Three quick steps:

Step 1: Type “define remote” in Webster – this one, I’ve already done – part output below:

  1. separated by an interval or space greater than usual
  2. far removed in space, time, or relation  DIVERGENT
  3. distant in manner ALOOF
  4. not arising from a primary or proximate action

Step 2: Now think of the common uses for the term ‘remote’ – examples: ‘the mobile network is not so good in remote areas’, or ‘there is a remote possibility of this happening’. Others?

Step 3: Now, juxtapose ‘remote’ as used in common parlance above to #remotework (remote work)

Hope you’re getting the gist of where I’m going with this. When I interact with senior leaders and hiring managers, the roles that get defined as ‘remote’ definitely seem to carry the remote definition hangover with them – so this role can be remote because its carved out or transactional enough wherein we can define the set of requirements upfront and there isn’t a lot of back and forth needed.

This will sound odd and therefore placed in its own paragraph: how do you remove friction from something that is inherently frictioned as apparent in the very definition of the term used to describe it?

Take for example the concept of staying in someone else’s house instead of a hotel while vacationing. If you’re like me, the very idea of staying at someone’s house was cringy, especially if you’re taking a break and wanting to get away from your own home environment. But what did Airbnb do?

Three layers leading to the creation of a new concept for home stays in the hospitality sector: (1) technology, (2) execution, and (3) just got lucky with its timing?

Airbnb proved that technology doesn’t always have to involve a breakthrough in the classic definition of the term – using the web interface for beautiful images, collating global supply and demand, and creating an easy interface to talk directly to the host were simple levers that went a long way in removing the perceptive friction around not knowing what to expect while staying at an unbranded, not-as-professional-as-a-hotel place (someone’s house).

Execution has really been decentralized to the platform participants. The hosts now have locks with codes so you can check-in conveniently, welcome folder with wifi and other basic amenities, support mechanisms during the stay – all again removing the friction caused by the absence of hotel functions like concierge, reception desk, housekeeping, etc.

There is a theory that Airbnb’s timing was serendipitous with the post-Lehman crash where people had lost jobs and were seeking sources of additional income. Personally, I have never believed that you can time the ‘perfect timing’ – you build a good product or service that creates value and the timing will help spruce the market adoption, not be the reason for it.

Most importantly, Airbnb combined the above levers to create a new term: ‘Experience’ – this solved the ‘stay at someone’s home’ friction hangover.

Sometimes in life, the root-level friction becomes the anchor-point for how you perceive a concept or idea and what Airbnb did so successfully was to leverage technological innovation and great execution to create a new concept that repackaged and transformed the frictioned ‘stay at someone’s house’ concept.

The way work is evolving and the significant global demand supply mismatch for skilled roles, hiring anywhere in the world will have to become a viable reality – and we can’t be terming such global teams as ‘divergent’ or ‘aloof’ – these teams need to be woven in the same cultural fabric and integrated seamlessly to work organically together, not in silos.

Let’s think of the technology innovation, execution delivery, and a new term to open up the idea of hiring and onboarding the right talent, regardless of where they’re located…

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