managemnet company strategy managemanet LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman on Innovating Amid Volatility

LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman on Innovating Amid Volatility

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HANNAH BATES: Welcome to HBR on Leadership, case studies and conversations with the world’s top business and management experts, hand-selected to help you unlock the best in those around you. If uncertainty and turbulence are the new normal, how does that change the way we lead? Today, we bring you a conversation about transforming volatility into an opportunity for innovation – with our editor in chief, Adi Ignatius, and Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and host of the podcast Masters of Scale. You’ll learn why it’s important to align the social impact of your innovative activity with your business mission and why your talent is the true differentiator that will make or break your team’s success. This episode originally aired as part of HBR’s New World of Work video series in January 2022. Here it is.

ADI IGNATIUS: Welcome to Harvard Business Review’s The New World of Work. I’m Adi Ignatius, Editor-in-Chief of HBR, and each week on the show, we talked to a top-tier CEO about this new world of work that we are defining, and we really talk about all aspects of it. We have a great guest this week, Reid Hoffman. Reid is an entrepreneur, an author, a venture capitalist, a podcaster. He’s probably best known as the co-founder in 2002 of LinkedIn and was its first CEO. Full disclosure, we are on LinkedIn right now if you are watching this live. He served on the boards of many companies, including currently Microsoft. He’s now partner at the venture capital firm Greylock Partners, and he hosts the popular podcast, “Masters of Scale.” So Reid, welcome to the show.

REID HOFFMAN: Awesome to be here. Great to see you.

ADI IGNATIUS: So how does it feel appearing on the platform that you yourself created? I mean, this is probably the definition of a metaverse.  [LAUGHTER]

REID HOFFMAN: Well, it is a definition of a metaverse insofar as is people are like, oh, this metaverse is a new thing, but we’ve already experienced it, we’ve already been in it. The internet’s a portion of the metaverse. You know, StreamYard and Teams and Zoom are part of the metaverse, and so we’re actually in the metaverse.  And you know, obviously, because the entire idea with kind of LinkedIn is how do you empower people to take as much direction and intentionality and iteration and opportunity in their professional careers, obviously doing this on LinkedIn is awesome, from my perspective, so always delighted to– and actually, you know, we should do more of this. You and I have talked over the years, and there’s a bunch of stuff that you think about, and you’re the super thoughtful person, so whether it’s LinkedIn or others, that would be awesome.

ADI IGNATIUS: Yeah, well, that’s great. I’d love to do more. And just for people who are wrestling with the definition of metaverse, this is actually not the metaverse. This is meta, but it’s not metaverse, but maybe we’ll talk more about specifically about the metaverse and possibilities, because I know we’ve already gotten some audience questions about that. And by the way, if you want to raise a question that I can ask Reid, type it into the comment box, we’ll try to get to a bunch of these along the way.  But a lot of the questions that I have and that people who are watching have are about innovation, and you know, you’ve been involved in a number of companies that have been super creative, super innovative and have scaled, which you’ve written the book about how to scale. I guess my question is, tell us something about innovation that we don’t know that might be of use to our audience.

REID HOFFMAN: Always a great question. That’s kind of where is the unique thing. Let me just start with something that probably a number of people know but then move to maybe things that are a little bit more esoteric or more, you know, kind of subtle. The first one is there is no innovation without risk. And so you can’t have, you know, frequently what happens in these kind of things is I’ll take an innovation, and it’ll just work. And obviously, there’s ways you try to be innovative in risk intelligent ways. You try to maximize the chance that it will work. You try to minimize down the cost of it not working. You try to have some things where if it didn’t work. It still works in some, you know, kind of viable way of kind of making it work. But literally, if you’re trying to be innovative and you don’t see the risk in what you’re doing, either you’re not being innovative, you’re being blind to the risk, or you know, maybe it’s just not that interesting, and so that’s one.  Now, the more subtle ways of thinking about kind of innovation are kind of like, OK, so which innovations may have a interesting chance to work? And this is actually one of the things where you have to intersect a number of different things. So typically, of course, again, people will think, hey, what are the platform changes, if the metaverse changes and an AI changes, a Cloud change. You know, is it the ongoing mobile change, et cetera, and how does that lead to what the changes are and the thing that I’m working in? And you know, how does that play to our product or service, how does it play to our supply chain or how does that play to how do we work? And then asking a whole set of questions around these things are generally how you can lead to innovations. But then you want to begin to say, OK, it’s this combination of, yes, I’ve got a good idea. I might be kind of adjusting to a meme that people are talking about, but I’m also thinking about in concrete terms about how does our product or service work? How do our company work? Because you could say, well, there’s like, you know, a classic one is kind of like a metaverse is a very common one, which is part of the reason I actually answered in a kind of direct way of saying actually in fact, we’re already in part of a metaverse, because people being clear about what is that metaverse. So like is it, oh, we’re all going to be in bodysuits with a head camera on, and that’s how everything is going to work now, and it’s going to be all like Ready Player One but everything else. And I think once you begin to really think about that, you realize that future is not near term to us, and that actually, in fact, the more interesting thing when you’re looking at patterns of innovation are what’s happening in the next three, five, 10 years, and this is actually I think probably the last point I’ll make on the innovation is thinking about time frames is actually really important. Time frames for when is a platform change happening, time frames and how can you execute on things, and what is that intersection. And not every time you have a good idea. If you’re not throwing out some of your good ideas, then you’re probably also not being discerning enough to say, OK, yeah, I had this really good idea about how to use video, but it doesn’t really fit within the time frame, and so I’m going to do something else. And so those are some, and I’m happy to go into depth on any of these, but those are some kind of Jackson Pollock throwing paint on the canvas on innovation.

ADI IGNATIUS: Yeah, those are all great points, and actually, there’s an audience question that really builds on this. I’m going to go to that right away. And this is from Alex in London, which is, how do you scale innovation where the profitability of your legacy products can get in the way of kind of innovation and R&D?

REID HOFFMAN: Well, it’s a classic problem, you know, obviously, the innovators dilemma is usually the way this is historically described, you know, Clay Christensen. And the short answer is it takes some leadership and it takes some grits in order to do it, and usually what you want to be able to do is you want to say, hey, if we’re going to be innovatively disruptive, we want to do it to ourselves. And so you start doing that process. You’ll get organizational tension, because your whole organization will be around your legacy product. You’ll be still in a place where you say, businesses are about tuning efficiency, and so that’s part the reason why you have like HBR and you have business schools [INAUDIBLE], it’s like, how do you reliably put in a dollar and get out $2 or $5 or [INAUDIBLE]. And it’s like, the legacy business will clearly do that.

Whereas, the new thing is like, well, wait a minute. Are we taking that away? Are we destroying ourselves? Would someone else do it if we didn’t do it, et cetera. And the answer is you have to start trying to do it. It’s one of the reasons why I think one of the things that is a practice that the disruptive part of the management of companies in Silicon Valley is you always do some red teaming. You always say, how would an innovator come after us. OK, can we experiment with that? Can we own that channel? Can we be doing whatever the disruption is, the platform, the lower cost of product or service, because The Innovators Dilemma, Clay Christensen, was classically studied very much on hard drives and kind of cost of that and we be doing that and making that happen. But without leadership, that can’t happen, and the leadership ultimately comes from the CEO and the executives who say we need to be doing this. And a lot of times, unfortunately, this is where leaders are acting like owners or not, and owners of the future and decades and so forth, it’s like, well, if I don’t have to do this innovation and then I can hand off to the next generation, that’s frequently where companies can get into trouble, because they haven’t been taking the risks and making the efforts on the new products.

ADI IGNATIUS: So I’m going to do one more innovation question. You’re kind of an innovation guy, so I’m going to pepper you with one more innovation question, and this is actually from Steve Kepp in Brooklyn. So it’s really about innovation opportunities that have maybe been created by the pandemic. I mean, as he puts it, as startups aim to solve problems for employers adapting to long-term distributed work, in what areas do you see promising opportunities in HR, in tech, in whatever.

REID HOFFMAN: So there’s a couple of places where structurally you should look at the opportunities. So one is, you know, the kind of the classic aphorism, never waste a good crisis. You know, in this kind of thing, it’s like, look, everything’s volatile, it’s been shaken up some, trying to predict where it’s going in it’s volatility and going and skating to where the puck is going, not where it is, but where it’s going.  Some of that is to say, look, we’re accelerating our digital transformation. It’s one of the things that kind of Satya Nadella said very early in the pandemic is, you know, each month we’re seeing a year of acceleration of the digital transformation, and I think that’s continuing the case. And say, OK, well given that, how’s the market condition, customers, individuals, et cetera of this digital transformation? Where is that going to be heading? How do I get there in the kind of the time frame of what am I doing? And I think that that, you know, and obviously some areas that are obvious is things where we’re now all conditioned a lot more to doing work through Teams and Zoom for this kind of thing. How do we make that work? What’s the iteration of that when you think about HR and kind of things like, OK, how do we build, you know, company building, team building, trust building, culture building. How does all that happen now that you’ve got some, wherever it actually ends up, you have some more distributed, some video work and workforce and some more distributed team and some more distributed work processes, how does that all work out? And those, I think, we’ve seen obviously some great innovations and some great acceleration, but it’s usually in this tech stuff is people tend to call it to the new thing too early. Like, oh, OK, we’re still in the mobile revolution. We’re still in the Cloud revolution. We’re still in the pandemic and shared collaboration of the fact that we are in this collaborative environment from distributed locations. And so you said, well, Zoom’s obvious, but then what else might make a difference? Well, products like Coda, where you say, well, OK, you’re redesigning your workflow for how you would want to work, and it’s a platform for internet kind of collaborative workflow in terms of how you do it. That would be an example, and things like that are the things where you start thinking, OK, I’m looking out for how does this digital transformation accelerate in terms of what’s going?

ADI IGNATIUS: So, part of what you just said is that we don’t quite know where we are and where we’re going. On the other hand, we have to decide how we’re organizing ourselves for work, and this question is probably it’s more biased than science. But you know, what’s your sense? Do people, do we need to be– is the default to try to get as many people back into the office together to collaborate, to create and sustain culture, or is that, do you think, an outdated notion at this point?

REID HOFFMAN: So, I think all of the reasons why we have gathered in cities, in companies, in other kinds of collaborative work environments, those reasons still persist, and it isn’t 100%. There’s some percentage of people who are like, oh my God, I’m distracted by meetings, and I’m allowed to sit in my home office and do some stuff, and I’m so much more productive. And there are some people who are much more productive that way. And by the way, part of it is recognizing who those people are and how you work with them, and now we’ve got this exposure. How do we make this blended environment work? And so I think that there will be persistence and learnings from this kind of distributed work. On the other hand, I think there’s a higher percentage of people who get energy from being in the room with each other. Like I can tell my level of creative problem solving is better when I’m in the room with a whiteboard or something else and kind of working on it and kind of riffing than I am on Zoom or on Teams. I’m not terrible, and I can make it work, and obviously the last two years, that’s what we’ve been doing, but I’ve already kind of, you know, now vaccinated and tested, you know, done some of the stuff where you’re in the room, and the pace and the on target-ness and everything else, because time always matters in these coefficients, is good. And I think all of that kind of thing will, generally speaking, lead people back in the room.  And I think part of it is they say, well, wait a minute. It’s working well now. And you’re like, well, it’s working well now when it’s been everyone distributed, but then once you begin to re-aggregate, you know, the Hamiltonian phrase of being in the room where it happens, it’s like, well, actually, in fact, a key discussion was had at the water cooler or at the cafeteria where you were having a coffee together or a key thing was, you know, kind of in a walking out of that meeting was like, you know, I thought about this during the meeting. And that’s part of the reason why then people say, well, we need to aggregate, and that’s a natural way that we tend to operate, and I think that will generally happen across all the things.Now, my advice to leaders is not to overly force it, because obviously, people want to see in their leaders that they care about my work style, my productivity, my happiness, my health. And so they don’t want to be like, you’re saying you’re fine being at home, get your ass back in the office. And it’s like, no, no, no. Look, what we care about is how we work really well together and how you and the team both really work well together, and that’s the thing we’re focusing on, and I think that will naturally end up with people broadly back in collaborative circumstances, even though you’ll see lots of innovations. Maybe they’ll be like Tuesday or each group chooses its work at home day and/or the no meeting day kind of off the Toby Lutke kind of a Shopify, some of how they operate, which you can hear on the Masters of Scale podcast, and so those kinds of things I think will persist and continue.

ADI IGNATIUS: Excellent plug for the Masters of Scale podcast, by the way.


ADI IGNATIUS: So a couple of weeks ago, we had Sandy Speicher, the CEO of IDEO, on the show. You know, we were talking about some of the same stuff, and she was saying, you know, what they’re trying to figure out is being physically present shouldn’t feel like a punishment or a mere requirement, that there has to be a pull factor beyond, I mean, everything you may say about collaboration, about the white board, about the water cooler may be true, but not everyone’s going to buy it, and it’s hard to actually prove it. So they’re trying to think really, so what’s the pull factor? Whether it’s food, whether it’s hackathons, whether it’s dance parties, I mean, just something where you need to be physically there, and there’s a pull. There’s something fun and attractive or valuable to being in the same room.

REID HOFFMAN: So I think the pull factor is a great idea, and I think it’s important to do, and it’s part of showing that we care about it. We’re not mandating. It isn’t like, you are a cog in our machine, and your cog needs to be here. It’s like, no, we’re organic. We’re a team. We play together and so forth, and we work together. And I think food and kind of coffee and other kinds of things are a really excellent way of doing that. I think that my gentle nudge for folks is to do things that align to the work and to the intersection. So it might be, it isn’t just like, oh, the entertainments here or the exercise class or the gym is here. I think it might be things like, you know, like OK, so when we’re working together, we have all of these things that make the our work in collaboration more easy and together. Like so for example, if your meeting room has a bunch of things that make all of that meeting much more, you know, kind of easy and fun, like you could say, well, blending them together is like, say for example you put Nespresso machines in every meeting room, and then you had kind of Post-It whiteboards and things. And you had some, like we were asking about innovation, like here are some good meeting prompts and questions and things to do. And obviously, you can put those up in your collaborative working environments online too, but things that kind of align more to the intersection between the work and the projects you’re doing and the way that you’re being effective there and making it more fun and being more present with each other. And I think those are the kinds of places to hunt for the pull factors and then look for the ones that are also unique to your culture.

ADI IGNATIUS: So I want to shift gears and talk a little bit about the role of business in society. I know that you’re a fairly activist business person yourself. So my question is, more and more people are asking businesses to weigh in and even help solve seemingly intractable social problems. And I guess the question is– is that, in fact, the role of business? And if it is, how can business play that role effectively and not spread themselves thinly and not really make a difference?

REID HOFFMAN: It’s a great question. I think the short answer is employees, customers, even investors– although investors tend to be more like just, hey, what’s the equity value, et cetera– care more and more about what your impact in society is. And it’s helpful to your business across a number of frames to be leaders in this. And then you say– well, how do you not just say, “well, everyone’s climate change. We’re all going to do climate change. We’re all going to be sustainable.” And by the way, climate change is obviously a big one. And saying something about what you’re doing to important, current zeitgeists, and massive important phenomenon like climate change, is really important. But what you do is you think, what’s the mission of my business? And what is the thing that my business is really trying to do? And how do I invest in that in order to make a very big difference? And that’s where you put your real dollars. And part of how to look at it is– to some degree that efficiency we talked about in businesses earlier is businesses are platforms. So if you took LinkedIn, you’d say what kinds of things can LinkedIn do with a dollar that is differentially applied to things that make a big difference in society? If you said, what we should do is we should be investing in carbon capture in the oceans– not [INAUDIBLE] centers and [INAUDIBLE] that we can do. But something like that is like, well we don’t have the platform for that. Similarly, if we were launching a business and we were saying, hey LinkedIn should launch an apparel business, we don’t have a platform for that. We will be terrible, we’ll be really inefficient. On the other hand, what LinkedIn is really good at is how do you help reskilling, how do you elevate talent, how do you do things like that? And you say, so what are the ways that LinkedIn should be philanthropic? And look, you have this big thing where part of the thing that’s really important to society is diversity inclusion with new skill sets. And so we should have projects for that, for the skill platform we have. We should take things like– and LinkedIn has been doing this for 15 plus years– veterans and applying their skill sets into the workforce and society. We should be working with cities. We have this LinkedIn cities project, which is what are the industries and the skills of the future that are relevant to the city regions? And how do we help cities invest intelligently in that to help their citizens and help their industries navigate that? Because we have data and perspective and other kinds of things that can help with that.  And so we go these are the places where we spend $1 and we get $10 output. And it aligns with what our mission is and why our employees are here and why are our shareholders buy into to us and the kinds of things we can do and we can talk about. And that’s the thing to look at. So whatever your company is, you go here’s what our mission is and because we have this platform with amplified value, here’s where we can put in some money and make a difference. And then you say, how much money should we put in? How scale are you? How profitable are you? How much is it important for your employees and for your shareholders and for your customers to be showing that you are leaders in this area in order to be doing it? And then all these things are calls of our leadership. Then you invest in that. And I think that’s one of the really important things. And I’ll actually end with one last point on this. Something that was obviously pretty tense in 2019 and 2020 was where should business leaders be playing a role in politics? And obviously the typical answer is well, but wait, we have both Republicans and Democrats and we have a wide variety of views and we should be open for shareholders and for employees and for customers. And that’s broadly correct. On the other hand, in fact there are issues in politics that are fundamentally good business issues. For example– rule of law, stability in the society. Like when you get to things where you get this like– look science leads to vaccination leads to public health. Like coming out on saying, look vaccination is not a political issue, not a partisan issue, but is actually in fact a way that we can be a healthy society together. And you can look at it and say, look the science very clearly shows that it’s much safer to be vaccinated for yourself than not to be vaccinated.

And it’s also part of being safe to other people. Because if you said, well I can just go risk other people by individually choosing not to be vaccinated because I’m potentially breathing on them and spreading a disease that might kill older people or might kill people with weaker immune systems. Well, that’s not a freedom question, that’s a public health question. And those are the kinds of things that business leaders can weigh in on, even though there will be criticism from people saying that’s partisan. You’re like, no, no, no, that’s not partisan. That’s science, that’s rule of law, that kind of thing. Part of when you know that you have to be a good leader is not when it’s easy– like saying we believe in excellence, we believe in shareholder returns. Great, and that’s important. But you don’t get criticism for that. It’s the places where you have to make a decision in some areas of difficulty, that’s when true leadership is actually shown and demonstrated. And so I think this is an important area that all growing business leaders need to do. But as for your question, it’s focus to the things that you can really contribute and help on.

ADI IGNATIUS: So you’ve been talking about leadership and I want to press you on that a little bit. You’ve been a CEO, you’ve invested in a lot of CEOs, probably some successful, some not so successful. So partly in terms of what you just talked about, but more broadly, what does good leadership look like in 2022?

REID HOFFMAN: Well I think one of the things that people are illusioned, delusioned, hopeful on is, wow, the 90s and the 2000s were so awesome. Like hey, if we just fix this and this we’ll get back to it. I think those times are gone. I think we are in continued crisis and volatility. And I think that’s years into the future. And it’s not just the pandemic. There’s obviously global tensions and competition, there’s political disorder, there’s a whole set of things. And then we’ve got climate change, which we’ve been ignoring effectively for too long. And my own personal view is really how we’ve been ignoring it is by not massively investing in technology– carbon capture, geoengineering, energy. The fact that all governments should be investing in nuclear fission as a plan, call it H. All the plans and make it work because obviously the technology has gotten a lot more involved. And so I’ve been doing it personally, as kind of philanthropic, because I’m not a professional investor in energy. And break through energy investors and Bill Gates and all the rest as well are doing this. And so I think that the key thing is to say it’s going to be continued crisis continued volatility. And so then what do you do as a leader? You have to in that environment get some stability, get some coherence on how you’re operating together, identify very clearly what future you’re trying to build towards. Why it is you’re making some of these hard calls, calls that other people might make differently or might question you on. Where your ethics and values are, and why you’re saying this is the ethical thing that we’re investing in, this is the thing that we’re doing.  Because there’s obviously tons and tons of things to do and you can’t do all of them as a business. It isn’t what you should do as a team, it isn’t you should do for your investors. But you can do some. It’s a little bit like always be doing something that’s really good in the world, but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything. And then how much? Well, that’s a choice of what you can do and where you think your real ability to contribute is.

ADI IGNATIUS: So as promised, I want to come back to the metaverse. We started by talking about it and you said both that well in some ways it’s already here and also that in the real sense it’s still quite a ways away. So help us, those of us without great imaginations for how technology can change things. How might a metaverse world, or whatever, change the world of work? Improve the world of work, hopefully.

REID HOFFMAN: Well, by the way, we’re already doing that. We already have a much better ability to do hybrid, we have a much better ability to bring people together. We now have this amazing talent that’s in Wyoming or in Florida or somewhere else and we can bring them in together into a company and work together. And I that’s part of what’s new. And we have not just these initial tools, with video conferencing and so forth, but we have a whole suite of other network native, you might say even multiplayer, foundational tools like Coda and others coming in order to make this work– Figma other things. And so that part of what we’re seeing will be, in effect, continuing. And those are all part of the metaverse. Now that being said, people like the Ready Player One, the Snow Crash the, wow, we can have a completely new fanciful environment. I do think, by the way, that there will be visualization tools and there will be a way to like jointly immerse yourself in simulations and to take things. Like in the film Minority Report, some of the interface things being worked on at the MIT Media Lab were brought in to show you how you could be moving data and images around and so forth. And I think we’ll see more of that and I think will see them through these devices. And I think that will continue to amplify. But I don’t think– what people tend to think, because they’ve seen these movies and read science fiction, is like, all of a sudden we’re going to be in haptic bodysuits and that’s the way we’re going to be working. And you’re like, of the four million inputs that we have in our brain, three million are for our eyes. And a lot of our eyes are being able to see people’s faces, and to see when they’re looking a little bored or uncertain or they’re looking really interested and how they’re responding. And that’s part of the collaboration. And that’s part of the reason why I think, in crystal terms like, would you want to be given your performance review by an avatar? Right? Or would you rather be seeing someone who’s doing it. And so you’re like, what are the places where it really adds something magical and different? And not just like, oh, that’s different. And that’s where I think the world of work, as we head towards the metaverse, will be becoming.

ADI IGNATIUS: So you put your finger on– Zoom is not that complicated a technology. And we talked about Zoom fatigue, but it’s actually kind of good because it is very intimate. It’s very up close and it’s exactly what you say, you really are getting a close up look at people, look at faces, and an ability to the emotion. With all these new technologies– I mean I have this theory that at a young age you’re developing the technologies or you’re helping find a use for them and there’s a certain cutoff point where you think they’re stupid. For my father that was email. But with the new generation– they’re not so new, but whatever– cryptocurrency, NFTs, the metaverse. These are all in a category of things that may or may not dramatically remake our future and that some people don’t get or don’t think are valid or hit that cutoff line and think they’re stupid. Are these things I ticked off, are they the future? Do we just have to kind of orient ourselves toward understanding that the world is going to change dramatically?

REID HOFFMAN: I guess the wise path to do this, I think, is to always say in a new technology that has enough actual traction, not just heat, people talking about it, there is an element there that will be part of the future. And part of when you’re thinking about predicting the future, innovating, understanding which parts of it, is you go, which pieces of this will be persistent?

So for example, you think TikTok, you’d say just a bunch of entertainment, a bunch of people wasting time, et cetera. But look at the raw usage and the raw demand of it and the fact that it has so much engagement. And yes, it’s playing an AI recommendation engine to try to get things that are most interesting to you, which can be addictive, but also, by the way, are revealing your real preferences. So if you’re going to TikTok and you just resolutely only look at instructional, educational things, all of a sudden you could be shown a whole bunch of that. So it is a Rorschach test in a mirror.  But you look at it and you go, some of this is going to be the future. And one of the things that’s interesting is it evolves and changes. So what are the pieces that are most fundamental to it and how do I do those pieces in a way that I’m skating to where the puck is going, not necessarily where the puck is, because there are elements where it is.  And so I think that’s true of Web3 and crypto, I think that’s true of AR and VR, I think it’s true of the metaverse, even. I just think that you have to look at what are the actual patterns that are happening. And that was the reason on the metaverse I was gesturing at Zoom and Teams and so forth as ways of doing this. But it was like what do you see? And then you say, well what’s really going on in crypto? There is a whole bunch of innovation going on, there’s smart contracts, there’s distributed assets, there’s a question of a new banking infrastructure layer. That’s probably part of the reason they call it web three. Then you have a distributed ledger, where the ledgers are platforms. And so when the NFTs look a little strange initially. But I can nearly guarantee you, there will be something interesting about NFTs that will be mass marketed within, call it, two years. It isn’t just like I’m buying a Bored Ape or a crypto kitty or something else. It’s something like, that really matters. That uniqueness thing matters. And so you look at it and you don’t go, oh the whole thing’s dumb. If there is heat, what’s the thing that’s persistent and will innovate and come off of? And that’s the interesting place to continually be part of the future on this.

ADI IGNATIUS: So if you’ve got another sec, I have one last question and I want to talk to you about talent. You’ve written books about talent and the relationship between employers and employees. And so there are a couple of questions that have come in and one from Donna from Massachusetts is the question of recruiting, which feeds into a number of issues– the desire to have a diverse workforce, the ability to have a distributed workforce. But then questions– her question is really geography– that Silicon Valley is too expensive for a lot of people and that hurts your recruiting. And then there’s a question from Sarah from Phoenix about the anti-work trend. People who feel really disenfranchised by what they perceive as the uncaring nature of their employee and maybe the whole system. So I’m throwing the big talent question. How do we think about recruiting the teams that we need as everything is getting blown up?

REID HOFFMAN: So I think it’s one of the things that is most key when you’re thinking about

innovation. So obviously I published The Alliance with HBR because one of the things I love about HBR is it’s so focused on these key areas that may not be quite as obvious, like talent, for how do you create and innovate in the future. And The Alliance was how do you recruit and manage innovative talent and innovative talent wants to play into the future. And so I think that the question about caring is doing things where you show that you care about the world and you care about where the talent is going. And part of The Alliance is you care about where their careers are going, not just as a function of what’s good for you. Like maybe they’re going to evolve and become leaders in your own company, which would be awesome. But one of the things that some of the leaders at LinkedIn, like Kevin Scott, who’s now the CTO of Microsoft would ask people in interviews is, what’s the next job you want after LinkedIn? Because our commitment to you and our commitment to you as part of our team is we will transform your career. And we’d love it if you work at LinkedIn your entire life, but we also want to make sure that whatever happens next you do amazing work for us and you have an amazing career, including and possibly in other places. And that’s part of where you can show that people are caring about it. And then when you have volatility like this, it’s what Ryan Roslansky and other folks have referred to as “The Great Reshuffle”, which I think is right. “The Great Resignation” is a great media, PR line, but it’s really a reshuffle. And how do you get that reshuffle? Because the pandemic asteroid has hit the economy. What happens in terms of people saying, well, now I can try this or now I could take the risk of this or I’ve rethought it my priority is X. And how do you turn that crisis and change and volatility into opportunity? And always be thinking about– your company’s capabilities are entirely the organization and composition of the talent that you have. Yes, you might have a great industrial business, you may have a great position and a great product, but the future is being driven by talent. And so focusing on talent strategy is a key thing of what you’re doing and a key differentiator for your company is an obvious thing to be doing.

ADI IGNATIUS: So Reid Hoffman I want to thank you for being on HBR it’s The New World of Work. You said you want to do more of these things. I would love to figure out more ways to do things with you, together.


ADI IGNATIUS: That was a great conversation.


ADI IGNATIUS: Thanks All right. So, I also want to thank our friends at Unisys, our sponsor. Our guest next week– so that will be Wednesday, January 12 at 12 noon Eastern time– will be Carol Tome, the CEO of UPS. We’ll talk about how UPS has shaken up its business model since she took over and about her thoughts on diversity, about good jobs, and about stakeholder capitalism.  Thank you for being with us. If you’re an HBR subscriber, head to to sign up for The New World of Work newsletter. Anyway I’m Adi Ignatius, editor in chief of Harvard Business Review, and we will see you again next week.

HANNAH BATES: That was entrepreneur and venture capitalist Reid Hoffman – in conversation with HBR editor in chief Adi Ignatius. That conversation you just heard was part of HBR’s New World of Work video series – which explores how top executives see the future and how their companies are trying to set themselves up for success. More New World of Work videos can be found on YouTube or We’ll be back next Wednesday with another hand-picked conversation about leadership from the Harvard Business Review. If you found this episode helpful, share it with your friends and colleagues, and follow our show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. And while you’re there, be sure to leave us a review. We’re a production of the Harvard Business Review – if you want more articles, case studies, books, and videos like this, be sure to subscribe to HBR at This episode was produced by Anne Saini, Ian Fox, and me, Hannah Bates. Music by Coma Media. The original episode was produced by Julia Butler and Scott LaPierre, with direction and video by Dave Di Iulio and Elie Honein. Andy Robinson and Tristen Mejias-Thompson were production assistants. Special thanks to Maureen Hoch, Adi Ignatius, Karen Player, Ramsey Khabbaz, Nicole Smith, Anne Bartholomew, and you – our listener. See you next week.

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