Is being in a real conference room w/ whiteboard better for collaboration? w/ Jo Widawski CEO @ Maze

Remote collaboration just isn't the same. So I've heard many times. But remote collaboration 🦄 companies & tools seem to prove that wrong.



3/14/202244 min read

Here's the recap..In today's episode I spoke with my good friend, Jonathan Widawski, the CEO & Co-founder of Maze Design. I've heard so many times over the years, even from some remote leaders, that the digital whiteboard& overall collaboration experience just isn't the same as in real life. I tend to not agree with that, as I helped build a successful remote collaboration platform (that also was a remote company). So I wanted to speak to Jo who's currently doing the same. His team has grown 3x during the pandemic. We started off by finally settling on whether remote collaboration is indeed inferior. Spoiler: It's not in 99% of cases. We did highlight the one use case where IRL is the better experience. We spoke about Maze's process on how they make company & product decisions remotely. We spoke about what tools Maze uses for remote collaboration. We then dove into the topic of async. Being they just rolled out a new beta feature for async remote testing. I wanted to know what Maze was doing to move the company towards async.

Jonathan Widawski on Linkedin

Jonathan Widawski on Twitter


Is remote collaboration better than in person? It's the 1% vs 99% question

Jo is a believer after building and leading remote teams for years, remote collaboration wins at the end of the day. Well, at least in 99% of cases. He brought an interesting use case he learned from a mentor to define that 1 time when in-person is better. For most questions or issues a team (especially early-stage startup) runs into are rock problems. They know what the exact problem is. There's a 200 kilo rock in the middle of the garden. They know exactly what the solution/end game is. The rock gets moved over to the fence. The question is collaborating to solve the defined issue. How many people/what tools are needed to move the rock from point A to point B.

The 1% case was defined as the monkey problem. I call you telling you I'm 5-minutes out from your house. I'm dropping off my sick monkey for you to watch because I have to go work. End of story. In this case, you (or your team) have no idea why monkeys get sick, or what types of sicknesses monkeys get, what behavior sick monkeys have, etc, etc. So the problem isn't defined. You also don't know what the solution is. Is there medicines to give to monkeys? Does your local vet have experience with monkeys, etc. So the team comes together to throw together ideas to help define the problem, the solution, and how to potentially solve.

In this case, having everyone in a room with a whiteboard face to face can make the difference.

How to sure everyone is engaged when collaborating remotely

There were quite a few great points made here. The first, is no remote collaboration meeting has more than 5 people. Potentially taking the idea from Amazon of the 1 or 2 pizza pie meetings. The fewer people in the meeting the greater the opportunity each person is engaged and has the opportunity to participate. The larger the group, the easier it is for people to get drowned out. Especially introverts.

The next tip was to share the detailed agenda a few days prior. Opening up collaboration and conversation before a meeting ever takes place. Everyone comes to the meeting fully prepared on what the meeting will be about and expectations. Another opportunity for full participation.

A third idea put the emphasis on the meeting host. Giving them the responsibility to ensure everyone has equal opportunity to participate. One way is giving every member a set time to share feedback and thoughts. A timer is used to ensure everyone has the same time to relay feedback. It also prevents people from taking over the meeting.

Async is the future

Maze just rolled out a Beta feature for clips. Taking a full UX testing session and cropping everything out except for the mistakes/slip ups. First off, allowing these remote tests to be done asynchronously. A big step in the right direction. Second, rather than having to watch a 20 minute clip for example, you only watch 90 seconds of the slip ups. This allows you to scale the number of potential tests and thus getting so much more data in return. It also allows the team to focus a little time on review the videos, perhaps as a team, and more time coming up with those solutions.

The company as a whole is moving towards this direction operationally. Moving away from synchronous zoom calls towards long form writing and use of audio/video.

Scott - [03:14 - 03:17]

Hey, Joe. How are you today?

Jonathan - [03:17 - 03:19]

Hey, Scott. Good to see you. How are you?

Scott - [03:19 - 03:25]

You too. I'm glad to see you're feeling better. How was the past week? You haven't been feeling so well.

Jonathan - [03:25 - 03:28]

Yeah, I was anticipating Covidence.

Jonathan - [03:28 - 03:38]

It was not covered in the end. So lost at the lottery. But, yeah, I've seen better days. But now it's all the better. But it's been pretty much everywhere.

Jonathan - [03:38 - 03:50]

We've had covered cases all over Maid. so it's interesting because, it's unifying in a way, right? Working in 33 countries and having coverage. We are so spread out that everyone can relate to everyone's experience. Interesting.

Scott - [03:50 - 04:19]

It's also been crazy times. I think even going back to the beginning of any time somebody, at least in my home, had a runny nose or a cough or this, it's like the first thing my wife all the time, I think one of my kids, my daughter, has congested. And so I said maybe I'll give her a COVID test this morning. Why is it covet? But there's so many things that we've gone, and she had, like, a strep test two weeks ago that came back negative.

Scott - [04:19 - 04:23]

Maybe it was like a virus and there's a flu going around, and there's a Covenant and all this kind of cast.

Scott - [04:23 - 04:28]

You just can't win. It's just crazy stuff.

Jonathan - [04:28 - 04:39]

We live in a world where coughing is illegal as well now, so it's just you can cough outside. we went to Greece with my girlfriend. I was a bit sick.

Jonathan - [04:39 - 04:48]

I started coffee in the restaurant. And everyone gives you a sad day. Like, it's illegal. It's interesting. It's been a very interesting development of things.

Scott - [04:48 - 05:01]

It's been quite interesting. Now, anytime I'm inside and somebody cough, maybe once I give them the benefit of doubt. If they cough like a second or third time, it's like, what the hell are you doing here? You should know better. You should be out somewhere else.

Scott - [05:01 - 05:16]

And the first time after the first wave last almost like two summers ago in Israel. We're, I think, past the first wave pretty much, I think, before everybody else. And the first time I went out to, like, a restaurant so nice. It was an outdoor restaurant. It was great.

Scott - [05:16 - 05:41]

And also cough in our sneeze over there and kind of like getting the mask on you're, like you're outdoors and the waves passed. And this thing is exactly you have, I guess, that embedded fear and that trauma inside of somebody coughing and sneezing. It'd be interesting to see psychologically how long this lasts. Once, eventually this pandemic end. When that mental changes.

Jonathan - [05:41 - 05:56]

I think at this point in time now, a whole generation is just doomed to be afraid of anyone that's near our car. But, yeah, it's been crazy. It's been even crazier, I would say, for the parents. We've had a bunch of new parents at Maze.

Jonathan - [05:56 - 06:13]

Kids are basically disease, magnets. Right. So it's, everywhere in the home. And I feel like remote has helped a lot for them as well. Like the ability, to stay home, to not be reliant on support.

Jonathan - [06:13 - 06:28]

I've seen the opposite where you have to go to work, you have to find replacement, you have to find someone who can take up. It's just a nightmare to deal with. So at least there was that. I feel. Did you experience any of this on your end?

Scott - [06:28 - 06:54]

Yeah, I'd say there are two sides that are coined totally on this, and I've spoken about this on previous episode. On one side, I've had, like, this kind of opening question of, whether people, when you work remotely, do take sick days off because you used to be in the old mentality. You have to go, you have to get on a bus or train, 60 minutes, go out, it's raining, it's cold, it's like this and that and the other. You don't have medicine, you don't have tea. When you're at home, you have all the things.

Scott - [06:54 - 07:20]

It's warm, it's comfortable, you're in your bed. So are people less likely to take that time off, or do they feel like I really have to be sick in order to take that time off? Because I'm at home, I'm in bed and I have my tea, I have my medicine, I'm not going, I'm not sleeping outside. That's kind of to your point, it's great because the parents are home, so they don't themselves have to take a day off and worry about the kids. You have the right environment where you can take care of the kids.

Scott - [07:20 - 07:45]

You can be there. You don't have to worry. I think it's fantastic, but I feel on the other side, for me, I've been battling at some point some crazy anxiety and stress of when the kids like when the kids were home during lockdown quarantine. And I've been working remotely for ten years, mostly from the house. And it used to be I had my nine to five was like my work time.

Scott - [07:45 - 08:05]

And everybody knew when they came home from school, the door was closed. Don't come, don't bother, don't knock on the door. And then after 05:00, then it was like family time. There was two universes were separated apart, even though it was at home when the pandemic hit and there's lockdowns. Luckily, my two older boys were learning through Zoom.

Scott - [08:05 - 08:26]

So iPads and unlocking the Zoom links and this and that one. And all of sudden, a it happened like the two worlds collapsed on each other. And I think the same thing has happened through here, which has been very frustrating. That especially said kids are magnets for diseases. I think it was last year in two or three month period.

Scott - [08:26 - 08:43]

It was between the holidays in September to the end of the year. One of my kids was in quarantine. It must have been like five times because somebody in the class had gotten it. And it was literally like every two, three weeks back and forth. So for me, that part was just horrible.

Scott - [08:43 - 09:00]

Always having something and not having that separation of time. And thankfully, they were feeling fine, but they're not having that separation of work and family time. So I think there's a lot of benefits on one side with officers and on the other side, at least for me, like, the stress levels and anxiety levels have been significantly, higher.

Jonathan - [09:00 - 09:09]

Yeah, I get that. And you mentioned as well that I'm assuming you have an office space in your home as well.

Jonathan - [09:09 - 09:24]

How do you find that? You, spoke a lot about the time separation between the nine to five for your work and then the rest of your family. Do you find it useful as well to have space, separation between your work? And do you go back to your office, even non, non office hours?

Scott - [09:24 - 09:25]

I'd say yes.

Scott - [09:25 - 09:43]

I'm actually at the point where now I think I'm probably looking to get out of the house physically at least a couple of times a week. Go work at a coworking space or something. Again, just to really have that difference for me, I think I really need that separation. Just. Okay, there's nothing else to focus on.

Scott - [09:43 - 09:58]

And again, I think it's because the last two years have been such ins and outs and out babysitting ones that come up and my daughter's nurseries now. So you got to. This is here. I'm like, in total focus time, I'm total work time. I can't be distracted because I can't be doing things.

Scott - [09:58 - 10:15]

I can't be there. Yes, I, think for me, it's helped. And it just, again, may have been a different scenario where before the kids were coming home, it would say 334 o'clock. So for like an hour, an hour and a half, they knew, okay, don't knock on the door. Daddy finishes work at whatever.

Scott - [10:15 - 10:24]

05:00 and he comes and does with us. But, like, once it turns on the COVID again, you need school, you need this. I'm hungry, I'm thirsty. I need this. And this one's bothering me.

Scott - [10:24 - 10:54]

Again, there's two worlds don't separate. And as a worker, like, okay, I felt a lot of times I was going back on the evening times, going back to do work, because that was the quiet time. The kids are now asleep. Now, this is like my focus time to do work or to do the things I need to do then maybe I can do throughout the rest of the day. So it's been a lot of juggling, a lot of trying to find times and kind of cutting up the day to find the right opportunity to try to be most productive and still be able to mix and match between the two, different worlds that are here.

Jonathan - [10:54 - 11:13]

At Maze, which is not of currents, just adapt their schedule rate. It was when the kids are, at home then you have the flexibility to actually just change the way that you work and change your hours. And I think that's also part of the beauty of it, right, is that you're not tied to specific schedule. You're tied to just your mission and what you need to do. So if two to.

Jonathan - [11:13 - 11:22]

04:00 p.m. Is the time that you want to spend with your kids because they are on there, then do that, right. Like there's nothing pushing you against that. So, yeah, that's been excellent.

Scott - [11:22 - 12:03]

I think this is the biggest thing that's come out of the last two years of the great designation and the future of work. I don't think it's the remote work itself. People have now been able to spend time with their families and do things and have that better quality of life where they get to enjoy intertwined work and life into a single cohesive day to day, operation. And I think that's been like the great crux of resignations or changes from driving a truck to driving an Uber or pushing for remote work that hey, I get to live the life that I want to do on my own schedule. And now the four day work week and nine to five are going away.

Scott - [12:03 - 12:26]

This is definitely the way we're moving, but not the topic for today. So usually, we'll try to get back on track first. And most importantly, Joe, it's been obviously fantastic to get you here. I know we've been talking about this for quite a while, so thank you so much for joining. Usually the way that, we, started is just introduce yourself a little bit and tell us a little bit about the origin story of Maze.

Jonathan - [12:26 - 12:38]

Yeah, absolutely. Jonathan, Tarry, born and raised. My accent, it's a dead giveaway. I've been in product my whole life. Before every single video, I was designing website.

Jonathan - [12:38 - 13:03]

And when I was twelve years older, collecting document guards. I was also collecting Pokemon guards. That judging I was building for the web. After College, I became leadux in different agencies in Paris where my role was teaching people how to do design and teaching people how to do research and then ultimately sell those things. And the thing that was interesting at the time was that research was very hard to sell.

Jonathan - [13:03 - 13:36]

in agency it was almost impossible to sell. What I faced was going to clients and saying, we're going to spend the next five weeks trying to find five people that are willing to come to our office, spend hours with the, researchers and the designers, the glass window and everything. And then at the end of all of this, we're going to get a five data points report that we're going to share with the customers. But the reality was that in the span of these five weeks, A, we had time to build the actual product and B, it would cost anywhere, between 25 to 70K, right, to just get started with this project. So clients were pushing back.

Jonathan - [13:36 - 14:08]

And despite the fact that they knew that it was extremely important for them to understand their customers better and research, it was always impossible to sell. And so while this is where we experienced the pain of research, the true story of Maze came from the last partner that we created with Microfonder so Quickwell and Microfunder, as well. We've been working together for, the past ten years, almost now is what I like. Google, Microsoft soul mate. We work together, and we are, building a messaging app for payments.

Jonathan - [14:08 - 14:40]

So literally nothing to do with what we're doing today. We were building this code right before this call, and we were backed by Snag, which was the biggest and largest programming team in the world. And because of that, we had thousands of people in the waiting list figure to try out our product. And what's funny was that at the time, we thought, how do we get our prototype, which was an individual prototype at the time, at the time, how do we get this envisioned prototype, in front of the eyes of the thousands of people without having to look at all of these individual stations to understand what was happening. So we downloaded the engine prototype.

Jonathan - [14:40 - 15:01]

We started putting an item on top of everything. We decided that if we were able to understand the data at scale, we would be able to change the way that we conduct research. We send out the test to 50 people. We get two 5000 responses in a couple of hours. So coming from a world where five responses in five weeks was basically opening campaign, that was entirely endowing.

Jonathan - [15:01 - 15:28]

But on top of that, all of a sudden, we realized that it was a rethinking of the product development process, that all of a sudden the learning could happen before you actually build. And so that's what led to Maze a year later, that's, how we got started. And so, three years and a half ago, we started building Maze with this idea that we wanted to democratize research. And for us, that meant three things. It meant research should be run by companies of all size, meaning smaller startups as much as IBM and SAP.

Jonathan - [15:28 - 16:06]

It should be run by any industry, because at the end of the day, anyone that creates customer picking experiences should be able to test those experiences. So we sell to Porsche and we sell to Walmart, and we sell to non traditional customers that you would think of when you think of research. And then finally, I think this is the most important thing on the story is that we sell research to anyone within the organization, meaning designers permit marketers, everyone that basically has decisions to make, we give them the power to make those decisions. Because the key that we build made on was if research is still a small part of the organization, both in terms of account and in terms of resources. Then how do we make learning something that can happen everywhere?

Jonathan - [16:06 - 16:23]

And I think that Figma did a great job at making design conversation, happen everywhere and not making a point designer. We're doing same thing about research, which is making research conversation happen everywhere and making it normal for people to talk about research. So that's been the journey. We've been at it for three, years and a half. Now.

Jonathan - [16:23 - 16:28]

We are 120 in 33 countries. So we've been remote before.

Jonathan - [16:28 - 16:35]

the scale, that's awesome.

Scott - [16:35 - 16:37]

It's only been three and a half years.

Jonathan - [16:37 - 16:39]


Scott - [16:39 - 16:59]

I feel like I was thinking, like, five to six years ago from the InVision side. Like, all right, when are we buying these people? Because this is just like the next core piece of functionality that needs to be built into, InVision and three and a half. Oh, my man. Maybe time slowed down.

Scott - [16:59 - 17:03]

This usually runs fast, but I guess in this case it goes slow.

Jonathan - [17:03 - 17:14]

we're celebrating three years for some people in the company, and it's like, if you've been here three years, this is insane. I don't know. It's mind blowing. It's mind blowing.

Scott - [17:14 - 17:51]

That's awesome. So focus the conversation wanted, to do with utility is around the idea of remote collaboration. Obviously, Maze is a tool that's built for that and help people in different spaces get that feedback and collaborate with each other. And it's been interesting that I've heard multiple, many times, including from quite a few remote leaders and advocates, saying that, hey, there's really nothing like being in the same room, same room with having a whiteboard there doing this probably for ten years yourself and building a company in the space. Do you actually feel that way?

Scott - [17:51 - 17:58]

Is it true that the digital experience isn't as effective of, again, five or six people being in a room with a physical whiteboard and markers.

Jonathan - [17:58 - 18:22]

So I'm going to try to make this short as possible, but it's going to be a long one anyway. I think there's a limit of truth, to it. I think there are cases where being in the same room and collaborating and we do it as much. Right, like we do quarterly meeting, plus, management meetings where we actually, gather depending on the type of problem.

Jonathan - [18:22 - 18:44]

I think remote is actually better at problem solving because remote forces people to be intentional, both about shaping the problems and shaping the solution. Meaning that if you're running into remote conversation, if you set up a meeting in a remote setting, you need to be very intentionally what you're trying to solve with this meeting. So it forces the conversation to be very structured. The same thing can be said for the async collaboration and problem solving and collaboration. Right.

Jonathan - [18:44 - 19:02]

Which is if you don't define the problem properly, people are not going to collaborate with you. Right. We are part of Refold, which is an advisory program for startups. and we have one of advisors gave this great example, which they call the rock problem versus the monkey problem. And they say there are two types of problem and two types of people.

Jonathan - [19:02 - 19:18]

The way that people define problem. And so there's the rock problem, which is. I tell you, Scott, listen, man, I have a big rock in my garden that, I need to move. The rock is big. And if we are two people and we drifted together, we can move it 20ft from where we are today.

Jonathan - [19:18 - 19:33]

That's a very simple, very defined problem. We know where the rock is. We know what it needed for moving rock. And then there's the monkey problem, which is I call you Scott, and I say, listen, man, my pet monkey is sick. I need to drop it off to you right now.

Jonathan - [19:33 - 19:43]

I have to go because I have to work. And, So all of a sudden you don't know what to do with this monkey, right? You have a monkey at home. The problem is very popular.

Jonathan - [19:43 - 19:48]

One of the values that go ahead. No.

Jonathan - [19:48 - 20:12]

So the thing is remote forces creation of rock problems is what I'm trying to say. Meanwhile, working agencies, I've seen a lot of monkey problems. I've seen a lot of urgency of let's call out a meeting for this because a client just called and said there is a problem, which is literally the thing for the monkey problem. And we all went into this room and there was no structure around. How do we define the solution for this?

Jonathan - [20:12 - 20:30]

So I think that remote works better. 99% of the case. The only case where actually being in the room makes more sense to me is the case where there needs to be a lot of time spent together in an unstructured conversation to try to get to the bottom of strategic conversation. Right. So, er, League of, for example, is a great example.

Jonathan - [20:30 - 20:51]

of that where there's less structure, it's more about trying to draft what is the vision for the company for the next year. So the chaos is part of the conversation, right? It's, needed part of the conversation. So in this case, Zoom doesn't work as well because it's very easy to get distracted. when you're in a Zoom, call you to email pop up and you see a slight notification.

Jonathan - [20:51 - 20:56]

So posting this makes more sense in this case, in my opinion.

Scott - [20:56 - 21:10]

Interesting. So it definitely sounds like there are, you say, times where it is better to again, be physically together in a room together. And I think you kind of brought up some of those ideas. It could be a quarterly kick off.

Scott - [21:10 - 21:23]

It could be a board meeting again, maybe focusing specifically on a strategic item where it's just having a bunch of people throwing ideas. It's not, as you said, Rocket, I just need a pen. Let me draw this here.

Jonathan - [21:23 - 21:23]

We have an issue.

Scott - [21:23 - 21:24]

A UX issue.

Scott - [21:24 - 21:41]

Let's just draw on the board or digital whiteboard and bang solve. Problem solved. First, let's get a couple of people in the room and just throwing out ideas. Any other specific times or examples. You think, hey, if you can get the team in person because there's a greater benefit there.

Jonathan - [21:41 - 21:58]

I don't think so. Apart from the benefit of bonding, the reality is that, we don't see a main difference. And again, actually, I'm a big proponent of remote for one reason that you'll see throughout the full conversation. I'm going to go back to the term, which is the intentionality of remote. Right.

Jonathan - [21:58 - 22:26]

Which is everything you do in a remote setting forces you to be intentional. And, you know, I live in Paris. We have a few, employees in Paris. The first time we had an employee in Paris actually come to the WeWork space, that I usually work from, it reminded me it was like PTSD flashback from the time where I was in an office. The tap on the shoulder, the distraction, the conflict intention is not as prominent in a non remote environment because people are available.

Jonathan - [22:26 - 22:36]

Right. You can call out a meeting, you can tap on someone's shoulder and ask them. So I love remote for that. That everyone just strive on this intentionality of. You can just ask me anything at any point.

Jonathan - [22:36 - 22:46]

You have to define the things that you want to ask. You have to define the problem. You have to define workshops. Like, it's not my job. It's worth something, right?

Jonathan - [22:46 - 22:55]

That's what I love. I think so, no, I'm, a big proponent of nonlife meetings. Apart from the kick off, just decisions.

Scott - [22:55 - 23:00]

Great point. It's the number one word that's come across.

Scott - [23:00 - 23:19]

However many 30 something of these episodes over the last year plus has been intentionality. And anyone, obviously, who's been doing this prepondermic that's the key to successful remote work is having intentional push and whatever you may be doing. And I think that's the biggest issue. A lot of these companies are still battling now. That why they want to get people back in the office.

Scott - [23:19 - 23:45]

It's mentoring and learning development just isn't the same because you aren't there to look over your colleague shoulder. People aren't having the same conversations. These ideas brains, these great ideas that just happen in the hallway just aren't happening because people aren't in the hallway. And my response to that is, the problem is companies have been thinking, okay, how do we redesign this experience for remote environment?

Jonathan - [23:45 - 23:46]


Scott - [23:46 - 24:11]

You're not going to see somebody looking over your shoulder, which maybe it's just me. I just don't believe people learn through Osmosis of looking over your shoulder and some magically they're going to become a much better developer. But okay, how do you do no one on ones or no lunch and learns or bringing in mentors again, how do you recreate that experience now for a remote environment and doing it intentionally? Because if you're not doing it intentionally, it's not going to happen by itself. Especially if you haven't been in the environment to do that.

Scott - [24:11 - 24:25]

These water cooler conversations that happen every day in the office, they're not going to happen by themselves. Now that the company is working remotely, you need to embed the tools and the process and procedures to make this happen or it's not going to happen.

Jonathan - [24:25 - 24:30]

Exactly. I read the rituals within your August. That's the problem.

Jonathan - [24:30 - 24:56]

Right. Like, you can't expect things to happen magically. And I think that's, what we've seen the most, we've seen the two cases, the one where people try to replicate what they've seen in an office. So let's try to be live from nine to five, which just defeats, the whole purpose of being removed and then not setting up the rituals that you need to have for remote culture to happen. And I think, again, going back to the intentionality, when you have an office, you assume culture will arise.

Jonathan - [24:56 - 25:10]

Right? It's like a petri dish. Okay, cool things, happen. And that's the culture, remote forces you create a culture. It forces you to think about what are the values we want to pass to people, what are the reasons we have, what do we care about as a company?

Jonathan - [25:10 - 25:31]

And for us, for, example, because of companies we couldn't meet for two years, so we scaled the company from eight to 100 people. And I only met at the time ten people from my company. That was the extent of which I knew my company. And so in November, in October, we were able to do our first remote off site in two years. Right.

Jonathan - [25:31 - 25:56]

And so the only question that was in my mind was, are we going to see the culture that we think we have actually materialized? And it did. Right. Because we were very intentional about the hiring process, about making sure that we are hiring people for the culture. We had so already the big point of building the culture and then structure the culture, that the people actually felt like they were part of the same team, part of the same company, the same culture.

Jonathan - [25:56 - 26:10]

And that transpired in the upside. Right. Everyone felt like they knew each other forever, that they were part of the team. And that's the proof that you can actually build culture, even if you don't need 40 years, which I think is probably. Yeah.

Scott - [26:10 - 26:36]

Argument I make all the time if the office and all the things there have absolutely nothing to do with the cultures, the people there. But I love you make a point before about the first person that you hired in Paris, when you met them in person, they came to the office and they're like Pdfd. I remember my first date InVision. I came into the Registrar that the Duke Co founders had. And I remember Clark saying he's like, Why the hell are you here?

Scott - [26:36 - 26:39]

No, it's like the first day I want to meet you.

Jonathan - [26:39 - 26:40]

I want to see you.

Scott - [26:40 - 26:56]

He's like, okay, don't feel like you need to come here. And I said, okay, I think I may have come back once, again, over the next four year period for some odd reason, which, again, I probably got the same exact answer or question of why exactly here.

Scott - [26:56 - 27:46]

But hearing through what you're, talking about for those kind of purposes, maybe of having people in the room, this is something that I felt, and I think that actually came up in a topic in a conversation around team engagement, especially in Zoom. How do you get, full participation? I think that's potentially why some people say, hey, we knew we want to get people back into the office, because again, all five people are sitting there and we know in theory, those five people are all going to speak yes or no. But now if you have yourself and you have, like, little boxes, which, may be a whole bunch of them, you can't see because you can only see like, a certain amount in there. How can remote teams ensure there's really full participation when collaborating or brainstorming in meetings via Zoom or similar tools?

Jonathan - [27:46 - 28:07]

It's a tough one because I think that even in non remote settings, it's very hard to get full participation anyway. Right? The reality is that you can get better at it, but it's always going to be a challenge to get everyone at the same level of participation. but I think that it comes down to two things. It comes down to the size of the team collaborating when we work.

Jonathan - [28:07 - 28:31]

So one of our advisors, Elena Verna, and, she was acting CMO at Mirror and a bunch of great remote companies that have actually embedded these processes. And what she's saying is a more than five people in a meeting, you're going to get less than five people collaborating. Because the thing is that the level of curation actually decreased between both people. People don't feel as inclined. It's the best in their effect, right?

Jonathan - [28:31 - 28:48]

All of a sudden, no one is concerned because everyone right. So keeping it below five people, I think it's, really important. And then it's all about the host. I think, is super important for two things. On one end, it's important because they will be the ones drafting the workshop. So making sure that the workshop is actually structured, preparing for the workshop for everyone, sharing material ahead of the workshop as well ahead of the collaboration so that people arrive and you are not called into what's going to happen and then making sure people are engaged throughout the meeting as well. Right.

Jonathan - [29:38 - 30:05]

So the one that's actually calling out the meeting should be the one that's driving end to end the meeting and what's happening on those meetings. So that's what we've seen work. Right. It's great preparation host that's actually engaging with people and then a limited number of people within the team collaborating on topic. And generally this involves the stakeholder, so basically the one that's actually going to impose a strategy for what the outcome of the meeting and then the execution team.

Jonathan - [30:05 - 30:11]

Right. So the one that's actually going to execute against what the frame that was transferred, that's what we work really well.

Scott - [30:11 - 30:21]

I love that especially. I love the idea of sending the material ahead of time. We've spoken about that quite a few times on the idea of getting rid of meetings and how to kill off meetings.

Scott - [30:21 - 30:52]

One of the things that I like and to do and again I think came up in a previous episode is I think especially if you put it, as it's on the shoulders of the host saying let again five people will go with that. In Strove, each person has 30 or 60 seconds where each person is expected to give feedback again to ensure that everyone has the opportunity. So it's not your one or two people who are maybe the extra merge taking over the meeting. If everyone has like a timer, you got 30 seconds, 60 seconds. Everyone give your feedback about these ideas, what approach to be.

Scott - [30:52 - 31:07]

So you ensure again that everyone has that chance to voice their opinion, voice their feedback and ensure that one or two people don't take over the meeting versus you still have, everyone has the equal opportunity to speak to me.

Jonathan - [31:07 - 31:16]

This is a presidential campaign type of thing where everyone timed. So that to make sure that I like it a lot actually. Yeah. Awesome.

Scott - [31:16 - 31:34]

Maybe you can tell everybody a little bit more about your process, or the process in Maze about how you do your brainstorming, collaboration process of no features or bugs or where the strategy is coming in, going who's involved in those sessions and what tools are using to go through those meetings.

Jonathan - [31:34 - 31:47]

Yeah, we're very light on tools. The reality is that we probably use mirror and Zoom for the 99% of the case. There's very little of the source that we use, I think depending. So there are five questions in there.

Jonathan - [31:47 - 32:08]

I'm going to try to go through a little bit. But basically for the strategy meetings we have an E team. So the way we work, we work at the W. So basically we have an E team which is the senior management team. We have what we call the SLP, which is one level below the goal is drafting the strategy, giving the strategy back to the SLT so that they can go back with feedback from their team to the E team.

Jonathan - [32:08 - 32:30]

So it's kind of the value where we always go back and forth between management and the level management. So that works really well. And the goal is I'm driving the meeting with, the Et. So I'm the one with the beat ups, preparing the Et meeting and creating strategy. And then what I really like is that now what we're doing, is that the E team will present to the SRP.

Jonathan - [32:30 - 32:52]

So there's basically ownership that goes down because we make sure that we align as an E team. Then the E team passes down to the SLP, so they make sure that they are aligned with the passes them down to the it that will actually execute against that. So it's ownership all the way down, and it goes back and forth, so that we make sure that we hear from everyone. And for that, it's very simple again. Right.

Jonathan - [32:52 - 33:10]

We start with the, brainstorming on Zoo and Zero. We prepare the meeting so that we have a kickoff where we try to define what we call the complication. so what are the problems that we're trying to solve as a company? Like, what are the things that are not working and the resolution, which is how do we solve for that? And then we have a full framework of like, these are the guiding policies.

Jonathan - [33:10 - 33:43]

So these are the high level picture of how we're going to solve the problem. And then we have coherent actions, which are how we think we're going to solve the problem for the Gauging policies, it structures the conversation a lot because we also have a common language on how we talk about these things as well. As well, I can talk a bit about products as well, which is how do we define products and how do we build new products? There's a lot to impact here. so there are two ways the team will own.

Jonathan - [33:43 - 33:57]

When we look at features and when we look at product, there's four risks that we need to assess. The business risk, the value risk, the utility risk risk. The business risk is owned by both the Et and the researchers. So the goal here is to define what is the market problem that we're going to solve for. Right?

Jonathan - [33:57 - 34:27]

And what is the user problem sold for? So we'll try to draft both from hearing from our customers to the CX team, Brendan, namely, is gathering information on, the problems that our customers are having. So, we are using both, the customer feedback, what we think is the direction we want to go for the company. And then we'll test this both qualitatively. So we'll have users interviews for our researchers that will come back with more depth on the problem, and then we'll validate that quantitatively by obviously, using base.

Jonathan - [34:27 - 34:42]

Right. So maybe the critical part of the whole journey of validation. Sure. So once the business risk is settled, we pass it down to the PMS and the PM, what they'll do is they'll assess the value risk. So on their end, they will start brainstorming on what is the right solution to solve for that problem.

Jonathan - [34:42 - 35:10]

So kick off with the pod where they will drive the strategy of solution that they can actually develop for, solving problem tested qualitatively by asking customers and getting more feedback on the solution, validate it quantitatively. And so you see this loop kind of going back and forth. That's what we'll do every step of the feature development problem. And that's great because it creates accountability at every point of development. Are we building for the right problem?

Jonathan - [35:10 - 35:21]

Are we building for the right solution for that problem? Are we building the right design? Are we building the right value proposition? All of these things. It's like a relay race, right, where everyone just run and pass down the responsibility.

Jonathan - [35:21 - 35:24]

at some interesting.

Scott - [35:24 - 35:35]

Have you ever felt that there was an instance or instances of failure because people weren't in the same room making a specific decision whether it's product or strategy?

Jonathan - [35:35 - 35:49]

I don't think so, yes. So, the price is probably the framing of the question. I don't think it's what's failed there. I think that realizing that we are wrong is actually a success. Right before charge.

Jonathan - [35:49 - 36:10]

So it happened in cases where, yes. at middle of the process we realized, oh, actually, no one wants this. right. Actually, this is not going to work because it's not solving for the problem. So it goes back to what I just said, which is this kind of loop of we think there's a problem and then it's passed down to the PM and they think there's a solution, and then we actually test out the solution before it's being built.

Jonathan - [36:10 - 36:31]

We realize this sucks, right? No one wants this thing. I remember a specific example where we tried to create, a trailer like experience inside of Maze where people can move the project ahead and people were like, this is stupid, right? We had fellow why is amazing. We're like, that's true.

Jonathan - [36:31 - 36:44]

This is stupid. And so we just killed it off. But the reality was it's not failed. It's actually a big success rate because we could have released that. It would have damaged the product, it would have cost a ton of development time, and then legacy of product that we would have to actually destroy.

Jonathan - [36:44 - 36:51]

Right. So it's not so much a failure. It's a success of not building the wrong thing. I would say, Scott - [36:51 - 36:52]

I like that answer.

Scott - [36:52 - 37:24]

I like that answer to kind of go maybe more deep into, where remote is going. You mentioned the word earlier on when we were speaking about async. I think, it was maybe like a week or two ago, I saw a post of yours on LinkedIn about a beta feature that you guys have rolled out for screen recordings, which is awesome. So now, in theory, instead of having, it could have been a live session, where somebody both people are on Maze and one was watching, or it was like a screen share. And again, I'm watching you do whatever you may do.

Scott - [37:24 - 37:38]

You now have the ability to do that asynchronously we'd love to know what the onus was for this feature and what really was the, driver behind. Hey, again, maybe we don't even need to be doing these live sessions here and pushing that forward.

Jonathan - [37:38 - 38:11]

session. I think that live sessions are still valuable, but the problem is, live session has been the default tools for a lot of things when they actually need it for us. What we see that live sessions are to be used to get more depth, in understanding the problem, understanding the solution. Basically, it's useful time, when you don't know what's going to be the outcome of the conversation. Basically, you start with the plan, and then from the plan, you actually derived from what the users want to talk about and what is the problem, solution, etc.

Jonathan - [38:11 - 38:30]

What we saw on our end was that the quantitative feedback that we are providing, historically, we only provide a quantitative feedback at Maze. Right. Was great. It allowed for people to make fast decision. And the key thing that we try to drive at Maze is what we call time to decision, which is how fast you can go from having a decision to make to how fast you can make this decision.

Jonathan - [38:30 - 38:52]

Yeah. And the key question was, how do we add more empathy into the process? How do we add a way for people to also get beyond the data and understand, that there's actual humans that are going through the process of testing your product and not end up in existing. Sure. And how do we make that without losing in speed?

Jonathan - [38:52 - 39:07]

How do we do that without, losing in our capacity to go and drive this time to decision? Right. Because if at the end of the day, you have 500 recordings, you're not going to go 500 hours of recordings. Sure. And the name is the response in the name.

Jonathan - [39:07 - 39:17]

The goal was let's clip out the moments of failures for our users so that it only focuses not on the success. Because no one cares about success. Right. People are successful. That's good, right?

Jonathan - [39:17 - 39:33]

Cool. That they haven't done anything. Exactly. When people are failing, that's when you need to know. And the thing is that because we have a unique, technology at the lowest to understand when people are failing through the testing process, let's use this exact same technology and extract the clips of payload.

Jonathan - [39:33 - 39:44]

So that's what's been driving that. It's bringing more empathy without losing the, time to decision and the speed that you get those insights. So, yeah, that's exciting. Very exciting. New release.

Scott - [39:44 - 40:08]

Yeah, that sounds, like an absolutely fantastic idea. And it seems the whole async sync. Even other places I remember of mentoring individual business owners, like a no music teacher. It's like, okay, with your amount of time, how many user sessions, interview sessions, UX sessions can you possibly do? You have a finite number with a finite amount of time, so you're only going to get a limited amount of data.

Scott - [40:08 - 40:36]

But now if you, again, put something online, you record a session, record a class, or you have this just cuts the 10 seconds here out of 30 minutes session. Again, instead of getting maybe 20, interviews, now you get 200. You can see so much more data and so much more breadth of knowledge and experience from those little clips than you can of being limited by having to just, do a synchronous user testing session. That's interesting.

Jonathan - [40:36 - 40:37]


Jonathan - [40:37 - 41:00]

I was just going to say, I think that Covet forced a lot of these conversations to happen. Just like you, I've been mentoring a yoga class company, funny enough, the same thing. How do you scale yourself? As always in the question, your point of view. and there are 810 hours per day that you can work.

Jonathan - [41:00 - 41:12]

How are you going to get more sessions? And so all of a sudden, they have to be seen that job. Right? How do I make yoga online? And how do I and a lot of people, it turned out for the better because all of a sudden, your exposure was brother.

Jonathan - [41:12 - 41:31]

The people you could reach was brother also geographically. Right. That, all of a sudden, your music, they were leading to the people that they could actually meet physically. So it's been pretty incredible. I think that we're going to see a massive shift in this in the space of the creative industry in general and the approach to, remote.

Jonathan - [41:31 - 41:32]

Yeah, fantastic.

Scott - [41:32 - 42:07]

Yeah, it's interesting because they know what happened then you have 5000 yoga accidents. Like, okay, what's the real differentiation between this one and that one? But I guess we'll have to get there, maybe talk a little bit more about your team. are you shifting the organization operations more towards Async, outside of maybe just again, whiteboarding sessions that are design, collaboration, that seems to be, the optimal place, kind of like what you're doing, where again, giving specific feedback, maybe in a product roadmap or a specific feature conversation?

Scott - [42:07 - 42:09]

Yes, async would be fantastic here.

Jonathan - [42:09 - 42:10]

But are you thinking.

Scott - [42:10 - 42:16]

Are you ready moving this direction for running the entire company, all meetings and all processes towards Async?

Jonathan - [42:16 - 42:31]

It's a very good question because it's very topical for us right now. So because we've scaled dramatically, we now are in top two countries, but most of the time zones are, let's say, Europe, Israel and then US.

Jonathan - [42:31 - 42:51]

Right. So those are the two time zones. And most products in Europe time zone, and most go to market is US time zone. And so the question that we started asking ourselves is, can we hire for product people in the US or in Asia? How remote do we really want to be and how aging do we really want to be?

Jonathan - [42:51 - 43:11]

Right. And this conversation is driven by two types of people. It's driven by on one end, for example, a city of people that came from GitLab, where remotely async is the absolute standard. and on the other end of the spectrum, we have, for example, Avico marketing that comes from platform, where she comes from an in office job. Right.

Jonathan - [43:11 - 43:35]

So it's all about trying to find the right balance. And I think that we're ending in a place where we'll never be fully achieved. And we're okay with that. I think that the way the company structured right now. We're still reliant on some meetings, we're still reliant on some face to face time, and especially on the execution of the real life to actually meet and spend time together and work together.

Jonathan - [43:35 - 43:54]

So we're never going to be fully, fully Asynch. We're just trying to drive more and more decision to be made asynchronously. But we're okay with being reliant still on stand ups. If the product teams want to do stand ups and sales kick off for the first thing, it's okay to still rely on some synchronous meeting. sure.

Scott - [43:54 - 44:05]

I like that answer. I like the answer. I think, like anything, it comes down to each company culture. For some companies, it's 100%. Async some companies, it's 20%.

Scott - [44:05 - 44:25]

Async some companies, it's everywhere between and having to find what works best for your company. I love the idea of bringing the VP of GitLab Lab is always a lot of feedback. It's when you're building a culture, you're doing it. You can't just take all the GitLab documents and manuals and things. It's like, okay, this is the way we're going to do it.

Scott - [44:25 - 44:33]

It's going to work fantastically. Well, that's GitLab, and it works fantastically for GitLab, but for somebody else us, that's just not the way it is.

Jonathan - [44:33 - 44:41]

Exactly. That's trying to apply playbook. Also, there's a lot of debate in the remote space around, remote space.

Jonathan - [44:41 - 44:51]

Almost like a religion itself. Right. There are big principles, the racist that, do what works for you and your company and the people in your company. Right there's. No.

Jonathan - [44:51 - 45:01]

And it was beautiful as well. Is everything is being built. Right. Meaning that most of the knowledge we have on remote is based off, of ten companies that I don't write. Right.

Jonathan - [45:01 - 45:10]

So if you're a remote company now, you're part of creating what remote means for the future generation as well. Right. There's a beauty.

Jonathan - [45:10 - 45:33]

We often say that we're building the best company in the world, but for us, what that really, means is that we have the means to do whatever feels right for us. Right. both in terms of time off and in terms of how we think about people's work and people, work time. Like all of these. No one else but us can define what it, means to, be the best campaign.

Jonathan - [45:33 - 45:36]

I think it's great.

Scott - [45:36 - 45:54]

I love to see, especially with these early, kind of young, remote companies. That what I've seen. They're the ones really the forefront. we're putting much more of an emphasis on culture, and especially starting back at the application side where I've been to many of these sites.

Scott - [45:54 - 46:28]

And when you go looking at some job Reck, there's a link to a very detailed, multi section notion document about everything about the culture and how they communicate and how they work and what they believe in and what this is and videos and testimonials and things like that. And I think that's fantastic, because for me, culture starts at the application phase, and that's one thing is having the salary on there. That's one of the most uncomfortable questions you ever get. What kind of salary are you looking at? Why don't you tell me ahead of time?

Scott - [46:28 - 46:49]

So I know whether this is relevant or not, but it's great to see that there's such a focus from the remote religion that, hey, we have to be intentional about culture. So we have to be very focused on writing this. Be very clear. So when people come in or even interested in us, hey, before you even have that first conversation, like, is this cultural place for them? Is this where they want to be?

Scott - [46:49 - 47:11]

And I think you're definitely right. It's going to be these companies that are taking what GitLab did and what automatic and wild Indigenous for all these years now saying, okay, that was amazing. And here now that the rest of the world is doing this, now that the majority of the world is doing this now, you could start an early stage company and you could be async from day one. And how we're doing these things, it's Super, super exciting.

Jonathan - [47:11 - 47:13]


Scott - [47:13 - 47:49]

I think the last question I have for you for today is those have been good or bad, will still be determined. A lot of push towards hybrid. Again, I have my opinions about that, but maybe what advice can you, give? I think it's for companies who are doing the hybrid in the way that an office space, number one is in the central headquarters, and number two, it's there as a park, right. If you want to use this, how you want to use it, when you want to use it, why you want to use it, great, you don't want to use it, that's equally as great.

Scott - [47:49 - 48:29]

Any of these other things that it's either like a central office, like if you're living in the suburbs of Paris, even if it's park. If it's a 60 community commute, how often are you really going to go in there? Even if you're allowed to have flexibility versus these crazy companies are trying to push three, two hybrid models and all kind of whatever nonsense. But for these companies who are looking or doing that hybrid setup, maybe you have some advice of how to best collaborate in hybrid environment, where again, you have a class example, you have three people in the conference room and you have two people or three people on the Zoom call. What advice can you give to them to potentially ensure that there is good collaboration?

Scott - [48:29 - 48:37]

There's good communication, there's good inclusion when again, you have some people together, huddled up together, and other people are wherever they are.

Jonathan - [48:37 - 49:01]

But it's okay. The world is not going to like, I haven't seen Hebrew. So that's the problem, right? I think that it goes back to the intention of D and it, goes back to the means of communication. There needs to be one way for people to communicate information and pass down this information.

Jonathan - [49:01 - 49:31]

the problem with hybrid is that how does it work for people to be in an office and be able to tap on the shoulder and have a conversation and, discuss data while others don't have access to this information? Right. So if you have a rigor that I've never seen, which is you have this conversation and then you type it out so that all those connections see never damage that happened in my life or the people that are remote are going to feel excluded from the company. And this is what I see most often. It's, like I feel like a freelancer in a company that exists somewhere else.

Jonathan - [49:31 - 49:43]

Right. So I don't have a great answer for you on this topic. I think that maybe some companies, can prove me wrong. And I'd be more than happy to see if it would actually work on my end. I have not seen that.

Jonathan - [49:43 - 49:50]

So that's a Hill I'm willing to die on today. That's fine. probably, wrong with everyone.

Scott - [49:50 - 50:23]

To be honest, I'm in, agreement with you. I think it's on the other side of, again, that flexibility piece where there are certain people who just don't have the space at home, don't have the right work environment, who need to be out of the house. And I remember the early days in Vision. I think we hired two people, fantastic people that just didn't work out because they just couldn't wrap their head around being in a quiet apartment all alone and no one, no noise, no action, and didn't work out. And they were there for maybe six something, maybe months at most.

Scott - [50:23 - 50:48]

And they left again. Not because they were great, not because they couldn't do the job because they needed that noise and action. So that's I think the interesting trade off is, again, there's going to be certain people who just can't work at home for whatever reason. And I think, like you mentioned, everything has to be intentional. So even if you're in an office or mixed, like, every meeting that you do, there's no conference rooms anymore.

Scott - [50:48 - 50:59]

Or if you want to be in a conference room, great. But everyone is on the same Zoom box. Everyone has to have equal real estate. Everyone has to have equal representation. Because, I remember mentoring a company here.

Scott - [50:59 - 51:19]

I think, actually, in the community, this is probably back like six years. They had a handful of people in their office. They hired one person in New York and they wanted to go remote. And I said, listen, all this, like, chitchats, all the things you do, you have to now push in slack, because you now need to get in the sense of putting everything online. All those questions and having a central source of truth just so there's a central place.

Scott - [51:19 - 51:38]

But also now is like, that person comes on in New York and potentially future for where you go. They need to be included in those conversations. They need to have the ability to be included and to know what's going on and have that feedback. Because if you're just asking the person next to you, they're never going to know that question was asked and you're never going to be able to share knowledge. And it's a huge issue.

Scott - [51:38 - 51:50]

So just the operations of. I think any hybrid company has to be as a remote first company, you can have a space, take it or leave it, but you have to operate completely remote first or you're set to fail.

Jonathan - [51:50 - 51:58]

Exactly. And I think I much prefer. I mean, I have literally nothing against innovative companies to the opposite.

Jonathan - [51:58 - 52:12]

I think that in office companies work well as well. Like, the reality is, I think just keep reading kind of the way that people have coped with covet. Right. For a lot of, these companies, we are used to having an office now remotely competitive. So let's hire remotely.

Jonathan - [52:12 - 52:23]

So it's kind of adding more options in your option menu when you're building a product. Right. That's not how you solve a problem. You're just adding more options. But at the end of the day, you're not being opinionated in how you want it to be.

Jonathan - [52:23 - 52:43]

I fully agree with you, and I think it's fine that also remote, is not for everyone. I think that, it's very important for people to know if they want or not want to work remotely. We've had cases as well where, people have struggled with, you know, I want to meet people. I want to meet people. I want to have the sale day.

Scott - [52:43 - 52:43]


Jonathan - [52:43 - 52:51]

And that's fine. That's entirely fine. just like the employer needs to be intentional about hire, hire. The employees need to be intentional about what they expect from a, job.

Jonathan - [52:51 - 52:57]

And for some people, that's more social connection that's more things that remote can provide and that's fine. That's okay.

Scott - [52:57 - 53:04]

Yeah, I completely agree. For everyone listening, how can they find more about you? More about Maze?

Scott - [53:04 - 53:07]

How can they get a hold of you? Get a hold of Maze? all that good stuff.

Jonathan - [53:07 - 53:08]

Yes. Yeah.

Jonathan - [53:08 - 53:34]

So go to Maze. Co obviously if you're working in product, any form of product, really, anyone's working product these days, go to Zoe. you'll be able to go and, get some insights fast, build more user centrality for your company, be more connected with your, users. And if you want to find more about me, I'm mostly on Twitter and LinkedIn, so. Linkedin Johnsonvideatski, I'm assuming you're going to put out my last name because otherwise people will never figure it out.

Scott - [53:34 - 54:01]

profiles in there as, well, I miss Maze design. How many times in vision when you ask me these tools, I'm like, almost like an auto hotkey type thing. But I guess you have to graduate. You have to get bigger, you have to get to go and eventually you'll have to go and take as well to make official.

Jonathan - [54:01 - 54:03]

Man, this is the story for another podcast.

Jonathan - [54:03 - 54:11]

For our podcast, I'll talk about at some point and not try to actually get the domain, but that's another story.

Scott - [54:11 - 54:12]

Another time.

Jonathan - [54:12 - 54:13]


Scott - [54:13 - 54:34]

So, Joe, thank you so much for joining today and sharing how you've been collaborating, how your team collaborates and makes decisions remotely and sharing that insight with community because, again, as I said, started off even there's lots of people who've, been doing this for a long time who still believes that you can't get the same experience. So greatly appreciate, you sharing the feedback and the insight and until the next episode.