The New People Rules in a Virtual World


  • Keith Ferrazzi (all photos by Asa Mathat)

    Keith Ferrazzi (all photos by Asa Mathat)

  • Keith Ferrazzi

    Keith Ferrazzi


Keith Ferrazzi
Founder and CEO, Ferrazzi Greenlight

Read the full transcript below. (Transcript by Realtime Transcription.)

For more about Techonomy Detroit, including a complete archive of videos and transcripts, click here.

Kirkpatrick: We have Keith Ferrazzi coming on to talk about how you manage people and organizations. He’s done a lot of work, research work, and written a couple of books about networking, managing, and your becoming a new kind of person. So brace yourself: Keith Ferrazzi.

Ferrazzi: So the first thing I’d like to do is, I’d like to have the house lights up. Not, in fact, to embarrass the people leaving but instead to engage you a little bit more deeply because what I want to do in the next 15 minutes that we are together is I would like to give a little bit of a humanist twist, an experiential twist that I think will be helpful the rest of the day.

So look, we are a research institute on human behavior change. What that basically means is we all try to figure out why we all do the ridiculous things that we do, the wonderful things we do, and more importantly what are the interventions that can actually change human behavior. I have a full session right after this over in McGregor and the focus really is, what are the five undeniable rules to change anyone’s behavior? So if you are curious and would like to change your spouse’s behavior, your teen’s, your team’s, your sales force, whatever, come over and have fun with us.

So what I want to do is look specifically on a study we have done from a research institute which we have curated over two years, and the focus was interesting. What we looked at was, what were the highest needed and curated, or under-curated, behaviors for business advancement? In other words, what behaviors have to change the most for business to be successful? And what we found in this day and age, particularly in this technologically-enabled day and age, the relational and collaborative behaviors were the behaviors that needed to be changed the most in order to unleash value.

So think about this. The technology world has unleashed a very different world over the last 20 to 30 years. We are now fully global. We operate in totally virtual teams very often.

How many of you work on teams where you really don’t see the teams you work with frequently? Raise your hands. Most of us in the world today are working in more virtual teams.

How many of you work in some form of a matrix today? Raise your hands. The matrix has taken over the world of organizational design. So if you think about that for a second, we actually have a little thing that we say that influence is the new productivity. Influence is the new productivity. In fact, to get stuff done, influence, relationships, collaboration have to be radically unleashed.

Now here’s an interesting question. In the face of technology enablement, you tell me whether or not you believe in the last 20 to 30 years we have become more or less relational, more or less connected in terms of the humanistic side of our businesses. How many of you think that in the last 20 to 30 years we have decreased our relational competency in the workplace? Raise your hands if you think that to be true.

Well, that was an assumption that many people have made and we did the research and, in fact, we found it was true. Not only was it a general assumption but we actually found that the data was true. You take something as simple as a virtual meeting or a virtual team that many of you may be on, guess what? And I brought this little piece of paper to make sure that I got the data right because it is shocking actually. If you are in a virtual team, you actually have 90 percent decrease in your innovative capabilities, 80 percent decrease in trust in a fully virtual team, and 60 percent less likely to be on time and on budget for those projects in a fully virtual team. Now, that blew me away. With that piece of data, I decided that that didn’t have to be true. My gut told me that just because we are in a technology‑enabled world and we don’t see each other doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re doing the right things to enable the technology.

I launched a research project that was called What are the New People Rules in a Virtual World? In other words, what are we doing, what are we doing in our behavioral patterns? How are we using this technology that may be standing in the way of actually unleashing the possibility of, who knows, maybe in having greater relational and collaborative capabilities.

So we launched this study—and by the way I got a few folks to fund this study—wasn’t very difficult when I reached out to Cisco, Siemens Communications, and Cisco, because these organizations are delivering the kind of technology enablement and process enablement that causes this. So here was the question I asked. Let’s take a look at a physical meeting for instance.

Give me the house lights. If it can go up more, that would be great, because I want to have a dialogue. Thank you.

What do you do when you are waiting for a physical meeting to start as everybody is trickling in? Give me some shout-outs. You are chitchatting and that kind of stuff. It’s called small talk. Guess what small talk does?

Yeah, you check e‑mail. What generation are you from?

Guess what small talk does? Small talk quiets the reptilian brain. Anthropologically, 70,000 years ago you were hard‑wired to be looking for your tribe. When somebody wasn’t from your tribe it was dangerous and as a result it was something to be warned against, defended against. So the reptilian brain is going off hard‑wired. What happens is, when you are small‑talking, it is quieting the reptilian brain. As a result, you bound into the meeting; you actually have a greater degree of innovative capabilities, trust capabilities, you take more risks, et cetera.

Now, let’s spin that around. What are you doing? How many of you use some form of video conferencing or teleconferencing? Raise your hands. Of course we all do. What are you doing when you are waiting for everybody else to come to the calls? You are sitting there on your computer waiting for your video conferences to start. Now you are checking your e‑mail. No question. I don’t care what generation you are doing, you’re checking your e‑mail. Guess what that does? That radically decreases, as the data shows, the efficiency of that meeting, the risk‑taking abilities, et cetera.

But why do you have to be checking the e‑mail while you are waiting? That’s your choice, a people rule. So the question is, what are the new people rules? And we started a little bit of an intervention pilot and we tested. One of the things we tested at Cisco, ran it across their organizations for their use in telepresence. We said, at the end of the meeting we want you to do something different, a personal professional check‑in at the end of the meeting. Even blow by small talks. Small talk is just the weather, et cetera.

Come on, we are in Detroit, it is either raining or it’s cold, no big deal, we know what it is. So let’s go a little deeper in a personal professional check‑in. So I will give you one, a personal professional check‑in. It can be short. If I were doing one I would say, hi, I’m Keith Ferrazzi. Professionally, we’re very excited, a group of us some folks that were mentioned already up here, the founders of Groupon, myself, founders of Zappos, we just started a new online technology platform for learning, experiential learning, because we fundamentally believe that what you have in your pocket is actually an amazing coaching device which is untapped today. So really excited about that. If anyone would like to talk about it, I would love to.

On a personal basis, we have a 12‑year‑old foster son that came into our home two to three years ago. He’s now 15, and I have kind of got this new resolution, and the resolution when somebody says how are things going with your son, I no longer tell them, because frankly, it’s bad—all the time! He’s horrible. He’s horrible, but we love him. He’s a kid who, as with all foster children, you are relationally child, you are abandoned, you are relationally damaged, and you are put into a foster home where you are treated transactionally the rest of your life. You have no relational competency. You are thrown out at age 18.

And 80 percent of the U.S. prison population came from foster care. I repeat that: 80 percent of the U.S. prison population came from foster care.

So anyway, our foundation is actually investing in a system to reinvent foster care in Los Angeles and we’ve been able to take—from the pilot of 100 kids, we have been able to take 35 percent of the kids and into adoptive parents. We’re excited about that. And along the way I fell in love with this kid, who makes my life hell; and I could give you details. So that’s a personal and professional check‑in.

Now let me pause for a second. You all have been bumping around doing small talk, talking about you want to talk about. I’ve got four more minutes. I will give two to three of them right back to you right now. I want you to before lunch do a personal and professional check‑in with someone sitting next to you. Do it right now and I want you to see what a people rule, an intervention you could actually choose to do at any point in your life, will actually make a difference in this conference for you. Go for it right now, personal and professional.

[People talk amongst themselves]

Ferrazzi: Make sure you all will get a chance to share. You have 30 seconds to wrap this up. 30 seconds.

[People talk amongst themselves]

Ferrazzi: All right. Come on back, come on back, come on back, come on back. Come on back.

I have lost control of the audience. All right. Just so, lights back up for me again, please. Just really quick, how many people enjoyed that process? All right. And what did you notice as you were sharing what you were sharing? Any observations? Don’t specifically say what was shared but more what observations you had. Anything you could shout out?

Audience Member: (Inaudible).

Ferrazzi: Beg your pardon?

Audience Member: It was easier to connect with people.

Ferrazzi: It was easier to connect with people. Yes. It actually got you more engaged and thinking about how you could be helpful.

Audience Member: We had similarities.

Ferrazzi: Isn’t that interesting? How many of you found that some of this stuff you were sharing, you absolutely had in common? Right. So here’s the deal. Get over yourselves, you’re not unique. And it’s amazing, I have done this within organizations where literally people who have been working on virtual teams or even physical teams over a period of time found out they literally lived within five houses of each other. All right?

So there is no reason, there is no reason that technology has dissipated our connectivity, our emotional resonance and emotional collaboration. If you ever question that, just look at how your kids use the technology—and in my view they use it way too intimately, but they use it in very intimate and connected ways. This is a generational issue. There is a relational with regard to the physical competency for the next generation we will work on as well but nonetheless you have something to learn. If you want to learn how to change your behavior, join me at the McGregor session I. If you want to know more details, this wonderful woman who is my business partner and associate there, she’s the data person, former CEO over at Gallup Consulting and did the employee engagement stuff. Now she’s our resident beautiful wonk in the company. If you want to talk data, talk to her, not me.

And what else can I say? What else can I say is, take a little bit of this intentionality into lunch. Right? You’ve practiced. One of the things we learned about human behavior change is that small doses of incremental change ultimately create behavioral transformation. Not knowledge and information. Not telling you something which allows you to do something which I got you to do. That taste is a higher likelihood of shifting behavior. So now as you go into lunch, keep it up. Ask the people at lunch, give me a personal and professional check‑in. Maybe just ask the people at lunch, how can I help? Why were you here? Be curious. If you walked around for the rest of the time being curious about people and giving a damn, you might be amazed to see how much you might get out of the rest of this event and take that back into your teams. See you later.


Kirkpatrick: That was interesting. I did not know that was what he was going to do. But you can see, we don’t just cheer‑lead about technology here, which I think is healthy. Because look, nothing is simple.

Tags: , ,