2020 Threw the Kitchen Sink at Us: How We Are Adapting To Thrive

Zander Lurie
4 min readOct 12, 2020


Six months ago, the only thing stopping me from a spontaneous conversation with one of our account execs was a broken elevator — in which case I’d take the stairs. Best part of the CEO job is the freedom it affords you to pop into any meeting or initiate conversations across all functions and levels.

I made a point of doing the rounds at our HQ in San Mateo and our other global offices on frequent trips. It’s no secret in Silicon Valley that we put premium coffee and food all over the place to stimulate cross-functional conversations.

At SurveyMonkey, we also promote curiosity in our products and in our culture; so, if you don’t value asking questions, and listening to diverse perspectives, you’re not going to thrive here. At this time last year, when I walked from one pod to the next, I could learn about team sentiment, who was delivering outstanding performance, what priorities needed more resources, and where we had exposure.

As CEO, it’s all too easy to spend your time with C-suite colleagues, board members, and CEO peers. If all of your conversations are about capital markets and strategic planning, you’re on a short commute to becoming out of touch. (Remember commutes? I actually miss mine and my uninterrupted time with the Bill Simmons podcast.)

Most CEOs have a pretty good read on humanity — you need to know your colleagues, customers, and big shareholders to know where to allocate your time and energy. You’re always recruiting, selling, cajoling, mentoring, rallying, etc…which left most of us in mid-March asking, what the hell do I do now?!

When the vast majority of your daily activities necessitate being in the room where it happens (hat tip to Lin-Manuel Miranda), video conferencing is a sub-optimal replacement. But humans are adaptable, and managers need to be resilient. (And thank you, Zoom. You are the global MVP to all businesses and schools!)

What we’ve experienced in the past half-year is unique to all our lifetimes — the one-two-three-four punch of a global pandemic, economic recession, racial justice crisis, and environmental disasters like the West Coast fires. There is speculation that the U.S. presidential election may not run as smoothly as prior years. If I’ve learned anything in 2020, it’s the importance of shifting perspectives.

Every leader is learning to adapt to this challenging business environment: digital transformation, telehealth, direct to consumer, WFH. Many of the CEOs I interact with are going back to first principles and asking more questions: about our offices, recruiting practices, compensation policies, communications strategy, Wall Street guidance, the list is long… On top of financial projections and product innovation, we’re thinking: what role can companies play in shaping a better future?

Our workplaces are not as diverse, equitable, and inclusive as they need to be. At SurveyMonkey, we stand by our mission to create a place where all employees can do the best work of their lives. This is not an aspirational statement, it’s something we play our part in making happen, as are many other companies.

We also need to deliver more value to our customers in a time of financial stress. They are counting on our software products now more than ever to collect the feedback and intel they need to run their businesses. For reasons everyone understands, our employees also have more stress and anxiety than ever. We’re all getting a lot more familiar with our colleagues’ homes, kids, pets, and pain points. CEOs everywhere know that if our employees can’t be productive, our customers lose. Our business suffers.

Everyone, everywhere is relying on a natural human instinct to achieve better results — collecting feedback. Collecting feedback from your key stakeholders helps you to take the next best action. We’re stepping up to make sure our products are part of the solution. In fact, we’re eager to introduce our anticipated GetFeedback CX platform, which is helping leading brands make customer experience a differentiator this year.

A recent study we ran, showed that 87% of professionals say their organization finds customer feedback more important than they did before COVID-19. (These days it’s hard to get 87% of people to agree on anything!) There’s no question that customer needs have changed drastically this year (curbside pickup anyone?), which demands that our businesses adapt our priorities — what we build, where we market, and how we sell.

With no shortage of topics to discuss this year, we figured we’d set them all on the table in one virtual event, accessible and made for all industries and functions — the CX Impact Summit.

During the event I’ll discuss the topic of DE&I in business, alongside, Jennifer Tejada, CEO of PagerDuty; Erika James, Dean of The University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School of business and SurveyMonkey Board Member; and award-winning journalist and reporter for CNBC Make It, Courtney Connley.

We hope you can join us to see how we can navigate this important topic and stay receptive to changing customer demands and market needs, together.

Join the conversation at SurveyMonkey’s CX Impact Summit.



Zander Lurie