The first thing you need to know about Muriel Clauson is that she’s SUPER passionate about people and sees her mission in life as unlocking human potential to help everyone live radically fulfilling lives.
Muriel is the founder of Anthill, researcher, speaker, and advisor to governments and companies globally on creating a better future of work. Her work has been featured in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and Forbes. She speaks on the future of work globally with organizations including the World Bank, Singularity University, China’s SAI Task Force for Innovation, the Milken Institute, United States Embassies, the Young Presidents Organization, and many more. Muriel was named a 2017 “Game-Changer” by Women at the Frontier as an innovator in science and technology.
In this conversation, Muriel and I go deep on the future of work: identity, engagement, and being future-ready. We also discuss how to develop self-awareness and communicate your needs to coworkers, partners, and how to become future-ready. We even finish with a poetry reading which is surprisingly relevant to the topic at hand…
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Transcripts may contain typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
Andrew 00:02:04 Thanks so much for taking the time to be here.
Muriel 00:02:07 Thank you for having me.
Andrew 00:02:13 You were just telling me about how you love to yell the bill. O’Reilly do it live. What exactly about that? What’s up with that.
Muriel 00:02:20 If anyone hasn’t seen it, you need to go on YouTube. So bill O’Reilly former news anchor at early career, there’s a great clip of him trying to film bumper recordings, and he becomes progressively more angry at the teleprompter and ends up just yelling. We’ll do it live very aggressively. Um, and that has become, anytime. Things are falling apart around our startup, that has become our joking thing that we shot. We’ll do it live. So, and Andrew and I just had to, we were just saying, we better just do it live.
Andrew 00:02:52 We would try to like come up with an interesting plan for the conversation
Muriel 00:02:56 We’re alive. My cofounder is, uh, he’s from South Korea. And he says that that is like the quintessential American clip for him. That bill O’Reilly shouting we’ll do a live. Yes. So I don’t know what that says about us.
Andrew 00:03:15 What about that? Like if you ask them, what about that is the, it makes it like quintessentially American for him.
Muriel 00:03:20 It’s the, it’s how he’s, you know, doing the surface acting, he goes back into character and then he’s like so angry again and just this emotion and big energy, I think that’s, I think that’s a stereotype we carry.
Andrew 00:03:32 Yeah. Yeah. Have you seen it, but this is really well it’s actually kind of related. Have you seen the, uh, the new documentary on Netflix called American factory?
Muriel 00:03:39 I haven’t, I need to see that I’m very bad at watching television.
Andrew 00:03:45 Same thing. I was just joking with me the other day. How, how, like media illiterate. I am, especially when it comes to TV and movies, I’m just always months behind it at, at, uh, at the best.
Muriel 00:03:55 Yeah. And it’s not, it’s not something I’m proud of. Even I it’s more that I just forget that that’s an option and I’m like, what should I do right now? And I, it never comes up in the list of things to do. I don’t know.
Andrew 00:04:06 You know what, that’s probably, I’m going to say writ large. That’s probably a good pattern in your life. Just having known you for several years now. I’m guessing that’s a good thing. And it’s probably one of the reasons you’re so engaged in prolific and all the things that you’re doing. But the reason I, the reason I was thinking about the American factory thing was it’s very relevant to the conversation we’re having today about the future of work, gets about a Chinese company buying and reopening it a, a big American factory and old GM plant in Ohio. And they talk a lot about the, uh, the cultural differences between, uh, for, for Chinese and American workers working together. And I was curious like, cause I know you’ve done some work in China. Um, what, like, what’s that been like, you know, as someone who pays very, very close attention to workplace cultures and people in the workplace, like what do you, what is stood out to you as you’ve explored that in both of those cultures?
Muriel 00:04:57 Yeah. I mean, I L I love cultural differences. I think he see them in many, many small ways. I think the thing I’m always struck by though, especially when I was doing some work in China is how similar people are. That’s always the thing I come away with. Uh, I think people think of China as this really, really different culture than the United States, but at the end of the day, you’re there everybody’s, you know, they get grumpy, they get hungry, they get happy, they laugh, they cry, you know, families are families, workplaces are workplaces. Um, the funny difference though, that stood out to me is how we write contracts. So in the United States, we basically, we hedge against negatives and we explicitly say what those negatives could be. That is not how you write a contract in China. You that’s like bad luck for the company. That’s a way to like, shoot yourself in the foot and you can’t have negatively worded things. So that was the biggest difference I saw. Um, and there’s other, there’s other funny stuff like that, but it’s only the little stuff like that. It’s never the big thing. It’s never the big human things.
Andrew 00:05:59 Yeah. That makes sense. Um, but wait, I’m really curious. So how do you write a contract in China
Muriel 00:06:04 With a lot of nuance? I’m glad I’m not a lawyer.
Andrew 00:06:08 I’m guessing that takes an entire team of lawyers from both cultures.
Muriel 00:06:11 It’s just a different, yeah. It’s a different way of even thinking about it, which is it’s fun. It’s fun to think about. Yeah, I don’t know, but yeah, we really hedge against negatives in our culture. It’s interesting. We’re very comfortable with that.
Andrew 00:06:24 The, um, the culture map by Aaron Meyer.
Muriel 00:06:27 I haven’t, should I read it?
Andrew 00:06:29 I think you’d be very interested in it for a lot of reasons, including the China thing we were just discussing, but also given that you’re, you have a lot of interest in workplace cultures and as well, spend a lot of time talking about like how you make, how you, how basically how people work together well and make that a great experience for everybody. But, uh, basically the reason I think you might be interested in that book is she, I think she’s a professor at, and I always say this wrong. Is it NCI and in Paris? Is that right? Oh yeah, sure. We’ll go with that. I always screw up how you say that, but it’s a very well known business school in France. And, um, she did this study and wrote a book about it, about how, um, different cultural factors, like the implicit things that are sort of below the surface affect working cross-culturally so things like, um, power, distance, um, how direct feedback is, um, high versus low context communication. So basically how implicit versus explicit are, you know, is the communication, um, do people directly, are they confrontational in an explicit way or an overt way, or is it, you know, avoiding, avoiding, or do people avoid confrontation? Like all sorts of things like that. And then she sort of maps it across cultures. And so when you’re working cross culturally, you can look at that and see where you’re going to have big differences in the way people approach a certain element of working together. And then you can hopefully get ahead of the problem.
Muriel 00:07:49 And I, yeah, I’m familiar with all of those ideas and I think they’re really true. I also think everything you just said is kind of tied to how we present, how we communicate our preferences of how we act. And that’s where I think the differences show up. I think latent traits that kind of unseen. I think humans are very similar across the board. And then it’s the thing that’s kind of hard to measure that kind of unseen, you know, things around personality. I’m a, we find that per the big five personality, there’s some fluctuation across cultures, but it’s, it’s pretty, I mean, there’s more variation within a culture than between cultures. Um, and yeah, I just think that, so that’s where I think humans are deeply similar and we have all these really cool nuances of how we present that. And so the main thing I try to get people to focus on is not like what’s different about cultures when you’re working together, but just having competence and really communicating your preferences and where you’re coming from and just like giving them the best opportunity to understand you.
Muriel 00:08:49 A lot of, a lot of communications cleared up when we do that, I’ve been thinking about communication a lot lately. We actually have a book we’re working on around it. Um, and that’s one of the ideas that’s really helped me. Um, I read a book a while ago by tech, not Han, I think he’s in your neck of the woods, right? And it’s Arctic communicating and he talks about how communicating, um, he comes from a Buddhist perspective and he talks about how, from his perspective, the role of communication is to reduce suffering. And we reduce suffering by giving someone a chance to be understood and by giving them a chance to understand us. And I thought that was such a good idea. And, and I think that’s the best tip to navigate cultural differences. Um, you know, I work super closely. I spend 80 hours a week with someone from a different culture and there’s so many times we could misunderstand each other, but we have this beautiful relationship because we, we lean into that and we give each other a chance to be understood and we give the other person every chance to understand that.
Andrew 00:09:45 I think it’s beautiful. Actually. I’d love to hear you talk a little bit more about how you do that because having been a founder myself, I know how intense it is. And, and the inter the, the founding team dynamics are, that’s a whole thing, right? Like they’re getting that right. And getting that to work well is challenging. And I mean, it’s like any relationship, it takes work and time and effort and energy and commitment and so on and so forth. But I’m really curious, like how, what have you found to be effective? Because in addition to all the normal stresses of doing a startup, the other, you also do have this cross cultural difference. Um, so I’m curious, like, are there any specific practices or ways that you, you make that work?
Muriel 00:10:21 Yeah, we have a few, um, one of our, we have a few kind of rules in general that we have with each other. So one, we adopted that idea of radical candor and blinking the off right now. But that was, yes. Thank you. I knew you would know you’re on, he, he is.
Andrew 00:10:34 It’s one of my favorite books. It’s on my book. I can see it right now across the room
Muriel 00:10:38 Idea. So we’re very, we’re, you know, we adopt that philosophy pretty universally. We also just give, I think we both take the responsibility to help the other person, the open-minded. So this is a principle I actually got from Ray Dalio principles. There we go. Um, I, I, you know, another great book. So there’s this idea of like, it’s important for us to be radically open-minded to be able to work with others effectively, all of that, but you also can communicate in a way that helps other people be open-minded with you. And we both have really worked on some of those things. So for example, um, like just, there’s just some body language things that can completely convey a different message to someone. And we’ve actually, we have permission even to check each other, if we’re ever in a tough conversation, someone’s allowed to even say like, Hey, can we like lean back on this one for a second?
Muriel 00:11:30 Or we’ll, we’re willing to let each other kind of cut the air with a knife when we need to. Um, that’s one big thing also though, we have set aside time that we’re actually just getting to know each other more as people, uh, it was so funny because I had no idea that he had been in the United States for a year of high school. I’ve known this guy for now six years. We’ve worked together so closely in our PhD, and then as cofounders and I had no idea, he’d spent a year of high school and it’s funny, you can think, you know everything about someone and you really haven’t gotten to know them fully. I mean, even people, our spouses for 40 years say this. So, um, so always giving each other room to still get to know each other. But then also we just have a rule of like, I trust you, you’ve proven your character to me. And so I’m going to adopt the most generous explanation with you always. And I’m going, if I’m ever giving you feedback, it’s because I’m on your team to help you do better. Um, but I’m also not gonna get hung up on every little thing. Cause I have the most generous assumptions behind everything that you do. And, and he’s earned that. And I think I’ve earned that too. And so we’re very fortunate in that regard.
Andrew 00:12:34 No, I, I, I love everything you just said. And one of the reasons I’m, so I’m leaning into this so much is you’re actually doing what so many people talk about doing, and that’s why I’m like, Oh, wow, I want to hear about how you are actually doing this. So I would actually dig it a little bit more. I think it’s interesting because this is honestly, these topics have come up throughout this podcast and these are recurring themes. And so I want to, you know, here’s a new opportunity for, for myself and for the listener to learn from someone doing it. Uh, so I want to see that opportunity. So, um, I’m really curious. How did you, I think where a lot of the stuff seems like it falls down and I’m curious if you agree with this and please disagree. If you don’t is setting it up, like creating the agreements, creating the structure so that you can actually have this dynamic seems where a lot of people fall down. Like once you’re up and going, like, you know how to do this now you’ve got a rhythm together. That’s wonderful. But how did you get that?
Muriel 00:13:26 Oh yeah. No. The biggest problem people make in every relationship is we wait until we have problems to try to do the right things. And it’s so funny when we first just, we lean back and rely on magic and then suddenly we go, Oh, this isn’t working now, I’m going to try all these best practices when we’re already deepened a problem. And that that’s just, you can get out of that, but that’s just so much more challenging. So we are explicit and proactive with everything. Um, we make
Andrew 00:13:54 Have a, you had a conversation even before you were right when you were starting, what was that conversation?
Muriel 00:14:00 So we for, we just sat, we’ve talked about what was important to both of us. We talked, we even made room for both, both people to share, like, what are your concerns about working with me? Where are the areas you could see this going wrong? I’m like, what are you excited about working together? Um, but both, I think it just required both of us, first of all, to check our egos at the door and be like, the goal is that we both have this great relationship and we build an incredible company together. So how do we get there? But yeah, we had really tough conversations. Um, also I try to really manage expectations around the things that I know are weaknesses. For me, a young Jane are both the kind of people we’re always trying to grow and learn, but we’re also who we are.
Muriel 00:14:39 And so I’m just explicit with managing those expectations. And that was a big thing to kind of being like, here’s where I’m probably going to be a little hard to work with sometimes. Um, and you’re, and I’m giving you to check me on those things, but I also need you to know that’s going to be something that’s maybe there. Um, I, for me, I have actually, there’s just a difference with how my brain works, that I’ve had my whole life, um, where I get hyperfocused on things. So I actually worked with someone when I was a kid to learn to not do it too much, but I will get hyper-focused and I’m not always the most fun person to collaborate with when I’m in hyper-focus, it’s a great skill and I’m trying to get a lot of stuff done, but it’s not great always for a teammate.
Muriel 00:15:20 So I’m just very clear with him on that. I own that, that doesn’t make me a horrible person to work with. That’s just a reality. And I think it makes me a great person to work with if I can own that and like give someone permission to work with that effectively. Um, yeah. And everybody has their thing. So I think, and that’s something that will come up in any conversation you have with me on the future of work too. I think we are in the dark ages of knowing ourselves and having self awareness. I think it’s such a luxury that only few people get to have real self insight. Um, and I hope that we start to give that to more people. Um, I see even things like cognitive behavioral therapy apps that are purely just therapy, focus, network focus. I consider those future work products because I think one of the biggest challenges in our workplace is just people not knowing how to be good to each other, um, while working towards a goal. And so that’s, uh, that’s just, it’s so important in the future, right. But I’m getting ahead of myself with that, but, um,
Andrew 00:16:20 I love it. It’s actually a good transition point. And I want to use that actually we’ll, we’ll start to switch gears and dive into the future of work here, but, um, you brought up something that I think is, I agree with you is extremely important, which is the idea of self awareness, right? And, and what a gift it is to have the opportunity to really like w w one of my foundational beliefs or, um, my, one of my thesis, my thesis behind a lot of this is that, um, what work is for is that work is a place. We go, it’s a platform to develop and express who we are in service of something greater than ourselves. And part of that is knowing and learning who we are. And then, you know, from that truth going and building things that are useful to not only ourselves, but others in the world.
Andrew 00:16:58 And so the self awareness piece is foundational to it. And so one of the things that’s always, I mean, you and I have been friends for like four years now. And one of the things that I can think back to when we first met, even then that stuff that’s so stood out to me about you was your level of self awareness. Like you have an extraordinary degree of self awareness. Um, and I’m really curious, like, I mean, I remember when I was doing some research, getting ready for this conversation. I think, I remember once you told me we were, we were, uh, I think we were going for a walk in Venice by the beach. And, uh, you told me we were having this really deep conversation and you, you told me something that I never forgot, which is that your mission in life was to help, uh, basically to help people unlock potential and help people lead radically fulfilling lives. And you have a level of clarity, uh, about that, that I am. So I admire it tremendously and I love it. And what, I didn’t know that came up in my research. Was it, you, I think wrote that down when you were 12.
Muriel 00:17:54 Yes, I, yeah. And so it’s not necessarily how I would word it today. I just decided to be loyal to that part of myself and stick with it. Um, but yeah, I, from a very young age, um, I had parents who were very intentional at having us think about our purpose and what we really wanted to do with our lives and who we are. Um, and I had the kind of parents, even that, um, they let us make our own choices to the extent that I made some probably pretty bad choices, high school from just like a maturity perspective of about major life decisions. Um, and, but they let me make those choices. And so I think I had such a extreme level of forming that early on that it was always important to me and it felt so incredible to me every time I got to learn something, um, that helped me understand myself better from a strengths perspective, from a weaknesses perspective or from what I care about.
Muriel 00:18:50 And that I just, I saw a lot of people around me, um, who didn’t see this big vision for their lives. And it seemed like it was because they just didn’t have, I don’t know if it’s that they didn’t have role models around them or that they just didn’t see how they could fit into a bigger picture. Um, there’s an organization that, um, here in Chicago where I’m, where I’m based now, um, that basically just takes people out of what we refer to here as the South side. That’s where there’s a lot of crime here in Chicago and they just basically bring these kids downtown just to see what it’s like to see people going to work and everything. And even that experience can so radically shift something for these kids. And, and I just thought like, what if we just could see a vision of what our lives could be like, what if just more people just could see themselves doing something? What if they could see themselves being happy? What if they could see themselves being kind. Um, and I just think that we lack that vision in small and large ways. Um, and so that was always really important to me. And I’m so grateful that I, I was raised with, um, those ideas. I consider that a huge privilege and I don’t think it’s the only way to be, but it’s something I thought that a lot of people could benefit from. Um, and so what I wanted to work on,
Andrew 00:20:05 I love it. How did you, how did, what was it like because you reached a level of clarity at 12 that many people far later in their lives are still trying to get to, how did you do that
Muriel 00:20:17 On, I was a weird kid. I mean, I, so I was at a hospital and, uh, someone came, escaped from a TB ward who was having some mental health challenges. And I got infected with tuberculosis, um, at nine. So I had a very different year at kind of a, a pretty formative age and I, and I’m fine. I was, you know, awesome medical system worked great for me. Um, at that time I was able to get great treatment, which I feel very fortunate cause people do die from that disease around the world still. Um, but yeah, I, after that, I think I just had a different mentality. I didn’t really care about fitting in as much. And I just, Kate became kind of a weird kid. It never wore off. I’m still a really weird kid.
Andrew 00:21:08 You are. And I’m a huge fan of that.
Muriel 00:21:09 Yeah. Yeah. But I think those things that those things can, anything that gets you out of your, and that’s the same idea. I was just talking about anything that kind of breaks, whatever cycle you’re in. Cause I think I, I cared a lot about, um, like soccer and glitter and um, you know, dolphins and, you know, the usual stuff and all those things are great, but I, you know, I cared about like things you’d find in coloring books. And then suddenly I found myself like thinking about things a little differently and I think it’s just cause I was forced out of the fun routine I was in before it was a good routine. There’s nothing wrong with it, but I was forced out of that routine.
Andrew 00:21:45 We’ve hinted about one of the main topics we’re going to cover here, which is the future of work. So for someone who’s not familiar with that term, how would you explain that in layman’s terms, Muriel, what is the future of work and why should someone listen to this care?
Muriel 00:21:57 So I, I like to section it off into a few different things because I think that’s part of why it’s hard to define because work is such a big word. So I think there’s a future of the workforce, which is, I think what people were initially focused on that is like, how is labor actually changing over time? What supply and demand around labor is what’s that picture going to look like? Um, what kind of job opportunities are going to exist? How do we mitigate risks around that? I think that’s where the future of work conversation started. So I think that’s still where a lot of people’s minds go, but that’s future the workforce to me. Um, I think there’s this new kind of branch, which is the future of kind of the experience of working. Uh, so that could be anything from like how do we help people, uh, work together more effectively, that can be anything around just how do we make work more positive thing in people’s lives, just inherently like the act of doing it.
Muriel 00:22:50 Um, that can also be how do we get people working on things that are meaningful for what our world needs. Um, and then I also think there’s this whole other camp that I’m more and more interested in all the time with, which is just like, it’s kinda just a feature of human, like the human experience and like are, how do we make this as rich as possible for people? And we can align that with ROI. I mean, my company, we, we are doing something that I believe is really, really important for the human experience, but it’s still is actually meeting a business need in society. So it’s a sustainable thing that we can do. Um, so it’s not like it has to be just a fluffy thing, but I think there’s this new piece of the future of work where we’ve, there’s some exciting stuff happening around, um, like how do we actually make that human experience richer for more people? How do we give people access to dignity and meaning in their lives?
Andrew 00:23:42 So we’ve got the future of the workforce, the future of the work experience, and then even more broadly the future of the human experience.
Muriel 00:23:48 That’s the, those are the buckets I like to think in. What does it all mean? What’s my definition. You want a unifying definition? If you got one, go for it. I don’t know if I do. I’ll try. I’ll always try. I mean, just, I think when I say future work, I mean, like what’s the vision of, of the human experience we want to create around something that’s really integral to our lives work. I’m not a definition person, you know, that that’s true. I do know I’d rather swim around in an abstract sea of ideas. Let’s do that.
Andrew 00:24:23 And we’ll just, wait, wait a minute. These ideas. Yeah. It goes back to that core idea of, you know, the, the twin pillars of a meaningful life are meaningful work and meaningful relationships. Um, and you know, it’s like, this is a huge, huge part of our lives. What are some of the misconceptions that people have about this idea? Cause there’s so many articles and videos and people in the news and whatever about, you know, the future of work and robots are gonna take our jobs and et cetera, et cetera. And I know you have seen all of that. So what are, what are those big misconceptions and, uh, how, how would you suggest that someone think about that instead?
Muriel 00:24:58 Yeah, I think some of the misconceptions are around just where technology is today for one. Um, I think, I think there’s been a very sensationalized narrative talking about a lot of technologies and I think it’s left people in the dark. Um, what vena eminence, you, who you should absolutely have on this podcast and anyone who’s hearing those listen to that episode. Cause she’s awesome. Um, she, she left Nina eminence. So she’s been, she’s been in CTO roles at a lot of large tech companies. She left, um, HP recently to start an organization called humans for AI. So I get to be on the board there, which is a wonderful experience. It’s such a cool organization. Um, but her focus is how do we create a common language around these technologies so that people can actually jump in. And she’s very focused on diversity inclusion because she says that the outsized impact that all of this kind of, especially AI can have in society and how we make decisions in micro and macro ways, um, that can’t be informed by just one type of person because the data that we’re using and the bias there and how we structure that data and how we apply, then our tool to problems.
Muriel 00:26:14 There’s so much opportunity for bias at each of those points that it is so critical that we bring more people to the table. So she doesn’t want everyone to become a programmer necessarily, but she’s really focused on how do we get domain experts or people from all walks of life speaking, a common language, so they can be a part of developing a tools of the future. And I love that idea, um, because I really think that it’s often, I think it’s very easy to be like, Oh, this is an important skill. Let’s have everybody learn this skill. Let’s all become a programmer. That’s the future. And we forget that there’s actually room for lots of different types of people at the table and things are richer when we bring a lot of perspectives, it’s just figuring out a way to bring those perspectives together. So I love any kind of common language approach you’re on tech, any organization doing that, please reach out to me.
Muriel 00:27:02 I would love to pair it, what you’re doing, because I think it’s really important. That’s one piece, another misconception kind of related is this idea that there are like certain skills that people need to learn and that we can just like re skill people with like shoving those skills down their throat. Um, I think just the whole upskilling thing. So there’s a version of upscaling and rescaling. I agree with. So I’ll tell you what I don’t agree with. So actually I’ll give you an example of part of what I think could be better just in how we do this in society generally, and then I’ll go to the details. So if you think of, if you think about old, um, I love to read about like coupla con and all the old Mongol, hordes and old military strategy and stuff. That’s all really fascinating. I don’t know, can’t confirm or deny.
Muriel 00:27:51 Um, so, so back in that context, there was this idea that we look at kind of the power, the human power we have in a, in a civilization, and then we’d form a strategy around it with our military, right. Um, now we have corporations that say, okay, here’s our strategy. Here’s what we’re trying to achieve. We’re going to plug people in to be that kind of human power behind it. And I think there’s, you know, there’s pros and cons with both, but I think that is one big flaw in how we’re thinking about the future work. Cause I think we’re still thinking like, okay, here’s what an organization is trying to accomplish, shove people into where there’s going to be a spot for humans. And I think as long as we’re thinking about like, okay, here’s what a job will exist in the future. Let’s shove people into that.
Muriel 00:28:37 I think we’re missing out on a lot of potential. I think we’re limiting solutions that we can see. Uh, I’m much more excited by the idea of actually understanding people better, actually understanding competencies, capabilities, knowledge, skills, abilities, other characteristics that they bring to the table. And then coming up with the constellation of ways we can apply that. I think then we’re going to come up with a lot more solutions. So just that whole mentality of how we’re thinking about like, Oh, let’s figure out the top five skills you need for the future. And then go shove a training down everyone’s throat around that. I just think that’s the, that’s just not the way we’re going to make leaps forward as a society. Um, I think we make leaps forward when we have something that is greater than the sum of its parts. So that’s a big shift that is important to me.
Muriel 00:29:27 Another one though, is that, um, the misconception I think is that people are only caring about economics. Um, I think UBI is part of the solution. At some point, I think there will be a stage that something like that will become something like that, I think will be some level of that will be a part of society at some point. I don’t think that if all, if, if let’s say we live in a world where jobs go away, I don’t think that would solve all of our problems. I think there are absolutely things that work serves in our lives outside of just making money. And so I’m very, I hope that more people are focusing on not just a job for money, but actually like the human experience and some of the identity that goes along with that. Um, I worked with a lot of like truck drivers and the research I’ve done over the past several years.
Muriel 00:30:21 Um, and it’s not that they’re in, they’re scared of losing just the economic piece, which that is scary. There’s a lot of truck drivers that have taken very large loans out to drive their trucks and whatever. Um, and so that’s a, that’s a real threat, but there’s also this, you know, my dad was a truck driver. I love being a truck driver. It’s a big part of my identity, it’s who I am. And so I think just assuming that we can be like, well, here’s a higher paying job for you. We gave you the skills for it. Be happy. I think that’s the wrong mentality too. I think we have to get a lot more creative with how we’re helping people see how their identity fits into the future. And that’s why people are, if you see any kind of insecurity research, which I’ve done a lot of focus on job insecurity, it’s always that we just don’t see how our identity fits into the future picture.
Muriel 00:31:10 That’s what makes us insecure in relationships. That’s what makes us, so let’s say that, let’s say that I, um, am at a company and my specialty is that I would come up with these great reports. And that was kind of what I was known for. I would come up with these reports that everyone would read, give like a really holistic idea. Let’s say they just, they just promoted this hot shot manager guy. And he he’s like, well, we’ve gotta be agile and fast. We’re not going to do reports anymore. That’s going to make me feel insecure in my job because that was my thing. That was my identity here. And now I’m not seeing how that fits in the future, if that’s a simple example, but then we see that on a huge, and we see that all the time in workplaces, that’s a huge problem. And that’s when we actually see people starting to disengage, which I think we miss them. I think we missed the Mark on engagement because we forget how much engagement is just people seeing a future somewhere that they can identify with. Um, and that’s a whole broader discussion, but I’m really, I hope we get to have
Andrew 00:32:05 Fascinating. Yeah, that’s a fascinating, tell me more about that because that’s a fascinating definition of engagement that I’ve never heard before.
Muriel 00:32:10 Well, it’s not so much my definition it’s that I’m not so interested in measuring attitudes around engagement. If we’re not also focused on how do we drive more engagement? I think there are several pieces to driving engagement, but the one most overlooked that I think we can actually make a material difference around. And this is really what my company focuses on is how do we help people see on a, from a personal identity level, how they fit into the future at their job, um, or at their company or in the world or whatever.
Muriel 00:32:40 Um, because at the end of the day, even if your coworkers are friendly to you, even if you have a nice boss, even if you have ping pong tables in the break room and really, really good granola, when you roll it in the morning, that’s freely available. Like you are not going to be engaged in your job. If you don’t personally see how, what I offer my identity, I actually see that fitting into the future of where this is going. I actually can see a path forward for myself. You’re just not,
Andrew 00:33:08 Is there another way of saying that, that you need to be able to see the way that you contribute to this thing you need?
Muriel 00:33:13 Yeah. And humans really care about contributing actually. Um, you know, we’re, we’re all, we’re all a little lazy too. We all have our, you know, our rough edges, but at the end of the day, something very consistent about human behavior is that we are a scientific word. People use this H antic, but we have this like contributing that to us. Um, we, we need to enact some change in our environment. That’s actually a very core kind of need and there’s different ways to do that. And there’s really destructive ways to do that. And there’s really healthy ways to do that. But that is something that we see is pretty universal, even in people who would maybe, um, encapsulate is more passive on a spectrum of passive, to assertive IX. Still we see that people have that need to kind of enact something on their environment via part of something.
Muriel 00:34:01 They leave a Mark that’s, that’s a big need. And so if you are a totally replaceable interchangeables, I mean, have you ever been engaged in a relationship or job where you felt like a completely interchangeable piece that they could just immediately replace and you would have no value and not even be remembered crap? Yeah. It’s a crap feeling. You’re not going to be engaged on job. I don’t care how good the free granola is. So that’s where I think the whole engagement hold the whole arena around engagement has really missed it is that we’re focusing on some of the kind of symptoms of like, or some of the kind of icing on the cake, but we haven’t actually thought about how do we drive the core of what makes someone engaged. Um, and the cool, the really cool news. And this is what we stumble young, Jay and I stumbled upon and then got so excited to work on is that there’s a very effective way of actually driving this that also helps people learn and grow along the way. And that is like, what is driving the engagement and you’re getting your people to grow. So we’re like, and that’s where building, I mean, that’s where we’re.
Andrew 00:35:09 Okay. Tell me about that mural. What does that yeah,
Muriel 00:35:11 That’s where we can’t so well, so I, in the past, I was a part of, um, there’s kind of this trend for a little while that I was lucky enough to catch the wave of when I was in my early twenties, where executives were hiring, um, early 20 somethings to be their executive coaches, which it was a funny concept, but I think the idea was kind of, well, we’re not needing someone, who’s a business expert. We want someone who just thinks differently and can probe with the right questions, us to learn about ourselves.
Muriel 00:35:38 And that’s why that actually it was largely effective. Um, because executive coaching is mostly just a self awareness exercise. You’re really just so typically using actual assessments or some kind of psychometric tests, something like that. Um, you are figuring out kind of a snapshot of where this person is maybe a more holistic picture of who they are in a static way as well. And then tying kind of some changes that would be good to organizational strategy. And you’re just really then just reminding them over time to focus on the right things. That’s really executive coaching in a nutshell. Um, and so we were looking at that process and we realized that that’s actually, when you take that same approach and you apply it to someone at any level an organization, that’s actually an incredible way to make them feel engaged. You help them understand their identity, how that identity ties to the organization and you’re guiding them along their pathway to get where they’re going.
Muriel 00:36:35 And so we were like, okay, so you can’t afford to have an executive coach for every single person and organization. How do we make that possible? And that’s what we worked on throughout our PhD. Um, we were always throwing around ideas of how could we actually scale that. Um, and we figured out how to do it. It’s not going to be the same as working with a person, but, uh, we basically took, uh, so many more than you want to know, psychometric tests that measure anything from personality to mindset, to technical skills, to leadership capabilities. Uh, we put them into this model where we looking at all the linkages between those expected relationships, with tons of historical data, we’re able to create this kind of machine learning model, where we can get just a few insights about someone and already have a pretty holistic idea of where they might land on a lot of these things. Uh, we, then we trigger them with, uh, insight, which we’re calling a nudge. That’s the vernacular that society has adopted for that. And then we just do that over time. So we basically figured out a way just to scale what we did as executive coaches with the technology.
Andrew 00:37:41 Okay. So let me, let me just make sure I’m understanding not only for, for myself first and foremost, but also for the listener. So when you look at your experience in executive coaching and that field or set of practices, essentially what I think you’re saying is that you’re working with someone who is under working to understand you and who you, not only who you are, but who you can become and how that fits into the future that you want to create, whether it’s at this organization or in your life or both, and then sort of over time, it’s sort of like, it’s almost like they, they’re creating a mirror and they’re holding that mirror up to you. So you can see more clearly who you are, how you’re acting in this moment relative to who you are and who you want to become. And then you can course correct. And, and over time continue to live into that future. You’re trying to create, is that the core of it?
Muriel 00:38:27 Yeah, that’s the core of this. So I mean, our customers work with us because they are trying to drive engagement, typically focused on reducing turnover and they have
Muriel 00:38:36 Serious rescaling needs. So they want there, they have things, the competencies that there are, people do not have that they need them to have. Um, and so beautifully, those two things work really well together in this model. And they work really well if you did traditional executive coaching, but we figured out how to,
Andrew 00:38:52 Yeah, those two things being which
Muriel 00:38:54 Engagement, but also helping people learn the skills and competencies they need to overtime because training one-off trainings are great for motivation. They’re not great for actually sustaining behavioral change. So, so basically it’s, it’s a very simple tool in the end. So somebody who is an employee at one of the companies we work with, they, they have an app they interact with what looks like a chat bot. It’s not a true chat bot, but it feels like you’re having a quick conversation. You’re just answering three quick questions though. This is like a 32nd session. And then you get your behavioral change nudge of the day. You can also see your full reports about, uh, across all of these different things we’re measuring, um, for you. Uh, one thing that we ethically really, really cared about with our company is that people, insights means the people actually get those insights about themselves.
Muriel 00:39:41 Not just that the company gets people insights. Um, so people get all the insights on themselves, which we think is a missed opportunity in other platforms, because that’s actually a great way to drive behavioral changes. Someone’s seeing themselves more clearly. Um, and then the company’s actually able to kind of manage the rescaling program through this systems. They’re able to input content that they need people to be learning. They’re able to actually see where skills gaps are in the organization across heat maps. Um, so it’s, it’s pretty robust on what, not on the customer side, but on the, on the user side, it’s very simple. And it’s based on simple executive coaching. You learn a little bit about yourself through a nudge. It’s a reminder. And then you do that over time and you’re shaping your behavior.
Andrew 00:40:22 So just to clarify one term or two terms, you use the terms re-skilling and up-skilling yeah. Are they the same or what, what is the difference?
Muriel 00:40:30 So technically rescaling would be like, we need you to have a different skill set. We’re going to train you to have a different skillset. Upskilling is like, we need you to have more advanced skills in an arena where you’re already working. Um, they are used
Andrew 00:40:46 About whether you have an existing competency or not. And if you, if you’re ever to further developing an existing competency, that’s upscaling. And if it’s like, you just need a whole new one.
Muriel 00:40:55 Yeah. Except for now those, and that’s how those words started when you, when we were, everyone was first doing research in the space. That’s how it was that distinction was made now. No one makes the distinction and people just throw both words around and it pretty much just means we want you to learn new things. Yeah. Gotcha. And I’m not a huge fan of either of those words. I think you should have a podcast contest of who can come up with the best word. That’s not reskilling or upskilling for this, for what’s happening. Yeah. That’s, that’s that one, that one would be good. I think learning though, then people feel like, um, it gets conflated with other things, but you’re probably right. We should probably just call it learning.
Andrew 00:41:30 I want to just try to understand a little bit more about how it works. So someone at one of these companies comes in, they, they, they open their app, they do some sort of onboarding process of whatever length. And so that is helping you to, you sort of have cooked up or cooked, cooked together a bunch of these psychometric assessments. And then from that, you’re sort of building, um, I think we talked about this at dinner that one time about like you’re building a, uh, basically a graph of their skills, their strengths relative to what the organization, I think you’re, I think it’s like you take, you take a test and you’re building a skills graph of what they’ve got relative to what the organization thinks it needs and the future competencies for the kind of the path they’re on in the organization. And then your presumably you are using strong, the strongest signals in the data. You’ve got to infer the other things they need
Muriel 00:42:22 That that is almost spot on. Yeah. So definitely the last part. So we basically take signal the database. So first let me just back up. So psychometric tests all have a structure behind them, kind of an architecture where normally we have like a trait we’re predicting and then we have kind of facets of that trait. So let’s say we’re interested in your personality. Then we maybe would have the big five. So like openness would be one of the facets. Then there’s some facts,
Andrew 00:42:50 A psychometric test for someone who doesn’t know that term is what
Muriel 00:42:53 It’s a test to measure something unseen, something latent about a person. So that could be any personality tests, any IQ tests, any kind of general mental ability test, any spatial reasoning test, any leadership competency test, any three 60 you’ve ever done, those would all be psychometric tests. Um, and I’ve, and I said way too much time with Tega metric tests over the years. So sorry for not clarifying that. Um, so, so let’s say we’re trying to predict personality. That would be our trait we’re interested in. Um, and then, or yeah, and then the, the second tier we’d look at maybe openness is one of the facets. If we’re doing big five personality, five factor model, which is kind of the one that everyone knows, um, within openness. So there’s other sub facets, which would be things like how intellectual you are or how, uh, how fantasy oriented you are, things like that. So anyway, there’s that architecture, there’s that tiered architecture behind every test. So basically what we did is we took a lot of historical data across, um, over like 52 psychometric tests in our initial catalog. And we basically measured all of the relationships across all of these data points and this historical data. And we’re able to create this, this model, um, which has all of those tests that architecture linked together using network analytic data modeling. So we have basically this massive constellation of what you could be across all of this catalog. Uh, so then when
Andrew 00:44:21 Like a meta assessment where any entry point, you can almost predict where they would, how they would read out on a different assessment. And so now if I took like the strengths finder, you could like, sorry, I’m just gonna make sure I really make this concrete though. If I, for example, if what I just said is true, it’d be like, uh, I take the big five assessment, right? And so you, you can see, I have a certain score on openness and a variant of, sorry, in your word, a facet of openness, like intellectual openness, which I’m definitely high on. Um, and then given your, your sort of underlying network of, of these across all these assessments, you could then I assume predict how I would score on a different assessment and sort of integrate all these things together into one holistic nudge system.
Muriel 00:45:03 Yeah. So, and that’s, and that’s really the value of what we offer. So somebody doesn’t have to sit down and take an hour long test to learn about one of these things. Instead, every time we’re learning about you, every time you interact with our tool, we sharpen what we know, but it only takes three data points for us to give you a behavioral change nudge. And our, and it’s a learning tool over time. It’s, we’re learning more about you. Um, you’re learning more from this tool. It, it sharpens and it gets better, but we’re right away getting just help develop people. So this has been really useful and we’ve tested this with like medical groups where doctors don’t, they don’t take time to go do leadership development trainings, for example, but that’s something that’s become really important in that industry. Um, and so this is perfect.
Muriel 00:45:47 It’s literally a two minute segment where you’re very quickly giving a little bit of insight about yourself and then you’re getting your nudge. Um, and that nudge is always triggered by what we see as the most important thing for you to focus on. Sometimes that’s going to be weighted by an organizational objective. Some of our customers choose to go that way. Others choose to let it be free form and focus just on the most important competencies. Cause we’ve actually rank ordered what is important from a future perspective in terms of general competencies someone could have. Um, so it’s, it’s a fun tool. It’s very simple though, in what it feels like, but there’s a lot going on behind the scenes with the data.
Andrew 00:46:23 I’m imagining some of the brainstorming sessions you and Kaban have had about this because I can see the overlaps right here.
Muriel 00:46:29 Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. We both, yeah. We were definitely raised by the same parents. So you can tell. Yeah. So my brother for anyone listening, my brother is also a founder of a company. It’s an anonymous opinion platform called true public. They collect more insights on gen Z than any company in the world. Right now they do some really interesting stuff, but they basically made a responding to, I guess, what are kind of polls like entertaining by sharing insights back with people. So check it out. There’s my plug for my brother.
Andrew 00:46:59 Yeah, there you go. It is, it is a fun app. I had a really fun jam crush about it like a year ago. Um, I should actually get him on the show now that I think of it.
Muriel 00:47:08 What’s fun. You can’t have that much fun.
Andrew 00:47:11 Uh, I think I can. I think in fact, I think I should. So I have two questions about what you just said, and this is sort of, we’re diving into the, a little bit of how the sausage is made here and the product side of this I’m imagining, and you sort of answered it, but I want to just clarify. So if I’m someone taking your assessment, right. And so basically I’m, I’m, I’m trusting your assessment that it’s going to guide me in a good direction for my future, for the future. I want to have, um, the question I would have is how was I like you to just expand on this? How is th how are these recommendations being made? What is the North star you are guiding me towards? How do I know it’s a North star I’m going to be happy about?
Muriel 00:47:48 Yeah. So we’re using established measures in our catalog, at least for the first 52, um, components, which would last you like over a year if user ship, if you just went through our standard, our standard plan, um, there’s a lot that we can tinker and change within that. And there’s a lot that accompany could also insert into our catalog that our system can hold and take you through. Um, so either what you’re being brought through is kind of what we’ve identified are these are, these are well established models that are tied to important outcomes that are good for people. These are things that are helpful to know or they’re, or they’re something where there’s no necessarily right or wrong answer. We’re balancing, which is a big part of what we do with executive coaching. So that it’s this kind of a model we’ve replicated. The other side though, is anything that your organization inputs, we know that for you to be successful in that organization, this is helping you get there.
Muriel 00:48:41 But within the context of who you are, that’s something that’s important to us is that there’s not one version of leadership, but we’re going to figure out like what’s the pieces kind of really important your organizational contexts that you do need to, to get ahead, which people care about that Pratt from a practical perspective, it becomes a lot more organizational driven when we get into the technical skill component that comes in. We always start though first with mindset second, with some core personality, um, because that also helps us. We actually change how we even net your behavior based upon what we learn about your personality. Cause we know how to reach different personalities better. So it’s very personalized if we do some light customization for organizations, um, but at the, at the, at the bare bones level, like why should you trust that it’s getting you in a good direction is because it’s, it’s based upon years and years of historical data of what did we learn about executives with that we’re trying to accomplish something and how did we get them to a better place? Um, nothing is going to make you be like a worst person in terms of character. It’s all things that increase like how you are treating people. Well, um, like prioritizing effectively, uh, making prudent decisions, thinking critically, um, you know, understanding how to get buy in from other people. Anytime we’re talking on the soft skill side, it’s something like that. Some of those universal things that are effective.
Andrew 00:50:00 Yeah. Cause I’ve heard you say elsewhere that I think you said soft skills are the power skills of the future. And it seems, it seems like that’s a lot of where the nontechnical side of this is pointed is that are the, the, the, those power skills is very human skills that are, um, they can be developed and they are critical to the future of work is what I think you should.
Muriel 00:50:20 Oh yeah. And actually I would even feel comfortable with this product, not having any technical skills included. I would still say that is a great rescaling tool because I’m not convinced there is some set skill set that people need at all. I have not seen any research that convinces me of that. What I think people need is to be very self aware, very adaptive and very like able to learn and the way that is going to be most effective and, and proactive for them. Um, I think they need those power skills, so soft skills, so that they’re ready for anything. So I’m more interested in how do we get an entire cohort in a company future ready, then I’m interested in teaching people how to public speak or how to program.
Andrew 00:51:06 Yeah, it sounds like what you’re really like translating into some of the language I use on this show. It sounds like you’re really much more interested in the foundational meta skills that will enable someone to be anti-fragile to any future that comes their way as opposed to being future resilient with a specific skill like programming.
Muriel 00:51:23 Yeah. A hundred percent. Yes. You said that perfectly we’re we will have you do all of our marketing from Noah. Okay, cool.
Andrew 00:51:33 My gift to you. Thank you.
Muriel 00:51:34 Awesome. Yeah.
Andrew 00:51:36 Is there, is there a difference between, so, um, there’s a term that, uh, I I’m glad exists now, uh, that has come into usage in the last few years called, uh, antifragile or antifragility is there, but I’ve also seen the term thrown around a lot in this conversation when I’m, you know, reading articles or on the news or whatever of, you know, sort of like quote, fear being future resilient. Do you think of those as different things or w what is, what, how do you think of this?
Muriel 00:52:02 I’ve used both for years. So when I first started working in the future of work and what in 2013, um, I would always say future proof. And then I say, Oh, don’t say future proof, because that doesn’t make any sense. Um, and then I switched to this idea of future resilience, like, Oh yeah. I’m like steely and ready for anything, but then it was actually one of my PhD advisors at the time. Uh, he’s an awesome, awesome thinker on this topic. He’s, he’s, uh, teaches, uh, out of, uh, goes at, as business school at Emory university in Atlanta. Um, does really interesting research now, by the way, with, um, machine learning tools and hospital settings and everything, he, you should have him on the show. He’s great. Um, we’ll get all these people in the room, get everybody on the show. We can have a big deal.
Muriel 00:52:46 All the people I love on the show. Um, so what he said though, is he’s like, why would you he’s like resilient. He’s like, that’s like the digging your heels and like, let the wind blow against you, but you’re not going to fall. And he’s like, is that really the best we can do any challenged me to think different differently than that. And so since then, I’ve really embraced this idea of future ready, mostly because I just don’t like the word anti thrown into something. I it’s just not positive enough for me. I like a positive spin on everything. Um, so I, I love the idea of future ready is, and it’s not, that doesn’t mean you’re perfect. That doesn’t mean you have all the skillsets, but you have this readiness to you, um, that you can take on what life throws at you and I, yes, I like that a lot better than resilience, but it’s, I think all of this comes down to like, what is, what are, how are we defining these things? I think how some people define resilience fits that. But that’s the, that’s the idea. I like to kind of picture that person. Who’s just almost like, okay, pass me the ball. I’m gonna,
Andrew 00:53:45 Yeah. They’re just like nibble on there. Ready for whatever. Yeah. Put me in coach. I’m ready. I love that idea of like the way it was explained to me, at least the way I have it framed in my head is, is the idea of resiliency versus antifragility and FairPoint about, you know, the idea of antifragile being, maybe we need a better term for that. But, um, the, the way it was explained to me was that anything that is resilient is still defined by its breaking point. So it can be really, really strong, but it still is, has this breaking point where, you know, you know, there is a point beyond which you push it, that it snaps a, whereas something that is antifragile is actually aided by that, which pushes it. Right. So it’s like, um, you know, it gets stronger, the more it’s attacked, so to speak. Right. And so, and that is while that’s a bit of a negative metaphor, it is a powerful idea. If you can be, if you could exist in a state of readiness like that, which I think a lot of it comes back to mindset, frankly.
Muriel 00:54:41 Yeah. So basically the whole antifragile idea, just a different word. That’s what I like.
Andrew 00:54:46 That’s cool. I dealt with that.
Muriel 00:54:49 I’m big on language, um, in my life. Like I I’m really, I hold the language I use with myself to a very high standard of just certain principles that are important to me. So I get hung up on stuff like that, but antifragile is a good one. I love that. Love the premise.
Andrew 00:55:05 Okay, good. We’re down with the premise and we’ll figure out the terms as we go. So I want to zoom back out really quick on, on just the future of work in general. So what I hope to create for the person listening to this is, is sort of a context of, you know, a foundation to think from, because this is one of those big topics that is going to be around for a long time. And we’re all going to have to engage in this topic, whether we like it or not. So I’m hoping we kind of just lay a conceptual foundation for people to think from, and, and start to think for themselves from, um, so to that point, uh, I have a question. So this is not the first time in history that there have been large scale fears around the impact of technology on human jobs and workforce. Uh, I mean going all the way back to the Luddites, right? This is like, I think it’s called the Luddite fallacy, I mean, far, far from it, but it’s probably the best known example for most Americans. Why is this time different or is it different? And if so, why?
Muriel 00:56:00 Okay. Well, first I, so first I want to debunk the idea of the light policy. I do not believe the Luddites were wrong. Actually, if we look at what happened to the actual Luddites, that community of people, they were economically decimated for two generations, we only call it a fallacy because we aren’t the people who had to live with the implications of what happened to them. Um, they, they were right. Their lives were actually destroyed by what happened. So I think that’s what important thing to remember is that history can go on and things can correct. And I actually believe that largely we will come up with solutions and this will not be something that decimates the human experience. So it makes our lives horrible. I think we will. Correct. So what I really care about is the people caught in that transition. Like the Luddites were, um, that, that remains something always front of mind for me, um, the most vulnerable populations, how do we make sure that this transition isn’t brutal for those people? Um, I don’t, I don’t, I’m not a person who believes this is ultimately going to be a bad thing over time. I think we are incredibly inventive and we’re going to come up with some awesome solutions that make this better. I also think work is very imperfect. I do not see it as something we need to protect. I think it is something that we need to improve. And so I think shifts like this can be very positive if we seize that opportunity.
Andrew 00:57:23 Very good point, especially about the, the Luddites not being wrong.
Muriel 00:57:27 That’s my, my, my soap box. I always stand on because everyone talks, Oh yeah, those silly Luddites, but they weren’t so silly. They were right for their own lives.
Andrew 00:57:35 That’s true. They were. Um, so the question is then there’s a lot of people and in a much broader swath of, uh, the workforce than the Luddites, um, there’s a lot of people who have similar concerns today. And when they look at artificial intelligence, they look at how it’s changing things is, is this time different? And if so, why
Muriel 00:57:56 Faster? So I think that is different. I mean, we’re not, humans are great with change. We’re not great with rapid change. Um, people always say, humans are bad with change, but it’s actually, it’s not true. We’re just not good at rapidly changing. We typically have a period of dissonance accepting change. Um, so I think the pace is probably the number one thing that concerns me. Um, but I, I still think that there’s so much we can, we can do within that. And I think that some of the very things that will cause some of the problems we have, the sticky problems we have to solve, I think can also be tools for some really great solutions to make work better. Um, so that’s what I’m focusing on. I think regardless, uh, you know, a lot of these technologies are going to be adopted in ways that replace jobs. So I, I just say let’s get really busy thinking about how we can also use these technologies or whatever other tools we have in our toolkit to make work better, to make opportunities for people. So that’s what I’m working on.
Andrew 00:59:01 No, I love that. And I actually am right there with you. It’s something I’m actively researching right now is these changes at this point are inevitable, you know, automation of many, many jobs or many activity. I should say activities, not jobs because jobs are bigger than activities that is coming. And so there’s going to be these changes and I’m very interested in what do we do to help those people who, who are caught in the, in that transition. So even what do you see? Like what, for someone who’s listening to this, whether they’re, let’s say it’s someone who either wants to go do something about this directly by starting a company like you did, or maybe it’s someone, you know, uh, an executive in a, a large company that has a lot of employees that are, you know, very much on this path that are going to have their roles dramatically affected by these now inevitable trends of technology. What should, what should we do about this?
Muriel 00:59:48 So there’s so much to be due to be done at different levels. Um, so one, one area that I think anyone can make a difference, um, is just helping with the whole awareness piece. So there’s a great story. I I’m going to blank on the source on this one, so you can take it and put it in the footnotes, but there’s a woman in a town in Tennessee. Her town had been an experimental place where they had really fast internet or something. Great connectivity. I forget what, what it was. Um, so her daughter and her daughter’s partner had a couple of kids. They ended up, um, unfortunately being victims of the opiate opioid epidemic. Uh, they weren’t able to have the children anymore. Um, the children needed to go live with this woman. So this woman, because she had to care for the kids, she wasn’t able to keep her job.
Muriel 01:00:42 So in any, you know, in any historical example, we would assume then that, that woman’s life is ruined right there. That would have been kind of the end of the story there. That would have been this sad. This whole family kind of broke down, but what ended up happening is she got hired by some tech company to do some support role in her town. She didn’t have to move. She was able to work from home. Um, she was able to care for her kids and she was making more money than she did before. And she actually loved what she did. She loves her new job. So I think that’s like the poster child of like this done. Right. Um, okay. Now for that to event possible though, the most important piece in that whole puzzle, um, outside of just those opportunities existing was that this woman needed some awareness of that.
Muriel 01:01:27 Even being an option for her. And I, I see so many interesting organizations that have popped up. I see so many interesting initiatives that different governments are doing like a local level or national level. I see so many ways that people could be providing more economic security, your jobs created for themselves. And it seems like we’re just not getting the solutions into the right hands. So one thing I just encourage people to do is just be people who are just vigilantly, looking for opportunities and connecting people with those. I, I was riding in an Uber the other day and this woman starts telling me about her dream and what she, and what she wanted to do. And I had just seen this thing in Chicago about grants for women of color, who were starting small businesses. And I got her connected with it and she has funding.
Muriel 01:02:14 And now she’s starting a company like there’s, there’s things like that that can happen if we’re, if we’re keeping our eyes open. And I think there’s so much that we can be doing. Um, instead of just talking about the problem all the time, like, look at how you can connect people with information. Now, I think there’s better tools we can have that do that on a macro level. But one thing I’m just committed to is just being aware of all of those opportunities out there for people and telling people about them. That’s a big thing. Anytime someone’s done something interesting. I think a big problem, um, in, in kind of any impact space is just helping get the word out. So that’s one piece. This is just simple. Um, if, if I was somebody in a massive kind of leadership level, I think there is a piece that has to be policy for navigating this.
Muriel 01:02:59 And there’s a piece that I think are just practical solutions. I think we’re kidding ourselves. If we think we’ll get through a massive transition, like what’s coming without some kind of safety net for people who are most impacted. I think we can do our best efforts at rescaling. I think there is going to need to be something. So that’s one piece, so less optimistic piece. Um, but I think that there’s lots of examples of things like that working. Um, and I think we’ll navigate that. Okay. But I think, I think it’s good that no matter what people’s political leanings are, I think it’s good that the term UBI came up in a selection cycle, just so people start to be familiar with those kinds of ideas, because I do think something like that is coming in the future and I don’t even necessarily think it will be from a political party that we would expect.
Muriel 01:03:45 I think it’s just something that’s going to be a pretty universally agreed upon idea at some point, um, outside of that though, if you’re just practically managing people and leading people, I think the more that you actually get to know the DNA of who your people are and what they can offer, um, the more solutions you will find. So that’s something I I’ve worked with a lot of, um, like government leaders and executives of companies. And it’s amazing how much we look at just like what we’re trying to accomplish. And we’re not looking at who the people are and it’s because it’s hard. And so anytime I’m working with people that manage teams, I’ve been challenging them, like, do you actually really know your people, like everything that they could bring to the table? Have you tried to actually capture that and think about how that could be tied to opportunities in your company? And I even have this model that I have people who lead teams do. It’s a, I don’t know if you’re familiar, it’s really boring stuff, but like job analysis, work analysis, have you heard of that?
Andrew 01:04:45 I’ve only heard it mentioned. That’s all I know.
Muriel 01:04:48 So it is this old school method. So in 1952, something like that, 1954, there was a method that they, the U S army started doing, which was basically trying to sort people into occupy, uh, occupations within the military. So they were trying to figure out like, okay, well, what are the knowledge, skills, abilities, other characteristics that I need to be effective, um, in this role. And they came up with this kind of taxonomy of like a role and all the things you would need to be great in that role. And then they started slotting people into those positions. So that was the first time really that we saw something like that outside of I actually the Imperial core in China, many thousands or a few thousand years, a couple of years before I did that too. Um, but not a couple thousand 1000 years before, but anyway, so
Andrew 01:05:37 There’s was the, it was the exam that anyone could take if they wanted to enter the government. Right. And then if you could pass the test, which was brutally hard, it didn’t matter where you came from, you were in.
Muriel 01:05:45 So it wasn’t necessarily a test actually. It’s just, it was a way of, um, catalog, cataloging, work opportunities. So basically what they have done since then now is all labor data in the world is still structured in that same way. It’s still a catalog of there’s these like occupational categories, there’s jobs that not there’s tasks, you can do. There’s knowledge, skills, abilities, other characteristics. And that’s how we think about jobs. And so when we’re writing job descriptions, even when we’re hiring people in companies, and we’re thinking about job requirements, it’s still is all very reflective of that model, that we’re just kind of slotting people into our catalog. So one thing that I’ve been working on for a long time and been very passionate about is how do we actually flip that model on its head? And think instead about if I have this skill, what are all of the, what’s the wide constellation of opportunities that would open up to me. Um, and so that’s a whole different way of structuring data from like a workforce perspective. So instead of just having taxonomies of data, we have ontologies, which means it’s interconnected. We see the linkages between anything. So from a government
Andrew 01:06:54 Pause for a second, what’s the difference between a taxonomy and an
Muriel 01:06:57 So a taxonomy is like a catalog. So think species of animals. So we’d be like, you know, cats, big cats, tigers, okay. You get like the tiers there, it’s like a tiered catalog. Um, if we have an ontology, it’s
Andrew 01:07:11 All tigers are big cats, but not all big cats are tigers.
Muriel 01:07:13 I don’t know. I’m not honestly an expert on tigers. So I feel like you’re gonna have to bring someone else on for that. So, but then on the other end of the spectrum is we could have something like an ontology, um, which is where we’re, we’re seeing kind of what we call nodes. So that’s like one, so that could be like a tiger. And then we have edges between nodes. So that could be like the strength of the relationship. So we’d have like a tiger and then we’d have like a house cat and we’d see like how strongly related they were. So that’s the, and then it ends up looking like a big constellation or spider web. You’ve seen network, analytic databases. There we go. So those are the two different ways we could think about structuring data. I’m trying to get people to switch to ontology.
Muriel 01:07:56 That was my soap box for years. I worked with a lot of governments to do that. Um, I have a tool, actually. That’s a finalist for grants. If I get it, I can, I’m going to make the tool that I developed actually opensource to anyone to use. Um, but what I, yes, it is. Yeah. So say more about that. Yeah. So, okay. So whether we’re talking about a team in an organization or a math and, or the entire workforce in Chile, I think we are so much better prepared to help people see new job opportunities. If their job goes away or to see more opportunities within an organization, if they’re insecure about their future there, if we, instead of just thinking about jobs and the requirements for jobs, we have an interconnected view of what are all of the ways I can apply a skill.
Muriel 01:08:42 So we, what this tool basically does is it follows this very boring process of, Oh, wow. I just realized now how far away I jumped from what I was getting. So back to job and work analysis, that’s how boring it is. I can’t even get through talking about it, but it’s a useful tool. So job analysis though, is basically a way that we go through a job and actually capture at a very nuance level. What are all the components in this job? Knowledge, skills, abilities, other characteristics, KSAs. I’ve said that so many times on this podcast, that’s the world I live in is KSAs. Um,
Andrew 01:09:17 And so that just make that concrete for people. That’s like, let’s, let’s do an example of that. So let’s imagine someone who the job is a computer programmer, right. Can you take that example and just give us a simple version of it? What are the KSA and owes for say a programmer?
Muriel 01:09:31 So knowledge you’re right. Knowledge is something that you it’s like information that you learned, which is, I think going to be the least interesting part of our KSAs has moved forward with technology skills is like something that you learn how to do. Um, and so maybe knowledge would be like, okay, I know that if I balance like fat with acid, when I’m cooking, then it’s going to taste better. Skill would be like, actually getting a feel for how to do that. And practically cook something ability would be something more innate. So like, Oh, well I just have a really good sense of taste. Like I always have, I’m really able to just get a feel for what people are going to like, and then other characteristics could be that you also, um, like you also happen to have kind of a quirky look to you. So you’re like perfect for a celebrity chef. Like you just have that quirky look that just kind of fits that doesn’t really necessarily directly fit, but it like helps you be successful there. So when we’re thinking about any kind of task or job, we’re generally drawing upon those four things and a long list of those four things, um,
Andrew 01:10:37 Got it. So you can kind of, it was almost a taxonomy. I play here, have you have these KSAs at the bottom level that then roll up, you know, you sample from knowledge and skills and abilities and so forth and to compose a task basically, and then you have, or a task or an activity. And then you have just basically this portfolio of these KSAs, I guess, and at the end of the day, you end up calling that giant portfolio, a job with air quotes around, is that right?
Muriel 01:11:02 Yeah, that’s fair. And so instead of actually structuring the data, so it’s the same data that we’re getting. It’s the same case data instead of structuring that in the catalog where that’s at the bottom and that’s where we get our details, but we have a job above it. And we don’t look at KSAs between jobs. We’re just interested in them within jobs. Instead. Now we’re saying, well, let’s make that the focus of this entire database. And let’s look at all the connections across these, all of these cases and then how that could relate to a task opportunity or a job opportunity. It’s just a different way of capturing the same idea, but it, materially changed is how we can think about a work transition
Andrew 01:11:41 For sure. So sort of try and make a really overly simplistic visual metaphor. It’s almost like a taxonomy is imagining it like a ladder being structured, like a ladder or one rolls up to the other to the other. And then the other one is it looks more like a spiderweb. Yeah, that’s fair. Yeah. Okay, cool. And so if by, by shifting from the ladder to the spiderweb, you can have way many more transition points and abilities to adapt than this very rigid, hierarchical, vertical. It’s like, well, you’re just, you’re your ladder is no longer. Your letter has gone by, by now. It’s like, Oh, I have this Lily pad and got to making so many metaphors mixed up. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. That’s how my brain works. So now I have some node at some point in the web, and then I can, instead of being dependent on one ladder that may no longer exist because it’s now totally automated. Now I can pivot from this one spot in the, in the web to another thing that’s connected to it, even if it’s in a different, you know, job or role, but it still leverages those same, that same cocktail of KSAs that I have. Is that the idea here?
Muriel 01:12:43 Yeah, that is. And, uh, so basically the tool that I was working on for a while that hopefully very soon will be open source and anyone can use it. It just basically creates a common language of how do we collect that KSA data. And then it gives you a tool to structure it, um, along with other data and opportunities in your workplace or at a workforce level. Um, and so that was really important to me to do because I saw so many incredible entrepreneurs or people with not-for-profits or people doing government initiatives that everything they were trying to do was more difficult because of how labor data was structured. So a lot of the tools in this space, they rely upon labor data and labor data is just not structured for that kind of proactive shifting idea that is behind a lot of solutions people have in the future work. If I basically decided as like people are not going to build as good of tools to solve this problem until somebody fixes us. So that’s what I worked on for a long time throughout grad school. It was really fun. It’s a horrible way to try to make money, but it’s something the world needs. So open source tool soon, hopefully it’s finalist for grant. We’ll see what happens.
Andrew 01:13:48 Alright. Fingers crossed fingers crossed. I love that. So, and I think, you know, as I’m listening to you, I’m thinking about this issue a lot right now in capitalism, there is a pattern that is predictable, which is that industrialization or commodification, which automation is a force driving, um, unlocks new higher order. Meaning if you have automation, which is this, you know, this trend is forest. Now that is driving many, many roles, sorry, many activities, the activities that make up many roles today tried to use the right terms here. So there are many activities that largely compose jobs today that are going to be automated. So they’re going to become effectively commodities that are no longer, um, worth having a human do, because you can have a machine, do it for far cheaper, more reliably, et cetera, et cetera. That’s the scary bit, right? That that scares people’s identity and sense of where they are and what they can bring to the world. The pattern, the underlying climactic pattern in capitalism though, is that, that type of thing now unlocks new higher order systems that like now you can do new things because of that, that you couldn’t do before. And so it seems like really what there is, is helping people navigate the transition from that lower order work they were doing to the new, higher order work that is now on the, that is now on the menu because the thing they used to spend their time doing, they don’t have to do any
Muriel 01:15:08 Right. And that’s honestly, I think most future of our companies are navigation companies. Like that’s what we’re working on in different domains. Um, and you even see a lot of future where companies using words like the GPS of work in their marketing. And I think that makes sense, like my company, for example, uh, we’re, we’re mostly interested in just how do we help people just see what they need to be learning? Like how do, how do we help people just see the direction they need to be going? Like that’s a navigation, um, process as well. And we’re, even though we’re more focused on like the tangible, like how do we actually get people engaged in their jobs today? But even if we’re thinking about longterm tools that are focused more on like longterm labor shifts, I think that’s the same thing they’re doing. Um, I also think one big piece and one area, if anyone’s listening and they want to start a future of our company, I think something that’s missing is not like places to learn or like information to learn.
Muriel 01:16:03 It’s actually connecting people with the right information. Like I think we’ve seen that having endless access to information has not made us smarter. There’s some sense making that needs to happen. There’s some constraints around that of figuring out like what’s actually the best use of my time right now. So I think there’s a lot more we need to do around just pure learning and helping people focus on what learning makes most sense for them. I think that relates to kind of the story with the woman who ended up at that, with that job that allowed her to take care of her grandkids. Um, I think that there’s so much, like there’s so much that people could be doing for themselves. That actually would be positive for them, but it’s just, how do we, how do we connect people with that? How do we help people make sense of where to go and what’s right for them and what’s the next best step.
Muriel 01:16:49 One thing you definitely don’t want to do if you’re, if you are a coal miner whose job just got disrupted, the last thing you want to do is invest time and money and learning something. If it’s not even going to be a good opportunity for you. So that’s a, that’s a paralyzing situation to find yourself in. Especially if everyone in your community was a coal miner, your parents were coal. You don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing. Of course not like it’s, it’s scary. And so the more resources we have that do navigate people, I think that’s going to help a lot with the transition.
Andrew 01:17:21 One question that I wanted to ask you is the question that where this came from in a conversation was what is it that actually makes a, an experience, but particularly a work experience, engaging, uh, meaningful, exciting, right? A lot of the things that the show focuses on. And, um, I’ve heard a lot of different takes on this and there’s many, many models out there, right? You’ve got self determination theory. You’ve got, um, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, his work, you’ve got, you know, the autonomy mastery purpose stuff. There, there’s a lot of, you know, there’s kind of some general agreement around the underlying psychological needs that need to be fulfilled. I’m gonna use the abbreviation ramp, which I’m stealing blatantly from 15 five, uh, which is relatedness, autonomy, mastery, and purpose, uh, check out their stuff. It’s really good. I’ll link to in the show notes, but I’m popping up a level in terms of actual, you know, putting that into action.
Andrew 01:18:09 And what do you actually focus on? The model that we’ve been playing with is, is what we’re calling, what we’ve been loosely calling the arm model, like you have an arm and an arm. And so, uh, basically the A’s activities, uh, are, is relationships and M is mission or meaning. And so the idea being that the things that make a work experience fulfilling are first and foremost, what do you literally, what are you doing all day, the activities you’re doing and do you enjoy them? Can you get into flow in them? Um, are, you know, are they things you want to do all day, basically? Uh, secondly, is who are you spending your time with and what does that environment like? So that’s sort of relationships of your coworkers, uh, as well as culture, the cultural environment you’re doing it in. Uh, and then the third one is, is sort of what is, where’s this all going, right? Which is sort of the, meaning the mission. Um, you know, if we’re successful, does it, do I feel good about that? Um, so that’s a super simplistic model that I’ve been playing with. And I’m just curious, like as an actual expert, he knows what’s up, not me. What do you think about that? And how would you modify that?
Muriel 01:19:10 I think I remember you sharing that with me when we had dinner recently at that very good restaurant. Should I give up? That was a good restaurant, um, duck, duck goat for anybody dropped by duck, duck out. There you go.
Andrew 01:19:25 Super, super yummy, very good Chinese food. Yeah.
Muriel 01:19:28 And lots of vegetarian options, despite the name for all the veterans.
Andrew 01:19:32 True. We did not. We’ve made veggie that night. It was very good. Okay. Anyways, back to this.
Muriel 01:19:37 So I love the model. I think it’s actually, I love how simple it is and I actually think there’s a lot of truth to it. The piece that I think I’m obsessed with right now, I would put as a foundational piece beneath that, which is just insight. And that, that has become my obsession lately. Because every time I look at models of how to get people engaged at work models of how to get people, to learn models of how to help people navigate change models, to make people future ready. I keep coming back to you first have to have some level of self awareness, some self insight, some ability to create a concept of yourself, an identity. Um, everyone, like we all are the protagonist in our own story. And I think we really forget that when we’re trying to make people engaged at work or when we’re trying to help fulfill, fulfill that work. I think we really forget that people are the own, their own protagonists. Um, and so I would put that under that, and then I love the model.
Andrew 01:20:37 No, I, this is great. I love it. So let’s, let’s take a look at a couple of minutes and actually do a well, we’re going to put me in the hot seat for a second. We’re going to turn the tables here, cause this is always interesting and fun, and this will also make it concrete for the listener. Uh, and plus I’m just curious, so we’re going to do it anyway. Um, so I am going through this process right now where, uh, like you said, underneath all of this is sort of self insight. And I think like a lot of people, um, I mean, well, I I’ve had the good fortune to have access to a lot of, uh, tools, assessments, uh, mechanisms, whatever you want to call it for. Self-insight right. So psychometric tests, things like that. And I’ll tell you, the place I’m at right now is I am, I have this giant pile of data, ostensibly useful information about myself, and I have no idea what to do with all of it.
Andrew 01:21:25 And so I’m literally looking at a note on the other side of my screen right here, where I’m trying to compile all this stuff and synthesize it into something useful. And I’m like, I’ll tell you some of the things that are in here. There’s the via character strengths test. There’s the disc assessment, the Colby assessment, strengths finder, strength based leadership, big five personality, the imperative purpose tool, uh, spark type, um, any gram, uh, genius, genius. Like there’s all this stuff I’ve got like 15 of these things. So, and I know cause I’ve had other people talk to me about this, that I’m not the only person that who’s crazy in this way. So what do crazy people like me do in a situation?
Muriel 01:22:00 Well, first of all, thank you for helping keep the lights on for all of us. Psychometricians out there. It’s very kind of personally Bankroller lifestyles. Um, I do appreciate it. Um, that is honestly part of why we created anthill because I think there is so much beauty in compiling, a lot of different insights. I think there’s a lot we can learn from each of those, but I think it can become a mess without some kind of sense making that brings it all together. And so I think any time you’re working on learning all of that about yourself, there’s only so much that suggestible for us at any specific time point. And I think we have this desire to get to like, what’s the most important thing and with a tool I can’t heal, you can, I believe, but when it’s you, I would just say, pick some, look for a theme.
Muriel 01:22:48 Humans are great sense makers. That’s one of the, I think most difficult to automate skills, look for a theme and just nudge yourself with it. Continuously get like a name plate, but that people used to have on desks and like the eighties and just write the word. Like maybe you need to be a better, which you don’t, you’re an incredible listener. I should be able to assist so you can listen and just look at it every day. That is how you would actually get the most out of those. I think the biggest problem is that we come up with like these, like this massive strategy of character change and all these things we’re going to work on when really like we’re going to do best. If we find an important thing and we give ourselves some micro dose reminder, um, that we focus on. So I, I think, you know, every year I choose a word of the year, um, which a lot of people have started to do.
Muriel 01:23:33 I’ve done it since I was a little girl. I don’t know when it became a trend, but it helps me so much because it’s so simple. And it’s one of those things that in those moments, when you are your lowest self you’re, so below the line, you’re, you know, you’re hungry, you’re tired, you’re frustrated. You can still bring a word to mind. It’s hard to bring like a whole picture of everything you want to work on and everything you are. So you can bring one word to mind. You always can. And so that’s what I try to always encourage people who are like you. One of those self-improvement ninjas who’s focused on everything is just try to synthesize it down to one thing. And then as soon as that feels embedded in who you are, move on. And that’s really what nudging technologies like anthill are, are focused on automating, but it’s something you can do for yourself in that way with all the tests you have. But I know you’re going to want the best thing. So you’re going to, you’re going to kill yourself, trying to figure out which thing to should focus on, but just pick one, just pick one.
Andrew 01:24:28 Okay. That’s I’m very glad you said that and thank you for the advice. I will listen to that advice and take it. So you’re telling me that basically I built a crappy version of anthill in my name.
Muriel 01:24:37 Yeah. You built like part of it, but you didn’t. Yeah. You made it way too complicated, but that’s okay. That’s okay.
Andrew 01:24:43 Okay, cool. So when can I use actual anthill?
Muriel 01:24:47 We might throw a bone in your way. We’re working only with companies right now, but we do, we would like to have a user facing version, um, out eventually. So I’ll keep you posted,
Andrew 01:24:58 Well, you know, I’m a nerd for this stuff. So if you want to beta user person,
Muriel 01:25:02 If you run some tests, why not? Anything
Andrew 01:25:06 You’re the best. You’re the two kinds. Okay. So, um, okay. So that’s, I’m glad we covered that. Thank you. Uh, cause I honestly, I’ve been, not only making myself crazy with this, but also for some reason, a lot of people I know are in a similar place right now. And this has just been coming up a lot lately where people are, uh, bringing up these questions and they’re saying like, what do I do with this information? Right. I have too much information going to, sense-making like, you’re talking about like I have the Colby and the StrengthsFinder and the, this and the, that. And like, I don’t know what to do with all of it. So it sounds like the takeaway is boil it down, pick one thing at a time, work on that and keep, keep stick consistently with that one thing until it’s normal for you and then
Muriel 01:25:45 Yeah. Or use anthill way,
Andrew 01:25:48 Or you saying Hill, I mean it’s available. I think the people who are into this topic are gonna use it. I will use it. Yeah.
Muriel 01:25:54 Yeah. It’s, it’s been such a fun thing to work on just because I’m like you, I also really enjoy these. Um, and a lot of, and it’s most personality types are very drawn to something that helps them learn about themselves. That’s very rewarding for us. Um, a healthy level of narcissism that we all have. Uh, and so I think, I think it can be really fun to learn about yourself. And I think the more that we look at it as like I’m on this fund journey, I’m running this experiment on how to be a better person, like, and just take a little of the pressure off and be like, if there’s just one thing I’m focusing on, that’s, that’s a lot like think like life is long. Like give yourself a little bit of a break and just give yourself one thing. He can’t, he can’t do it all in a day.
Andrew 01:26:37 Very good advice for people like me to hear. So thank you. Uh, here’s a different question. And this is one that, that also came up as I was talking to people in my life, getting ready for this conversation over the last few weeks, we have so many problems in the world, right? And we’re, we’re perhaps more aware of the problems that we have than we ever have before. Thank you, you know, to media and the internet and communications technology. So maybe we have just as many problems, maybe we have do problems, whatever, but it’s in all of our faces. And the question is why ought someone work on this issue? Like the future of work relative to so many of the other pressing problems, like for example, the climate crisis or you know, the food system or diversity, you know, pick, pick your, pick your thing here.
Muriel 01:27:18 Okay. I feel really passionate about this actually. So Andrew has spent years measuring individual differences on so many metrics. I can tell, I can assure you that there is someone out there for every problem. There is someone that’s going to be fired up about every problem and like for racially trying to solve it, if they’re living their best life. So I would not worry about any shifts. I would actually do the thing that fires you up. Trust me, there are lots of different people out there. We are not all Andrew. Scott’s go sadly. And so pick the thing that you actually are going to identify with. If we don’t identify with something, as I’ve said, this whole podcast, we are not engaged with it. We do not have climate scientists who aren’t excited to be climate scientists. That’s not going to help. Um, so I think practically when you are, if you’re raising children, if you are mentoring someone, if you are closely connected with anyone’s development, as a friend, a partner, whatever, encourage that person to be fully themselves, as much as possible, push everyone in the direction of their own true North and then get busy doing the thing you’re actually excited about.
Andrew 01:28:31 I think that’s wonderful advice. How do you actually, when you advise people about that, how do you advise that they go about that? Cause there’s a lot of advice about how to, you know, quote, find your purpose, find your true North, find your, whatever you want to call it. How do you, how have you done it and how have you seen that be effective when you’ve advised people?
Muriel 01:28:46 It’s a PR it’s a process. Um, I, one of the rules I have, so I have a group of, uh, young female scientists, uh, that I’ve mentored for awhile. Um, and a lot of times they come to me and they would like, okay, I’m thinking about quitting my job. I’m not fulfilled. And I would always ask them like, Oh, what’s the bigger, yes. Like what are you? What’s your big, yes. That you’re going toward. And they’d be like, no, no, I just don’t like my job. And I’d be like, Oh, so what’s the thing that you’re going to do now. And they’d be like, no, I just don’t like my job and it’s, and I totally think there’s a time and place to quit, adopt to quit a job. I’ve done it. Um, I get that, you know, our mental health is paramount and you’ve got to protect that at all costs.
Muriel 01:29:28 But I think sometimes we get so trapped in this idea of like focusing on what we’re not liking in a situation. And then we have this ambiguous fantasy that we’re heading toward where instead I really encourage people when they’re in painful situations to actually sit in that and see what is a contrast to that. I actually think some of our best times of figuring out what we care about is in seasons that are a little painful. And I think that too often in this discussion, we are encouraging people to run away from pain. And I, I will tell you in my life, all of the best things that have ever happened in terms of clarity for me, or direction for me have come out of a lot of pain and a lot of stuckness. And I think we need to embrace that a little bit more than we do. Um, but also protect your mental health in the process is my caveat there. So until you have a bigger, yes, I actually encourage people to sit in the discomfort. I think it’s an incredible motivator. I think it’s very hard to go from good to amazing. I think it’s a lot easier to go from painful to amazing. Um, and so that’s what I mostly encouraged. I think
Andrew 01:30:40 Just because of like the relative differences, bigger, like going from something that’s terrible to something that’s good, feels amazing.
Muriel 01:30:46 I just think of principles of human motivation. Um, we’re, we’re difficult creatures to motivate. Uh, we get very comfortable, very easily and typically we’re not actually motivated to go after something great. We’re just motivated to, to relieve pain. Yeah. I just think it’s a better place to come from finding your purpose. That’s why I think some of the people I am most inspired by have had the most difficult backgrounds. I mean, people who have been abused, I see one person I really admire what they’ve done. You never know it. Getting to know them. They were trafficked as a child. Um, people who grew up in poverty, people who have come from countries where you would never expect them to have access to the kind of education they were able to get for themselves. Um, I mean, there’s, I think that’s, we see that overcoming a lot because of that principle of motivation.
Andrew 01:31:36 This is such a fascinating thing. And it reminds me of some of the conversations that you and I had. And that also went on in the larger group when you and I were both fellows at singularity U together a couple of years back. Um, and one of the questions that I remember came up that I don’t think ever really a clear answer emerged, but I’m curious if you have an updated take, as you said, many people have had to overcome some tremendous difficulties and challenges in their life. And we find that very inspiring, right? They’ve had to overcome trafficking or lack of education or opportunity or, you know, whatever the, whatever the case may be. Um, and that is inspiring. And also, you know, there’s a lot of difficulty there and, and um, you wish that people didn’t have to do that, but for people who haven’t ironically for, for people who haven’t had that challenge, sometimes it seems like they are the most lacking in directionality in, in a sense of purpose because they haven’t had that thing that happened to them that they had to overcome. And that gave them that sense of meaning for people like that. What do you, what have you seen to be effective in terms of them tapping into this, this sense?
Muriel 01:32:34 I am, it gets back to something we talked about earlier, which I encouraged him to break a routine. Um, I think a lot of times, so you can have kind of your mirror neurons work pretty well. We can experience something through someone else’s experience. And I think exposing yourself to more things. I think the people who have it, the toughest in life from a psychological perspective are the people who had a really easy cause she lives and they’ve only ever hung out with people just like them. I think that’s a really sad way to live. And you’ve probably met people like that. There’s no real, no real lows. There’s no real highs. They’re just kind of bopping along. Um, I think the only way to break that is to get out of your routine, break your routine, um, do something that feels markedly uncomfortable for you and different for you, but you have to, that’s a personal choice that you have to make, right.
Muriel 01:33:23 But we all have our, you know, we all have things that work for us and things that work against us. We all come with a constellation of advantages and disadvantages some way more privileged than others. Um, but I would argue that even some of the things that we think of as like, Oh, that person should have it figured out they have every privilege you could possibly have those people don’t always make it happen. Um, and I think it comes back to, to what we’re talking about now. I think there’s, there’s a challenge component that is critical for growth. And I think that if we had an equation for growth, like whatever is in that equation would have to be multiplied by challenge and challenges. Zero. I, I don’t think you’re ever going to grow.
Andrew 01:34:03 You mentioned way back in the beginning. Um, you’re writing a book.
Muriel 01:34:06 Yes. But that is still, that is still so under wrap, we don’t even have our working title, but I have two awesome coauthors. One is an academic and one is an executive at a large tech company. Um, and we’re, we’re all from, we’re from three different generations. Um, bringing a few different perspectives, talking about the future of communication. Um, and we have this model we’ve developed of basically kind of getting back to what I was talking about in the very beginning, as you said of how do we actually start to understand each other, um, as we’re navigating all of this incredible change in this pace of change, it will never be more important for us to really understand each other and to be just really competent communicators with one another and to start to even relieve some of each other’s suffering through giving each other a chance to be understood. Um, so we were writing it in a really fun way. It’s kind of a big story. We were profiling a lot of people that we worked with world leaders, executives, some, some characters all throughout, um, to kind of make a point. We hope it mostly just reads like a fun behind the curtains peek into a lot of really interesting lives. Um, but there’s a model throughout there that we think is really an important model for anyone, um, going into the future, the future of work. So we’re excited about it.
Andrew 01:35:25 Do you guys have a target? Uh, did you just start a, where are you in the process?
Muriel 01:35:28 So we have been for a long time talking about these ideas kind of, um, yeah, collaborating, but we are now finally shifting into making it real with the deal and agents and all that fun jazz. So yeah.
Andrew 01:35:43 That’s so exciting. Good for you. Good for you. Congratulations. I cannot wait to read it again. If you want, uh, early readers or drafts or anything like that, I’d be stoked to, uh, to, to get early access to your thinking. So one question is what is something in recent memory? And that could be the last week, or it could be the last, you know, two years. What is a change that you’ve made in your life that you think has had an outsized impact on either the quality of your life, your effectiveness, whatever the case may be, but small change. Yeah.
Muriel 01:36:13 Oh, I think the biggest one for me is getting up an hour earlier and spending my first hour working on something that I’m super passionate about, that it doesn’t no one else is expecting a deliverable from me on that thing that has been huge for me. And sometimes I work on things that are very personal and sometimes they work on things that are actually just related to what I’m I’m working on. But too, it’s kind of that with budgeting that pay yourself first mentality. I just started doing that with my time and it just sets a tone for the day. That is really awesome for me.
Andrew 01:36:43 Yeah. I love that. Cause we were, we, uh, I think before we hit record, we were, we were talking about Warren buffet and Charlie Munger and it reminds me of Charlie Munger, his whole thing about sell yourself the first, your first and best hour of the day.
Muriel 01:36:54 There we go. Yes. Is that where you got that? Maybe? I don’t know. One of my favorite videos on YouTube is the one it’s a black and white video of Charlie Munger for 40 minutes. Just explaining mental models in a totally monotone voice. No illustrations just reciting them. If anyone needs something to do on a Friday night, I highly recommend you check that out. So I don’t know. I probably did get that inspiration from them and didn’t realize,
Andrew 01:37:20 Yeah, no, it’s, it’s great. It’s the, uh, I think it’s his famous speech on the psychology human misjudgment, um, which also goes to the other book. That’s sitting on my desk right now, which I highly recommend. Um, I’m nerding out on this right now. Not done yet, but it’s called seeking wisdom from Darwin to Munger. And it’s written by a guy named Peter beveling and this is one of these books that I’ve been meaning to read for years, but it’s like a condensed is I feel like this is one of those books where it’s like, if Charlie Munger, if you bought it were able to bottle his brain up into something. This would be like,
Muriel 01:37:48 I will check that out. Thank you.
Andrew 01:37:52 Unfortunately, there’s no audio book I’ve wished there was, but uh, it’s like one of those dents on it. It’s one of those books where I’m like, I’m going to be really glad I read this. I can tell you, you have such a level of self awareness and, and nuanced thinking who or what has so profoundly shaped your thinking.
Muriel 01:38:10 So many AMS. I mean, there’s so many people who inspire me, it’s it, it feels like unfair to try to encapsulate it. Um, or, or maybe, I mean, I think actually the broad answer is I it’s a very, very rare person. I come across that I don’t immediately find a reason to be inspired by them. Like I actually think there is something really, really incredible in everyone. And I think, I, I think I learned that from my dad. My dad has this deep appreciation for literally everyone and I saw him live that way, um, growing up and yeah, it, I think that that’s why it feels difficult to answer that question. Hmm, outsized impact recently. Um, I was really, I think profoundly touched by, I never, never got to meet her. Unfortunately she passed away last year by Mary Oliver. Uh, I, I can be a bit too kind of in my head, cerebral a little robotic, sometimes moving through, executing on all the objectives I have for myself.
Muriel 01:39:13 Um, so I intentionally started to insert into my life poetry and even dorky, there we go. Awesome. Even very Andrew just showed me a mug for anyone hearing my reaction. Um, so I S I started to be drawn to things like poetry. And even I started this as the dorkiest thing about me. I started doing needle point because I was like, okay, that’s totally opposite from being in my head. I’m just working with my hands, stitching something for who knows what reason. Um, and I think Mary Oliver, since I started reading her work, have you ever read anything by Mary Oliver? Oh, I highly recommend so if you want to want to read some poetry, I highly recommend devotions. Uh, that’s a collection of a lot of her best works. Uh, there’s one in particular on desks that I’m going to send you right when we hang out, because
Andrew 01:39:59 That’s beautiful. Okay. Thank you.
Muriel 01:40:02 Then if you want to read some of her essays, uh, her book upstream, I really, really love there’s. There’s one essay in there about Emerson, who is one of the giants in my life, who I’m always inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Um, she, you have to be an incredible writer to write about Emerson because Emerson was such a good writer, but that essay that she wrote on REM Emerson, for some reason, it had such a deep impact on me. I highlight check it out. But I think the reason I love Mary Oliver is that she has given me more of an appreciation for the little things around me, which I think I lost in kind of maybe getting a PhD, kind of drove it out of me, kind of having a lot of work goals, drove it out of me, but she’s given me this appreciation again for little things and like these, this layer to life. And I think those are the people that I feel most inspired by. It’s not even people in my field are people who I really respect intellectually. Sometimes it’s the people that cause me to pause and think about something totally outside of what feels important to me at that time. I think those are the people I’m most inspired by lately. So that’s a really long if Mary Oliver crew at all
Andrew 01:41:11 Mary Oliver and her homies, I love it. It’s funny as you were saying that, I was like, wait a minute. That sounds familiar because the third book on my desk is this book. It’s called poetry of presence. And it’s a book I got at, um, a meditation retreat. I went on a few months ago and, uh, one of my favorite teachers there at the retreat, uh, gave it to me. And, uh, I was like, Oh, that sounds so familiar. And I think I did hear a Mary Oliver poem when I was there because she read from this book. And so I’m going to, if we’re going to, we’re going to bring some Mary Oliver into this conversation right now. So can I, can I read you read you a Mary Oliver poem? So it’s the poem. The poem is called when I am among the trees.
Muriel 01:41:48 I know, I know. I don’t think I can recite the whole thing from memory, but probably close. Go ahead.
Andrew 01:41:55 Okay. So it says, it goes what I am among the trees, especially the willows and the honey locust equally the beach, the Oaks in the Pines. They give up such hints of gladness. I would almost say that they saved me and daily. I am so distant from the hope of myself in which I have goodness and discernment and never hurry through the world, but walk slowly and bow often around me, the trees stir in their leaves and call out, stay awhile. The light flows from their branches and they call again, it’s simple. They say, and you two have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light and to shine.
Muriel 01:42:35 Oh, I love that. That’s so good. That’s so good. One of her, um, one of her most famous lines, it’s at the end of a poem, uh, quite a beautiful one that you should read, um, is she says, listen, are you breathing just a little and calling it a life? And I think is a good future of work poem because I do think that there, there is a lot right now in workplaces that is breathing just a little and calling it a life.
Andrew 01:43:08 I feel like that has got to be, that is the perfect place to end this conversation. I mean, that’s a mic drop moment right there. I tell you to grab the mic, but if the headset you’re wearing drop it, Thank you so, so much for this conversation for sharing yourself and also for everything you’re doing in the world, you are someone who inspires me and, uh, it’s been, you know, obviously it’s privileged to have you on the show and, um, I’m just grateful for you having you in my life as a friend as well. So thank you. First of all. Um, and we’re can the listener, if people want to engage with you in your work, where would you, where would you send them?
Muriel 01:43:39 Yeah, if I would check out ant Hill ai.com, we’re going to have a lot more coming up there soon in terms of resources. We just went live recently. Um, and then anyone who wants to actually chat with me, if you
Muriel 01:43:52 Heard me say anything that you want to get involved with, uh, I’m always open to hearing from anyone at Mirial at anthill, ai.com.
Andrew 01:43:59 Okay. I love it. And, uh, last question. Is there any, any requests you have the listener or anything you want to leave us with,
Muriel 01:44:06 Please, please, please make, make understanding yourself and what you really need from life a priority and learn how to competently communicate that to the people in your life. I think the more people who do that, the better this world will be beautiful.
Andrew 01:44:29 All right. Well, Muriel again, thank you so much. This has been an absolute pleasure and I’m super excited for what you’re doing. Keep it up.
Muriel 01:44:35 Thank you. Thank you. It’s so much fun to talk to you always. So thanks for having this great show too.