Episode 14: InVision CEO Clark Valberg on Distributed Design

Read more about Clark Valberg in “Building the Tools that Bring the Screen to Life.”

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InVision CEO Clark Valberg needed a tool to help his distributed team collaborate on design projects. So he created it — and it became the company’s flagship product, one that every Fortune 100 company now uses. In this episode, Clark joins our host Matt Mullenweg to discuss how he built his distributed company, and how that structure informs InVision’s collaborative-design products.

The full episode transcript is below.


MATT MULLENWEG: Howdy howdy. Welcome to the Distributed podcast. I’m your host, Matt Mullenweg. 

My guest this week is Clark Valberg, the founder and CEO of InVision, a company that makes a collaborative design platform that’s very popular with distributed teams. It does ideation, design, prototyping, sharing… and it all lives in the cloud. No more emailing files back and forth — it’s pretty slick. 

Clark founded the company seven years ago in Brooklyn, and now they have over 5 million users at places like Airbnb, Amazon, Netflix, Starbucks, and my company, Automattic.

Like Automattic, InVision is fully distributed. And they’re similar to us in size, so I’m interested to hear from Clark about his experience leading and growing a distributed workforce. 

Alrighty. Let’s get started.

MATT MULLENWEG: Welcome, Clark.

CLARK VALBERG: Hey, great to be here.

MATT: Y’all are one of the other big fully distributed companies. Tell me a little bit first about what InVision does for people in a cave who might not know yet. And tell me a little bit about the scale of what y’all are doing in the

CLARK: That was my opening to you, by the way. Oh y’all are one of the other largest remote companies. This is a constant debate, by the way, internally, which one is bigger.

CLARK: Okay so Clark is the CEO and Founder of a company called InVision. InVision is a design collaboration platform. Most of the products — I hope most of the products — that you use everyday, if they’re well designed, if you love them, if you feel excited about how they work and how they fit into your life, it’s because the design of the product is good. And so that’s where InVision comes in. We are the place where those products are designed, tested. We’re the stakeholders that make that product great, are engaged, we are both the design tool and the place.

MATT: So if you were to describe what it’s like to use an InVision product. Let’s say I’m a designer, I’m collaborating with another designer, what will we do?

CLARK: If you are a digital product designer, you need a place to design, you need the place to actually create the screens that make your product beautiful. That’s InVision.

MATT: So before, I would do this in Photoshop on my computer and now it’s happening in a web app?

CLARK: Photoshop or a cave wall, depending on how old school you are. So yes, you would’ve done that there and now you do that [in] InVision and then InVision is also the place where that design comes to life in a collaborative sense. It’s the place where you put your design so that others can look at it, engage with it, give you feedback on it.

The question you’re asking is fundamental to this transition of design altogether, which I can talk about for a long time, but design is no longer a job to be done, it’s now an organizational discipline in a world where the screen has become the most important place, or one of the most important places in the world.

MATT: When and how did design become important to you?

CLARK: I ran an agency and dealt with what was the general operating dynamic of agencies at that time, and probably still today in many respects. You have a client, they have an idea of what they want, they have some business problem they’re trying to solve and you’re trying to put together some kind of a requirements document, some kind of a contract that hopes to look into the future and imagine everything they’ll ever need to accomplish whatever business goal they’re trying to accomplish, and define that today, or at least in the next few hours until we can get this thing signed and move forward.

So this idea of up-front definition bothered me, that was a deep intellectual itch. How can I, instead of creating a contract that separates me from the client and hopefully mitigates the legal risk of giving them exactly what I told them that I would give them, and we’re charging by the hour, how could I align my values and go on this journey with them together side by side? How could I act as their guide toward the business reality that we would ultimately end up discovering together?

Any time there’s a client, there’s that dynamic of — you know what you want in your head; it’s impossible for me to get that out of your head and get it into my head. And by the way, even if I could, hopefully if we do something right that will change over time, the more articulate that vision of the future becomes.

MATT: How did this agency look? Clients, were you meeting them in person, were your colleagues in person?

CLARK: Both. It was my first dip of toes into the world of being able to work with people seamlessly online. So a lot of the fundamental inventions, collaborative inventions that we have here at InVision — 900 people, totally remote — came from that world of just trying to make clients happy at a much smaller scale, sometimes remote.

MATT: How big did the agency get before you switched to doing the product work as your primary thing?

CLARK: The biggest ever? I think it got to 25 tops. So it was a small agency. The word “boutique” sounds much better than small, doesn’t it?

MATT: There’s probably a lot of people [who are] part of or running agencies, listening to this [who have] that dream of switching to be a product company. What advice do you have for them? What made it work for you? Because there’s so many examples of that not working.

CLARK: I’ll tell you, I did not have a vision of becoming a product company. It happened as an extension to the reason why we started this agency in the first place. So the agency was founded on, “Hey, instead of ending up in these weird litigious, semi-adversarial relationships with clients, what if we could figure out a different operating model, a different communication model?”

So we started by building prototypes, and we would write those prototypes in code, we would show them to clients early, we’d be able to have a diverse conversation across the organization, instead of just dealing with one project manager, we’d be able to embrace all the different business leaders that represented the parts of the business that we were trying to serve with the software. We’d have holistic, multi-dimensional, diverse conversations. That was the whole idea.

I wanted to be an agency that loves its clients. I want to be on the same side of the table. These were all the different key words, [laughs] the key phrases that we used to make ourselves sound different and differentiate. But I think it sprung from a place of what we saw wrong with the industry. And then that tool called a prototype just evolved over time.  

And at some point someone — not me — said “Hey, what if we just took designs out of Photoshop and connected them together and turned them into a little simulation that was almost as high-fidelity as the coded prototypes that you were building? It would be almost good enough and probably you could — we’ll just run it as an experiment but it’ll take an eighth of the time to build and maybe we can use that as a communication device.”

MATT: Who was the first client you tried that on?

CLARK: It was a company in upstate New York. So this is one of our few fully, fully remote engagements, like we went to see them maybe once a quarter but other than that everything was happening online. I’ll reserve the name but a large education-product company. They created educational products that they sold into school districts. And we were building essentially a totally custom ERP solution for them — every part of their entire business modeled into a piece of software, every experience that exists between two people in that entire company was modeled into a screen some place.

MATT: Wow.

CLARK: So a very sophisticated piece of software. And it would have been an absolute nightmare had we not employed this process because there were just too many stakeholders with too great a diversity of perspective on what needed to be built, and it just had to be a conversation that happened over time. This was a “Let’s try this new thing. What do we call this new thing?” I think literally the time that we’ve been on this call so far was the time it took us to come up with the name InVision. [laughter] I think it was the second idea, like, “Oh, we’ll just change it later, that’s fine.”

And we had absolutely no interest, almost an explicit disinterest, in having anyone outside of the company know what this thing was. This was just for internal use only. Somebody even said “Hey, what if we wrote a blog post about this? What if we..?” And once it worked, once we saw that it would totally change the game for us, and it really did in very profound ways, this is like a whole new movement for agencies, this would be a cool thing to talk about. I said, “Absolutely not. This is our differentiator, this is our competitive advantage in this agency, maybe let’s just keep this under hat.”


CLARK: Luckily someone — it’s good to have a lot of people who disagree with you all the time around you, otherwise you end up being a victim of your own vision.

MATT: So at this time, it sounds like you have an office and colleagues in that office. At what point did you switch to being fully remote and using these tools to enable that?

CLARK: Even the agency was hybrid. And in New York City, my entire movement into a fully remote world — again, never had a vision for it, didn’t think this was the future. I’m still not sure if it’s the future for everyone, okay, this is a matter of significant debate and worthy of debate. It was a necessity thing. So the agency was a hybrid but let’s call it a reluctant hybrid, like “Hey, we can’t find enough people in New York so we’ll hire people who aren’t here and we’ll just deal with the overhead and managing that overhead, that collaborative overhead as a cost of doing business.”

When we transitioned into InVision, so yada, yada, yada — we’re yada yada yada-ing through the birth of an entire company — but this product is cool, what if other people liked it? Let’s put it in front of the world and see if they bite. They did. We raised some capital and then we had to transition out of the agency and into the product company. I sold the agency to a — basically a hostile takeover. I sold it to my wife for a dollar. Literally, it’s a whole big story where the company, InVision, sort of launched its for-pay model on my wedding day.

So here we are with $1.1 million and an office that my co-founder and I are sitting back-to-back in a tiny Regus space in midtown Manhattan. I think it was the year that Google opened up the Google megaplex — I don’t know if it has an official name, but the building in Chelsea?

MATT: Yes.

CLARK: We just found that every conversation we were having with an engineer, designer, anybody, everyone — they were also talking to Google, they were also talking to Yahoo and Facebook. Anybody with a New York office with a more fashionable name and better ping-pong tables to our no-ping-pong tables was just destroying us for talent, and I found that we were spending all of our time wining and dining engineers we weren’t hiring.

MATT: Wow.

CLARK: And so we got together after about three weeks of slogging through this talent thicket, and asked ourselves an existential question. We did what we called a pre-postmortem — I’m sure you’ve heard this idea. Let’s look into the future, let’s imagine the things that don’t work out and let’s guess, based on what we know today, what are the likely sources of that failure?

And the biggest one for me was not spending enough time on the things that really make a business successful. At the end of the day, product-market fit is where it’s at, at this critical birthing stage. We have to get a group of people vehemently, maybe violently excited about this new product and talking about it to people. It has to have independent lift, it has to have word of mouth, groundswell. And what will we probably be doing instead of focusing on the design of the product, the marketing of the product? We’ll probably be trying to hire engineers and moving way too slow.

And we just opened up the envelope. And again, it may not have been me, somebody thought, “What if we just hired the people that we had worked with as contractors in the agency?” We had a pretty significant bench of folks that we pulled in who were full-time other places and just did little side jobs for us in exotic, far-flung destinations like Phoenix, Arizona… Houston, Texas. Places that were secondary, tertiary tech markets, folks that we just knew, knew from conferences, because they were developers in the same language that we were developers in — what if we just hired them full time?

So we said, what if we just did this at scale? What if we somehow figured out how to make collaboration work where everyone was remote? And I had a piece of advice. I don’t know if he even knows that he gave me this advice and how pivotal it was for me. Do you know David Cancel from Drift? I called him up. He had just sold a company to HubSpot. I ran the idea by him, like, “Hey, what do you think about this remote idea? What do you think about this talent hack — instead of hiring people in New York, we’ll hire them anywhere. We’ll actually pay them above market.” That was our thesis originally, to pay them above their local market but arguably below the New York market.  And there is a very, very wide spread there, at least there was then even more so than it is today.

And then sell them on this lifestyle change. Sell them on getting rid of their commute, sell them on work/life integration. This is the time where everybody talked about — the common theme was work/life separation — how do I turn off my phone, how do I turn off my email at a certain time a day?

We said, well, the people that we work with, they were moonlighting for us while working full time, they clearly have more passion, more interest in being involved in the work they do than 9-5, so maybe it’s not about a certain time of the day where you just die from work. Maybe it’s about having more control over when and how. Maybe there’s a work/life integration idea that we can start selling people that may actually be more meaningful than that separation.

And he liked the idea but he gave me a piece of very firm advice that we still follow today, which, you’re not following, by the way. I just want to throw this out there. It’s don’t go half in/half out on this. There has to be a sense that everyone has equal access to the executive team, to each other. And the way he put it, which I thought was a beautiful way to encapsulate it — there can’t be a place where someone is not. Your office, whether if they work in marketing, it’s the head of marketing. Everyone has to feel equal proximity.

MATT: And that avoids a classic problem, right, why I actually don’t like the term remote, that some people are more like second class citizens in the

CLARK: 100%. You have a room and then there’s that guy on the wall who’s trying to get a word in edgewise. I said, “Well how far do we go with that? Can we have some kind of a New York office?” He said, “I would say not.” And I think the next week my partner and I decided to disband the office, to shut down the office and to actually go home and work.

Even though we had been commuting into the city — I live in Brooklyn and he lived in Manhattan, he was a few blocks away from the office — even though we had been commuting and spending time together in person, and you’d think, “Oh the founding team, they have to get together and they have to collaborate, move at warp speed and problem solving and collaboration.” I said, “I think we should discipline ourselves to be able to make this remote thing work even between us, and if we can figure that out, then that will scale to everyone else.” Big decision. Bold. I would say it was an absurd decision in some respects. [laughs]

MATT: I would call it radical actually, yeah, especially for the time. Because what year was this?

CLARK: Eight, nine years ago now.

MATT: Yeah.

CLARK: The only company that promoted itself as remote or promoted the idea of being remote or distributed was 37 Signals. And so they were the original inspiration for this or at least inspired us to believe it was possible.

MATT: Totally.

CLARK: So we did it, said “Hey, this is a design problem essentially, like many things in life. We’ll just design the people, practices, and platforms of the business.” We think about these three Ps all the time to establish a healthy rhythm of connection. And by the way, Joel Spolsky, another — I’m just calling out all the inspirations for this because it definitely didn’t come for me — wrote a book called “Joel On Software,” which I’m sure you’ve read, everyone has read.

MATT: Classic. I highly recommend it actually.

CLARK: Classic. He was a proponent of this idea of having an office with a door that closes. Now we think about it as deep work. This is a common theme that’s used in tech today. And I had this thought — I’m still not sure how valid it is — but that the percentage of intellectual focus — deep work — that happens in your business is a significant driver or limiter of the success of that business, to some degree.

If you have a large group of people who are really talented and have a lot of time to focus on the work they do well, and there’s an environment that brings them together when they need to be, but that ebb and flow of focus time, that intimate craft time and that kinetic energy of collaboration, but not at the same time. There is a dual-modality model that one can leverage to get the best out of both.

MATT: What percentage do you target for yourself there, and what percentage would you target for an individual contributor with a vision?

CLARK: The more creative your work, the more focus you need to move through the work that you do. I think real creative work is done alone. You know when you need to collaborate, you know when you need that validation from a third party, or your rate of innovation starts to slow to a certain point where you need to start sparking and stoking those flames of creativity through communication with other people. You have to build a system that makes that reliably happen at least at some point for each person on the team.

So early days, we had a stand-up, every team in the company. At that time we had three teams and 15 people. Every team had a stand-up. That stand-up had a ritual. It happened at the exact same time every single day. So 1:00, whole company, three or four questions. I think it evolved from three to four questions for each person, round robin. Obviously that’s much more difficult to pull off at 900, but that is scaled in different ways. Let’s make sure that everyone knows or is aware of the work that everyone else is doing.

That’s the fundamental platform that creates that connection. And then people go off and they do their own work as individuals or as groups, and they reconvene regularly to check back in.

MATT: So if I were an ideal designer or developer at InVision in this model, would I be spending 80-90% of my time in this deep work?

CLARK: I would imagine probably 70. I think probably people at InVision would tell you that they get less than that because there are many meetings, and at scale, obviously there’s an overhead, a connective tissue overhead to managing very large projects at scale that are cut across multiple departments and disciplines. Again, there’s no perfect formula, it’s just making sure that people can preserve that time, or as much of that time as they can.

MATT: I have a selfish question, which is, as a CEO of a distributed company, what do you think your percentage is of that work?

CLARK: Mine is probably closer to 30%. I’m not a production person. I don’t have a work product necessarily that I put into the world. I don’t have a screen that needs to be designed to an excruciating level of detail and iterated on over time.

MATT: I would say at this moment I’m probably under 10%. So that’s something I’m working on increasing because I feel like the time I’m able to invest in writing helps a lot, and the company is, of course, a product I think about a ton, and need to spend more time than I currently am investing in how that product is designed — the product of Automattic itself.

CLARK: Here’s a little weird hack. I don’t know if this makes any sense for folks. I like to sometimes just go to conferences, even though I’m 50% interested in the content, just because being at a conference blocks off your schedule, it puts you in a room with a lot of that kinetic energy, of buzz, of people who aren’t distracting you because they don’t have any interest in you, they’re there for other things, they have no connection to you, but it’s a room that’s vibrant with the energy of people. And there is someone talking and there’s time in between. And I find that just disconnecting and absorbing ideas on drip ambiently gives me a ton of headspace to have divergent thinking time.

MATT: That’s a cool hack. Now we opened a lot of threads there. I’m going to loop back to some of them. One, if you were doing a pre-postmortem today for InVision, what would be on your list?

CLARK: Oh without a question it’s the cohesion of the company. I mean it’s a risk being a remote company. There are things that happen in a co-located environment — that’s what we call the world of on-site work, co-located — there are things that happen there between the seams that people don’t even understand are happening. They don’t consider it an explicit part of the work.

A loose example — the watercooler. There is this — I’m bumping into people in the kitchen, in the hall. There’s this ambient transfer of energy through “Hey, you’re working on this? Hey what are you up to?” We have to figure out how to allow that to happen deliberately. If what we’re doing now is 80% as good as being in-person in some ways and 130% better than being in-person in other ways, how do we make sure that we take that 80 and get it to 100 so that we’re not leaving a liability on the table?

MATT: I’m particularly curious about that watercooler. What did you figure out and what has worked well so far?

CLARK: What I have learned in these settings is driving to solutions in real time. Again, going back to that ebb and flow of together time and alone time, it doesn’t work in larger groups of people. You can seed things, you can create good traction around the idea, but I think a longer, more thoughtful, more deep-work-enabled process of driving to a solution is important.

Where we are beginning to think about this is making sure that the time that we have together as an executive team, even the online time — two hours every two weeks we have something called the Strategic Alignment Team Meeting — so that group of people meets online, just putting more ceremony on that. So rather than getting together and just having a random group listing of things that we want to get through, maybe doing a little bit more pre-work.

So one idea that surfaced was taking a facilitator that wasn’t a part of the group — the Head of Biz Ops or Chief of Staff — and making that person responsible for interviewing all the members of that team individually, one on one, with a set of pre-defined prompts to pull out the value and get that value on the agenda ahead of time.

Because if I pulled you into a meeting, Matt, right after this call — I don’t know if you have a meeting right after our little podcast here, but if you did. you probably would not be in a state to pull out the most important thing that’s going on in the business or the biggest threat or the biggest opportunity or some weird HR thing, or opportunity or great idea that you thought about two weeks ago. You wouldn’t be in a state to evoke that unless you’re just a — you meditate a lot more than I do. I don’t know.

There has to be a mechanism, I think, for tilling that soil with those executives ahead of time, or with anybody in that case, ahead of time. So how do we create a list of questions? For example, what’s the biggest threat to the timelines that you’re facing, what’s the biggest HR or people or resource or talent issue that you’re facing? I’m just making up examples of kinds of questions we would ask. What’s the thing that you need the most from who on this team? I’m imagining a world where there are about five or six questions that we ask each executive one-on-one before getting into that meeting and that those questions ultimately end up tilling the soil and driving the agenda of the meeting.

MATT: One thing that I’ve heard that’s unique about InVision that I’d love to confirm is that y’all have everyone on East Coast office hours?

CLARK: I do believe that you need a certain number of hours of overlap. So we have a kind of a loosely held standard set of operating hours. I think it’s like 10AM to 6PM. The recommendation that is fairly closely held is that there should be a three hour overlap between most of the team because within those three hours you can negotiate when your stand-up meeting is. If you’re a team that works together, you can get to the wide-wide meetings, generally speaking, unless some people in Australia watch those the next day or a week later. I don’t know what the time is in Australia right now but you get the idea. Generally try to aim for three hours of overlap.

MATT: So does that mean you don’t have many people in the Asia Pacific region?

CLARK: I would say not by design. We probably lean out of hiring one-off individuals. We’ve done acquisitions, for example in Australia. We do have people in Asia Pacific for sure, but there is probably a light bias towards folks that fit into teams that have a schedule with more overlap.

MATT: The number I heard for you all, and this is the other day, is around 20 or 25 countries that you’re in?

CLARK: It’s got to be. Yes. I mean 900 people? Yes, probably 25 countries I would imagine.

MATT: We’re at a very similar size, I think we’re at 68 countries. I would say there’s definitely a cost and a tradeoff to having that kind of time zone overlap as an explicit part of the hiring, and it definitely means that there are certain teams that are more Asia-Pacific-centric, because that overlap is important. And if you have a single team with people in what I think are the three zones, South America, Europe, Africa, and then Asia Pacific, there is no good time for anybody.

CLARK: 100%. You have to be getting something out of the remote thing. It’s an interesting question. When people ask about remote, they assume that I’m a remote zealot. I’m not. I’m not someone who believes in remote as “this is the future.” I’m just not religious about the topic at all.

What we needed out of remote very early on is we needed it as a talent hack, as a talent arbitrage. Hire the best people wherever they happen to be, figure everything out later, hire them quickly, get them in the ship as early as possible and start seeing results. How can I just hire the best people no matter where they are? If you’re not hiring, if you don’t find that your talent density is significantly greater than your contemporaries that are co-located in whatever city you happen to be in, then you’re not leveraging that arbitrage the right way.

MATT: That’s a really good way to put it. How long do you think that talent arbitrage exists? Stripe famously now has remote as their new office engineering center?

CLARK: Sure.

MATT: How long before Google, Facebook, etcetera, the same people you’re competing with in New York, open into the distributed world?

CLARK: That time is probably now. It just means you have to be more creative. Also, even if ten of the biggest tech companies in the world were out hiring, the talent supply is big enough for us all.

MATT: Playing off on site versus off site, we have talked a lot about how you work in a distributed fashion. How and when do you bring people together?

CLARK: We have a company all-hands on site, a global all-hands, called IRL, InVision in Real Life.

MATT: Ha! I like that.

CLARK: This year it was in Phoenix, Arizona. We took over an entire resort and that was an intense, amazing, high-energy experience that brought a lot into the work that we do, that we have done since. And the year before that — also really incredible — in Los Angeles. I definitely like the format of all of us together in one resort better than all of us split up between a few hotels. So all company, all hands, IRL.

And then we have miniature IRL. So the product department has a product managers’ IRL, which I think was two weeks ago in New Jersey. And I think this week, if I’m not mistaken, is the all-designers’ IRL in Chicago. They pick a city that just makes sense. And I think there was CFT, the Customer Facing Team, was in Denver a couple of weeks ago. So departments have an IRL, the whole company has an IRL, and then individual teams can tap into budget to get together in person.

MATT: If I joined InVision, how many weeks or days out of the year am I going to be at these IRLs?

CLARK: My guess is probably three throughout the year. We also encourage folks to go to the InVision events that we have, the customer-facing events. Design + Drinks, we do panels, not a week goes by that there isn’t some sort of InVision customer event happening at some bar someplace in the world.

MATT: That’s really cool.

CLARK: And so we try to encourage some folks to get together that way. Again, this is personal, my personal principle behind this online universe is it’s called Cloud Culture — that’s what we call it — Cloud Culture versus the IRL stuff, when you’re in real life I prefer us not to be doing work.

MATT: Interesting.

CLARK: I prefer us to be connecting as people. If you gave me a week with the team together in person I would really like 80% of that to be stuff — it could be conversations that sound like work but conversations that really bring us closer together as people. My mental model here is that we have little scale models of ourselves. Even if we’re in person, we’re not really relating to the person we’re looking at, we’re relating to our little mental model of that person that rests in our mind. Does that make sense?

MATT: Sure.

CLARK: The more time that we spend together, the more articulate, the more detailed that mental model of you becomes. So when we’re online you get to a certain level of precision, [I can] take a long time to get to know you as a person and get to know how you behave and act in different contexts, how you react to certain things as individuals or as groups. When we get together, the fidelity of that model increases exponentially. And we take that mental model into the online environment. That’s the reason for the on-site, in-person experiences.

MATT: I’ve heard — you talk about the screen a lot but I have also heard that InVision rumor that you’ve banned slide decks.

CLARK: It makes a great headline, doesn’t it? [laughs] It’s not exactly true. What I’ll tell you is that we encourage visual collaborative communication in meetings more than prepared slides, only because that visual communication tends, number one, to be much more democratize-able. You can get more folks who are of a greater diversity of connection to the problem space.

If you’re going to present something to a product team, that’s one kind of collaboration but arguably a lot of those product conversations should reach far beyond the engineering, product, or designers who work on it. You’d like to be able to engage business stakeholders, domain experts that exist within the business, or folks that are impactful. You’d like to have your Head of Finance on a product call and to have them totally track an influence.

So staying visual, being sure that you just have a strong bias to visual communication, visual storytelling, getting visually-driven artifacts that are real to the customer, real and true to the customer experience, I think are really important. You generate better conversations than you would with a deck. It happens to be that we’re all trained when we see a deck. It’s like a movie, like “Now is our time to take out the popcorn, kick back and let someone else do the talking.”

When you do a Freehand sketch — we have a product called Freehand, which is basically a gigantic, online white board — or you’re actually showing screens of an experience, and tying the conversation around pricing into the user experience, that drives that conversation around pricing to the customer — two things. Number one, you’re being super customer-centric, you’re orienting all of the people on the call around the front line of that problem space.

Pricing is not a number conversation. Pricing has financial impact, pricing needs to be within financial guardrails, but ultimately pricing is not about a number, it’s about a customer experience. All of the leverage you have around pricing, all of the acceptance from the market that is required to make that price the right price — and now I’m spinning off into a pricing conversation, but you’ll understand how this is a microcosm for all these things —

MATT: Totally.

CLARK: — comes down to somebody looking at a screen at some point and feeling good or bad about it. So if you can have that pricing conversation through a lens of design — and by the way, this is what InVision principle number seven is meant to imply — being design-driven. How do we get into the mind and the heart of the customer and have the business conversation while we’re having the customer conversation?

Design conversation and business strategy conversation, all in one. If you can do that, you can have a much greater diversity of people in the conversation, your Head of Finance doesn’t feel like they’re on a product call, the product people don’t feel like they’re in a finance call, everyone feels like they’re in a creative problem-solving call.

MATT: I love it. Thanks again.

CLARK: Pleasure.

MATT: That was Clark Valberg. You can find him on Twitter at @clarkvalberg. That’s “Clark,” then “Valberg” — V-A-L-B-E-R-G. 

We’ve got a special treat in store for the next episode. Back in September, Automattic held its annual Grand Meetup in Orlando. The Grand Meetup is a time for all Automatticians to get together in one place. We get to meet some of our colleagues face-to-face for the first time, hear some great talks from folks like Stephen Wolfram (who was a guest on this podcast a few weeks back), and of course hang out and have fun together too.

We set up a recording booth at the meetup and talked to a bunch of folks from across the company to hear about their experiences with distributed work and the importance of in-person meetups for keeping people connected throughout the year.

Thanks for joining us and see you next time.

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