Strategies to Drive Bot and Live Chat Adoption

shad morris podcast

Reading Time: 18 minutes

Guest: Shad Morris– Shad Morris (Ph.D. Cornell University) is the Georgia White Fellow and Assistant Professor of Leadership and Strategy at the Marriott School, Brigham Young University. Prior to joining BYU, Shad Morris was at The Ohio State University for five years. He conducts research at the intersection of human resource management and strategy. In particular, he explores both theoretical and empirical problems related to how firms draw upon human capital and social capital to build organizational capabilities in a global context.

Shad Morris is a recipient of the International HRM Scholarly Research Award from the Academy of Management and he has co-authored multiple articles related to the strategic management of human capital in journals such as Academy of Management Review. In addition, he has served as a co-organizer and founder of multiple conferences, including the Strategic Human Capital Interest Group’s mini-conference and Wharton’s 1st and 2nd Annual People and Organizations Conference.

Overview: Our guest today is Shad Morris Professor of business management at Brigham Young University. He discusses the digital revolution and the best practices to help your company adopt bots and live chat.


Billy  All right, everybody, welcome to the show today. Today, my guest is Shad, not Chad Morris, professor of management at Brigham Young University and the Marriott School of Business. Shad, welcome to the show, man. Thanks for coming on.

Shad  Thanks, Billy. Great to be here.

Billy  Yeah, I’m really excited to talk to you about the digital revolution and change management around that is as leaders trying to get people to use tools that we buy. The worst thing we can do and that happens all too often is, hey, we buy like a chat solution or some cool sales tool and can’t get the team to use it.

And you’ve done a lot of research about this digital revolution and transformation and how we can actually get people to buy in. And that’s why I want to have you on the show today. But before we get into that, you just introduce yourself and a little bit about what you do.

Shad  Yeah, my name’s Shad Morris. I’m a professor of management at Brigham Young University and the Marriott School of Business. I teach classes around change management and around international business, and I do a lot of training and consulting with corporations around how to help their organizations deal with the digital transformations they’re dealing with.

Sorry, the digital revolution they’re dealing with in terms of dealing with employees located in different spaces and the need for interacting effectively with A.I. and technology at a much more rapid pace than we’ve ever seen before. And that’s why I enjoy doing that. I love working with executives of companies and helping them figure out how to do that.

Billy  Great. We’re going to dig into that here in a minute. But before we get go, and I always love to ask people, what’s something interesting? If we looked you up on social, on LinkedIn and Facebook or Instagram and we want to get to know who Shad is, that we wouldn’t be able to figure out just by a little social media snooping.

Shad  Well, So, you could you could probably YouTube this if you try. But I used to be a break dancer in my day growing up. And so I enjoy breakdancing and I still enjoy it, actually, oddly enough, at my age. And so I sometimes tried to engage my students and audiences by bringing in music.

And sometimes I try to see if I can get them to dance. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t work. But I have a student team that videoed me a couple of a video me now and posted it on YouTube. Of me dancing with the class. And of course, it’s a I think one they made me do Gungnam style, which was the old college stuff.

Yeah, but. And so that’s in fact I’ve found that it’s really helpful when I do trainings for executives in organizations, some of that. Sometimes if the crowd is amenable and usually they use they are, I can get a fair amount of them to break dance.

These are not break dance, but dance. And these are, you know. Usually older executive level C-suite folks who are looking for. And I’m always surprised how much they’re looking for an out. Just to have some fun and let their hair down a bit.

Billy  Awesome. So what do we have to search on YouTube to find this break dancing video?

Shad  I’m not going to say, lesser people who see it the better.

Billy  We may you may see a spike in views after this. All right, man, we can’t dance on the podcast. Otherwise, I would have you dance if we were video in this. But you’re lucky today. Just audio. So can you break down? Like, so you’re talking about the digital revolution and just what is the digital revolution for those that don’t know?

Shad  Yeah. So a lot of people, they’ll call it something different for the cyber age where we’re dealing with the need for integrating the our products and services with technology at every phase. And, you know, we’ve seen different revolutions in, you know, starting.

From water and steam power revolution, where we had water and steam power to to increase productivity, moving to the electric power and mass production where we had the what we often refer to as the industrial revolution, where we had mass scale and so ford, and all of these companies coming out where we could really produce on a large scale.

We're in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution

Then we had this other third revolution, which was we refer to as sort of the electronics revolution, which is the age of computers and the Internet. And we have people now moving at a much faster pace. But there’s argument quite a bit right now of evidence saying that we’re in this in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution, fourth industrial revolution.

Where we’re seeing not just, you know, technology, but we’re seeing this integration that the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, where, you know, when you go on the computer and you go to buy something in an a chat bot comes up or something like that. And and you’re not sure whether that’s an individual person that you’re talking to on the other side or whether it’s a computer.

That’s at this phase we’re at where we’re sort of augmenting human abilities and behaviors through technology. And so it’s not it’s this blurring line between physical, digital and biological spheres of our lives. So it’s really creating a lot of angst in companies that I work with.

And so a lot of companies say, hey, will you come talk about this is digital revolution and how we can manage in this digital revolution? And the first thing I think that really just sort of it’s not all that different in that things are much faster pace now faster. We’re getting innovation and new technologies coming out at an exponential rate that we haven’t seen before.

We’re also seeing the need that, you know, I’ve worked with Honeywell and one of the one of the projects we’re working on is at Honeywell is traditionally a shop of of manufacturing engineers. And, you know, some electrical engineers and chemical engineers putting together great products.

But now they’re seeing we actually need to have all of our products speaking to each other. And speaking to the individuals with him there, they’re interacting. And to be able to do that, we need software engineers. We need to be able to bring these systems that allow the products to speak with one another and people.

The difficulty, of course. All problems. And of course, this is coming from my side. As a management scholar, all problems in organizations are rooted behind the people. One, our ability or inability to effectively embrace or lead that change in terms of tech transformation or tech adoption.

And so those are the challenges that companies are facing in this environment. That really is a lot of people are saying is, you know, there’s this is really a new phase we’re we’re in.

Billy  Yeah. No, that’s something we see a lot. I mean, we’re focused on like getting people to adopt, using chats and working with a chat bot. But, you know, the leader may see the vision. But getting the rest of the team to buy into that vision and use the tools, that’s usually the breakdown in the why these things aren’t successful.

So what are you seeing that the leaders who are effectively getting people to buy into this digital revolution and leading their teams effectively, what are the traits and what are the techniques that they’re utilizing?

Shad  Well, actually, what you’re seeing is and that’s the great question because you’re getting at. How do we get people to buy into this technology? And maybe the question we’re asking might be a little bit backwards. Maybe what we need to be asking is how do we get individual or how do individuals get management to buy into some of these changes? Let me give you an example.

So IBM back in the s is you know, this is the advent of email and the Internet and IBM is sort of. Back in the s, IBM was basically a dinosaur. I mean, at one point it had its heyday. It was doing incredibly well. And in the s, it was the butt of everyone’s joke, of every organization’s joke.

This tech company is just a has been. You know, they’re losing money. A hand over fist on a regular basis. And what happened is a group part of the research team at Cornell University that was working for IBM, which is, you know, not too far from headquarters in Armonk, New York, which is near New York City.

This team up in Ithaca, New York. They had noticed went in during the  Olympics that another company started streaming the raw data and taking it, stealing it from them because IBM was had exclusive rights to stream the data stream. The information going out in the Olympics.

And they just couldn’t believe what was going on. And of course, the the the specialized teams saw this. This is sort of a bunch of rogue programmers. This is this is ridiculous. We can’t let this happen. And they came up with some initiatives of how technology can be used and implemented within IBM.

Simple things like everyone needs to now have an email and all communication needs to start with an email. Now, this is you know, this sounds really weird, but then it was that was not definitely not standard. You know, we need. To be constantly engaged in the technology and really it was this movement to embrace the new technology that was out there that was really the technology that was eating their lunch at IBM.

But IBM was stuck in a culture that didn’t allow them to embrace that technology. What it took was it took a sort of a rogue group of programmers, mid-level programmers. These are not like high level people in the organization to come back.

And, of course, they talk to Lou Gerstner, who was the CEO at the time. And that’s sort of the backstory, because if you read Lou Gerstner, his birth book of how to, you know, dancing with elephants, you get some of that. But really, the true story is it was him as a manager allowing this technology and saying, hey, this is you guys are onto something big.

Let’s run with this and allowing this subculture within IBM to become sort of the creepin and become the main culture of that organization. And to me, what’s also fascinating about this is I think the takeaway is as an organization, if you’re trying to help your people adopt change.

In technology and new technologies, the key is to find the bright what we call the bright spots or those people who are on the cutting edge. Those people within your organization who are doing stuff that’s really good. So if you’re a manager, you’re saying, hey, you know, I need you guys to to bring in this technology or to be you utilizing this product or this chatbot or using it in this way and no one’s doing it well.

The key is to find someone in the organization . . . Who is doing a great job and doing it differently

The key is to find someone in the organization. And usually there are, you know. Who is doing a great job of it and who’s doing it differently, maybe differently than you thought as a manager and say, I wonder if there’s something we can learn from what they’re doing, because often it’s and that’s part of this digital revolution is what managers their ability to what their ability to see everything going on in the organization is very has sort of decreased.

And as a result, managers need to be looking to employees in the organization who are developing these subcultures or these little off groups that are bringing in that technology and say, hey, how can we support you? How can we help bring and make this subculture part of the main culture of our organization?

Billy  Man, that’s right, that it just rings true. So the bright spots, that’s something we definitely do with each customer when you’re rolling out something like chat to a sales team. There’s always like one or two people that just like, nail it. Like, we don’t even have to coach them.

And then when we can show what they’re doing to the rest of the team, it really helps the rest of the team to say, oh, man, I want to do what Cynthia is doing. I’m going to get some more meetings out of this or, you know, capture some more emails to meet my metrics for the month. So if you identify these bright spots, what’s the best way to hold them up to the rest of the company if you’re a manager?

Shad  So it’s that’s a great question. It’s holding them up so you can do the typical. This person is doing great. We’ll do a shout out to so-and-so. But the best is if you can bring them in through a collaboration process of, again, things. The thing that empowers people in any organization is responsibility.

People crave responsibility and they want to be in charge of something  And, It may sound bad, but they want power, we all want power to some degree. Not in a bad sort of I’m going to exercise.

Billy  We all want to feel important for sure.

Shad  And so the key what we find is if you can bring those in those people and make them a champion, give them autonomy, because that’s the other side. The other thing that people want, the three things that really motivate people. One is responsibility, two, is autonomy. And so they want that that the other, of course, is purpose.

But we’ll talk about that later. But if you can bring them in, they’re going to get all three of those and say, hey, will you show us how to do this? Can you? I want to put you in charge of this. And I feel like they like you’ve figured this out.

You’ve nailed this, is your saying. I think that’s a a key way of really moving the needle rather than just giving them shout a shout out or recognizing them for. Oh, here, here’s a great example of what we need to do. Now, the other the other point you have to remember is for those who are those late adopters or those sort of the more stubborn few who are not adopting this change.

They have you have to be able to let them go through a mourning process. I mean, if you think about it, this is, you know, an a way of doing things. It’s a culture. I have an existing culture. And then you bring this new culture in and you’re what you’re wanting me to sort of remove.

You know, this is everything I know. This is why I do things. And so people need to sort of be able to have some time. So this is the other side of how do you how do you identify those bright spots? But you also need to give people an opportunity to mourn their loss. Those who are not these early adopter, these more innovative thinkers and, you know, ways of doing that are basically say, listen, this is this is a tough transition.

We understand. We want to acknowledge that what we did in the past was what’s the best practice or was something that was good. And a lot of good came out of that. But guess what? Going forward, that’s not the way we’re going to go. And that’s not the way that we’re seeing needs to be done. But giving recognition and acknowledgement for the past way of doing things as if that was that was finds a lot of times we often say, oh, that was that was terrible.

That was dumb. We don’t want to do that anymore. That’s not the way going forward. Forget about it. What why can’t you get over it? But at any kind of loss, people experience. Mean, you see that in life in general, people experience loss. They need some time to mourn. And so getting people to change, they have to also have that time for mourning.

Billy  Hmm. So how? I mean, I’m sure it’s different for everybody, but if we typically were like, OK, let’s give somebody a little bit of a mourning period. What would you recommend?

Shad  Well, I mean, it’s not necessarily that you need to say, OK, wait, they’re still stuck in their ways. You know, I’m going to give you a like. You’ve got a couple of months here. Yeah, sometimes you do. Sometimes that’s what you face these transitions. And you say, OK, here we’re going to have a pilot group. And usually the pilots are the best way. I’m sure you guys do a lot of pilots.

We’re going to pilot something with the company. And that’s, of course, the best way. But then you kind of move in and you have to say, OK. Eventually. But the best way really isn’t just giving them a mourning period, but actually acknowledging their loss. So I understand. In fact, we want to recognize that this is a big deal. And you are embracing this technology. You know, we realize this is changing the way things are done and we want to be here to support you in that change process.

And so whatever we can do to help, because what we’ve done in the past, that’s, you know, we don’t want to dismiss that as something that was irrelevant. I mean, a lot of people don’t want to say, oh, everything I’ve done was was for not now. Yeah. How did all the skills I’ve developed, everything I’ve developed up to that point now I’m obsolete.And

so it’s it’s a chance for them to sort of mourn and get over that, but doesn’t have to necessarily be a time period. It just has to be recognition and acknowledgement.

Billy  Ok. That’s very. Yeah. I agree with that. We we made a transition internally from slack to Microsoft teams. And there definitely was some warning from a few people that we’re very attached to Slack. Ok. Man, I want to circle back a little bit.

So, you wrote a paper on the, H.R. ecosystem. And one of the one of your main points was the new H.R.. Can you just dive into that a little bit and explain what you mean by the new H.R.?

Shad  Yeah. And really, this is this is in general for how you manage people. And it’s just basically. Listen. The new H.R. is. The old H.R., which was basically about aligning your people to your strategy and what you were trying to accomplish with that strategy. And of course, within that you had to align your practices of how you manage those people.

So, for example, if you’re if you have people working on a team project, but you’re incentivizing them individually, it’s going to happen. You know, they’re going to sabotage the project. They’re going to sort of say, OK, how do I make sure that I get my incentive, my bonus or whatever it is? So you have to align.

It’s also about internally that’s we call that internal alignment where you align your practices with one another. Where you say, OK, we have if we have group projects, then we’re going to have group incentives and we’re going to hire as a group. We’re gonna get the team to hire the new people, because that’s that’s the nature of what we’re trying to do. That’s internal alignment.

You also have external alignment, which is do we how do we align what we’re doing, our practices, whatever it is, the business with the the strategy of the company, which is hopefully aligned with the external environment. So the strategic context now what we’re saying is that’s that’s still at that alignment is key.

In a digital era where you have constant change and increasing complexity in how work is done, you have four areas that you need to be able to manage well to ensure that alignment. The first is your strategy, of course, which is it’s how you get things done. It’s a framework for making decisions of what what we do and what we’re what we don’t do.

The next one is your workforce composition. That’s the who of who we are as an organization. That’s who works for our organization. And in that, that field has changed in the past. It was OK. For example, Billy, you’ve got your team. You’ve got the people. I’ve been to your office. Great group of people there.

But you all. I’ve also noticed you also have a lot of external contractors and people who are sort of part of the organization helping out. You work with Professor Dr. James Oldroyd, who works with your team now. Is he an employee or is he a contractor or what is he exactly?

Well, we’re seeing more of this all over. And part of your responsibility, Billy, is to manage. Not only those internal people. But to manage Professor Oldroyd. Well, you can’t necessarily manage someone who’s outside of your organization.

Billy  You can’t manage Jim Oldroyd either.

Shad  No one can know. That’s another story. But I mean, here’s a guy who’s done some great stuff on on research with at M.I.T., on lead generation, things like that. And so you do a lot of great stuff. But also at the same time, you have to sort of say, OK, you got some great knowledge. Dr. Oldroyd, how can we utilize that?

But also, we’ve got a strategy and we’ve got things that need to align with what we’re doing and capabilities. So part of your challenge is that workforce. That’s your that’s your who? Oh, yeah. And so that becomes much broader. And that’s why H.R. traditionally H.R. just says,.

I’m just going to deal with those people on this. This new H.R. is saying, hey, listen, maybe maybe H.R. shouldn’t be done by H.R. anymore. And I hate to say that as an aging fan, but maybe maybe managing our people is that’s that’s management’s job. That’s what we all do. And that’s what we’re all involved in.

Billy  Michael Scott, Michael Scott would love what you just said.

Shad  Oh, I don’t know if that’s a compliment or not.

Billy  Well, I mean, I can’t disagree in that things are changed where a manager should be managing the people more.

Shad  That’s right. That’s right. And he would he would also. I mean, he was I mean, he did have a mug that verified this. He was the world’s greatest boss.

Billy  And he still is to this day in our hearts.

Shad  So, the first one is, is the who, the how, the strategy. The second one is, is who the workforce composition. The third is the what which are the capabilities. What do we do as an organization? What do we do that? How do we how do we. What differentiates us from everyone else? How do we make it a competitive advantage? And how do we do that?

Well, those are our capabilities, which is, you know, creating and developing products and selling products, whatever it may be. And then the fourth is the why, which is the culture, which is why, you know, how the culture consists of shared beliefs and values that are established by the leaders. But also, as we mentioned earlier, not just the leaders, but the organizational members themselves.

And that’s what a culture is. And that’s why you get culture fragments. What we’re saying is these four areas, your strategy, your workforce, your capabilities and your culture have to be managed so that they’re aligned with each other. But they also have to be managed so that they’re aligned with the external environment.

All the changes, the technological changes that are occurring on a rapid pace are so the the new H.R. is really saying, hey, it’s not necessarily just about managing people inside an organization, creating H.R. practices. It’s about helping define our culture. It’s about building and growing capabilities and adapting capabilities as the environment changes.

It’s about managing a workforce that’s much more diverse than it’s ever been and scattered, not just with inside an organization, but outside an organization. And of course, it’s about managing a strategy and developing a strategy and allowing those strategies to change, because they will change us, as you know, as companies need to pivot and change direction.

So that’s the general framework. We’re really just based on a lot of research we’ve done. We’ve found companies that can align these four areas, an organization, any organization that really focuses on those four areas, making sure they’re aligned with each other. Is going to be successful. Now, the rub, of course, in that is they’re not going to be aligned. Most of the time.

Billy  Yeah. It’s tough, especially the larger that organization is.

Shad  Absolutely. And what what we’re trying to get managers to say is that’s OK. We’re constantly thinking that everything has to be aligned at all times. And that’s just not reality. The reality we’re finding within organizations is things are shifting the environment, shifting technologies come in and we have to be able to adapt and adjust.

And as long as we’re focusing on these sort of four quadrants or or four balls in the air, not all four of them. Some of them are coming down at one time or juggling them. You know, they’re coming down at one time and they’re not being aligned. That’s fine. But as long as we’re trying to get them moving and aligned at some point, that’s the key. So that’s the general gist of the framework.

Billy  Ok. So how can companies use the framework to more effectively engage their employees and improve the ability to generate leads and sales? Does it play into into the marketing and sales and generate revenue generation part of the business? Or is it more of just an internal operational thing?

Shad  No, absolutely. I mean, this is definitely plays into the marketing and sales. This is key because what you have is you have a marketing and sales force that needs. Needs to be one, understand what the strategy is of the organization. What do we do and what do we not do? I mean, if you thinking about, you know, your sales team and we all know, you know, sometimes ourselves people will oversell and then the product team will say, oh, my gosh.

Seriously, you know, the customer success team will say, oh, wow, you really that was not that’s not what we do. So it’s really up to being in alignment to say, OK, what’s our strategy? What do we do? What do, we not do and what do we have capabilities to do? So then that’s the what? What can we do and what can’t we do in any organization that’s going to be successful has to be able to define and say, I can’t be everything to everyone.

Otherwise, I won’t succeed. And so I can say I can do this for you, but I can’t do this for you. And then, of course, the other is helping them understand, you know, how do we sell? And selling isn’t just about utilizing our internal sales force or our marketing team. It’s using all of these other resources. And I would add, I think the big key is, you know, the artificial intelligence or the data, the you know, the the technology that is augmenting our ability to make those sales and make those decisions. And that’s where we’re saying, oh, yeah, I can see that. You know, the need to integrate and align with the technology is key for our success.

Billy  Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. We’ve got to just get aligned. And especially the data these tools gives you as a sales rep, like you can see so much about the people. If you’re chatting with them, usually you can see their whole journey through the Web site and just take advantage of that stuff. The tools that are available to you. OK.

Well, Shad. Thanks for coming on. Thanks for being a guest with us. I’ve got one last question for you. If you had one actionable like I’m a manager, I’m trying to drive some type of transformation and adoption of a tool. What’s the one thing you tell me to start with?

Shad  I would definitely start by identifying. Well, first of all, what are your objectives? What do you want to get when it with that tool? That, but then the most important thing, I think is I would identify the root cause of any obstacles for why people would not, why adopt at technology in the first place.

And if you always start there, then you can you can really get at because a lot of times we think it’s one thing. But if we do sort of a deep root cause analysis, we can find, oh, you know, the obstacle may not be what we thought and the fix may be much easier. And by identifying the problem, that helps you identify the solution.

Billy  Awesome. Sage advice there. Well, thanks for thanks for joining us on digital conversations and helping us get a little academic today. Where can people find you if they want to reach out and learn more?

Shad  We’ve got a Web site called And I’m also on LinkedIn.