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November 22, 2022

Alex Howland Talks to PwC at The Economist Innovation@Work US Event

For PwC’s innovation leaders, Virbela’s Metaverse has helped to transform workplace collaboration. At The Economist Innovation@Work US event, Alex Howland and Mikayla Graham sat down for a fireside chat to talk about how virtual reality can improve culture and inclusivity for businesses.
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At the recent Economist Innovation@Work US event, Virbela Co-Founder and President Alex Howland, Ph.D., and PwC Innovation Leader for Acceleration Centers Mikayla Graham sat down to discuss the impact of the Metaverse on enterprise-level collaboration. The conversation highlighted PwC’s dedication to culture, diversity, equity, inclusion, and future-readiness. 

During the chat, Howland and Graham talked about organizational psychology, business growth, and how Virbela brought PwC’s China team together. For the whole discussion, watch the video:

About Innovation@Work US

The Economist Innovation@Work US event gathers more than 100 speakers to explore pressing questions around digital tools and technologies, leadership and hybrid work. Across the entirety of the event, panels and discussions center around collaborative solutions to move enterprise businesses forward. By defining and debating the issues that matter most to C-suite executives, Innovation@Work provides inspiration and takeaways for various ways of working, including typical 9-to-5 approaches, hybrid flexibility, and fully remote work.

Innovation@Work US is co-located with the Metaverse Summit, a hybrid in-person and virtual event that took place in Virbela. The virtual component of the event allowed attendees to discover what it’s like to spend the day in Virbela's enterprise Metaverse, while learning from business leaders who already collaborate and connect there. 

How PwC Uses Virbela

Graham detailed for the audience how PwC has been using Virbela to bring teams together across cultures and time zones. The clear proof point for their team was during a program designed to connect staff during COVID-19 lockdowns in Shanghai. 

“We knew that people were tired of the traditional interaction platforms . . . so we implemented a virtual world and started with an innovation conference that brought our teams together across all of these spaces. We have continued to use the platform for engagement,” says Graham.

“With our Shanghai team, we held an event where 1,200 people came together on this platform and celebrated their successes. They had scavenger hunts. They celebrated their culture—so, not only the PwC culture, but their rich Asian culture. And that was really fascinating. I learned a lot sitting in on that session, and they were able to connect with one another.”

Identity in the Metaverse

Howland and Graham both have backgrounds in organizational psychology, and Virbela has strong roots in the discipline. Howland developed Virbela as part of his doctoral research while earning his Ph.D., and still relies on developments in the field to inform innovation at Virbela.

“Different personas feel comfortable in these environments,” shares Howland, “Someone who is introverted, who doesn't really lean into difficult conversations or engage or share their ideas, is more likely to share their ideas in here.”

Graham concurs, “There are some things that prevent us from being our most authentic version when we show up physically versus how we see ourselves in the Metaverse. I can change the physical attributes of myself to best match how I feel. And I think that that's so important, especially in today's culture.”

Collaboration and Productivity

When people feel like they can be themselves at work, they gain a sense of belonging that contributes to stronger company culture. This cultural shift can have an impact on productivity on individual and team levels, but there’s a practical side to connectivity, too. In Virbela, staff are more likely to have interactions with leadership than they might if they worked entirely remotely or only in an office, where days are structured heavily and people tend to talk only to those with whom they’re scheduled in meetings. 

Entering the Metaverse

For companies seeking new ways to future proof their organization, the Metaverse allows flexible adoption that you can scale with your team’s needs. Similar to how PwC scaled their teams into Virbela based on trends, business needs, and benefits to individuals, any organization can take the first steps in the Metaverse and begin to develop their own practices in the Metaverse. For more information on how to get started, email sales@virbela.com.

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