to learn is amongst a group of people we are, by evolution, we are social creatures. And you can’t always have, you know, four people sitting around a table. But there are proxies for this, that technology now allows. But in order to empower those technologies, you need to have a culture that’s focused on it. So you can’t say it’s a waste of time to reach out to the senior developer about this question, you might have taken two minutes of that senior developers time, but you might have saved yourself for hours. And if both of you guys feel better about that, now, that’s a cultural when you feel better about your day, and the organization is overall, much more efficient. But that takes a much more global view, instead of the myopic view that many organizations have on this,
Martin Byrne 1:12:04
you know, internet of all knowledge is fundamentally a social Act, or media for you to read an article I’ve unmet need to make a social decision that I’m going to put a thought on a piece of paper put out there. So it’s, you know, knowledge is not a technical act, it’s it is a social act, and therefore, in an organization, all knowledge is political. And the key is, if you got to get culture, you can D politicize knowledge. But if you have a culture, that politicizes knowledge, then you slow it down, right. And if you slow knowledge down and organization, you slow the organization down. So it is super cultural, social, the social, the social matrix by which knowledge moves through an organization will determine the effectiveness of that organization.
Anuj Rastogi 1:12:43
Here’s, um, here’s a very specific and kind of in progress example right now. So one of our clients had made an investment in a New Learning Experience delivery platform. So it’s kind of a new class of learning technologies. That’s Netflix esque, in that, regardless of where the content lives, it’s unboxed it, you can serve it up through a single experience layer, and you can track analytics around it Sure, instead of driving people into a learning management system, and they have to be in the system logged in and only consume content there. So there’s a class of these platforms that are out there. And many enterprises are using, you know, these types of platforms. So they buy the platform, they think this is going to solve everything. Well, the that’s actually only the beginning, you need to now think about how are you going to break your content up to serve it through this interface in a way that’s actually meaningful? Right. So one of the things that Shweta quite brilliantly is has done is she’s working with one of our clients purchase one of these platforms, helping them to think about, you shouldn’t have 10 or 15 minutes or 20 minutes of content at a time in one block for this program. It really makes more sense to break this into smaller pieces of you know, two to three minutes. Because when people want to learn about something, they’re actually trying to answer a very specific question. I need to know how to do this, or what’s our policy on that. I don’t want to sit through 20 minutes of this because I’ve got shit to do. Right. So what she’s been able to do here, say if this is your platform, from a content structure standpoint, here’s how you should structure it. This is how to best actually display it in that particular platform. So now, it’s bringing together the worlds of the learning technology, the learning content strategy, and then the experience side, right, which is the thing that’s actually probably most sorely lacking in the learning world. No one’s really thinking about the experience. They’re just thinking, I’ve got something really important to say, and I’m going to tell you that right, right. And you could have this about
Qasim Virjee 1:14:33
necessity, yes. Also, what kind of like, yeah, like you started with shredded like saying, you digest this, and then you’ve done it, you know, it this idea of kind of linear narrative. And, and yes, it’s not taking,
Anuj Rastogi 1:14:47
it’s also kind of presumptuous, and I think quite frankly, arrogant of anyone or an organization thing, because I think this is important. You will learn this right, right. So that it doesn’t necessarily work that way. You could be a you could have seven pH deeds behind you and how the most important stuff, but if the way you teach is completely boring and people are falling asleep, they didn’t see value in it, they didn’t see, either they didn’t see value in what you were teaching, or they didn’t find a way that you were teaching it, to resonate with them. So you need to rectify both of those.
Qasim Virjee 1:15:14
I know, I’ll say this on our team is very small team, but I encourage everyone to break everything, and then I’ll help them fix it, you know, but it’s like giving the keys to the kingdom to say, but you have to turn you have to turn them in the lock, you know, by all means I walk through that door. Because then that takes encouragement and coaching and all these other things we’ve been talking about, because there’s a lot of fear that people have about taking ownership as well, right? Whether it’s ownership for their own career destiny, their success within an organization, majority of people in enterprise don’t want to rock a boat, and they just want to clock in and out. So very you guys have definitely chosen a very difficult not a difficult, I’d say a really, I’m sure rewarding career path with this with this consulting company. Yeah,
Anuj Rastogi 1:16:03
no, it’s so it’s been a fun ride. And there’s there’s a lot more to come.
Qasim Virjee 1:16:07
Anything particular you’re looking for that, that that our listeners could resonate with who hiring are looking for experts to partner with in any field.
Martin Byrne 1:16:17
I think that one is probably because what realize, as you can imagine, this is a really multidisciplinary space. So we a few weeks ago, we went down by South by Southwest edu. And it just reminded us how broad a brainspace there is in this area of learning science. So if there are people out there that are academics, they are consultants who were writing, talking, exploring the cultural aspects, the technical aspects, the you know, the particularly the analytical is nice, because that’s, you know, still a blind spot. We’re always excited to hear about that stuff.
Anuj Rastogi 1:16:53
We’re, we’re pretty big on network. So like we’ve we’ve spun up actually a couple of really great workshops here at start well with people within our networks for creative ideation and brainstorming and design thinking and whatnot. So if a specific problem requires, you know, a digital strategist and creative designer in a really sort of clever copywriter to come together around a specific problem or opportunity, like we’ve been able to reach out within our networks to spin up those types of skill sets. So I’d say anyone listening to this, who has who, if you’ve heard this, and something has resonated with you, we’re always happy to talk. We also shameful plug here where we have the knowledge stack podcast, which is Yen’s three’s podcast, which is a little little bit behind this one in terms of the number of episodes but it’s starting to build up momentum as well. So we are sponges for learning. We try to learn as much as we can. So if if you found this interesting, then we’re happy to nerd out.
Qasim Virjee 1:17:51
And they can find your podcast where on iTunes, I’m guessing
Anuj Rastogi 1:17:54
Yeah, it’s on. It’s on iTunes. So the website is Yen’s three.com That’s Yen’s. And the number three.com. Of course, he
Qasim Virjee 1:18:01
ends his belt why he ends at a correct yes, yes, I should say here like it’s just built
Anuj Rastogi 1:18:06
Ginza. Yeah, of course. It’s got like a silent Q and A flashing P in there. No, no, it’s it’s totally phonetic. So he email@example.com. And you’ll find the knowledge stack podcast there as well. And we’ve we’ve got a lot to say clearly.
Martin Byrne 1:18:20
Absolutely. Yes. It’s not just us. Whole world of friends.
Qasim Virjee 1:18:26
No, I think you could carry it carry on multitudes of episodes solo. It’s great. Yeah, the conversations got to be interesting
Anuj Rastogi 1:18:34
as well. Thank you for having us your absolute
Qasim Virjee 1:18:37
pleasure. It is always a pleasure to sit down to chat. And it’s nice to take the time to do it and share the conversation. So if any of our listeners have anything to say about our conversation, want to reach out to any of us on the microphone. The contact, I guess for you guys is through your website, just Kansa three.com. And of course start well.co. If you want to contact us here at start well or just walk in Monday to Friday, nine to five at 786 King Street West in downtown and if you’re
Anuj Rastogi 1:19:06
looking to buy a monocle, we have a referral code for Amazon.
Qasim Virjee 1:19:12
Excellent. Thanks very much, guys. Thank you