As actor-turned-venture capitalist Ashton Kutcher tweeted in November 2021: “The #Metaverse is already here, but until today, there wasn’t a network that could handle it.” It’s true, it wasn’t until high-speed 5G and massive-scale cloud storage networks came on the scene that truly immersive worlds became a reality.
Finally, technology has made it possible for anyone to work from anywhere, and it’s unlikely many people will want to return to a physical office following the pandemic. This is why I’m moving our entire digital experiences creative agency from Baltimore—and into the metaverse.
I know many of my fellow CEOs are wondering how to lead an entirely remote team while maintaining company culture, sustaining morale, and ensuring productivity remains strong. At Mindgrub Technologies, we’ve been doing a lot of thinking about these issues, and I thought it might be helpful to share some of what we’ve learned here.
I’m not moving my company to the metaverse to be cool—I’m doing it because otherworldly shared spaces are the future for knowledge workers. Static staring-into-a-screen Zoom calls or instant messaging-based channels on Slack just aren’t going to cut it anymore. Widely distributed teams need nothing less than a massive reimagining of the world of work.
The best companies I know have always had really strong culture. You can sense it as soon as you walk in the door: the energy hits you and is reflected by the design, conference rooms names, dress code, cartoon tchotchkes perched on monitors, and more.
You know what I really miss about our office? The impromptu conversations. The sheer physicality of being around the different teams. Walking around. Seeing the light-sensitive engineering team huddle in a corner with a game of Magic: The Gathering Arena after delivering a bunch of code, or donning VR headsets to hang out in our holodeck. Watching the creatives brainstorm while lounging on beanbags, a few dogs napping nearby, and our in-house robot fetching sodas.
Look, I’m a realist. I know the genie is not going to go back in the bottle. I know we’re not going back to life as it was. But I am absolutely determined to bring the culture we had back in Baltimore to our new home in the metaverse.
My recommendation to CEOs thinking about moving to the metaverse is to start by documenting your corporation’s culture. What made it great in terms of visuals, sonic soundscapes, feeling, and execution? Map out how people moved around the office, because you’ll want to replicate that human flow. That’s what we’ve been doing. In our various skunkworks, we’ve been sketching out the physical manifestation of how we used to work so we can transpose that into our new virtual environment and reconfigure our work lives there.
A caveat before you begin: make sure you set up a metaverse committee with representatives from all teams. This isn’t just another internal technology project—it’s a company-wide transformation. Everyone needs a voice, or you can bet not everyone will feel enthusiastic about diving into the new metaverse-based environment.
TESTING THE TECHNOLOGIES
In his year-in-review blog post, Bill Gates said: “The idea is that you will eventually use your avatar to meet with people in a virtual space that replicates the feeling of being in an actual room with them. To do this, you’ll need something like VR goggles and motion capture gloves to accurately capture your expressions, body language, and the quality of your voice. Most people don’t own these tools yet, which will slow adoption somewhat.”
I agree with Gates, but we have to start somewhere, and there are already plenty of metaverse-ready platforms to explore. I recommend CEOs test out some of the following: Ronday, Spatial, Horizon Workrooms, Minecraft VR, VRChat, and Mozilla Hubs.
If you’ve already mapped your culture, visuals, movement flows, and more, you can quickly prototype 3D rooms, grab a bunch of team members to trick out their avatar, have a meeting, collaborate on documents, share files, break out into private conference rooms, and decorate virtual cubicles. Everything is customizable, and some features might be more (or less) sophisticated than you need.
As CEOs, we need to be ahead of the story, showing others how this new world can benefit them. Along these lines, I’m deep into planning my virtual office for our metaverse HQ. I want it to replicate my open-door policy to show when I’m available for a quick chat. I’m designing virtual whiteboards so I can leave ideas up, and widgets like a Pandora plug-in inside a digital radio set on everyone’s virtual desk. I want my office inside the metaverse to be a living laboratory, showcasing what we’re working on, and inspiring others by giving them exposure to the “inside of my head.”
What kind of culture did you have at your HQ? I bet it’s been difficult, if not impossible, to retain it with everyone working from home these past two years. I know that’s why many corporate chiefs are desperate to get everybody back to the office, but we have to be smarter than that. This is an opportunity to try something new.
I believe the metaverse is a place where we can recreate the best parts of our culture, where excitement, teamwork, brainstorms, camaraderie, and socialization are made possible. No, it won’t be the same as it was—I think we can make it even better, truly inclusive, and more innovative. In fact, I believe we can stop the so-called Great Resignation if we remake work into an exciting place to be.
Todd Marks is the award-winning Founder and CEO of Mindgrub Technologies, the cutting-edge digital experiences agency.