There’s a saying: if you don’t like how the table is set, flip the table. Well, now the table has been flipped. So how do we want to set it?
Do we want to try and go back to the old world, or do we want to create something new?
As we begin to think and plan for the new world that will emerge post pandemic, we have an incredible opportunity to fix much of what was broken.
The seemingly impossible is now possible.
In this first ever episode of New Future, your co-hosts award-winning designer, researcher and futurist Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie and former global tech CFO Kate Razzivina share their thinking around how this new world can and should look, and some of the things we can to do get there.
Kate Raynes-Goldie (KRG): Welcome to the first ever episode of the New Future podcast where we talk with researchers, entrepreneurs and business leaders across across a wide variety of industries and sectors about what comes next. I’m Kate Raynes-Goldie and this is my co-host Kate Razzivina. Because this is our first ever episode, we should probably introduce ourselves. Kate Razzivina was previously CFO of one of the biggest tech companies in Australia, which she did in her 20s. So probably one of the youngest CFOs, especially of a major tech company. And Kate also has a strong interest in psychology and is super passionate about redesigning the workplace to work for women and children and families.
Kate Razzivina (KR): And Kate Raynes-Goldie is a futurist, researcher, writer, TEDx speaker and also a certified facilitator of Lego Serious Play, which is an innovation and creativity tool used by major brands worldwide, including IKEA, Virgin, and Samsung. Kate is also a visionary thinker. She did her PhD on Facebook and was one of the first in the world to research social media, and its impact on culture and society in her 20s.
KRG: So I think another thing we should also start with is, why are we doing this podcast? Why are we doing it now? Why is this an important thing to be talking about? We kind of started talking a bit before we started the episode about why this is such an important topic. You know, the new future of that idea of what comes next. So, what do you think, Kate? Why are we doing this now?
KR: I’m sure we have both been talking to many people about some of the ideas that we have, and we share. And we feel that now with this coronavirus happening and everyone – pretty much all the media and all the big thinkers and academics and the CEOs and everyone just really taking the time to re-think: what is the world going to look like in the future? Are we just all taking a short holiday or are we actually going to be living in a completely new world?
KRG: You’re saying you are starting to see kind of a shift in the coverage that you’re reading from being kind of like reactionary to proactive and thinking about, okay, we’ve gone through this, we’re kind of starting to see the end of it. What happened? What happens next? So we’re starting to think about the future and realize that we’re not going to go back to the way it was before.
KR: Just even a short scan of the main media and news outlets – the consensus seems to be that we’re not just going to go back to the way we were. This is not just some little holiday. Things are going to really look differently and we’re talking about everything really – the way we live, the way we work. It has implications for so many areas of our life – real estate, infrastructure, education, travel, entertainment – you name an area and it’s probably affected. We felt that it would be great to start talking to the visionaries and the key leaders in the different areas of life to see what their views are on on the big shifts.
KRG: I like to describe it as – there’s that saying – “if you don’t like how the table is set, then flip the table”. So we’ve flipped the table, consciously or otherwise. I think we’ve kind of had the table flipped on us. And so it’s like, okay, well, are we going to set the table back the way that it was before? Or are we going to use this opportunity to do something new? And I think people are like, yeah, we need to do things around climate change, etc. This is some of the stuff that we’ve talked about – changing the way, redesigning work so that it works for everybody. And using this as an opportunity to fix a lot of things that were broken before and there is that feeling of “anything is possible”. You know, there’s all of these changes that normally would have taken forever. I was listening to a podcast last night and they were talking – it was that kind of a branding/marketing expert in the language you use. I thought it was so interesting what she said – people have habit loops, so they have habits, like they go and get the coffee every morning. And the way that kind of brands a lot of brands or a lot of the marketing works is maintaining habit loops around people. Purchasing patterns. And so just thinking about that more broadly – all of our habit loops have been completely broken. And it’s usually really hard to change those. So it’s like – now that we’ve done that, it’s like we can do, you know, the hard thing has happened. It’s like creating more positive habit loops for us. So I think so for this episode, we’re interviewing each other because we have both been thinking and researching and talking in this space. So that can kind of contextualizes where we’re thinking and then in future episodes, we’re actually going to be interviewing key leaders, key thinkers who are thinking about the new future of work with a new future of presenting leadership, all the different industries and getting their their perspective on what comes next. Really exciting! So for now, I think the first question we want to talk about is, and I love this question this is from you, Kate, what is the biggest event that shaped your life?
KR: For me it would definitely have to be the birth of my son. I’ve got a six year old son. And before I had him I was, I guess, a crazy workaholic and quite naive. I guess I thought, not sure what all the women are complaining about, not sure what their problem is! I think it’s great. There’s no glass ceiling. There’s no problem. Really easy actually, to have a fantastic career as long as you work hard, but yeah, the moment I had my son, I realized that – wow! Then I felt like there’s a whole world out there that I had no idea existed. And I guess I was almost forced into learning psychology and neuroscience. I guess just as I put a lot of energy in the past into my work, I’ve put equally a lot of energy into researching neuroscience and psychology. What do I need to do as a parent to turn my baby into a genius, lol? Because almost every new parent has that idea that their baby is going to be the genius baby. So I’ve done a lot of research. It’s quite interesting but the biggest piece seems to be love and attention. That’s what feeds a human brain. In terms of brain development, all the neuroscience, all the research points to exactly that. And so then I started thinking, well, this is quite interesting because my work requires me to be at work all the time. Whereas my baby’s psychological development and mental health depends on me actually being there a lot and putting a lot of time into helping him grow and so on. Well, yeah, this is this is a little bit of a contradiction. What am I supposed to be doing here? And the more I researched it, the more I realized that actually the way the society is designed currently is not really working. When I was single, it was great. I could just spend all my time, all my energy, put it all into work. But if I were a carer and I’m not saying necessarily a parent – I might need to look after elderly parents or someone else, another relative. Things are much harder. It’s much harder to have a career in that situation or to be even a useful member of society, I guess, in the economic sense.
KRG: Yeah. And I think it’s so interesting, too, because you’re homeschooling your son. And so it’s like you’ve almost been the early adopter of the way that everybody has to work now, having their kids at home. But you’ve done that intentionally because you felt that that’s important. Well, like all the research that you’ve done, right? So it’s kind of like you’ve reshaped your whole life. And this is something you want to bring in for everybody.
KR: Yeah, exactly. In my case, it was quite easy initially, because of my role, to be a working mom. My son’s dad was quite supportive but I did realize that the workplace in general is not really supportive of our role as carers. So I did start thinking well, we really need to start making the workplaces much more human. And what does this mean in terms of – we obviously want to have a successful economy and to have good businesses. So the workplace, the work processes and the roles, they do need to be optimised. They need to be designed well. But at the same time, we need to make sure that this design is also optimised for this role of carers in our society. So that people who do want to look after children, the elderly, relatives, people with disabilities, anything like that – any caring role – the workplaces, the way we live, the way we work needs to support that. That’s what makes us human. That’s what made us successful as a civilization – our caring role, the fact that we were able to work together. As a society, we help each other. That’s what made us progress so rapidly. So I think that’s the future – work and living the way I see it would be eventually merged. Especially with all this new technology coming out, it is really helping us. So I’m really hoping to see technology step in and help us become more human, so that we can become more caring, a better society, a kinder, better society. But with the help of technology.
KRG: I was listening to a podcast last night or actually listening to the Canadian CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. And one of the major topics was how all this stuff with the Coronavirus has really exposed, speaking to the Canadian context, but I suspect it’s similar in other countries – how under- supported and under- resourced caring is, especially for the elderly. And it’s really important to see how we haven’t valued that as a society. So I think this conversation is now like, okay, we really need to be rethinking our priorities.
KR: Yeah, I agree. And I’m a big believer. It’s not necessarily that the government needs to pay for everything or the business needs to pay for everything or women need to just provide free labor and just do it regardless and just ignore all the negatives. I think it needs to be some sort of a hybrid combination where business recognizes that this is a must. Just like our work is not 24/7, we do have rights for annual leave, we have rights for holidays and so on – work has been designed around some constraints and I think this is an important constraint as well to incorporate into the design of work, and workplaces and everything else. And so there’s a role to be played by everyone really – the businesses, the government and us as individuals, to come up with some new innovative ideas so that caring is really completely embedded and our humanity is embedded in how we live and how we work. And I guess I’ll ask you the same question. What was your biggest event?
KRG: Well, probably two things. And it’s almost like – I was thinking about this – it’s almost like there’s a series of a whole bunch of different things that I think really changed my life in smaller ways, rather than maybe one or two, because I have I haven’t had a child so I think if I did, that would probably also be that big moment for me. But I actually think of two and the first is doing my PhD because I feel it’s like that child, like an idea baby, but in doing that there was a really transformative moment for me, which was that I had been researching social media before it was called social media, and narrowing my PhD topic onto Facebook. And as I was doing that I’d kind of gone in with this whole mentality of the way that the technology had been designed, was by kind of like a bunch of anti social computer nerds who didn’t really understand how people interact. And that’s why it was designed in a way that I found was not really good for humans, it was not really like, the way that we wanted to interact. And so at the time, it was very much – I mean, we’re used to this now, but at the time, since like 2008, Facebook was only four years old, and it was just becoming a mainstream thing that was being adopted. And as this was happening, it started out as being a school – it was at universities and colleges, and so people were using it in that context. And then slowly Facebook opened it up for everybody. And so as that shift was happening, you had all these people who suddenly had information that was for that college context, university context opened up to the whole world. And so you’re getting people fired for stuff that they put on social media, their landlords would kick them out, all sorts of stuff that people were having being super shocked about. And this is just normal now, this is just part of everyday life. And so I thought, Okay, well, you know, this is just because the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world don’t actually understand the way that regular people interact and designed the software that way. And so I had, and this is when you could still do this, I was at South by Southwest, which is this big Technology Conference in Austin, Texas, and Zuckerberg was there and speaking, doing a keynote and I went to a Facebook event and was able to actually go and talk to him. So I asked him about this because I was feeling really curious about you know, now that he’s seeing that it’s causing all of these problems for people, what academics at the time called context collapse when your different contexts of real life merge together. And I said – well, now that you’ve seen all this, are you going to change the design of Facebook? And he’s like, no, no. And he told me that it was an intentional design, because he believed that if you didn’t, if you weren’t the same in all contexts of your life, same in the way you are at school and in temple or church or with your family and with your friends, with your boyfriend, and at work, if you’re not the same, being the same, you’re pretending and it’s fake. So he’s like, “no, I believe that you’re lying if you’re not the same”. And so I realized in this conversation that he had actually intentionally done everything. It wasn’t like being anti social, like he didn’t know – he was very clearly intentional. And so that completely changed my thinking about social media and the internet and the way it had been designed and my PhD ended up being basically about how Zuckerberg and Facebook had intentionally used the platform to change the way that we think about privacy and sharing. And that just really was a huge moment for me. And really, now look, the longer term impact of that is that if we only have people who are thinking like that, which is a particular way of thinking, we have software that everybody has to use, that doesn’t really serve everybody, right? So if you’re Mark Zuckerberg, that serves your goal, you have at least certain beliefs about the world. Most people don’t think about the world that way. They like their privacy. For women, for example, there’s a number of reasons to have privacy and why privacy is important for our safety. So that just really shaped my thinking in that way. And yeah, it really changed my research. And then the second thing, this is a bit of a smaller thing. So this is how you and I met, it was basically where I live in Fremantle, near Perth in Western Australia. And you live in Sydney, on the other side of Australia and we met when you were living here. And it was because they were trying to build a freeway through an endangered wetland with endangered animals and flora and fauna that are really like critically endangered and important. And so we both had decided independently, this is before we met, but you know, we were going to go there and protest against it. So I had started a pop up co-working space in the wetland that you could go and do your work, you know because they were being accused of being, you know, professional protesters and all this nonsense. I was like – no! You know, we’re all serious people with jobs. We’re professionals in values.
KR: Exactly, we’re lawyers, accountants – everyone. Different members of society.
KRG: Yes. So that was how we met. We had so many people saying – “You’re not going to save the wetland, don’t worry, don’t waste your time. There’s nothing you can do.” And the best part of the story is that we actually did stop them from doing it. Yes! And for me, it was like: you know what? Everybody has the power to change the world. If you really believe in something, and if you put an effort into it, when you believe you don’t have power, that’s when you don’t have power. And so just that belief that you can actually make a difference if you really believe it. And even if you don’t make a difference, at least you tried, you did your best. But we all have the power to change it. And if we all remember that, think about how different the world could be! So these two stories have really shaped my thinking. But also I think they are really important for what we’re thinking about right now as as we are imagining this new future.
KR: And also do you see a big role of AR / VR, given you are a real expert and the industry leader in this space?
KRG: Yeah, that’s interesting because Facebook does own one of the big VR companies. And so it’s kind of, yeah, it’s an interest. I have been talking about that idea because I’m like you – I’m kind of an early adopter of the new future of work. You know, flexible work, working from home, working from anywhere. And what I had seen when the second wave hit – because we had VR in the 90s but it didn’t really catch on because it wasn’t really good enough – we’re in the second wave of VR now. When it first started, the first new headset came out. What I’d started predicting was that VR was going to enable us to really work from anywhere and enable that collaboration in a way that we couldn’t have prior to that. Because as you know, Skype is great, Zoom is great, but you don’t have those same kind of serendipitous interactions. Right now I’m actually doing some work with a tech company here in Perth called “Frame VR”. And we are creating VR spaces, basically VR venues for events, where delegates can come with headsets and have that experience where they’ll actually get to be physically in VR, but virtually physically present. And then they can have a breakout, like a networking event, where you can move around, you can talk to people. And so that ability to actually connect with people around the world and not having to travel – this is great for helping climate change. What’s happening now is accelerating that adoption of VR. So I think this is going to happen a lot sooner. And there’s already demand for these VR events. And Kate, I think you were you’re saying today that was happening – one of the big telcos here, Optus, is already doing that.
KR: Yes, they’re basically saying that – and Optus is one of the largest telcos in Australia – they’re saying that they expect many of their staff to be working remotely from now on even after the coronavirus ends, that this is a permanent change.
KRG: Yes. So I think that that speaks to the move towards being more open to different – and accelerating that adoption of new technologies to enable it. Because again, Zoom is great, but it doesn’t allow for the same kind of stuff. And then a VR is one thing, but then there’s also AR augmented reality and mixed reality which are very similar and I won’t get into like the nitty gritty of the differences between them. But the HoloLens which is Microsoft’s, it’s an augmented reality. So the idea of overlaying digital into the real has a lot of really great applications for people being able to work together on things because it means instead of being somewhere else entirely in VR together, like in a virtual environment, I can actually put on the headset and you can point to things in remotely. So it allows for you to go and for example, inspect things virtually, but it allows that mixing of the real and the virtual. So I think it’s not as developed as VR, but that is going to be the bigger application because it just allows for that kind of ‘almost like being there’ and being able to manipulate spaces when you’re from from the other side of the planet. So kind of exciting!
KR: And do you think also, that AR/VR will actually merge with the humans somehow? With our day to day life?
KRG: Oh, that’s getting into that whole trans-humanism thing. And as much as I love technology, I am still like, I’m not into being a cyborg or being a trans-humanist. I don’t really want implants. I like being human the way that I am. I like to be able to use technology and then take it off and put it away and go for a walk in nature and I think that’s so important for being human. So yeah, a lot of people are into that. I’m not really a big fan of that. I’m kind of like – it’s interesting and interesting features in that. I love technology, but also I love being in nature and being human!
KR: Same here. There is a place where I feel technology can help me with my health or something similar, but in a very kind of non invasive way. If it could tell me that something could go wrong or if I’m in the ‘danger zone’, I should do something about it. But I can switch it off. Yeah, something like that.
KR: I do want to ask another question – you know I have very particular views about how I see the future of work. I was wondering how you see it. What does the typical workplace look like for you, say, in 20 years’ time?
KRG: I think we’re probably pretty aligned with this, which is why we’ve had all these conversations about it and thought it would be important to start sharing these conversations and opening that up to a wider audience but also a wider group of people to have the conversations with. Ideally, I think it’s the same as you – I would really like to see it being something that is redesigned to work for everybody. Because right now as you say it- if you’re young and healthy, and you don’t have kids, you don’t have people you have to take care of, you don’t have health issues, you don’t have a disability – it works for you. But any of those other things, it starts to make it difficult and being able to make it work. But also the other thing that I’m really liking now is that people are seeing how, how much sure you can get in simplicity and how much sure you can get in rewards other than your career. So you know, spending time with your family and spending time with your friends – we don’t actually need a lot to be happy. And I think we’ve been very distracted. So how do we allow people to be creative and entrepreneurial, and still have those important things in life? So revaluing the importance of caring. And another thing that I think we want to talk about in a future episode is that idea of the universal basic income, right? And I think that allows for that to happen and there’s talk now of that being brought in, which is basically everybody gets a minimum income that they can live on. And then if they want to have more material goods in their life, then they can work and make more money on top of that, but it’s like a standard that everybody gets no matter what. And the early research on that shows that it definitely encourages people to be entrepreneurial and creative and do things and care rather than just, you know, being focused on the career. So I think that’s a very broad kind of vision. And I think we’re very aligned in that. And I think a lot of people are feeling that, right? It’s going to be hard to go back to working like crazy, like the way we were before. Everybody’s kind of gotten used to this new pace, broken the habit loop.
KR: In general, from a neuroscience perspective, although I’m not a neuroscientist, but from all the research I’ve done, it seems that you’re most capable of producing innovative ideas and just thinking well, thinking logically, thinking creatively when you are not scared. So if you’re really scared or angry, or one of those intense emotions, you can’t actually think properly. So I guess that whole idea of universal basic income, obviously needs some thought around how to make it work. But ultimately, we as humans will work better if we’re not really scared. So if we feel safe and secure – there’s that whole science around motivation, what motivates why some people are motivated way some others are not – but I do feel that we’re all better off as a society and we’re safer as a society if people have at least a minimum basic wage and then that kind of makes the whole place much better.
KRG: I think you’d also talked about how there’s research – because when we talk about flexibility in the workplace, for women, it’s often just women that we think about – but you looked in your research around how it’s really important for bringing up healthy kids and the future of society. So this is a very long term game that’s actually important for everybody. And also, men probably want to be spending more time with their kids and having more sanity in their lives as well. So this is really, for everybody.
KR: Exactly. And it’s not just kids – the way I personally see the future workplace is I feel like we will almost be merging our home life with our work life. And technology certainly will help with all of that. But ultimately, we are humans, we are social species. I’m not sure whether the whole current suburbia situation will keep happening. I feel like we might have these mini Silicon Valley type areas, maybe regional areas all around the country. Mini hubs where people live, close to work, or maybe work is actually more of a community based thing. Maybe we’ll have more of these co working spaces where everyone can come and they might be even be attached to the school and the aged care home. That’s just some of the ideas out there. I’m sure many people have many ideas about this, but I really feel like our normal life will merge with our work life and all the technology that’s coming out is really helping make it happen. So it’s actually a change not so much in technology as it is more around infrastructure. Because the biggest impact here is for our infrastructure, for our real estate. And now with the coronavirus, everyone can see many large companies are looking at very expensive real estate and thinking – do we really need to be taking out these five to 10 year leases paying millions when we could have a huge percentage of our workforce working remotely? What does that mean for us as a business? So I really see big shifts, big changes coming, but like with anything to do with infrastructure and real estate this takes many many years for this to happen, because of all the planning approvals and so on and obviously large investments, but from what I can see many councils, many regional councils in Australia do want to bring in the high tech jobs, the innovation, the research the R&D into their regional areas. And I just don’t see why we should be living in these large, big cities. And just bringing up all the the real estate prices, and traffic and so on. Spending hours every day in traffic in the car or in public transport when we could actually be all living in regional areas,
KRG: And spending more time with our families because we’re not having to commute two hours a day.
KR: Yeah, exactly. And just enjoying nature much more. And it’ll have tremendous environmental benefits as well because people have a lot less to drive. If everything is close – if your workplace, where your children are, where your parents are – that’s all close by, near to where you live and where you work – the enviros benefits coming out of that are huge, but also the social benefits are huge. And if we’re moving into these high tech jobs, the economy can really prosper, but with a much better lifestyle for all the residents of the country.
KRG: And so it’s it’s almost like we’re using digital technology to help us be more human again.
KR: Yes, exactly. And my personal view is VR will have a huge role to play in this as well. I guess the biggest criticism to having a remote workforce was this issue of not being able to interact just spontaneously and just not being able to grab someone next to you and just having a quick chat. So any technology that can help resolve that would be helpful.
KRG: Serendipitous conversation. Yes. So I think I think that’s a really great place to wrap up because we’ve kind of given everybody a taste of the kinds of things we’re going to talk about. And I think it’s also important to mention, too -I think we didn’t say this in the intro – but because you do a lot of work as a CFO now, you’re kind of at the coalface and seeing what companies are experiencing and talking about, so you’re kind of getting all this really juicy data that can help us. We should have mentioned this at the beginning, but yeah, you have this really good insight into what companies are thinking about right now. That is really, really insightful. So yeah, stay tuned for future episodes. Thanks.
KRG: Thanks, Kate.
KRG: Okay, and thanks everybody for listening to this first ever episode of the new future podcast.
KR: Thank you. Bye.