Against The Herd with John Winsor
Aug 2, 2023
Picture yourself stealing a front-row seat to a riveting dialogue between two tech gurus. Chris Herd and John Winsor. Their dynamic exchange about the future of work is an electrifying fusion of insights and wisdom. Here’s a glimpse into the exchange that unfolded between these two visionaries:
- The Speed of Change: Today, change occurs at lightning speed, and the future belongs to swift learners and adapters.
- The Danger of Ego: Being overly attached to old methodologies can hinder adaptability and blind us to emerging opportunities.
- Surfing Analogy for Businesses: Winsor presents surfing as a metaphor for business navigation. This includes observing market trends, transitioning effectively, and finding the growth sweet spot.
- Distributed Work – The Future of Work: Emphasizing the rise of distributed work, Winsor suggests that companies need to reduce fixed costs and increase variable costs to stay adaptable.
- Capital and Readiness: The ability to adapt and seize opportunities requires adequate capital and readiness, mirroring a surfer’s preparedness to catch a wave.
Winsor's narrative offers valuable business insights, helping us navigate the fast-paced currents of change and ride the waves of the future.
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Read the Transcript
Chris Herd (00:02):
Welcome to Against The Herd, the podcast where we dive deep into conversations with contrarian leaders and visionaries at the cutting edge of the future of work and living. In this episode, I'll be chatting with John Windsor. John is the Founder and CEO of Open Assembly, a company that provides content, community and strategic advising to organizations, people and platforms to co-create the future of work. Before that, John was the Chief Innovation Officer at Havas, one of the world's largest global communication groups. Please welcome John to the show.
John Winsor (00:34):
How are you?
Chris Herd (00:35):
I'm really well, John. How are you?
John Winsor (00:37):
Yeah, great. It's really fun to be here today. Thanks for having me on.
Chris Herd (00:40):
Well, we're equally grateful for your time and some of your insights on some important stuff. So maybe kicking off there with how the world's changed, really. What does the future of work mean to you?
John Winsor (00:56):
It's funny, right? Because I think one of the things you and I were talking about beforehand, I think we were all in this serendipitous moment that the world kind of came our way. And so I always harken back to the way I've always worked. I owned a publishing company for a long time, and when I sold that, I bought a house in Mexico. And one of the real challenges was that it's a really small village in the middle of nowhere, and there was one tree on the beach where the cell phone would work. There was seven telephone lines in town, 130 people. And I tried to get a phone and they were like, "Well, it's got to be pulled 300 kilometers from the State Capitol, and there's just no way that we'll ever have more phone lines."
So, in my desperation to be a surfer and launch another company, I actually found this guy, Brian, who was in a school bus traveling down the coast from Canada, selling Hughes satellite dishes for $6,000 and then helping... So, you would buy the satellite dish, and then Brian and I poured a cement pad on top of my roof, and then we oriented it. Then we went to the payphone and we called Hughes Canada and we lied to them saying we were in Northern Ontario, to get the settings, and we turned it on. And lo and behold, I was a digital nomad. I wrote a couple of books there and I ran my company from there. This was back in the early... Let's see, I think in the '90s. Yeah, early '90s, '94, '95, '96.
But what's crazy is just, I think that what's important to me about that story is that now in that same place, I've got fiber optic coming to my house, cell phone tower that's 100 yards from my house. My internet and my cell phone in Mexico in this little village is probably three or four times better than it is here in Boulder. So it's not like the technology changed and allowed the world to work in a new way. It's just that our organizations, especially those built in an analog world, in an industrial world, just aren't set up for living and working in this digital age. Although COVID has changed all that, right? The pandemic. And I think that that's been a really fun thing to watch.
Chris Herd (03:15):
Yeah, it's funny. I go back sometimes and reread Marc Andreessen's essay on Software Eating the World. We've almost came to the full realization of that vision where we now have portable computing, which we obviously didn't have 20 years ago. We have super fast internet and connectivity like you're talking about, and we have software like this where we can have conversations as if we're in the room with each other, when clearly we aren't. And I think the implication that that's had is exactly what you talk about. It's, people can live anywhere, people can work anywhere. And I guess turning that into a question, what's the impact that you've seen that have on people in terms of being able to access opportunities that they perhaps couldn't otherwise have in the past?
John Winsor (04:00):
I think a couple of things. One is, I think, it's a generational issue. So I think that if you're a Gen Z or a millennial, you're probably more excited about doing that. And if you're somebody like me, a baby boomer or a Gen X, unfortunately you're so locked into the industrial complex of mortgages and payments, and it's hard. It's hard to take the risk of being a digital nomad. Can I make it? And it's also, you're further along in your career that you've established a system. So as much as we'd like to see these things happen immediately, I think what we're seeing, at least these changes, are generational. They take 10, 15, 20 years to roll out. It's funny because I look back, and when I was helping Jeff Howe write his book on crowdsourcing, it was such a fun thing to do.
We were all convinced that that was the tipping point, that people would be able to tap into this global knowledge base back in 2006, and it just didn't happen. The big companies just are slow to move. So I think that when you look at it from the lens of generations, it's incredibly liberating for Gen Z and millennials. It's like, okay, I can do this. And in fact, I think about it in the context of my experience in Mexico. Well, I was certainly at the very cutting edge of that in the '90s. Now it's almost an economic imperative for people to be digital nomads. If you think about during COVID, let's just play out the scenario of, you're a mid-level marketing manager for a tech start-up in New York and you're making $80,000 a year, but living in New York City, you're probably spending $85,000 a year. So, you're scratching, right?
And the reality of living in Sayulita is that, I mean, I have a bunch of my buddies who have just become full-time surf bums for decades, and they pay about a thousand bucks a month, 800 bucks a month, and they live a great life. And so you could imagine a digital nomad to say, or a Gen Z going, okay, I can make 80 grand in New York and I can spend $12,000 a year, and surfing twice a day. Or, I can live in New York and lose $5,000 a year.
It's like, what are you going to do? Of course, because you've got the freedom, you don't have the relationships or the financial mortgages to tie yourself down. So I think for the younger generation, it's liberating. But I think for baby boomers and a lot of Gen X folks, it's terrifying, the idea that, I've got to have a portfolio of jobs, and I've got to have a new kinds of career. And, wait a second, my boss isn't giving me the things I got to get done today. I don't know how to operate. It's a whole new operating system. Everybody has to become an entrepreneur.
Chris Herd (06:53):
It's funny that you go back to 2006 and your assumption is that the crowd is coming and we're going to do all this fun stuff, and we can get onto that in a minute. But what you're talking about is really just math. When you get into it, it's not just the future of work. What we're really talking about is, how can people access a higher quality of life? And the consequence, or the thing that enables that is, how can I have a higher disposable income, right?
If I'm going to live in one of these big cities, I'm not going to earn that much to cover the cost of living. Why am I there? Sure, there's relationships and so on and so forth, and they're incredibly important, but at some point the question needs to become, well, what do I actually need to live a fulfilling and meaningful life? Probably not getting yourself deeper and deeper into debt every single month.
John Winsor (07:45):
Yeah, I totally agree. And I think that it's interesting, because if you look back historically, you would think that the industrial age commodified jobs and commodified people, and through the lens I think of now, we think about it as very demeaning and the factories and the assembly lines. But I think if you take a historical perspective, it's actually just the opposite. One of the things that happened with Henry Ford is that he created the assembly line obviously, but one of the magics was, he was able to break down... First he did the Model N, which essentially he created, he put the architecture of a car on the ground and then had people communally work to put the car together.
And it advanced it from two weeks of building a car in the old way of working, to two days. And then he disassembled that to the 82 processes and put one individual on each one of those, and that took it down to two hours. Now, one of the things I think that's never told is that nobody wanted to work on the assembly line. And so the things that he did socially is, he tripled people's salaries and he gave them benefits, and that allowed a whole generation to move into the middle class.
So it really was the same mechanisms that we're seeing in an opposite way to create economic freedom and to create new ways of living. It's just that it's the exact opposite of what transpired with what Henry Ford did. And so I think it's a real advancement, but I think it's, for a lot of people, especially older folks, there's a personal responsibility of doing this. Nobody's going to come and save you. Nobody's going to make sure that you've got a job. You've got to do it on your own, and that's a big responsibility.
Chris Herd (09:31):
Yeah. And I think that's where the fear comes in that you're talking about, right? If you're 20, 30 years into a career and your assumption was, I'm going to make it from college to retirement in the same role or the same
John Winsor (09:41):
Chris Herd (09:42):
Similar roles, maybe not the exact same role at the same company, and that gets flipped on its head. And I think now you look how fast everything's moving, you've got AI, you've got new tooling, you've got new ways of working, you've got a distributed world, people could be anywhere. And at some point I think people ask the question of like, well, what's my role in all this?
John Winsor (10:00):
Chris Herd (10:01):
And I think what you talk about, and to bring the book up, the whole thesis around the open talent economy, exploring the rise of the gig economy, and understanding how organizations can adapt to this shift, maybe talk to me a little bit about what you mean by the open talent economy.
John Winsor (10:20):
Yeah, I mean, I think that the reality is the best talent doesn't want to work for anybody else. They have choice. So if you're a data scientist and you're a really good data scientist, you get in job offers all the time, you can go work with wherever you want and you can demand the kind of things that you want to do. And I think there's that. And I also think that there's the rise of the creator economy that gave people the ability to be micro entrepreneurs and in a really powerful way. So you've got these kinds of trends that are driven by technology that the reality is, coming out of COVID, that the war for talent's over and talent won. Talent now has the ability to compete and do what they want to do, but it means the new kind of mindset.
And so when we talk about the open talent economy, what we mean is that companies can tap in and they can find the very best talent to work for them, but they ever have to rethink the very basic mindset of what a job is. It needs to go from roles to tasks. You're not saying, hey, Chris, I've got a SVP of new community role. Would love to have you do that. I'll hire you. Go figure it out. Now it's like, hey Chris, I've got 40 tasks that need to be done. Why don't you look through them, tell me which ones you might be best for. Oh, there are 10 of them. You do those tasks, I'll pay you for those tasks. And that's a huge mindset for large companies.
Small companies that are small and medium-sized businesses that are resource constrained and talent constrained, it's easier to say, okay, I don't need Chris full-time, I need him to complete these jobs. And the scenario that we lay out in the book is like, can you imagine? And we wrote this kind of pre generative AI. I mean, obviously we were able to incorporate a lot of thinking around that because the lab that I work at Harvard, the laboratory for innovation science at Harvard, published one of the first AI strategy books called Competing in the Age of AI about four years ago. So really the thesis is deeply the predictability or at least our thinking about AI has been embedded in open talent, our new book, pretty deeply. But could you imagine pre generative AI, you know, you would say, or the old way of thinking would be, Chris, you just became CEO of a Fortune 500 company and you know AI is going to be a big deal.
So the traditional way of doing it would be like, I need to go to my CHRO, my chief HR officer and say, I need a senior VP of AI strategy, right? And let's just say, what do you think it would take six to eight months to find that person? So you take six to eight months to get them in, and then she takes six to eight months to get her team involved. And then it takes three to four months to write a strategy.
So you're what, a year and a half out in the world of AI and you're toast. And the alternative that we would suggest would be you as a CEO would say, I need a strategy. I don't need a head of strategy, an SVP, I need the strategy, the work product. And so I'm going to go to platforms, business talent group, a graphite, whatever, the best talent platforms, and I'm going to find the very best 10 people in the world in my space, in AI. I'm going to invite them to a conference for two days. We're going to come up with the 10 or a hundred tasks that need to be done to create a strategy.
Maybe those 10 people take 50% of those, and we find a bunch of other people to fill those in. And in three weeks we write a strategy and in a month and a half, we have our strategy. We don't have a team to implement it, but as people work through that strategy, people emerge from the work product. So six weeks in, you've got a strategy that you can start implementing and iterating on. So the choice is, in the world that we live in today, this disruptive world by using open talent, having a strategy ready and baked and operational in six weeks versus 18 months. You just can't work in the old way. The world's moving way too fast.
Chris Herd (14:19):
Yeah, that's fascinating because I think people in the distributed work world spend a lot of time speaking about, well, in an office first world, we can hire the most talented person in a 30-mile radius. In a distributed work world, we can hire the most talented person in the world for the role. What you're actually talking about is hiring the most talented person in the world for the specific task.
John Winsor (14:43):
Exactly. Exactly. Right. Because I don't care who you are, I look at myself, I'm okay at a couple of things. If I had 10 tasks, I'd be okay at two, mediocre at three, and I totally suck at five. So don't hire me for those five. Don't expect that half my job are going to be things that I can't do at all, right? I'm horrible. I'm probably actually negative. Negative. I probably cause more damage on those five than I do benefit
Chris Herd (15:10):
Which is ironic because most organizations' strategy here is we're going to hire one person and we're going to trust that they can do all 10, or we're going to augment them with additional people. So rather than we've got 10 tasks and we need 10 different people and we can put this to the cloud or do whatever, you end up with an organization of six different people to do 10 things, and it takes 10 times as long.
John Winsor (15:32):
Exactly, exactly. And every time you have somebody new come in at a senior level, they rewrite everything because they want to put their own ego. Right?
Chris Herd (15:41):
Well, I guess the other part that I see as being the challenge here, and take generational differences aside, I can understand how perhaps certain generations are going to find it harder to make this transition at this point in their careers. I still feel like the harder challenge is on the side of the company. Small companies can do this. Big companies can't. What needs to change there?
John Winsor (16:05):
First of all, it has to do with the mindset of the leaders, and it needs to be an abundant mindset. You know, you have to take your ego aside and say, no matter who you are, you can't hire the best people, especially if you come from a big company with a storied brand, those are the companies that are most at threat of going out of business than the ones that are generationally in this generation of businesses, the most powerful brands because they really have a system. They really have a way of working. And they're like, if you don't want to come and work at Nike in the way that I want you to work, no matter how archaic, then you're not coming to Nike versus saying, I want the most brilliant designer, I'll work with you however you want to work in a flexible way to do it.
And it's an ego thing. So I think the first thing that has to happen is moving from a fixed or scarce mindset to an abundant mindset to say that nobody cares about working for you if it's not a good fit. It doesn't matter if you're Google or if you're Facebook or if you're Nike. So that's the first thing. The second thing is, you've got to start realizing that you've got to really move. We talked about roles to tasks. What are the tasks that need to be done? And it's so ironic to me. It's like, we're all trying to do really good work and the work is what's important. And it's not the people. I mean, guess I've always been a small business guy, but it just seems so ironic that the whole HR industrial complex is all set up, in my mind, on two things, worker satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and employee longevity.
But I don't understand what that has to do with work product. If you have somebody my age, I'm 63, I'm along in the tooth in some things, and there's lots of things that have changed and I've missed. I missed the whole social media thing. I didn't put enough energy into it. I could have probably done an okay job,
but don't hire me for social media strategy. I can't do that. So the world's moved on. And so you need, as a company, if you want to stay in touch, you need to like, off-ramp me on some of those activities. I might be better at some other activities because I've been around for a while, but you need to bring in that fresh blood. And the problem with roles and the problem with HR, if you're trying to keep people happy and there as long as you can, then you're going to miss all those opportunities where work needs
to be done.
Chris Herd (18:29):
I think take taking that and taking a step beyond it, which is, we've got the individual in the open talent economy. We've got organizations that are prepared and ready to work in that way. Something else I think you spent a lot of time speaking about, and obviously historically have spent a lot of time in this area building, is in communities. And then I think you start to look at these big organizations and you say, well, it isn't necessarily just enough to say we're going to be open to hiring people in this way because, to your point, they might not be open to work with us. And I don't think they necessarily want to begin working with the company at the point the company needs them. So when you think about that community aspect, how do you think organizations can be more agile to say, well, what we need to create here is a gravitational pull so that the most talented people are interested in working for us in the first place. And what can organizations do to build that?
John Winsor (19:21):
Well, I think there's a couple of things. I think they need the structures. I mean, that's what we've tried to do with the book, the book is based on the lab's research for a dozen years, and then it's published by Harvard, and we have a framework. And so the goal of the book and the goal of our community is to create common language and common process. I think one of the things that's a downside in our distributed work community, our open talent community, is that we're a product of the technology revolution, meaning that we've all been able to be micro entrepreneurs. So there's 700 platforms out there and everybody has a different point of view and has a different way of selling. Whereas you look at that compared to, let's just compare that to cloud computing. Cloud computing, there are three players. There's Google, there's Amazon, and there's Microsoft.
And it's really easy to get alignment between three versus 700. And so I think that's one of the issues. And unfortunately no one platform has emerged, or three or four, so that thinking can be consolidated. So I think the first step of change is to create the language and create the process that people say, hey, this is sanctioned by Harvard. It's a thoroughly thought through, I can get my board of directors to say, this is a Harvard strategy that I'm implementing. And it gives innovators inside companies way more kind of room on the runway to do innovative stuff. Because the reality is that old story, you never got fired for hiring IBM, you never got fired for hiring Accenture, same thing. You never got fired for implementing a Harvard strategy. It's like, oh, it's the Harvard strategy.
I didn't make a mistake because I'm just following the paint by numbers. And I think that's what we need. We need those kinds of foundational pieces to get that done. And then I think for organizations, it's almost like my observation in the marketing world is that more evolution versus revolution. I think I've made a mistake in my career. I think those of us that kind of try to promote the revolution, we tend to throw too many Molotov cocktails. I've done that a ton in my career, take on the old way of doing things. And I think the real success comes when you've kind of crossed the chasm between kind of early folks to innovators to early majority. That's when you make that shift, it's where it really starts to happen. And we're just starting to see that, right? We've got a bunch of early adopters and they're trying to do the work, but it's crazy to me that the case studies I've written, even great leaders, like Balaji Bondili at Deloitte, have run into so many headwinds inside Deloitte trying to get this done and crazy, crazy stuff.
One of my favorite Balaji stories that never gets told is that, Balaji starts getting a lot of success around hiring data scientists through a relationship with Experfy, which is a community of data scientists. And it's getting a lot of momentum because at the time, Balaji was really strategic and Matt David and Peter Gregorio, and they realized that, well, we're having a hard time implementing distributed work and open talent in strategy because the hiring process and the HR processes were so developed. In data science, nobody knew how to hire data scientists and there weren't any rules and regulations yet. And the other issue in strategy is that the way that Deloitte partners get paid is they get paid for the number of people on their team and the number of hours their people. So it's antithetical to distributed work. But in the data science area, they were having to wait four to five months to hire somebody.
All the while when they hired somebody, they would train them and Google or Facebook would pick off their data scientists. So 60% attrition rate. That meant that the partner couldn't realize his personal revenue for four to five months. And so what Balaji set up was like, hey, I can onboard somebody for an extra four to five days and hey, partner, you can start recognizing revenue personally in four to five days versus four to five months. And that kind of alignment was really key.
The one really ironic thing was that some mid-level HR person pulled out some rule from the 1980s that said that Deloitte can't bill a client, unless that person is in the client office or in the Deloitte office. And although the rest of the organization let go of that rule decades ago, that rule still existed. And it meant that Balaji had to stop everything he was doing for three to four months to convince the organization
not to follow the rule they weren't following anyway. And so those are the kinds of ironic things. And hey man, it's like the bureaucracies have these immune systems and they do not want to change. And so those are the things that happen. It's not the individual person in HR's fault. She was just doing her job. She was just saying
Chris Herd (24:33):
It's just the rule.
John Winsor (24:34):
It's just the rule. She's just the rule follower. It's just like the rule. We can't do this unless this rule gets corrected.
Chris Herd (24:39):
Interesting. The lesson I take from that is that when the world changes and there are these significant platform shifts such as data's rising, mobile's rising, same thing with AI now. It's almost like we need new incentives to really propel large organizations forward. Otherwise, if you think about these rules as organizational antibodies, they're always going to try and crush the innovation because people are scared of it, right?
John Winsor (25:10):
Yeah, but I think it's not even that, right? So I used to run this magazine called Women's Sports and Fitness and some bunch of inline skate magazines. I owned all the inline skate magazines globally for a while because I was an inline skate racer and nobody else was doing it. And I thought, oh, it's something to do. So we're a small company. At the time, maybe we had a hundred people, but my choice was like, I was trying to say... This is 1985, let's see, 1995. So my choice was I really wanted to move into the digital world, but we were still in a dial-up situation. So I could spend $10,000 to fly somebody somewhere to shoot on videotape an inline skater doing a rail slide, bring it back to Boulder, convert it to digital, create how to videos, and put it up on its website for dial up where they could hardly watch the videos.
That would cost me $10,000. I could spend $2,000 and sell an ad in women's sports and fitness for $10,000 of revenue. And it would take me two days to do. So as an organization, what would you do? You would sell the ad and keep the system going. The cutting edge is the bleeding edge. So in my mind back then, I always thought about, man, Vogue should have owned fashion online. The problem is that strategically when Vogue started, it was all about the community and the customers. But the biggest expenses of magazines are the printing and distribution. I got to print the magazine and I got to distribute it.
So what happens is, from a leadership standpoint, the people that become the leaders of the organization are the ones that print the magazine and distribute it. They don't have any knowledge. And the editors that once control the magazines become second class citizens. So community and readers aren't as important. Well, you go from a strategy of community to a tactic of distribution and printing, and you think you're in the business of printing and distributing magazines instead of building a community around fashion. And of course you're going to miss the opportunity. So I think we're seeing that even faster today. That's why newspapers have been destroyed by Facebook. They couldn't model it out economically to say, we're going to put ads online. It just wasn't worth it.
Chris Herd (27:48):
Classic innovator's dilemma, where they have to cannibalize themselves.
John Winsor (27:53):
Exactly. Exactly. And so it's nobody's fault. It's just that I think the reality is that. I always think about, and one of the things I think about in our work with enterprises is like, does any enterprise really adopt to the future or adapt to future? I mean, there's a lot of examples of what I would call dead men's bounces. You essentially have an organization that essentially collapses, whether it's a collapse financially and new owners come in or new management comes in. But even companies like Microsoft, Microsoft under Balmer is very different than Microsoft under say, Ty. And so Ty, he's rewritten the rules. It's a different organization. Might have the same name, right? But what he's focused on and where he has put the energy is completely different. And so I think that's the only way that organizations change. And if that's the case, can you imagine being a mid-level executive playing by the rules that Balmer laid down? You want to be successful. And it's really hard to change that mindset.
Chris Herd (29:03):
Yeah. Yeah. It's fascinating to go down that path. And I'm going to flip the script there on that path for the final question because you've seen a lot, right? You've been doing this stuff since the nineties. You're writing about crowdsourcing in 2006 like it's going to happen tomorrow. And I think our community, which would be more forward-thinking, people around what we think the future of work's going to be, influential people in that space, people writing about it, people thinking about it, we often just take it for granted that it's inevitable. This way of working is going to rise. So having been through that a few times, having been where we are now, having the foresight to see that this is where we're heading. If we fast-forward 10 years, 15 years in the future now, and it turns out we're wrong, it turns out everything we've spent the last 30 minutes talking about doesn't turn out to be true. What do you think we've missed and what do you think stood in the away?
John Winsor (30:07):
That's a great question. And I would say that we get too enamored with our own vision. That's the biggest thing, right? Because I think that we become our own bureaucracy and that bureaucracy doesn't make us immune to future. I think we're going through that now. Generative AI has the possibility of wiping out lots and lots of jobs. And the first jobs to be wiped out will be very task-based jobs. Because you can go to generative AI and say, I need this task done, and instantaneously it's done. I hold out hope that talent, distributed talent, has the ability to change. One of the facts I loved when I was writing the book was that inside the average corporation, 0.3% of somebody's salary is spent on job specific training, learning new software, new technologies, all those things. Freelancers spend 15% of their time learning new tools. And I think that's the reality, right?
We're in this phase that change has happened really fast, and the future belongs to the learners because we are creative as human beings and we are able to adapt and new organizations are going to rise from nothing, billion dollar, three person organizations. And so if we get something wrong, I think we get our ego too involved in our own methodology. We hold too tightly onto open talent and distributed work. And this is the way it's got to be. This is what. My ego's too involved. My work is too important, my history is too important. For me, it always comes down to, at my heart, I'm just a dirt bag climber and surfer. And I always think about what it takes to surf. First, when you paddle out, you've got to take the time to recognize what's happening with the wave. Where are they coming from?
Where is that peak? Where do I have the best chance of success? So I think that's a really important first step. Second step is, you got to figure out what do I need to do to make the transition from sitting to that tipping point of finding the right place to do that, and then standing up. So that transition, how do I make that transition in business? And then the third thing, that's the most critical thing is where do I find the sweet spot on the wave? Because waves are dynamic and there is a sweet spot, and that sweet spot is an incredible accelerant. You can be three feet below where the wave's not as steep and there's a trough or too high and you get caught in the lip. But if you can find that sweet spot, it is magic. And I think it's a lot being on a paraglider and thermals, you can't recognize them.
And that's what we're facing. So if we can take the time in the future to recognize where the peak is, right? What's happening with new technologies? Forget that I love open talent or that I've dedicated 25 years to it, but with this coming tsunami, where is the peak? Where can I catch that wave? Then how do I make sure that I'm... How do I balance myself so I can stand up in the right place? And then how do I find the sweet spot to accelerate what I want to try to do? So I think those are the kind of three keys for the future of trying to figure out how do we make sure that what we're talking about accelerates so that it's still a really important paradigm. It doesn't go away, but it's going to evolve. It's going to evolve to adapt in this new way.
I personally think, maybe it's my ego talking, that it is the future of work, that distributed work is the future of work. Because at the end of the day, big companies have to focus on their balance sheet because they've got to have enough gunpowder to make sure that they can prepare for big shifts like generative AI. Could you imagine a big company having a budget a year ago for generative AI? Nobody did. But today, everybody's carved out a big budget for that, right? Well, if you're talking about having the budget to be prepared for the future, you've got to reduce your fixed costs and have more variable costs that you can turn on and off. And the reality is the number one fixed cost is your employment base. So if you're going to really be prepared for the future, less fixed costs, more variable costs, ready to shift your spending, ready to catch the wave, understand where the peak is, know how to paddle in and find the sweet spot. Unless you have the capital to do that, you can't even surf. You're sitting on the shore.
Chris Herd (34:42):
Well, that's an awesome place to finish, John. We appreciate you sharing your knowledge, your insight, and more than anything else, your experience.
John Winsor (34:50):
Nah, thanks man. It's super great to talk to you. Good to catch up.