Speaker 1 00:00:05 I, I, I may have portrayed it as a little bit of like a side gig or a hobby, but I actually want to state a strong opinion that I think proficiency with modern tools is, is going to be very important moving forward.
Speaker 2 00:00:22 Welcome to the Remote Culture Club podcast. On this show, we inspire and equip leaders to build remote culture that works. I'm your host Alex Dunn, and even though I've been leading remote organizations for over 10 years, I'm always learning more. It's really nice to have you here. And without further ado, welcome to the show.
Speaker 3 00:00:49 In this episode, we have Tim from optimization, but I know what you're thinking. You don't sound like Alex and your rights for this episode of the Remote Culture Club podcast. I'll be your host. So who am I? I'm Jake and I work alongside Alex on our coaching and training programs, and I also design and build our own remote culture club, workspace and notion, which brings us back to Tim and today's conversation. So Tim builds digital workspaces for remote teams, but what's a digital workspace? If you're unfamiliar with the term, think of it as an online home for your team and their work that they can access anywhere, helping you all collaborate and stay on the same page. With his consultancy optimization, Tim has built hundreds of workspaces, so in this conversation we talk about his experience supporting remote teams, typical challenges teams face with their operational systems, using notion as a tool, in particular as a digital workspace, uh, practical things that individuals can do to make some more changes and a bunch of other things. So without further ado, here is Tim.
Speaker 3 00:02:06 Hey there. So today we have Tim from Optimization. Uh, really excited to have him on the show today, and he's here to talk about a few things. So building hundreds of digital workspaces for remote teams, how the right workspace can support remote teams to be, I guess, both more effective and more connected as well. And what good looks like, and maybe a bit of what bad can look like too. I'm sure we'll get there when we get into it, but Tim, I wonder if we could start with maybe how you got into this work, and maybe if you could explain a bit about how optimization came about and what it's, that'd be great to start.
Speaker 1 00:02:50 Yeah, sure. Hello there. Thanks for, uh, thanks for having me. Optimization started now three years ago in New York, even though the company is all remote, specifically New York because that at the time of, of the, of founding the company, well, actually, funny enough, the origins go back to New York, but when the company was started, I was traveling somewhere. I think it was that California or Minnesota, but between the two, but regardless, um, essentially I discovered Notion on Product Hunt the tool. Your audience may not be familiar with it, so I'll just quickly talk about notion before optimization because it's such a foundational thing to the company or foundational tool. So Notion, um, is a note-taking application that's, uh, very, very popular and it's all used by most, um, startups and technology companies these days, mostly as a tool for Wikis, um, and SOPs and knowledge management, which all of which could be terms that we can explore here.
Speaker 1 00:03:52 But essentially folks use it to take notes, right? Notes about perhaps strategy about business, about meetings that they're having, about internal meetings, external meetings, all kinds of, all kinds of notes. But recently the platform has expanded into task management, into project management, into automations, and essentially serving as an all-in-one connected workspace for companies to get their day-to-day work done. So again, a lot of things can, can fall into that bucket, but at optimization, what we do is we help companies, um, adopt notions. Specifically when you and I connected, we were a little bit broader and we're offering different workspace options like Airtable, Coda and so on. But since then, we've decided to go all in on notion for the next, the next foreseeable future as far as the origin. So as I mentioned, I discovered Notion on Product Hunt in 2018, and that was pretty early Adopter Notion had originally launched in 2015, and then the things didn't go so well.
Speaker 1 00:04:56 So I believe they ran out of money. Then the two founders moved to Japan, rebuilt the company and relaunched in 2017, and that's when it really took off. At this point, by the way, the companies valued at 10 billion with more than a hundred million users around the world. And when I discovered the tool, as I mentioned, pretty early adopter. Um, and so I, at the time in my life, I had, I, I was running a startup accelerator while I was at N Y U and I had tried starting a company and I was also involved in student government. So I had multiple commitments across the board. And in order to perform at all these commitments, I leaned into productivity and collaboration tools. And so at the time of my discovering notion, I had already mastered the use of, say, Trello, Airtable, Asana, couple other Slack, Zapier, couple other project management tools and automation tools and so on.
Speaker 1 00:06:01 So when I discovered Notion I to immediately connected with their value proposition around taking multiple tools and recreating the experience in an all-in-one connected workspace, right? So I became Power User quickly for my startup accelerator. I essentially organized all of the events that we were hosting, all of the mentors that we had connections with, all of the startups that we were evaluating, all of the startups that we were supporting, all of the founders. So quickly, all these databases of things were now existing in a connected workspace that then I could easily manage all in one, right? So from that point on, I essentially, um, started diving a little bit deeper into the community. And Notion is very unique in a sense that it has a gigantic, um, online presence and organic as well. So as the tool started, uh, gaining popularity from 2017 to 2018 and onwards, at the same time, users started self gathering all over the internet in Discord, in Reddit, um, in Slack groups, and also in person.
Speaker 1 00:07:08 Now we find ourselves in 2022 with a subreddit of notion having more than a hundred thousand, how more than a hundred thousand Redditors subscribed or I guess following. So the community is pretty large at the time it was on, on the ComeUp. And so I joined the Facebook group, I started helping others with Notion, I started receiving help with Notion, and then next thing you know, I discovered that there's an event coming up, officially sponsored event coming up in New York, volunteered to help with that. I ended up speaking at that event. I showcased a bullet journal template that you could, you could essentially recreate a physical bullet journal in Notion Folks resonated with that. It was, it was a good talk. Um, one of my first ones actually. Um, and then eventually that led me to becoming an ambassador. So now Notion had launched an ambassadorship program where they encouraged, um, on a volunteering basis folks to organize events in their cities and events were happening.
Speaker 1 00:08:04 It was like tens to twenties events happening all at once across the world. And so I, I, I was the one to lead the New York chapter and eventually on the third event in New York, now late 2019, I, um, I organized event that was a, a, the topic was, um, managing design assets in Notion. And at that event, an attendee came up to me and he was a, he's a startup founder. He asked me if I, he could actually hire me to move, uh, their Confluence base. Confluence is also an a more legacy knowledge management tool that belongs to the Atlassian suite. So he asked if he can move their, uh, he can hire me to move their confluence into notion. And at that time, this type of work wasn't quite known or didn't quite formally exist, you know, notion Consulting. And, and so I picked that up and that was my first gig. And then next thing, one thing led to the other, to the other, I got started getting more clients, started getting a little bit more popular on Twitter as this person who was active in startups and then also knew how to use Notion for startups, um, or for building a company. And that's, that's where, that's where optimization started. Now, very long-winded <laugh> introduction, but that's, that's the, that's the gist of it.
Speaker 3 00:09:26 That's really helpful. Thanks. And, um, to be honest, I learned a lot there. I didn't know a lot about the, um, notion backstory, so that's helpful for me too. And yeah, I should say, so our, our own workspace, our Notion Workspace at Remote Culture Club, the first version of it was built by Roxanna, who I think at the time was a Notion expert and a kind of freelance consultant. And then Te and I connected to kind of as we were thinking about building our second version, and I think at that time, Roxanna and you were working together. Is that right?
Speaker 1 00:09:58 Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's, uh, it's very, the team that came together has been a very unique on a, on a very unique trajectory. I'll say. I hired my first employee in six months after starting the business formally. And when I say starting formally, it's just getting the l l C together and deciding that my social media username at optimization became the company's name optimization.com. Um, I really didn't realize that there's something there to, to build bigger than just a temporary consulting gig. I had no idea that Notion Consulting will become one a category that now we are finding ourselves leading. So eventually hired my first employee six months in, and then almost a year later, a team emerged around our business. I think it was now, now eight people, including Roxana. And what's really interesting is that we're, we have had to develop new roles for the work that we do.
Speaker 1 00:11:03 So at this point, we have, uh, three distinct roles on our team. One is a workspace designer. So their responsibility is taking design thinking and UI UX principles and applying it to, um, building workspaces for teams. And that's counterintuitive in a way, because traditionally design thinking, at least in practice, is always thought about how do you create an experience for the user, for the customer, for the buyer. But here we're applying design thinking to improve the experience for the employee and how they get work done, and how do they feel about the organization that they're contributing towards. So that's Workspace Designer. And what happens in our projects is that the first, uh, point of contact is with the workspace designer who hosts interviews and, uh, tries to, um, uncover the depth in terms of what, uh, a, a, a person wants to accomplish with their workspace.
Speaker 1 00:12:09 What kind of, you know, how do they want to feel about their work and, you know, what kind of productivity they want to attain. Not even what kind, but what level I'll say. And, and this still, still we're, we're learning so much about how to define this even better, but that's Workspace designer. And then essentially their work ends when we have something known as a Workspace design blueprint, which essentially is a schematic for, um, based on the interviews, based on notion proficiency, based on, uh, additional user research. We know what does the workspace should look like, what functions should it cover, what frameworks should it include, how should it work, and what kind of jobs, um, should enable the users, the employees at the company to do. And on upon that blueprint, we have the second role coming in, which is the workspace builder. So that person rolls up their sleeves, logs into their Notion workspace, and then creates these assets, these deliverables.
Speaker 1 00:13:08 And that may include a database for meeting notes that already, uh, includes all the properties that are important for creating, uh, scheduling, creating, running, and following up on a meeting and templates for running this meeting and different views for people to engage with these meetings, right? Maybe a personalized view for someone who has a lot of meetings going on, on a day-to-day basis, or a team view for folks that need to be contextually aware, like perhaps in sales, uh, and collaborate on, on meetings, meeting notes and follow ups. So that's Workspace Builder in in some, there's a lot more things that are involved there. But lastly, we have Automation Engineer, which is again, something <laugh> from another category, which you may have explored on the podcast, but like no code and Zapier consultants and make.com consultants. So that's where, now that we have the workspace blueprint, we have the workspace built, there is a phase of eliminating manual work where, you know, folks are finding themselves clicking too many buttons or having to import data from one tool or export data to another tool. And so their automation engineer job is to figure out no code automations, ideally based on no code that can then help streamline the workflow and, um, help folks get more meaningful work done as opposed to just manual click clacking or moving of data that's just more tedious. So now we have a team of eight people where these roles are, they're broken up by, by these different roles.
Speaker 3 00:14:53 Super helpful, really interesting, um, for me to understand the different roles and, and how your business works. Um, and I wanna zero in for a second on the, the kind of workspace designer role. 'cause the kind of consultation that you described, um, is really similar to, um, the work that we often do with clients when we're first working, because obviously, you know, we can have our own ideas about what people need, but obviously you can't really help a client or a customer without speaking to them and understanding really what their current situation is, what good looks like for them, understanding different members of their team and what their own needs are. So I'm curious to think about, um, are there any like particular patterns that you see or like common challenges that you hear from remote working teams that are maybe like growing, let's say around 20 people in that kind of workspace design interview phase? Yeah. Any particular like common challenges that come up?
Speaker 1 00:15:49 I think communication tools is a consistent, consistent theme that comes up naturally. So, because I think what we're seeing right now is a fragmentation of communication, because each collaboration tool includes its own ways of communicating, right? So obviously we have the staples like Slack, then Zoom or Google Meet. But then in addition to that notion has its commenting features, and it has four, at least three different ways of leaving comments. Then Figma has its own commenting feature, and then there's also comments in Figma, the design thing, and then Fig Jam, the whiteboard, right? And then there's also a way to host a little call inside of Fig Jam as opposed to have a Zoom and Figma open and then, you know, x y, Z tool has their own commenting. So point is what's happening is that there's almost 10 different ways to comment or to have a conversation. What is the right way? There probably actually isn't the right way, but what is, what is the best way to have that conversation actually lead towards something meaningful, perhaps a resolution or of conflict or an action item created and so on. So we're seeing that come up as a, as a challenge for a lot of companies that are, you know, even working in person, especially working hybrid and most certainly if they're all remote.
Speaker 3 00:17:32 Yeah, that's funny. It's, it's a super common challenge that, that we, um, that we see in our work as well. And one, one way that we sometimes like to think about it with clients is you have all of your tools, and let's just focus on communication for a second. So you have all of your communication tools and you have like, what the intended purpose of them is, why the team or organization started to invest in that tool. And then you have like the perceived use of what the tool is, and that might be different for every member of the team. And then there's this gap between kind of what the intended use is and, and what the actual use is. And then among that just, it gets so messy, right? Um, and people are getting notifications across all these different tools, um, all times of day.
Speaker 3 00:18:23 And it can be really hard sometimes to know how to engage and how to communicate with colleagues. So it's kind of, it's reassuring that that's like a, that's a common challenge that you come up against as well. Are there any thinking about, like, um, so thinking about, let's say there's a client you started working with them, that's their like main, uh, or that's like a big challenge that they're facing. How, if we think about like continuing their journey, so like they go on to work with you and you help streamline their communications, like how would you help them? Would you say everything has to be a notion or would you like, um, come up with a bespoke solution? Like how, what does the rest of their journey look like and how would you help? Something like that?
Speaker 1 00:19:13 Yeah, yeah. I think on a high level there is, there's, there's a certain, let's call starter approaches that that could just work. One of those being, um, identifying, clearly identifying the tech stack and making sure that everyone's aligned on which tool in the tech stack accomplishes what job. And then identifying the pathways or modes of communication. And also making sure that everyone understands, or at least aligns collectively on what is we, we call this sort of the half-life of a piece of communication. Uh, meaning how fast does this piece bit, bit of communication, uh, ceases to be relevant, right? And the half-life for Slack message is really short, likely on the next day it's already had drawn, um, drowned out in more messages or conversations versus a, a comment notion could be a little bit more persistent because there is a log of it being open versus resolved.
Speaker 1 00:20:24 It actually lives on the page in context of the conversation versus a recording of a call, which is also technically a medium of communication, say on a tool like grain.com, it's a little bit longer half life, right? Maybe a week or so, so you, it folks can actually access it. So I think getting folks to realize that type, these types of concept concepts and then picking what kind of communication they want to optimize for. And that's, that's a, that's a unique pick because I think we found some customers be very willing and open to embrace asynchronous modes of work and others being much more reluctant. 'cause they are either used to the just let's get on a quick phone call to hash this out type of approach. And, and yeah, and, and we don't want to, we don't want to be process. We, we don't want to.
Speaker 1 00:21:23 It's instill a co a principle of process over people. At the end of the day, people and their intuition and their understanding of the world and as, as well as collaboration and their own teammates is more important than just stringent process. But there needs to be a balance, especially with hybrid and remote teams, because if process is not followed, communication, certain bits of communication are just lost permanently and permanent loss of information can lead to poor, can not, will, uh, lead to poor business outcomes. So that's, you know, on a, on a, on a high level, what we're, what we're finding ourselves, uh, doing actually. So, so for example, we're, we're, uh, about to start a project where company of, um, I think it's like 12 to 15 people, um, has used Slack in the past and has, was not necessarily properly onboarded to it, or did not intuitively as an organization figure out how to use it.
Speaker 1 00:22:28 So they ended up churning from Slack and then going to WhatsApp and email. And WhatsApp is not a tool that's built for, for foundationally built for team use case. So they're having a lot of challenges with multiple groups and harder to track information, uh, or communication, you know, follow ups and, and, and all of that stuff. So our approach here actually is a bit counterintuitive. Instead of solving the direct communication challenges, we're first looking at, uh, knowledge management and how the people, uh, in the organization take notes and share notes and collaborate on those notes. Because the reason we're doing that is that if we're able to address knowledge management first, then success in that arena will then dramatically reduce the burden of communication. And that's always a go-to approach in, in my opinion, first, um, understand how knowledge management is conducted at the company, how's note taking, how her, our notes are being taken and shared, and solve that first and then see to what extent that has an impact on communication.
Speaker 3 00:23:49 Yeah, super interesting. And it's funny that really mirrors a, um, conversation that I had a perspective with a prospective client maybe two weeks ago where they had grown from I think four to 40, um, employers in two or three years and had started out using Slack to kind of communicate. And I think when you are, there's four of you, you don't need to invest in knowledge management in quite the same way, but then when you grow very quickly, and what they had found is that the systems that they were using were no longer fit for purpose, and that anyone newly joining the organization just felt very overwhelmed and lost and just had a very negative experience. And also that they weren't really kind of building upon what they'd done. I mean, I, I really like the idea of thinking about what the kind of half-life of a communication is.
Speaker 3 00:24:40 And I think you're right, like with Slack, it's so easy, isn't it? It's so tempting to just send a message on Slack and it's just out there immediately, you know, people are gonna see it, but then it just kind of disappears into the ether, uh, and it never feels like a reliable way of really communicating anything complex or translating something into action. But yeah, I wonder if, I'm curious to know, how do you approach that with organizations? So when an organization hasn't, isn't kind of thinking about knowledge management and are kind of more focused on communication, how do you help them understand whether by explaining it or by kind of finding some small experiment for them to work on to understand it? How do, how do you help them understand the kind of value of knowledge management and why it's so important to, to build out as an organization?
Speaker 1 00:25:31 Yeah, yeah. It's, it's very much so through demonstration and visually showing a, a deliverable, I think, um, deliverable being a, a certain database dashboard, the way information can be captured, organized, and then made actionable in, in our case, a notion workspace. And that, that usually gets them intrigued or interested in the possibilities. But then the key is to get them to use it to create their own piece of documentation or create, you know, their own note taking workflow. And ideally when over time once that happens, there's a light bulb moment where they're like, whoa, with this, uh, tool and this setup right here, I can gain a lot of autonomy in my work and others that I collaborate with can do the same. And that light bulb moment is what we strive to achieve. It's, uh, actually quite difficult to, to do, especially with people who are a little bit less familiar with, with these collaboration tools and, and less, in a way, for lack of a better word, like nerdy about these things because, you know, the way I got into this business or the way all of our team got into this, because we were very interested in like picking it apart and seeing how can we like being very interested about the tool, not necessarily just the outcomes, but most of our clients are interested about the outcomes, not necessarily just the tool and the tool making and the tinkering.
Speaker 1 00:27:15 So there's this balance that we need to strike where they have, they understand just a bit of the tinkering and the tool using, so then realize that outcome. And, uh, I, I think I hesitate to go into specifics because they're all so different for, for different companies, but there's, there, there, there's one use case. There's, there's one, I remember clients a while back that we worked with that they were actually already using Notion, but they were not using it to the full, to its fullest potential. So, uh, specifically they had been writing notes and creating documentation. And when I say documentation, it's more of a lighter level of fidelity, meaning certain product requirement docs or certain strategy nodes, not something that like, you know, here's a like schematic for product and you know, a lot of, a lot of fidelity in there. And so they were a startup, so they were iterating very quickly.
Speaker 1 00:28:19 So whenever someone would author a document, a notion, what would happen is that in intuitively nobody could see it because it was created in some corner of the workspace that wasn't visible, wasn't discoverable, it wasn't accessible on its own. So the person would then grab the link and then share the link in Slack or, uh, maybe on the Zoom call it would get lost, most certainly in Slack. And then even more so in the Zoom chat. Zoom chat is one of those things where information goes to die, like within, within seconds, probably within minutes, but it's just terrible place to share things. So that's why actually at optimization, what we have for our internal agendas is that the agenda item in Notion has a button that would be like, leave a comment as opposed to leave a comment in a chat in Zoom, because it just, again, it will not only, it disappears, it's just kind of a poor experience where you're trying to talk to someone and then you have to open the chat and like pay attention to two different things.
Speaker 1 00:29:18 So anyway, <laugh>, that was an aside. Um, but back to the, back to the client, um, essentially they were, they, they were, they're having a problem where notes and documents were created all over the workspace by multiple people. And so one simple fix there was to create one standardized, sometimes referred to as global database for DA for documents. And in that one central place, everyone would create their notes and documentation. And with the right filtering and the right sorting, you would have this one company wide view for anything that's been created, say in the past couple days or in the past couple weeks. And, um, that had a, a significant impact on, on people's work because now they could just open a page and realize that somebody had already created this piece of documentation or somebody, you know, met with a potential client and taken this notes that are maybe relevant to their work. And that was a light bulb moment for definitely the leadership because now they had seen all the content that was being created in their, in their workspace, and that was actionable on their end. So that's just one example.
Speaker 3 00:30:29 Yeah, I love that. And I think you're right, thinking about that kind of light bulb moment where someone can see that investing in this kind of work will reward them more than they'll have to like invest in it. I think understanding there's that payoff, um, is huge. And I just wanna kind of put myself in the shoes of someone who's listening to this and who's thinking, this all sounds nice, this kind of world where everything is documented, where everything has its own place where everyone understands how things should be done, where things are tidy. And I don't have a million notifications across different platforms, but my reality is that I do there, maybe they have a lot of emails in Slack, um, a lot of emails in the in inbox, sorry, a lot of messages across channels in Slack. Maybe they're also using Asana and they have a bunch of kind of tasks and comments for them there, and they just feel quite overwhelmed if they're listening to this and thinking about what this kind of better world can be. You know, often people are limited by the systems they're operated in, right? If you're an individual within a system that's not working very well, it can be hard to make changes. But do you think there's any kind of like small changes that an individual can make to start heading in the right direction? Or is there not? Does it, does it just need to happen? Does, do you just need to get buy-in from a kind of senior level and just like start from scratch?
Speaker 1 00:32:01 I would say no. It, it definitely depends on the size of the organization when it comes to hundreds of people, and even more so like thousands of people, large organizations, there is, it definitely will be hard to enact change on that workspace level, but on smaller teams probably, maybe there's a threshold around 50 or something like that, less than 50, let's call it. I think it's very much so possible to, to enact change. And in fact, what we're seeing a lot of, um, amongst our clients who already are using Notion to a certain degree, there was that one or two people that were just very excited about the tool, very excited about its possibilities. They went the extra mile based on their enthusiasm to learn the tool, to create an environment for their team, then showcase that environment to another team, get them on board, and then almost like sequentially create a, a more powerful approach to, to getting work done, uh, with this tool.
Speaker 1 00:33:03 And, and actually Notion has identified these folks as notion champions at, at, at organizations that, that facilitate that change. And, and I think that is true to, with other tools as well. The thing is that all of these tools have so many, um, bells and whistles that could dramatically improve the experience for just one person. Even in Slack, a lot of the times, I, one suggestion for folks is to, whenever they're using the tools to use shortcuts, obviously, but there's one particular shortcut, I don't know if you use it yourself, but it's Command K. And essentially command K lets you like, navigate the workspace really easily hop from one channel to the D M C or unread. And it's just like one small change in the workflow that can dramatically help someone speed up the way they're using the tool. Um, and because of that success in Slack, actually a lot of tools like Superhuman and a few others replicated this command, uh, command bar user interface.
Speaker 1 00:34:08 So, so that's one thing. I think just, just if you have some free time, watch some YouTube videos about, about notion, about Slack, about whatever tool that you're using and they're most likely exist there and, and learn some, you know, tips and, and tricks and, and hacks on how to, how to use the system better. And I, unless you are already a power user, I guarantee that you're definitely will be able to learn, um, a way to use the system better for at least for yourself and then maybe for the team usage, collaborative usage that can then maybe that, that can then you can, you can sort of spread that enthusiasm across your next teammate and the next teammate. And then next thing you know, the whole organization is a lot more excited to be better at, uh, using tools. And I, I, I, I may have portrayed it as a little bit of like a side gig or a hobby, but I actually want to state a strong opinion that I think proficiency with modern tools is, is going to be very important moving forward. And I think the people who are proactive with learning and mastering how to use these tools are going to be ahead, um, in the, in the, I was gonna say in the economy, but at least in the workforce.
Speaker 3 00:35:32 Yeah, I think that's right. That's, that's an interesting, it's an interesting take 'cause there's so many new tools that are popping up and it can be, I think it can be quite overwhelming and I think maybe there's also like sometimes generational differences there as well. Um, but I think if you are able to have an approach, which is, wow, this looks interesting and new and different, and I can have fun with it and explore and learn by doing, I think that does give you a huge advantage. And I, I like what your suggestions about how individuals can kind of become power users and how by making changes themselves, they can set an example and kind of create opportunities for these things to spread. Um, I wonder if we think about the kind of like the flip side of it. Oh no, do you wanna jump in there?
Speaker 1 00:36:17 I do, I do wanna add something a bit there because I think we've primarily spoken about this work use case, but, and you mentioned fun and there's a lot of fun to getting to use these tools as well. Uh, I think, I think it's, it's limited to certain ones. Like for example, I don't know how you could have fun on Slack yourself, <laugh>, but in notion, uh, my God, there is, there is so many fun use cases out there that are pe people are using the tool for their personal entertainment perhaps. I know, I remember on the subreddit somebody would post like a collection of Pokemon organized in Notion somebody had like all N B A teams that they follow and, you know, top not top shot, uh, what whatever, whatever, like probably NFTs they're buying like organized in in notion, I guess, uh, may they, uh, <laugh> anyway, uh, NFTs is a separate, separate subject, but, but there's, there's so much fun to be had in like organizing different pieces of information.
Speaker 1 00:37:18 Somebody I recently met in New York had a whole list of like, restaurants that they went to and Google Maps links and ratings that they had in there. Um, I personally maintain a, a, a journal or, or write a journal in Notion, which is one of those obvious use cases, but I think there's a lot of, like a lot of fun to have to be had in notion like organizing different information, but then also styling it to the degree that you, you like. And, um, what I mean by that is that even though a notion has different, definitely some silent limitations, people find all kinds of creative ways to go about this, like in terms of colors and images and gifs and stuff and creating this like perfect aesthetically pleasing workspace. Um, so there's a lot of, a lot of things to enjoy there. Now, caution is that you could get sucked into the, to the point where you're just, uh, sort of, some people refer to like enjoy like productivity porn where you're just like organizing and always tweaking and always changing things and always doing the work around the work as opposed to the actual work <laugh>.
Speaker 1 00:38:26 So there's, there is a dark side to that, but we can go into that later or, or maybe not at all. <laugh>, pretend it doesn't. No, I'm just kidding.
Speaker 3 00:38:34 No, I mean that is, that is something I wanted to ask you about. There's actually a few things there, so I just wanna kind of mentally try and remember to touch on all three of them. The first, just really quick one is I was thinking for someone who's not familiar with Notion or who is familiar with using it, but maybe some of the things that have been talked about here, uh, would be unfamiliar to them. I wonder if you have a kind of standard walkthrough video that you could share of your setup, and maybe we could do one of our setup too, so that in the show notes we can add those in so that someone can have a kind of more visual talk, because I think that helps. So that's just one thing we can come back to after, after the recording. And then the second thing.
Speaker 3 00:39:14 Yeah, so definitely I think the work around the work is a, is a nice phrase. And I think we have a bit of that tendency and I think notion encourages it because notion in the three or so years that I've been using, it has changed so much. And you alluded to this in, in your introduction from being, you know, I guess a note-taking app to now having like full on project management and communication and automation and AI and all sorts of different bells and whistles. And I think that's something that we, that has really benefited us as we've been growing and as we've been changing, it means that, you know, when you as a business or a team go through an iteration, maybe you have a big product change or maybe the way your working changes, you can change your workspace around it. And I think that can be a huge benefit. But I think you're right that there's a, I guess like a word of warning there that it can also be easy to, to kind of stay in tinkering mode. But yeah, I, I wonder if you have any thoughts on, particularly thinking about how remote workspaces are like, I guess I'd call them a forever project. Do you have any thoughts on how people can kind of positively evolve their systems as they grow and change and maybe like avoid doing too much of the tinkering and pruning beyond what's actually necessary?
Speaker 1 00:40:44 I would, I would draw an analogy between a workspace and digital workspace and physical workspace or physical environment that you live in, whether it's a house and apartment, there's definitely a face setup phase, right? You initially buy the furniture, but initially buy TV, couch and all, all of that. Then on a certain cadence, perhaps you replace items, you decide that this no longer it, you know, is, serves a need or satisfies certain right. Usage, pleasure, whatever, and then you tend to replace it. So I think, I think establishing some kind of cadence about it is the best approach as opposed to having an always on, always, always tinkering approach. Because I think, I think it's easy to get, it's far too easy to get lost in the optimization of things that don't matter. And to an extent, notion being such a open platform, such a, such a flexible platform, yes, as you mentioned, encourages that, but I think it's important to, to try to, yeah, try to resist that and do that in this fashion of like, create this, this particular workflow, commit to using it.
Speaker 1 00:42:09 And the, the, the commit to the thing is that like, I'm already coming up with all these, like, you know, uh, not excuse excuses to modify this perhaps. Yeah. But, but what I mean by that is that I think, I think, I think a particular workflow is always evolving until there's a point where it gets the job done, and that's where you should try to pause because it's, you know, it's actually helped you accomplish the thing that you were, you know, looking to accomplish. And then, you know, maybe in a certain period of time, whether it's a quarter or a month, you can review if that particular workflow is still helping you to accomplish that thing, or maybe you're not even using it or maybe you're using it wrong, uh, you know, not in the best approach. So I think in some, I, I think it's a little bit difficult because a playbook for this doesn't quite exist. So it's, it's, it's us coming up with it from one experience to another. Um, and it's also like a little bit individualized as well. So, yeah, and some, I think, uh, whenever you create, create something for, for your team or for yourself, commit to using it for a period of time, and only after that period of time you will, you will notice modifications that will actually matter as opposed to small things that, that may be irritating in the short term, but then cause you to just make unnecessary changes.
Speaker 3 00:43:34 Yeah, I think that's, that's totally right. And um, and I think, uh, a really nice way of thinking about it and when, you know, you spoke earlier about how kind of proficiency and appetite to engage with new tools is gonna be kind of more and more important for, for people and for people to kind of succeed in the workplace. I think also this is like a kind of companion skillset to kind of having, being exer able to exercise judgment in that way to say this is, this is kind of like good enough to do the jobs that needs to be done, and knowing like when it's appropriate to like iterate and experiment and make changes and then when it's right to just like settle things down and I guess just kind of like execute for, for want of a better word. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:44:22 I, I think there's the distinctions to be made here as well, because I'm realizing I never connected the dots with that, like that physical space analogy. Like, you know, when you move into a new space, I think there's a period initial onboarding period, uh, of, of tinkering. That's okay, right? Like, you have that bookshelf there, maybe you want it in that corner, maybe you want it in that corner. I think that's okay at the beginning, right? Move around, feel free. Like in fact maybe, um, get to a point where you feel satisfied, don't necessarily restrict yourself, like, this is where bookshelves go and therefore it will be there forever, <laugh>, you know what I mean? Like tap into that, tap into that, tap into your, you know, maybe desires for optimization in the, in the beginning I think that's okay, but then as, as things settle down, resist that urge, that's where, that's where we're gonna pause.
Speaker 1 00:45:14 But at the same time, we have to make a distinction between tinkering the positioning of say, bookshelf versus, you know, right, actually like filling in the content and making sure all the books inside of there are arranged and making sure that the dust is wiped, right? So there's uh, an aspect of digital cleanliness there as well to draw an analogy with. And what I mean by that is that, say that this bookshelf in the digital workspace is actually a meeting notes database, right? So when you take meeting notes and if you decide that for a meeting, you wanna keep track of its name of its date of attendees that are participating or maybe you know, external folks that are participating. Um, and if you, you, you believe that this is, this information is valuable, then you have to make sure that whenever you create a meeting note you don't have an empty date or no attendees or no notes, like actually commit to a certain digital cleanliness around using the the thing that's, you know, supposed to help you achieve certain outcomes. So that's a little thing that I wanted to add.
Speaker 3 00:46:23 Yeah, I really like that analogy. I wonder whether there's maybe like a newsletter issue for you there, or it could be a really nice video, but I think that's a helpful way of thinking about things. So if it's okay with you, I've got one more question I'd like to ask and then, uh, I'll come to you on any, you know, if someone wants to learn more about this stuff or get in touch or find out more about you, kind of where they should go. So have a little think about that. So we talked a bit about, um, what individuals can do maybe like small changes and tweaks and I really liked your suggestions there. So last thing I'm kind of curious to get your thoughts on is maybe the flip side of that, which is when there are top down changes when let's say you are like leading a team or running an organization, that you have changes that you wanna make to the workspace and how your team communicates and collaborates, what have you learned about supporting that change to happen through training or onboarding or basically just getting people who are unfamiliar with a tool or a way of working to be more comfortable and confident to make, uh, that kind of change or transition a success.
Speaker 3 00:47:28 Mm-hmm.
Speaker 1 00:47:28 <affirmative>. Yeah. Yeah, I think on the training end, there is a, a, a small step that leaders can take that is quite impactful. Is one, consuming the resources themselves that they are suggesting, suggesting to one another, I think to, to their, to their employees or to their direct reports. 'cause a lot of the times I, I noticed that there's some, there's, they, they've learned by experience and then they just suggest like, Hey, check this resource portal out. But they've ne never actually engaged with that portal and realized like maybe what that it may suck actually, uh, in terms of helping someone get educated around the tool. So, so I think what I would, I would recommend is actually, you know, if we're talking notion, then create a notion page with recommended resources that they've, um, consumed themselves. Ideally. In fact, the, some certain bits of information are written based on the workspace.
Speaker 1 00:48:26 Like, this is how we do things at insert company name and we do these things because our values, you know, this is, this is our value set, right? So for example, at optimization, our values are, there's an acronym called Coast, right? So conscientiousness, openness, autonomy, system thinking and trust trustworthiness or, and Tru Trust overall. And, and so actually when certain things, certain decisions or certain pieces of information are shared, there's sometimes a prelude like, yeah, we're following our, you know, values or this is, this is what we believe to be the right thing to do. So I think that could be an interesting way of giving, disclosing the why or giving someone a, a purpose behind, like not just, Hey, learn this tool because that's, that's how it is, but like, learn this tool because we value conscientiousness and someone understanding how tools work and you know, autonomy so that they don't have to always ask too many questions over Slack or Zoom or in person for that matter.
Speaker 1 00:49:30 Um, and then, uh, yeah, so that, that goes as far as training, as far as onboarding, actually those, those those pieces can be, can be merged together in one where, you know, folks, I think, at least in the startup world, and definitely in the corporate world, I suppose care about that 30, 60, 90 onboarding. And I think you can actually both in notion Slack or whatever other format you use, you can create a checklist for whatever people need to be thinking about or need to accomplish in that time period. We have something in an optimization where someone joins, there is a template for the things that they need to do. Some of the basics include like, activate Google Suite, add your profile photo, you know, this so on. But then some more advanced concepts may be like, here's a personal dashboard template that you can use to see all your tasks, all your meetings, all your, um, whatever information we track, um, or we organize, here's how you set it up for yourself.
Speaker 1 00:50:32 And that is just one item on the checklist that because of notions like content hierarchy, like lives within that checklist, or sorry, within that checklist item. And it's like really easy to engage with. So these are, these are two things that we've, we've implemented in the past that seem to have worked very well. I think, I think also within Slack you can create like timed messages and, and you know, uh, or even their Slack bots that exist that you can kind of set that up. But you know, at the end of the day if you as a leader or the manager also just remember to, to check in with your um, uh, team, then that would be, that would be quite valuable. To that end, I actually have a re recommendation for a fantastic tool that I don't know if you know about, but it's called Kona, K for Kilimanjaro, <laugh> o for Open and for No and a for Apple Kona.
Speaker 1 00:51:31 I think the domain is hey con hey kona.com. And essentially what that is is a, a Slack bot that, or even a Slack tool that enables people to check in every day on at least, at the very least their mood. So it's like red, green or yellow. And then they could elaborate with emoji or piece of text or photo. And essentially when there's consistent engagement with that, Kona bot then reaches out to like managers, leaders to, you know, suggest a time to check in or maybe ways to check in. Um, and there's like a lot of cool infrastructure that they're building essentially to understand like burnout and uh, mental, uh, health and capabilities of of the company.
Speaker 3 00:52:19 Yeah, I just, I just Googled it, uh, while you're talking, it's something I'm familiar with, not something I've used, but yeah, I'm curious about how these kind of more automated approaches to I guess like human connection can be helpful at curious, maybe slightly skeptical, interested, I dunno. Yeah, I really liked in your response though, the, the point about managers making sure that they've kind of tried used like Resource Knowledge portals themselves because I think I'm definitely guilty of saying like, you know, the information is there, um, and then actually maybe the user experience sucks and maybe it's not a great start for someone and maybe it doesn't make them feel comfortable or confident using something. So yeah, I really like that way of thinking about it. Well thanks Tim. There's been so much goodness here. I feel like I've learned a lot as well and yeah, it's just been really helpful and I think doing this deep dive on notion is actually, you know, so many of the people and people in the kind of wider remote culture club are notion curious, so I think this would be really helpful for them. So lastly, if people wanna find out more about you, you, the work you do working with Notion, is there any particular place that you'd direct them towards?
Speaker 1 00:53:31 Yes, our website, because we are figuring out our social presence and newsletters and all of that stuff, it's always constantly an evolving process, but our website will always be there no matter what we decide as far as our content goes, it's optimization.com, so O P T E M I and the rest of the word.com <laugh>. Right. But that, that may have not been helpful, but hopefully you have a link in the podcast or something. Yeah,
Speaker 3 00:53:58 We'll put that in the show notes. Well, thanks so much. It's been a pleasure. Really nice to catch up and hang out and talk about all this stuff and unleash my inner workplace and notion kind of nerd to, to get into this And, um, it's been great. Love it. So
Speaker 1 00:54:14 Thank you. Love it. Likewise. Thank you. Thank you.