December 1, 2020

Building an Inclusive Community Without Barriers

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Today, I’d like to share some special news: I’ve joined MURAL as the company’s first Chief Community Officer (CCO). Many of you have reached out about this moment — thank you for your continued support. This new chapter in my career is the most exciting one yet, and here’s why.

As you know already, MURAL is a digital workspace for visual collaboration. The platform gives teams the freedom to bring ideas to life from anywhere — and at scale. MURAL helps organizations around the globe — including over 50% of the Fortune 100 — to be more productive, more innovative by getting everyone on the same page to deeply understand problems and explore opportunities.

Up until now, MURAL has supported the exploding community of product leaders, designers, strategists, facilitators (and tens of thousands of visual collaborators) without a dedicated leader charged with supporting this incredible community. So why now — and what makes this role the perfect next chapter for me?

So what is a Chief Community Officer?

MURAL enables innovative teams to think and collaborate visually to solve important problems. For example, our members benefit from MURAL’s speed and ease of use in creating diagrams, drawings, templates, and prototypes, which are popular in design thinking and agile methodologies. Members feel empowered by having the space to imagine together, giving everyone on the team a seat at the table.

I’ve spent my career working to help teams adapt to and embrace technology, and I couldn’t be more excited to further this work with a company that is changing not only how teams work together, but also where and how work is done. My move to MURAL, a company surrounded by a community of leaders who aspire to get the most out of their work, is a natural fit. 

As CCO, my job is to support, educate, and empower this vibrant community of “imagination workers” by connecting them with peers, partners, and experts. Community members need a place to share ideas and best practices — a place for templates, learnings, and content made to unlock the power of visual collaboration from anywhere.

And what is that power? Once teams can collaborate easily and visually no matter where they are located, suddenly, the barriers to activating talent and expertise disappear. That means more voices are raised, more ideas are heard, and more diversity is possible. I’ve seen how diverse teams working together produce better business outcomes, and I believe MURAL is key to activating the talents of everyone. The result is teams become more productive, faster, and capable of exceeding their objectives.

Why is community such a big deal?

Much earlier in my career, I took classes to learn about Excel so that I could add it to my resume (yes, that was a thing). Back then, products took years to change, making my education useful for a long period of time. Now, software is in the cloud and changing all the time. Product managers and developers continually pump out features, making the shelf-life of software training a matter of months, not years. Meanwhile, even as new features make grand promises to do the job better, upwards of 80% of the time the new features never get used.

Why? For one, too often new product features fail to serve the needs of actual customers — they don’t offer what the customers need to get the job done. There’s something else going on here, too.

Back when I worked as chief of staff at Microsoft, I watched hundreds of presenters use PowerPoint. Their slide decks, which were all made using software designed to make presentations amazing and impactful, somehow ended up poorly constructed and visually uninteresting. Not surprisingly, they failed to have the desired impact.

Something was wrong — and it wasn’t the software. Something was missing.

What I realized was that for employees to get value out of a product, they needed more than a product license and a good luck pat on the back. They needed help to ascend the learning curve and see what’s possible with the product. They needed the support of a community to provide confidence that when they were ready, they could do more. My solution for PowerPoint was to create Microsoft Experts — a way to connect PowerPoint presenters with seasoned pros so that they could use technology and expertise to bring their stories to life. It was a great start, but only the beginning.

That brings me back to MURAL. To achieve the incredible outcomes possible through visual collaboration in MURAL, members need a diverse and deep set of knowledge. That means access to virtual facilitation expertise, methods and frameworks knowhow (like design thinking and agile), and the ability to create compelling visual experiences that make ideas come to life. Community can make that happen, so I want to support the MURAL community with:

  • Content and Resources: Training, community programs, forums, powerful visual templates, and more (stay tuned!).
  • Experts: We are living in a fast-paced world. It is more important than ever to get access to experts right when you need them — on-demand.   We will work to ensure that every MURAL member has the ability to engage with skilled and curated experts as they virtually collaborate to solve hard business problems with groundbreaking solutions.

Building a community without barriers

If you follow my work or have read my recently released book, Gig Mindset, then you know that I continuously advocate for making sure all voices are heard and that all people have access to opportunity. Making collaboration easy from anywhere is critical to realizing this objective.

MURAL opens the door to working together in ways never before possible by freeing teams from the confines of a whiteboard in a meeting room. Now people can share ideas and create meaning regardless of their location. Removing physical walls from collaboration also brings with it the possibility of overcoming “location bias,” a concept I’ve previously written about for Fast Company, in order to achieve diversity of perspective and increase the quality of work teams produce. A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies found that the businesses in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean. These kind of incredible results become possible when you have the freedom to bring talent to the table no matter where it’s located.

The MURAL community will embody the collaborative spirit, offering members a unique opportunity to connect globally. Members will be free to access the resources they need no matter where they are located. Organizations will be empowered to find the experts they need no matter where they may be! We’re building a community without barriers — and no matter where you are located, you’re welcome to join us.

Embarking on a journey of lifetime

Community at MURAL is more than helping members get more from the product. Community is what we create together. We’re going to be building out a network of support and extending the MURAL community as visual collaboration goes global — and I couldn’t be more excited to work at the forefront of this shift.

Please join us at MURAL and see how the right technology paired with an incredible global community can help you get the most out of work.

For years now, the way work gets done has been changing — and the pace of change accelerating. Talent no longer wants the nine to five experience with a long commute on both ends of the day. The idea of working for 30 years at one company and getting a gold watch at retirement is an outdated paradigm. Today, workers know they’ll have to learn new technology on a routine basis. They even look to embrace changes in jobs, themselves, as with the growing gig economy. Meanwhile, the pandemic sped up the pace of change, making it even harder for workers to keep up. Though companies could shift quickly to adapt, they soon realized it took more than simply plugging in new products to help workers get the job done.

Paul Estes

MURAL's first Chief Community Officer (Senior Vice President serving on the MURAL executive team). Previously, Paul held a variety of roles at Dell, Amazon, and Microsoft, including Senior Director, Microsoft 365 and Chief of Staff, Devices Office.

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