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REMOTE by GitLab 2021
June 29, 2021, Online, USA
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REMOTE by GitLab 2021: From Productivity to Purpose
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About the talk

Speaker: Alastair Simpson, VP of Design, Dropbox

As Dropbox enters its 3rd month of working Virtual First, VP of Design, Alastair Simpson, invites you for an exclusive look into lessons learned as he speaks to the challenges involved in redesigning the way we work. In this talk, Alastair will share a proposed framework for introducing the company-wide mindset shifts that are fundamental to the long term success of remote working, as well as his strategy for shifting busyness to impact, overload to focus, and disconnection to belonging.

Get in touch with Sales: http://bit.ly/2IygR7z

About speaker

Alastair Simpson
VP of Design at Dropbox

I'm a product design manager, leader and mentor. I love working with multi-disciplinary teams to solve complex business and interaction design challenges. I currently lead a large global design team across a portfolio of Atlassian's largest Cloud Products and Platforms; Trello, Confluence, Cloud Platform, Design System, Growth and the Atlassian Ecosystem. In the last 5 years I have helped scale the Atlassian design team from 20 to over 200 and built the Cloud Platform division from the ground up alongside my cross-functional partners. I also own a rather large sneaker collection :).

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Next up. Let's welcome. Alastair Simpson VP of design at Dropbox know whether you're a small startup, a mid-sized company or a large globally, distributed to redesigning the way you work is no small feat Dropbox, just happens to be entering its third month of working virtual first, and now, we're going to get an exclusive look at the lessons, they learned and what they're doing along. The way, Alistair will share his guidance on how to steer a company-wide Minds that shift, how to focus your team. And how to ensure

that people feel a sense of connection and belonging throughout the transition. This talk with a framework that you can learn from as your organization implements remote first practices. Hello, my name is Alyssa. The VP resigned here Dropbox and it's wonderful to join you today to share some stories about our transformation as we've shifted to Virtual first with a focus on moving from productivity to purpose is up here talking about the future of you. And to be honest. You wouldn't be the first person who's asked me that question that puzzle in just a second.

But first, we all have the ability to be creative, but too, often curiosity and creativity educated out of us is the ability to ask great questions and to challenge assumptions. Very little time is spent on things like working with hypothesis and experiments with simply programs to post test in order to graduate and get nine-to-five jobs norms. I want me to follow them without question. I'm a design on. I'm a father of two young kids, Frankie and Buddy the right 6 and 4.

They don't approach problems with process. They are inquisitive and they created by nature and it is proven that giving kids. Unstructured playtime helps with creativity yet many parents and schools. Still truck structure. That kids time down to the minute schools even have fails to Signal the end of a day. Learning by rote is sadly, still common place. Now, there was a deep societal connection between the way that we teach and the way that we were smart enough. This is do not have vowels to Signal the end of the day. They still mostly operate as they did fifty

years ago, 925 collocated synchronized in time. Fortunately for my daughter, Frankie the school she attends doesn't do tests or else, they don't have single life classrooms and the job of Education Solis it with the teacher instead. The children are organized in mixed age classes where they can help one. Another teaches pose questions to the kids. The kids then ask questions every time they create hypothesis and run experiments to see what they learn from a very young age. That's what the fundamentals of design

asking questions than challenging assumptions. But in reality, it's simply tapping into the innate creativity and curiosity. The older children have Like the majority of our education at work environments have simply not kept up with the pace of change. The temperature down of creativity, from a young age has spilled over into work. That is why we haven't seen how we would really evolve until covid-19 happened. But then overnight, we were forced into a big experiment to challenge long-held assumptions. Ask better questions. I'm guessing

from any of you being forced to work remotely as for the lack of a better word, really sucked, but it's his bag and it doesn't have to stay. In fact, we have a unique opportunity to tap into a creativity, to redesign work, for the better. Now. This is why you have the VP of design up here. Talkin about redesigning how we work a drop box, because if you get creative, open your mind to new possibilities challenge norms and commonly held assumptions. You can use design to address, common pain points of everyday life and

also work. Now, we have to look back to see Al Horford, the story of how it begins with the Industrial Revolution. When our hands were replaced by the machine, is the primary tool of mass production. I'm sorry. We were simply trying to be productive today. Knowledge workers rely on our minds as well, as process has been asked me how we work happen. Just like factory work. We still try to gather in one place at the same time. Even if I assume, we still expect where to start at

9 and end around 5 p.m. Technology and incessant notifications, the off of the false promise of making us more productive or actually more intrusive. In fact, modern technology in being always on leads the last time for family and life outside of work and often ends in Bernal. And I'd argue that checking off Tom's tool. Being productive drains, the purpose for my life. So I genuinely believe that the next Frontier will be driven by shifting us from productivity into purpose for my hands to a head and into working with our hearts

or purpose. And so if we focus on purpose, we no longer have to accept the assumptions around how work is done. Recently, put this Theory to the test by helping Dropbox redesign from a collocated office culture to one that is virtual or remote first from traditional ways of working into human scent of ways of working. So using the fundamentals of design. I teamed up with a chief people officer and a crew of creators to read all of the habits of New Orleans. From pre-pandemic times. This includes how and why we gather

how and why we communicate and the culture. We reinforced through our corporate structures. I want it really entails is a new system of beliefs and behaviors that inform how we show up every single day. How's the design? I often start with a set of principles of principles. Thinking is one of the best ways to reverse engineer, complicated problems. And unleash. Creative possibility is to break down complicated problems into basic elements. And then reassemble them from the ground up. A Dropbox by

creating a set of principles based on competitive analysis in science form of the companies and insights from our own employees. Three principles were to maintain human connection and culture. We recognize the importance of preserving human connection. As we still believe that in person engagement is critical to fostering a culture. Importantly, we want to ensure that. We keep a Level Playing Field field for all of our employees where everyone has equal opportunity to succeed no matter where they are located. The second principle flexibility and freedom.

We want our employees to have more control of the Hound, where they work by increasing. These choices will have an expanded and world of the talent pool, from which we can recruit. And the lost principal to maintain a learning mindset. This principle underpinned, our approach, and serves as the foundation for everything. We doing we've remained Nimble and adult the same philosophy. We use to develop our own products to build measure, learn and adapt. As a designer, I aim to put the customer at the heart of everything that I make. And then this ends our

customers with a two and a half thousand Dropbox employees. So as we are ourselves before Stu what from home, when the pandemic first hit, we started to turn human centered design in wood, and we ran research on ourselves and allow their employees to co-create. My research team, conducted a study around how the shift to working remotely was going for people across the company. We talked to a diverse group of people who represented different roles and departments as well as Life actors such as. Can I get a status through the study? We uncovered powerful stories about

how people finally felt like, they could take paused and eat dinner with the kids without feeling guilty, how they felt loved, because everyone was remote. The playing field was levelled because nobody was at headquarters anymore. We heard about how people are finding ways to spot inspiration for the team is cultural shifting from tangible to intangible wheels are dozens of ideas that could help us feel more connected while we're apart to see that sign, major aspects about company. Have people find you an innovative ways to adapt company culture

to help Propel us forward. Sometimes you have to slow down in order to speed up momentum, does not always mean progress. With the end of the pandemic, seemingly near employees, were clamoring for information and decisions around our future of what strategy would we ever return to the office? Like, we were before? Would we go? Remote, only would we have talked to hybrid bottle? Instead of rushing to all these questions immediately. We took time, we communicated clearly about our progress. We wanted to ensure that we were shifting from a focus on productivity to

Peppa's for our employees allowing employees, to fill purpose in their personal lives as well as in how they contribute to a company. Soak up is beyond the what place means that modern employers need to look off to the Times-Union and this encompasses personal life decisions around kids caregiving, responsibilities mental health and much much more. I'm taking our principles are in science and I'll datapoints is how we landed on a virtual first approach to work. And I drop off to Virtual. First means, every employee's, primary, we're working will be remote, we will

be working from home. But importantly, we are retaining our offices. But switching them to collaboration spaces or Studios recording them. We recognize the importance of meeting in person, but we want to do so intentionally. Ask you to do is a places with teams can come together to collaborate in person. If he wants the month, they basically not for solo. What we want to keep these in person moment, meaningful and magical. As we transition to Albert Troopers future, we knew that we had to help her employees. Go from an old way of working of thinking to renew

human scented way of working and thinking. And this is why we anchored our approach on three key behaviors or mine says that we wanted employees to go from and then to, and I'm going to talk you through those three now. Mindset shift has been helping employees focus on outcomes that they are achieving and less on how busy they actually are all feel. So going from busyness to impact. Now, imagine this very common scenario. It's Friday night, you sit down with your partner. And you asked how they work week was, the typical response.

Is, it was a really busy week. I think about that, just for a second. As a society. We have a quite busy with good or at least we haven't accepted it as the norm. How much better would it be if you could respond to that question with? I really did some work this week, the positively impact, our customers, and our business. It was a society. We need to shift the conversation away from Alice pain, or butts in seats mentality, that some companies actively track employee.

We must move to Walton outcome-focused culture measured against solving, real customer problems with goals that are framed around that problem, not just a win for the business. So how do you actually do that? Don't drop box. We started with our company values. We recently updated those values. When we dated one of them to they win. We win. This sends a clear message from the top that if we focus on our customers, they then I'll business, we will follow. Now we back this up in product reviews by

asking for the customer problem and goal and not just the business go. It's a really simple yet effective way to connect an abstract company value into real product work and also to let everyone know that we are focused on the impact to our customers. Next one of the key problems employees are felt even before the pandemic, was it being always on with numerous meetings all day everyday, the old nine-to-five had been extended by smartphones than the implicit expectation. To always respond as many give the illusion illusion of productivity, but

research shows that it also leads to burnout. To combat this. We created a set of cool collaboration hours, which is roughly 9 a.m. To 1 p.m. In an employee's, local time zone where we are asking for is to be online and available for meetings or synchronous virtual collaboration. This encourages short, bursts of synchronous work, which research shows makes teams more effective outside of this time, employees can create their own nonlinear what day, which suits their own personal needs to, instead of mandating be present old, a nine-to-five. We focusing on

out, instead of measuring time. So, for me and many other parents, this means being able to pick up my kids from school, a couple of days per week, will take breaks in the middle of the day to get some. And it is giving me a many employees permission to focus on their own personal needs without feeling guilty. My calendar is also open for everybody at drop off. It's not locked in private. I published an internal company blog post sharing how I set up my calendar to give me better. Work-life balance changing, people's mindsets is hard, but you need to model the behavior, you

expect from the top down and then make them incredibly visible. Creating a nonlinear. What day was cool collaboration. Has built-in also encourages space and distraction-free time to really focus on a specific problem or is all that. Can you pull pulled it? Deep deep work, is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding tasks. It will make you better at what you do and it will provide you the sense of true fulfillment that comes from Crofton craftsmanship. It is like a superpower in our increasingly competitive, 21st

century economy. And yeah, most people have actually lost the ability to go deep instead spending their days in a frantic loved email and social media. Not even realizing. To all the above, has allowed us to focus on impact to our customers, and our business versus just being busy and always on. I will next month that shift has been helping employees, change how they feel from. Being overloaded with too many meetings notifications into a state of being focused and effective. One of the most common reasons that we are

overloaded is that we create too many synchronous meetings and we make it okay. To constantly bombarded one another with emails and instant messages. We created a cultural know what being back to back all day long. It quite the, some guy. Jovonna and the illusion of being effective, sending a quick snack or email is full. So. Okay, when if you think about it, both of the equivalent of walking up to a colleague and tapping them on the shoulder to Austin. My question every few minutes, that's hardly very few men. And we all like having meetings because we enjoy bringing people

together. We will see you now, teammates a committed to paying attention to the issues that we're discussing. We also assume that someone else must need the information that's being shed. And we often forget to off to question. Why were in the room? And what the purpose actually is? We assume that someone else important schedule a meeting and they must be a reason the same for that report that we ride every week. Someone reads it right. Now, these kinds of assumptions of convenient and they help maintain our office rituals. That's a combat list. The Dropbox. We made it okay to

say no to meetings with given official guidance on how to say no using messages like this. Thanks for inviting me. I'm experimenting with limiting, my meetings, to the 3DS decision-making discussion and debate so I can get back time to focus on wondering if we can try to cover of a slack or email Fest. If that doesn't work. I'm happy to chat more. I have personally emailed meeting organizes and ask the purpose of a meeting and declined until I receive one, a meeting without an agenda. Should be

automatically declined. Again, as a leader. It's incredibly important that I model, these behaviors that I want to see in my team and the rest of the company. I just mentioned the 3D and we communicated, the synchronous meetings must be reserved for those 3 days, important discussion, important debate, an important decision making. If you'll sing for this meeting does not meet this bomb, for example, if you're just giving an FYI or a status update, then you should not be having it. There are better ways to cover things like status update,

that do not involve a meeting. Many of you might be wondering if we cut down the number of hours available for synchronous collaboration, made it okay to say no to meetings and prioritize what meetings are or how does the majority of what actually get done not support moving from overload to focus. We lost employees to what asynchronously by default. This means instead of reflexivity schedule, a meeting for everything trying to figure out what you need on to it and how you can share it. A synchronicity for example of our Dropbox paper, document injera, or

one of the other asynchronous tools that we use this full-size, you to be more inclusive and thoughtful and how you communicate? This is inclusive because your teammate maybe in a different time zone or looking after a child is Parthenon than your work day. So you can allow them to respond and it's time that is convenient to them as well as keeping moving. Keeping wack moving forward to spending time to write down. Your own thoughts is also much more thoughtful than tapping. Someone on the shoulder, every few minutes by slack will just reflex of rescheduling. A meeting without an agenda.

Mindset shift is helping people move from disconnection to feeling like they actually belong at work. Now, it is a common misconception that working. Remotely means you automatically disconnected from your thing. We need to help people on Linda's. I have worked in plenty of office based environment where the culture was sterile, not inclusive and did not Foster a sense of purpose or belonging this by everyone being located in the same four walls. You must be deliberate about building toughest and belonging into your culture, regardless of whether your

remote or in office, if you can, deliver about building purpose of belonging, what do your remote or in office, you will have problems with Dropbox with being too, liberal about encouraging connectivity and a sense of belonging belonging to US mean to send that. Your perspective is welcome and that you are accepted. By your team and the company. So we rewrote our own definition of call Chuck. At least shared this with the company. And suck for us. Dropbox culture is a shared set of values beliefs and actions. As we work together each day.

We then set about sharing instead of practical practices around how employees to reinforce our culture through that died today. Actions. The really Skyla practices, we share our company values and tools throughout virtual first tool kit guide on how to live and work. When virtual fast is based on our own lessons and democratizing design thinking practices. Not as we evolve. In fact, I'll second major, update, will hopefully lunch today on June 30th, and I highly recommend you go and use that latest version. I'll break sample. A tool. Kit has a

simple. How to guide of how to run an inclusive that your meeting. Virtual meetings are incredibly important moments where you can share your virtual show your virtue teammates that you care about them and a, creating a safe and inclusive environment that everyone wheels that have practices around how to structure your calendar to enable better work-life balance, how to say no to meetings and not much more to be cleared. The stool kit is not a set of hard-and-fast rules or policies. We hire smart people and we don't want to tell them exactly how to do their jobs.

That is how productivity happens. We want to give them practices Frameworks and guides to help them achieve great purpose in that work as well as a box. We believe what place the future must help people create an environment in which they feel like they belong and some inspired by the principles of Taro. We designed a set of corporate tomorrow connection cause to build connection through the power of stories and play a simple set of cause can take a team from dysfunctional to aligned to fostering trust until we also develop

the diversity and inclusion tool kit to help games, build will diverse, and inclusive culture has the lens of design is what distinguishes this kit from the many excellent resources. The order exists for diversity and inclusion. When designing, we ask questions, we Define problems, only explore a range of solutions. We went to learn and collaborate with others as we go in this kit. Suggest a similar practice when building culture both of these kits. If you search for them are available online for anybody to use. As part of a research study. We carried out, we found that one of the facets to

cultivating, belonging was encouraging. Cross connections between colleagues in an office environment architectural design, accidental Collision spices, deliberately to Foster this time for connection. The key was here at deliberately designed and we've taken this to her as we redesigned our offices into Studios. Why we are remote first, we have retained our offices of repurpose them, to intentionally Design Studio spaces. These are intended to enable meaningful moments of collaboration and culture for employees. They also help us live our principal to preserve a human

connection and ensure a Level Playing Field for everyone. This means that I designed to Foster collaboration and culture building moments, not individual solo work. Repeat it out meeting rooms with log virtual whiteboards. Make sure they're intentional areas for focused feet. Work between meetings and rooms can be easily reconfigured to suit the size of the Gathering. These studios are supported by a set of local Champions who cure in person, cultural events for that teams, and we also have a complete guide of how and when to use them for team collaboration is weary.

Imagine the future of the intestine. What a true sense of belonging for our employees. Behavior change at scale is hard. We're on the packing, hundreds of years of ingrained habits. It's why you need to have both the macro top-down point of view on where you think you're going to need to give people permission to uphold your beliefs than permission to challenge the status quo, but also provide the tools to employees to empower micro Behavior changes from the ground up things like the virtual fast toolkit.

To redesigning how we work. May seem like it is outside the scope of traditional design teams, but it really doesn't have to be. All of us are experimenting, is we Define the future of work and drop box with simply deciding to be deliberate and and apply and intentional design lens to the problem of how great work gets done. Now as I close, I'm reminded again of my daughter Frankie and her Perpetual question off game at the dinner table questions. Like, Daddy, why do we have jails? When we can find another way to help people change or

daddy? Why do people say you have to put the fork on the right side of your plate, but didn't and her constant creation of ideas, hypothesis drawings to solve problems that she sees in the world. It would be easy to get mad at the questions. All the drawings in the ideas. It would be easy to tell her why they just simply won't work an Oscar to stop. But I done, I encouraged the Curiosity. The next time you hear the same questions from your kids or your employees about why something is done a particular way. I beg you,

please don't squash it encourages. This is creativity at work. It is where we learned to unlearn habits, or beliefs and behavior, that no longer serve us. And this is where magic happens on the future of work will be designed. I'm with that. I'd like to thank you. And thank you for putting us on. Thanks.

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