Storytelling about Lucid with Nathan Rawlins

Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 139. This week we have storytelling about Lucid with Nathan Rawlins. During this episode, Nathan and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing Lucid.

Nathan is the chief marketing officer at Lucid and an expert in all things software, collaboration and, worth an honorable mention, peeps torture. Prior to joining Lucid, Nathan led global marketing ventures for Puppet and helped grow Jive through an IPO as he led product marketing and brand. His passion to help people see where they are and where they need to go and work together side by side really comes through during the podcast.

Lucid enables “teams and companies of any size, in any location, to see where they are today and where they need to go next.” Basically, it’s an end-to-end visual collaboration suite that uses a shared visual language to clearly define roles, responsibilities and processes.

A few questions we answer today: How do teams collaborate efficiently in the Lucid environment? In what ways do companies handle different languages, cultures, et cetera? What about Lucid do people fall in love with?

Of course, there’s more! But you have to tune-in to learn. Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.

Thanks, William

Show length: 26 minutes

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Nathan Rawlins
Chief Marketing Officer Lucid Software

Nathan joined Lucid in 2017 to show the world the benefits of working visually. Prior to joining Lucid, Nathan led worldwide marketing activities for Puppet and helped scale Jive through an IPO as he directed product marketing and brand. Nathan enjoys exploring new places in Utah with his family.

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Music:  00:02
Welcome to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case Podcast, a show dedicated to the storytelling that happens, or should happen, when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better as we speak with the brightest minds in recruitment and HR tech. That’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.

William:  00:23
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today we have Nathan on from Lucid, and we’re going to be learning about the business case, little use case that people make for buying Lucid. So, we’re going to jump right into it. Nathan, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and Lucid?

Nathan:  00:46
William, thanks for having me. Quick introduction to me, Nathan Rawlins. I am the Chief Marketing Officer at Lucid. I am a longtime software guy where I’ve had to make lots of pitches for software, internally in and externally. Let me explain what Lucid is all about. So, Lucid is on a mission to change the way that we collaborate. We are focused on helping teams see and build the future. Explain that really quickly. We live in a world where teams need to come together across time and distance in hybrid work environments to figure out how to build just about anything. Teams may be building new software products, they may be building new onboarding processes or new talent acquisition flows. Whatever it is, we need to be able to come together. And we are firm believers that when we can help people see where they are and where they need to go and work together side by side, even when they can’t be face to face, that amazing things can happen. So, that’s what we’re focused on.

William:  01:58
So COVID, as an experiment, has it helped? Has it given you more insight into what the future of work, future of collaboration, looks like?

Nathan:  02:11
Absolutely. We believe that COVID has changed a lot of things. Let me give you an analogy for just a second. We have been working the same way for decades, in particular when it comes to collaboration. We’re used to working together in a room and when there’s something important we all fly in, if we’re located in different places. COVID forced us to think differently and act differently. And in many ways, I like to think of it as a bit of this Peter Parker moment where we were, in the sense of collaboration, we got bit by the spider and recognized that we actually can work far better when we think about working differently. And so, it forced us to get out of the work patterns that we’ve had for so many decades and work, as I mentioned before, work side by side no matter where we are. And what we’re finding, we can certainly talk more about this, is that people are more effective in many cases when they work this way.

William:  03:19
Oh, we definitely can unpack that. So, take us into that world. First of all, I’m glad. Check. I’m happy about that, that we don’t have to be in the same box to then be productive and that we can then think of the world of, especially from an HR and TA perspective, we can think of the world as our sandbox. But I do want to hear because I can see some executives probably wanting people to kind of go back to the way it was in January of ’20 and that they can see people and they can all go into a conference room and there’s a wipe-off board and it’s familiar. So, I definitely want to unpack the more productive; at least as productive, more productive. I definitely want to unpack that. Tell us what you’re seeing.

Nathan:  04:11
So, let me start with an example, and then maybe we can talk about how we generalize that across a whole series of ways that we work. But you mentioned that we all get in a room for a collaboration session. So, let’s take that, just that classic collaboration session where we’re doing some strategic planning or something like that and we all have sticky notes, and you can envision it. We’re all sitting there, we’ve got our laptops in front of us. Everyone has sticky notes that we’re writing on. We go up and we put them on a whiteboard. And then we all sit back in front of our computers and squint at these sticky notes that are on the other side of the room and try to categorize them and move them around. Some poor soul gets the task while everyone else takes a break of trying to move them all into groups, and then when we’re all done someone has to figure out how to get them into a spreadsheet so that we all have access to it.

Nathan:  05:09
And the funny thing is that we’re all sitting there in front of basically super computers with our laptops that could do a ton of this work for us. So even if we are all in the same room, we can work so much more effectively when we say, you know what we’re going to do? Let’s use a virtual whiteboard and let’s have everyone drop virtual sticky notes on there. And when it’s time to group them, let’s ask the computer to help us do that. And when it’s time to push them into Asana or Smartsheet or Jira to track these things, let’s have the computer do that for us. So, that’s just an example of how, even if we’re in the same room together, we can work so much more effectively. The particular-

William:  05:49
The computer doing that is… Yeah, just trying to make sure I get the point, Nathan. The computer in that sense is using machine learning and AI to kind of pull… to draw the dots together, right? To pull these things that they see together. People might use different words or phrases to kind of say some of the same things, but pulling those things together and kind of grouping them out, clustering them together. Am I getting some of that correct?

Nathan:  06:15
So, good example. Yeah, exactly. So in our case, you could do something that we call magic sort where it brings things together using ML intelligence, but even beyond that. And again, think of this classic sticky note exercise. What if everyone goes through and just quickly tagged sticky notes or puts emojis and reactions to it? It’s super easy for a computer then to say, sort these all by the ones that had the most votes or the ones that had the highest reactions, or any of these sorts of things. So, that’s just an example of how even in a room we’re more effective, but let’s take it a step further and say, now imagine that you’re doing that exercise and you have 50 people involved and they’re spread across the globe. You can have the same experience, whether people are in the room or anywhere on the planet. That changes things.

Nathan:  07:14
And beyond it, one of the things that we’re finding as we talk with our customers frequently is that there are a lot of voices that are coming out as a result of this. There are people who don’t want to be the loudest person in the room. They don’t feel like speaking up, but if they can drop sticky notes or they can collaborate in a different way, virtually, you start getting these voices that previously were silent that have amazing ideas, amazing insights. But the way that we collaborated in the past suppressed those voices in a lot of ways. So, that’s another way where we can be more effective because we can be more inclusive of the different ways that people want to speak up.

William:  07:59
I love that. And I think people will draw the comparison in some ways to learning and learning styles. So, everyone likes to learn differently. I think SHRM defines seven or eight different learning styles and learning differences. So, things that get in the way of learning; dysgraphia, dyslexia, et cetera. So, I think people will probably draw some type of parallel to collaboration; collaboration styles, collaboration differences, et cetera. What are y’all seeing in terms of how people like to collaborate, making it the most efficient collaboration experience?

Nathan:  08:41
So what we are finding is that, I guess I’ll start with the idea that in general, we, as humans have changed dramatically in the way that we communicate. You and I, we’re having this conversation at a distance, over technology, and it’s pretty easy. Collaboration hasn’t evolved as much. When we need to get together and we need to think things through it’s harder to do, and so that’s where these new applications, like what Lucid provides, are so important, but what we’re finding is that people are eager to get in and collaborate. The thing that suffers most when people are apart is, any time where we need to be innovative or creative, when we need a bunch of ideas to come together and we need to sort through and to find the best ones. And so, the patterns that we’re finding are that individuals are eager to find new ways to come together and discuss these things.

Nathan:  09:41
And in particular, and this is certainly something that is very important for us at Lucid, people want to be visual. When you need to hash through ideas, doing it in an email or a spreadsheet, it’s just hard. So, let’s take an example for, in an HR team. Let’s say that you need to work on your talent acquisition process. You need to map it out. That’s a visual thing that all too often we try to solve through endless emails or text documents that people just get lost in. And so, what we’re finding is that people are innately visual. We turn to visuals to try to understand these things, but previously it’s been really hard to have the technology that makes that easy. And again, that’s what we are really focused on at Lucid; making that super easy so that the way we collaborate matches the way that we innately want to collaborate.

William:  10:41
I love that. Give us, I don’t really do this at the end of the show, but I want to kind of pull it up into the meet. What are some of the examples, not using names of course, but some of the examples that you’ve seen where people have collaborated on projects? And just, maybe it’s just something that’s just kind of blown you away, and some of your customers, in the way that they’re using Lucid to collaborate in a way that maybe of unforeseen, maybe in ways that y’all hadn’t thought of before? But just give us a couple, well, wonderful customer stories.

Nathan:  11:17
I’ll give you a few examples. So, one; let’s start with brainstorming. It’s an example we’ve talked a little bit about already, but imagine that you have teams that need to come together to figure out their quarterly plans or their strategic plans. And where we’ve been blown away is seeing the creativity that teams have when they can come together virtually and get just a lot of ideas out quickly and then sort through them and then move rapidly toward execution. And to give you a sense of this, in some cases these are teams that are coming together that they’re trying to figure out how to build some big, new process or change the way that the company’s working in one way or another, or build a new product. And you may have 50, 100, 300 people in a collaboration session. And it’s just amazing to see people light up as they recognize that even at that scale, their voice can be heard and they can make a difference.

Nathan:  12:22
And in many ways, it’s no longer a matter of the biggest title winning, because a lot of this can be done where you just get ideas out there and you don’t even know where they come from, so the best ideas rise to the top. So, we certainly see those examples happen with many, many of our customers. That’s one. I’ll pause there for a second. Let me know if you have questions before I go into a very different type of customers [crosstalk 00:12:47].

William:  12:47
Let me just ask a quick question that comes up around multicultural and multilingual. So again, the world is our playground, right? And we want people collaborating all over the world, and y’all have obviously helped provide a way to do that. What do you do when people are just, different languages, different cultures, et cetera? Does that impede or do you have ways to kind of help them through collaboration and communication, et cetera?

Nathan:  13:24
This is an area where I believe that virtual collaboration can help tremendously. So, let’s talk about a couple of specific ways that helps. One, there’s just a practical aspect of, as you have people in different time zones, collaboration can’t simply be a moment in time. It needs to be a continued process. And so, you can move from synchronous collaboration where maybe a group is together, to asynchronous collaboration where maybe the people that weren’t in that initial group can come in and comment and understand and add to the flow. So, that’s the first part, just we have to understand and work through the time challenges that you have when you have teams all over.

Nathan:  14:12
The next part is, in the case of collaboration where you may be dealing with different languages, we see a couple different approaches. One can be that, very frequently we have English as a lingua franca, but beyond that we actually have visuals as a lingua franca. So, let’s take the example of working out a new process. Really, really hard to do across a bunch of different languages when you’re relying on email to do it, but when you can sketch it out in Lucid and actually see the process come to life; yes, you still have to deal with the fact that people may use different words, but the visuals become this lingua franca that spans virtually any language or culture, because it, again, it’s part of how we think innately. And it tends not to vary dramatically from culture to culture.

William:  15:11
That’s fantastic. Now, you were telling us and you were about to pivot and tell us a different type of collaboration story.

Nathan:  15:19
The first example I gave was really about, say a brainstorming session. Now let’s shift into one where, let’s take something for an HR team. Let’s imagine that as an HR team you really, really care about digging in and understanding equitable pay. This is an area, again, where in the past we’ve relied on things like spreadsheets to help us sort through all of this, and it can be challenging because again, we tend to want to see it. And so, what we can do is you can say, let’s bring a whole bunch of people together. You could have the whole HR team. They log into Lucid and they’re on a doc together, and it’s similar to say Google Docs where you have everyone in the same document. Now you can say, automatically create my org chart for me and let me visualize that.

Nathan:  16:11
And then let’s take the let’s say stock compensation and overlay it on top of the org chart, and use something like conditional formatting to light up any group where they have a pay disparity that seems to be out of whack. What we see is, we have a customer with thousands and thousands of employees where they do this, where then they can step back and they have their org chart and it’s lit up in bright red; this group over here, we’ve got a problem. And the great thing about this is then we can see it and we can change it. So, whether it’s an org chart or a process flow or some sort of system design, by visualizing these things collectively as a team and having that common visual, we know exactly what we need to do to make the business better.

William:  17:04
Yeah, that’s a North Star. It’s getting everyone to see that North Star and go, “Okay, everyone see the same north star? Everyone… Okay? Yeah, we’re all on the same page? Fantastic. Now then, some of the tactical project management, some of the more of historical… Okay, now how do we get there now that we all see the same thing?” Take us into the software for just a second. We’ll start with the basics. When people first see Lucid, what do they fall in love with? What’s that aha moment for them?

Nathan:  17:35
So, we sell a suite of products. They’re two primary ones. One is called Lucidchart, which is for intelligently diagramming just about anything, and the other is called Lucidspark, which is a virtual whiteboard. And the reactions in both of the cases are similar, where people log into the product. It takes you just a couple minutes to come to our website, get into the product. And the reaction is, “Oh, I had no idea it would be this simple to get to a point where I can visualize something and make sense of this complex world that I live in.”

William:  18:11
Okay. And so, let’s do product by product. Let’s go each product. What’s the aha moment or what’s the thing that they fall in love with?

Nathan:  18:21
So for Lucidchart, it’s an application that can be used to visualize just about anything, from your, like I said, your org charts to a process diagram. And what we find people fall in love with is, we have over 1,000 different templates for different visualizations, and they love being able to just rapidly get in there and see this new way of working that just makes intuitive sense. So for Lucidchart, it’s just the simplicity of taking something that has historically been so hard and making it incredibly easy for anyone in a company to visualize virtually anything. And Lucidspark… I’m sorry, go ahead. [crosstalk 00:19:07].

William:  19:06
No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No, keep going.

Nathan:  19:11
For Lucidspark, it’s this aha moment of, “You’ve got to be kidding me. We, as a team, can actually collaborate together in a really, really easy way.” So, the aha moment is as people start dragging stickies out and they start adding emojis and voting on things and jumping into breakout rooms where they can collaborate in small groups. It really is the moment of, I guess, this is what we talked about before, of why have we ever done this any other way? It’s just the moment of, “This is so much better than anything we’ve ever done. I can’t imagine going back to the old way of working.”

William:  19:57
Now, collaboration kind of fits in a lot of different places. Where do your customers, where do they use it in their workflow? And is it tied to or is it connected to any other technologies?

Nathan:  20:11
So, our customers tend to see this as a new type of collaboration. We call it visual collaboration. We’ve all had the Office suite for decades that allows us to do interesting things with text. We’re now shifting more into a visual world where we need these new applications that help the modern worker do great work. So that, it tends to be the category that we’re focused on and the way that our customers think about it. Where does it fit? Well, as you can imagine, as a collaboration application we need to work closely with many, many different systems. So, I’ll give you examples of a couple of different classes. One is other communication or collaboration applications where you want to have this visual collaboration at your fingertips. In that case it’s, you’re in a Zoom call and you want to just quickly bring up a Lucidchart board where everyone can work together to define a process. It’s seamless to do that.

Nathan:  21:13
You can do things similarly in Microsoft Teams or Slack. We have integrations into G Suite and Office 365. Any of these sorts of applications that are focused on collaboration, we want to be there so we’re just one click away. The next class of application though, is where we actually exchange data and information with the other system. So as an example, in the HR world, if I want to build an org chart, it’s easy to start building an org chart in Lucidchart. So much easier to just point it at your HRIS system and say, build it for me. And so, we do a lot of things where we actually visualize information that is in some other system. So, that’s where we fit in this ecosystem, where we’re very tied to many, many different systems.

William:  22:03
So, two questions. One is collaboration. Y’all just kind of figure out a better mouse trap, right? A better way of doing this. But you’re still going to have folks, and you run into these folks that it’s… might be seen as a nice to have, not a need to have. Now, I think in time it’s just going to be a “this is just a new way and you almost look like a laggard if you don’t collaborate in this way”, so I feel like we’ll just get there over time. But how are your prospects right now? How are they building kind of a prima fascia business case or ROI for the new way of collaboration?

Nathan:  22:44
Fantastic question, William. And this is where our approach is super important. We’ve been at this for quite a while. We bring on over a million new users a month to our products, and so we have every month, a million plus people that are discovering this new world. And so, as we talk with companies, typically what we’re saying is, you already have hundreds if not thousands of people in your company that are working this way. Why not enable them better? So, instead of going in and trying to convince people that there’s this new way, we can go in and we can say, how about your users, your employees? They show you the new way already because they’re already using it and they’re being successful.

William:  23:31
Which brings me to my last question before we roll out, is the expectation of people that have… again, you’ve got people that use it and then they might leave their company and go to a new company, and then it’s back to kind of, let’s all get into the conference room and get on a wipe off board, et cetera; kind of an older, outdated way of collaboration. What are you seeing there from people that, once they’re exposed to a new way of collaboration, a better way… let’s just call it what it is. A better way of collaborating with folks. How are they bringing either new organizations along with them, or avoiding organizations that just don’t collaborate that way?

Nathan:  24:18
So, what we see most frequently, and the dynamic that you just described there is spot on. As people jump to new companies, they just start using the products themselves. Again, we make it super easy for anyone to get access to our products, even using them for free. And so, they can jump into a new company, and let’s say that they discover that that company is just working in the old way still. They can very easily say, how about in this next meeting I show you how this can really work? And that’s where you see companies shifting. The other dynamic that we see is, so we have millions of students that use our products. So, these are down into grade school that are using our products, but for the dynamic I’m going to talk about, it’s mostly people that have been using it at university and they get into the workforce and they just, they come in and they’re astonished if a company doesn’t provide Lucid products.

Nathan:  25:15
And so, there they can just come in and say, “I know how to do this. Let me show you a better way,” and they become the catalyst for change in any new company that they go into.

William:  25:26
Love it. Listen, I could talk about this forever because I just think y’all have just kind of cornered the market on just a new way of pulling people together and getting value, and kind of getting away from just things that might have worked at the time. And maybe that was the best way we could do it at the time, but just a better… we’ve evolved. It’s just a better way of doing it. So Nathan, thank you so much for your time today. And I appreciate you breaking everything down and explaining Lucid, but also just kind of taking us into this world of collaboration in a way that we should be thinking about it in the future. So, thank you.

Nathan:  26:03
Thank you, William. It’s been my pleasure. I’ve absolutely enjoyed it.

William:  26:06
And thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case Podcast. Until next time.

Music:  26:10
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William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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