In Episode 8 we speak with Dr. Lynn Gribble, who is one of Australia’s founding coaches, an accidental academic and an award-winning author and university lecturer.
She’s known as a digital innovator for her work in technology enabled academia and she calls herself a “pragmatic futurist coach”. She also helps people to “future proof” their careers in an ever-evolving workplace.
We spoke with Lynn from Sydney, Australia where she lives and works.
We discussed a range of topics relevant to companies of any size including:
More information and show notes can be found on the episode page.
For more on Andrew - what he speaks about and replays of recent talks, please visit ActionableFuturist.com follow @AndrewGrill on Twitter or @andrew.grill on Instagram.
Welcome to the Practical Futurist Podcast, a bi-weekly show all about the near term future with practical advice from a range of global experts to help you stay ahead of the curve. Every episode answers the question. "What's the future of ...?" with voices and opinions that need to be heard. Your host is international keynote speaker and Practical Futurist Andrew Grill.Andrew Grill:
Welcome to episode eight of the Practical Futurist podcast. My guest today is Dr. Lynn Gribble, who is one of Australia's founding coaches, an "accidental academic" and an award winning author and university lecturer. She's known as a digital innovator for her work in technology enabled academia and she calls herself a pragmatic futurist coach. She also helps people to future-proof their careers in an ever evolving workplace. Lynn is coming to us live today from Sydney, Australia. Welcome Lynn .Lynn Gribble:
Hi Andrew. Lovely to chat.Andrew Grill:
Now we first met while working at the number two telco in Australia, Optus back in the late nineties and as I remember, I was working in the technical training team. You were in the corporate training team. Little did I know that 23 years later you'd be on a podcast with me today and I'm so glad that you're here.Lynn Gribble:
Thanks for that. I think that that's also what we're going to be talking about today, how the future of work is really as much about the past that you've worked in and the relationships you build and actually future-proofing your career is about thinking not just for today but for the future as well.Andrew Grill:
Now you're say on your LinkedIn headline that you are facilitating learning at the highest level as a trainer, coach and speaker, what does that mean for you in practice?Lynn Gribble:
I work with people to really try to shift their thinking. So to facilitate at the highest level is to not just look at the answers, but to look at what led to that answer, to look at what led to the question. So when people come to me and say, oh well I want to do this or I wished I could do that, it's what's underneath that, and when they can unpack that, they can then harness the power that enables them to work differently and approach the challenges and problems and the day differently than from the current space that they're looking at it.Andrew Grill:
Now this whole notion of people management, it's a very broad term. How can you best define it and do you think in this day and age that people actually want to be managed?Lynn Gribble:
Do you know, I think that very few people want to be managed perhaps in our space. So once people have a certain amount of education, they're actually very self managing . Where the challenge comes in is how do we get people to come together to actually give their absolute best? And so it's not a case of managing someone, but actually managing the circumstances around them and the things that will come to them - what might get in their way, what might motivate them, what might de-motivate them. So if you're the manager of a team and you start to think about what are blockers that are going to hit my team this week, or what things could happen that might derail the team and you start to manage that, then your people can really soar. So it's about supporting people and ensuring that those people have the best chance to perform, not just getting caught up in maybe a politic that they're not even interested in. They may not even understand what's going on. So it's really important that people who manage people recognize that they're complex human beings and they come to work with a myriad of things on their minds and on their desks, and therefore, how we deal with that is what enables them to perform their best. So you're not actually managing them, you're managing everything around them to enable them to be best.Andrew Grill:
So true. So you believe the future is all about the softer skills rather than disciplinary skills. Can you give me an example of the difference between the two?Lynn Gribble:
In this day and age, more and more people have degrees, have got fantastic disciplinary knowledge, and the disciplinary knowledge is constantly evolving and changing. I mean, you're a Practical Futurist. You talk all the time about how technology is going to change work and all of those sorts of things. Technology can do wonderful things, but the thing that you can bring to a job that nobody else can bring is you. And so you're unique in how you put things together, how you see things, how you can imagine things working is so different than the person who's sitting next to you. And so it's that that we need, we need people to connect people. We need people to have empathy. We need to understand broader picture things. So machines can learn, they can learn from having been exposed to something, artificial intelligence, we can teach it that. But what we can't teach artificial intelligence to do is to make that human connection, which is often the deep relationship that changes everything. I mean, as you said, who would've thought 23 years ago, we'd be sitting here this afternoon talking halfway across the world. So it's all about keeping those deep relationships and who knows where they lead.Andrew Grill:
So you work a lot in this whole discipline of people management. Why is it so important in a digital age to keep these skills current and to frankly to keep teaching them?Lynn Gribble:
I can get a machine today, you can get a machine today and we can all go buy the same machine today and it's going to do exactly the same thing. What will make the company better, what will make an organization better, what will make you better at your job is what you bring to that. So it's about how you find those connections, how your thinking about those things so that all of a sudden you can see a solution that you hadn't previously thought of. Information is all there today. Thank good ness we can get things really at the click of a button, flick of a switch that's making businesses very competitive with each other. The only true sustainable, competitive advantage we have is the difference that the people bring to it. We can tomorrow go and get exactly the same technology, we can recreate exactly the same thing. We mightn't be first to market, we could be second to market, but who knows, we might improve on it? What we can do though is have the people who are going to have the right culture and a couple of weeks ago you talked about this. When you talk to the people from Atlassian and what we see is those people make that difference and that's what makes a company smart. So if you can go in and build good relationships, bring your whole self to work, that's empathetic to the customer, there's empathetic to the situation you're trying to solve, that can quickly adapt because you don't have to necessarily go and learn something new, your brain is infinitely capable of thinking about something in a different way, straightaway provided you can shift your frame of thinking,Andrew Grill:
So it leads me onto a point and Dom covered it with Atlassian, this notion of the future of work and everyone has a different view. Dom talked about people, place, and purpose and a few other things, that's something I talk about, but big question, what is the future of work?Lynn Gribble:
The future of work is going to be self directed. It's going to be asynchronous. It's going to be at a time and place that suits you and then matches with an employer. The future of work is going to be more about the gig economy. Fewer people will have a permanent place to go or go there for a long period of time. What they'll do is they'll take their skillset and that skillset will be sought after today in this organisation or in this situation tomorrow in a different organization in a different situation. So what it's going to take more than anything is for people to be agile and able and willing to say that they don't need the security of one particular organisation, that they're actually starting to take responsibility and ownership for themselves and basically a free marketplace of skills that are brought in and work together and then disband and go off to do the next thing.Andrew Grill:
I'm so glad you've talked about this because I'm a big proponent of this whole gig economy, not just for delivery drivers but for people like ourselves, you know professionals. I was actually talking to a client yesterday on the phone in Canada and they are advising a client on a building that they're building in seven years time and they said, Andrew, what will the future of work be and how will we design the space? And I took it the other way and I said, well, think about it. If we are going to be in a gig economy, if I'm going to be working two days here and three days there and one day here, not only will I need to have transportable data and security, I'll need to transfer my insurance, my pension, my payroll, but it means that I'm not always going to be in your space. And I think companies will need to design spaces to be completely flexible that they may not have a five day a week workforce . I think you're absolutely right and it's a bit like a portfolio career for many people that get sick of corporate life.Lynn Gribble:
I think it's even bigger than what you're suggesting. So rather than it being a portable pension plan and portable payroll, it will be a case of spaces where when I do go to that place to work with that client, that I can actually create - think like an airline lounge where there's a space to work. I can choose how I want to work, how I use that space. It's not about the tables and the chairs, it's not even about the room. It's going to be about can I get great broadband from there or I can't get it at home? Am I going to be able to get a space that's quiet? Am I able to go in and use a green screen when I need to or a collaborative space when I need to. So it's the notion of what was in the 1980s a serviced office and people used as they needed it, expand that, make it cooler and groovyer so that there's some places to hang out and some places to meet informally as well. And then as you said, there will be 24x7 and the thing that will change with that is we're going to have to look at child care differently. We're going to have to look at schooling differently because even schooling is changing so that many of the high schools now are doing lots of their lessons on the web. And so this will mean that we're going to have a workforce that's learned to do things in one space and then come together and those workspaces are going to be about coming together.Andrew Grill:
So I think technology will play here, and we spent the first part of this recording talking about how people are so important. Do you think there's one piece of technology that will fundamentally be the driver of change in the workplace in the next three to five years?Lynn Gribble:
It has to be artificial intelligence because just as computers and word processing change the nature of business, the next thing that will change it has to be machine learning and artificial intelligence, which is fantastic because it's going to free humans up to do far more creative and innovative and value-add work. Somebody said to me today, aren't you frightened a robot is going to take away your work? I said, please find a robot to take all the things off my desk that add absolutely no value to the day that my qualifications, that everything I can bring are actually not used, but they're necessary, right? They're important, but a machine could do that. If I had that amount of hours extra every day, how much more creative could I be? How much more innovative, how much more could I add in terms of output, change delivery by just taking the fundamentals off my desk.Andrew Grill:
I'm sitting here smiling because I talk all the time in my keynotes about the notion of a "digital agent". If you think about the phone that's in front of you, it knows everything about you. It knows your next appointment, it knows your bank balance, it knows where you'll be next week. If you could have AI run over that and get rid of all the minute, so for example, my health insurance is due in November, so rather than me having to go to a comparison website, see if I'm getting ripped off, it knows it's due . It goes out and does digital deals with digital agents from all the companies and in microseconds it comes back and Google last year launched a thing called Google Duplex. Not sure if you saw it where basically you say to Google, "hey Google, I want to book a restaurant tonight at 7:30" and Google says is eight o'clock okay, if that's not available, yes it is. The Google Assistant, the Duplex assistant actually rings the restaurant and uses speech to text AI to have a conversation and negotiate with the restaurant about a time and comes back and tells you its booked. When I show that at conferences there is a two minute video, people go, wow. And I say, would you like that now? And they say, yes. I say, well, if you're in the US and have a Google Pixel 3, it's available now. So the technology is almost there and I really believe we're probably a year or two away from someone offering this service to basically scrape everything from your phone and make your life easier, and as you say, you can then spend more time thinking and enjoying life than booking restaurants.Lynn Gribble:
I say that the hardest working people in my home are my robot vacuum and Google home, Siri and Alexa. So we do have all of them. And I have all of them because at the moment they are not integrated well enough, the technology is just not quite developed enough. But with all of those extras doing that, I'm freed up probably for 2+ hours a week. So I just think about being able to magnify that and right down to the fact that work will change because you will no longer have the receptionist sitting there meeting you and saying, okay, let me check if so-and-so's in. So they'll be meeting you, there'll be the face of the company and there'll be the "Director of First Impressions". But what they will be doing is managing multiple digital assistants to make the whole place run. So there'll become more technology enabled and this is going to change those jobs. And then think about how far work has changed in terms of that there are very few personal assistants where it's one personal assistant to an executive these days. We see it at the very, very top of the tree, but we don't see it the rest of the way down. When that was first muted and you know you and I've been around a while, Andrew, so we remember when it was, you know you had a team assistant, people went, ooh one team assistant for 12 people. Now we look at it, we go probably you don't even need that. Technology is going to mean that those jobs are actually freed up to go and do valuable work and that money, that expenditure, that space is going to be adding different value. The machines can do all the stuff. That's just the day-to-day.Andrew Grill:
I think it's an opportunity rather than a threat. Your PhD thesis looked at the psychological underpinnings of the effect of retrenchment and so I want to explore that for a bit. Do you think the stigma of retrenchment has been reduced recently because it seems to be happening more and more as companies need to cut costs and technology and some of the job roles are being taken over?Lynn Gribble:
Well, firstly, I have to thank you for not falling to sleep, as you said, that very, very long title. And there is a difference now because we have fewer people who are permanently employed. And so now we have a couple of changes. We have millennials who've never seen a recession and therefore they don't know what it is to not have work or to fret about work or to worry about will there be another job, they just pack up and they move to the next job. So I think until we see a global financial situation again that impacts this, retrenchment at the moment is not being talked about at the same level it was, but it is a cyclical thing. And unfortunately companies still use retrenchment in place of performance management. So instead of saying, look, this is not a match for our business and having a proper conversation, there's a people management thing for you really thinking about is this person, despite their best efforts, may not just be a good fit for the company or the company may not be a good fit for them, but for whatever reason they get a little bit paralyzed and they stay there and then the company says, well, we will force the hand by giving you a retrenchment. And that's where we still see it's got a bit of a stigma because people know that if that happened, why didn't you see the writing on the wall? So I think it depends on what industry you're in. I always joke and say, if you haven't got at least three retrenchments on your CV, you're probably not trying hard enough. And at the same time, because of this change to gig economy, we're not seeing it at the same level we were.Andrew Grill:
Now you mentioned the word millennials , so I'm going to touch on that for a moment. We hear a lot about the fact that millennials expect a different way of being managed. I've actually had first- hand experience of this, IU had to train or actually re-train some millennials on my team about simple business etiquette, like not criticising your boss in front of the client. And in this instance when I provided constructive feedback to this particular person, they actually thanked me. They said no one had actually taught them this was the way to behave. So perhaps a loaded question, but should Universities be teaching these skills before students hit the workforce?Lynn Gribble:
Well, in the classes that I teach, that's all of my focus is on these softer skills and on how do we present and how do we influence and how do we think about ethical dilemmas, and are we information literate and things of that nature. I teach in the management space, I work with undergrads and postgrads and I'm always saying to them, don't just look at the company, when you go for an interview you've got to show how you are going to add incredible value to this company that no other candidate is going to do. I think that the greatest challenge is that with all of the rise of technology, we've got an inflated disinhibition effect. And so if you've ever sent an email and go oops, or posted something gone, oops, that's disinhibition of fate at , at it's sort of height. And so what we see for people is that they've grown up with a mobile phone in their pocket and if it rings, they just stop what they're doing and answer that phone, nobody's ever said to them, actually that's really rude. So when you do say it for the first time, sometimes they'll look at you quite incredulously and say, well, you know, how dare you tell me that it's rude. So I think you've got to handle the feedback really carefully. But having just come off from a 10 week professional skills program, I was really interested in how often I had to remind people, I can see you with your phone in front of your face between you and me while we're talking, and they would look at me really stunned. Like, can you really say that? I'd say think about the message that that's sending. So it's as much a case of that we've got a new way of working that the people before them didn't know, so couldn't help them to guide that change in protocol. And I think that it's not just about millennials being managed differently, it's about the fact that we are seeing situations now where it's less clear what the protocols are. So if you don't take some time to learn those protocols, if you don't become observant of how is it done here and if it is done in a certain way that's not getting you where you want to go ... Think about when we were at Optus , you were not allowed to have your phone on in a meeting. Today if you said that to somebody, they'd say are you crazy? But I always remind people that probably they don't need their phone on for that 15, 30 minutes unless there's an emerging crisis.Andrew Grill:
There are even people now that have like a phone "sin bin" when you walk in. But I do remember in fact, one of my colleagues at Telstra after Optus, we used to text each other across the table, almost like a running commentary of how the meeting was going. These days, you'd use WhatsApp, but I think you're so right, and even in the millennial situation I had, I would have one on one meetings, like a review meeting and they'd have their phone out. I would actually not slam it down, but say, look, can you please put your phone down because you need to be in the room. If you're in the room, be in the room as my friend Nigel Risner says. Now I've known you for such a long time, one thing that many people may not know about you is that you were once an international ice skater. That's a random fact and an amazing one. I imagine this helped prepare you well for later corporate life as you're able to draw upon your dedication and grit as a skater. So what lessons did you learn from this period of your career and what do you pass on to your clients?Lynn Gribble:
Skating teaches you that no matter how hard you work, something still on the day can go wrong, right, and so you work less from a space of perfection and more of a space of recovery, which is what do I need to do to make it happen? So I think that's the first thing that skating really teaches you to do. Skating makes you incredibly resilient. Trust me, nobody gets up in the morning at 3:30 or whatever and basically pounds your body against something that's harder than cement, minute after minute after minute. And you keep getting up and you keep going because of that ultimate goal of when I master this, and so the other thing skating teaches you to do is to keep working towards mastery, and it doesn't matter if you can do something then keep practicing it because it will get better and better and better if you push for that. And I think there's a lot of joy when you realise that you can actually overcome just about any hurdle. So I think that we need to really look for things that we can draw upon our strengths. And say, this is what I'm really good at. The analogy I used recently was somebody asked me how did I go? And I used a skating analogy. I said I went out and did what I had trained to do, and they looked at me and I said all I could do was what I had in my bag and I had trained to do. And I then used the analogy, but I hadn't planned to do a quad. I don't even have one in my backpack. So I just went out and did all my triples really well. I executed really well and I'm happy and I realised that that's a very valuable thing to know.Andrew Grill:
You're a different academic. You're not just teaching all the time. You have worked in corporate life and you sort of span both. So you're a bit more pragmatic, a bit more practical in your approach, like I am. So what are organisations getting wrong in terms of how they manage talent?Lynn Gribble:
I call myself an accidental academic because this was not planned, but it's sort of evolved. But what organisations often can't tell their people is that their technical skills may be brilliant, but they might just be approaching a situation in a way that's not helping. So often for organisations, it's very hard for them to unpack the banter, so the conversation that you and I might have socially as to is that's what's really happening when they're with the client or when they're at their work? So as the boundaries between work and home have blurred and we have more social time at work, et cetera, organisations are struggling to know how to give that feedback and how to mentor, and how to help people to look beyond the day to day. They're so busy and it's all about delivery, delivery, delivery. If you don't get some space to think beyond the delivery, then you'll have nothing to deliver tomorrow. So we've got to ensure for organisations that they allow and encourage risk. If they punish risk, then you'll get no innovation.Andrew Grill:
This is something that's keeping me awake at the moment, because I'm actually doing my fifth TEDx about the corporate spark of innovation. And when I go and talk to boards, they're all saying, you know, what do we do? And I say, you need time to think. You need time to allow your people to fail. Oh, we can't do that because failure is bad. And so I'm slowly, slowly trying to encourage people to take more risks. Final question before I ask you a few three tips for next week. This is a biggie . Ethics in business is something that comes up a lot with my audiences. Are we adequately addressing the question of ethics in business at all levels in vertical organisation and how can managers learn to be more ethical?Lynn Gribble:
The ethical question comes down to fundamentals. Would you do this to somebody else? How would you feel if somebody did this to you? So we often sort of say, well, it should be buyer aware or buyer beware . And I go, but if the buyer doesn't know and it's outside of their conscious competence to ask, then we have a responsibility. To be ethical is to be able to put yourself in somebody else's shoes and think about the outcome for that person. Think about what would happen if this affected my family, my friends, my loved ones. Would I still take this action? Go back to the Norman Vincent Peale view of if this was on the front page of this splashed all over, I don't know, social media tomorrow, would I still do it and if the answer is no, then stop. If the answer is, ooh, I don't feel comfortable about that, stop. If you wouldn't want it to happen to yourself or somebody else, then stop. Ask yourself, can somebody get injured or killed and then really stop and ask yourself, will somebody be hurt? Because if somebody's going to get hurt, that's not okay. We can come from a place of good so quickly by just asking those fundamental questions and then we can get it right, but I also want to touch on Andrew, your comment about risk-taking because if we punish people when they get it wrong, if the reward system only rewards short term thinking or only reward the outcome, not the input. If we don't look at how did you get there, then that leaves the door open for unethical behavior. If we say to somebody, okay, we didn't get there, you know 100% but we got there 90% and guess what, our clients really love us and we're getting great reviews and we're doing all this and we've really taken some time and some thought around how we've done this and we've cared for people. We won't get it always right because there are always unintended consequences, but we will get it more right than wrong if we take that time and think about others in the process.Andrew Grill:
I love the link between risk and ethics and I think if people thought more about that, we might have a better business environment.Lynn Gribble:
You and I could talk for hours on that.Andrew Grill:
That would be podcast number 12 or something. I've got to hold your feet to the fire because this is the Practical Futurist podcast, so what are the three things our listeners can do next week to ensure they have leaders ready for the digital age?Lynn Gribble:
First thing, stop worrying about building a network and start building a deep relationship with people. Really connect. The second thing is find something that you can take a small risk on and go out and take that risk so that you try something new and challenge yourself to do something new frequently. Whether that's once a week, once a day, set yourself a time frame . Make sure you do something new and something that will make you a little bit uncomfortable, but that you can ultimately master or determine that it's really not for you. And the third thing is actually say, how can I be kinder and more connected to the people I work with? Because I believe that every single person gets up every day to fundamentally do good work or be good. There are very few people, in fact, we know that. You know people who are basically bad in the world end up in prison . So we'll just park that to the side. But in corporations, they're fundamentally full of good people. If you look for good and you focus on good, you'll get more good. If you're constantly telling people where they get it wrong, guess what? They just get frightened. They get paralyzed, they can't grow.Andrew Grill:
Three brilliant tips. Thank you. Lynn, how can our listeners find out more about you and your work?Lynn Gribble:
Well, they can reach out to me via our website through talkingtrends.com.au and that's the easiest way to get me. And of course there's lots of other talks that they can access. Just if you look up Lynn Gribble , you'll find my views on mobile phones and how disruptive they are to our mental wellbeing as well.Andrew Grill:
That's had 20 million views so far, that video its huge.Lynn Gribble:
23 million we clicked last night.Andrew Grill:
That's worth watching. Lynn , thank you so much. I do hope its not another 23 years before you're back on the show, but thank you so much for your time today.Lynn Gribble:
Thanks Andrew. It's been great to chat.Outro:
Thank you for listening to the Practical Futurist podcast. You can find all of our previous shows at futurist.london and if you like what you've heard on the show, please consider subscribing via your favorite podcast app so you never miss an episode. You can find out more about Andrew and how he helps corporates navigate a disruptive digital world with keynote speeches and c-suite workshops at futurist.london. Until next time, this has been the Practical Futurist podcast.