The other Stanford Commencement Speech – Dana Gioia

Even if you had not attended the commencement of the Class of 2012 at Stanford, you probably have a faint memory of the speech Steve Jobs delivered, as it played in unending loops on social media.

Why did his words resonate? Because he shared what he believed to be the fundamentals of his success though a multi-disciplinary, non-traditional approach to education.

“… you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Steve Jobs in 2012 was a celebrity. The speaker in 2007 was not, and that caused a stir on ‘The Farm’. A self described working class kid – half Italian, half Mexican from Hawthorne, California, Dana Gioia was serving as the head of the National Endowment for the Arts when he was invited to speak.

In a culture where ‘connecting the dots’, creativity, innovation and curiosity are the current corporate buzz words, we seem to devalue the artists who live these words every day.

Gioia acknowledged the disagreement over his choice and used it to challenge the graduate’s definition of celebrity in his address.

“I know that there was a bit of controversy when my name was announced as the graduation speaker. A few students were especially concerned that I lacked celebrity status. It seemed I wasn’t famous enough. I couldn’t agree more. As I have often told my wife and children, “I’m simply not famous enough.”

And that—in a more general and less personal sense—is the subject I want to address today, the fact that we live in a culture that barely acknowledges and rarely celebrates the arts or artists.”

He then illustrated his point sharing his story:

“I grew up mostly among immigrants, many of whom never learned to speak English. But at night watching TV variety programs like the Ed Sullivan Show or the Perry Como Music Hall, I saw—along with comedians, popular singers, and movie stars—classical musicians like Jascha Heifetz and Arthur Rubinstein, opera singers like Robert Merrill and Anna Moffo, and jazz greats like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong captivate an audience of millions with their art.

The same was even true of literature. I first encountered Robert Frost, John Steinbeck, Lillian Hellman, and James Baldwin on general interest TV shows. All of these people were famous to the average American—because the culture considered them important.

Today no working-class or immigrant kid would encounter that range of arts and ideas in the popular culture. Almost everything in our national culture, even the news, has been reduced to entertainment, or altogether eliminated.”

Dana Gioia’s work today is poet and university lecturer. But he started his career in the same place, at Stanford. He earned both B.A. and M.B.A. degrees from his alma mater and pursued a business career, eventually serving as a Vice President of General Foods. In between he earned an MA in Comparative Literature from Harvard and in 1992 left the corporate world to be a full time writer.

On that day, at Stanford he was speaking to himself, challenging those who would go off to investment banks and Fortune 500 companies to consider their responsibility to American culture and the arts.

“To compete successfully, this country needs continued creativity, ingenuity, and innovation.

Art is an irreplaceable way of understanding and expressing the world—equal to but distinct from scientific and conceptual methods. Art addresses us in the fullness of our being—simultaneously speaking to our intellect, emotions, intuition, imagination, memory, and physical senses. There are some truths about life that can be expressed only as stories, or songs, or images.

Art delights, instructs, consoles. It educates our emotions. And it remembers. As Robert Frost once said about poetry, “It is a way of remembering that which it would impoverish us to forget.” Art awakens, enlarges, refines, and restores our humanity. You don’t outgrow art. The same work can mean something different at each stage of your life. A good book changes as you change.”

Steve Jobs and Dana Gioia gave the same speech five years apart. It’s about curiosity, creativity and innovation. How can we connect the dots if our world view has only one?

Who should I ask for a reference?

It was a great interview. As you start to leave the office, your potential employer asks you for the names of two references. Who do you ask? What is an employer looking for from a reference?

This is not a passive process, let to the whims of friends adding comments to your skills on social networking sites.

If you are applying for a job or completing a graduate school application, at some point you will have to ask someone to provide a recommendation. Whether you are starting out or advancing in your career, selecting the perfect reference should confirm an employer’s intent to offer you a position.

As a student, your list of references should include a faculty member, preferably in your major and an employer reference from an internship or part time job. Most graduate programs will require two faculty references and perhaps a non-academic reference.

Develop a list of 5-6 people who are potential references. Qualify each of these professionals in respect to your relationship. Is this someone who knows you well because of your participation in classes and who can comment on the academic quality of your work? Can they adequately predict your ability to succeed? As a former internship employer, will your reference be able to cite specific projects along with an assessment of your performance?

Arrange an appointment to meet face to face with each of the people on your list. Be prepared. Bring a copy of your resume and the job description or graduate program brochure. (Do not text a recommendation request with a link to a website.) Create a short list of why you are pursuing this job or graduate program and talk to your potential reference about what you would like them to emphasize. Does the employer require good communication skills? Ask if the faculty member could cite your final paper and presentation as an example of your skill match. Is the graduate school looking for people with a commitment to their community? Suggest the reference  mention the time you spent tutoring in the local elementary school.

As a seasoned professional, changing jobs or changing careers you need support from colleagues and managers who can speak to your skill set and adaptability.

Develop a list of people who can comment on your abilities related to each element in the job description. An employer is trying to determine if you will ‘fit’ in an organization. Do you have the skills that complement other team members? Will your approach to problem solving facilitate collaboration? This is where your sense of an organization’s culture helps you narrow your potential field of references.

It’s good practice to nourish your list of references over time. As you advance in your career, your roster of possible references will expand relative to your experience. Choose one or two key folks from your list who are credible in the eyes of your potential employer. At the point an employer is having conversations with a reference, they are trying to differentiate you from other qualified finalists for the position. Your reference is a key part of that decision.

Selecting a reference takes time. You may have someone say no. Or, you may have someone agree and not follow up. Always have a back up. People forget. Provide deadlines and enough lead-time to avoid last minute panic. This is not a time to be shy. This is part of your marketing strategy. Your references should feel confident with both the information you have provided and their direct experience with you to provide a recommendation without reservation.

A great resource for anyone seeking work today is the Corner Office column in The New York Times. Adam Bryant summarizes his conversations with CEOs from all sectors, exploring their values and how they hire.

Jana Eggers, CEO of Spreadshirt, a maker of personalized clothing, described how she solicits feedback from references, not only the ones on the list:

I’m also going to see how they treat the receptionist. I always get feedback from them. I’ll want to know if someone comes in and if they weren’t polite, if they didn’t say, ”Hello,” or ask them how they were. It’s really important to me.

I also check references myself. One question I ask on references is, ”Where should I spend time coaching this person?”

The week@work – April 20 – 26 CEO pay, women@work & a yellow hairdryer

This week the conversation continued about Gravity Payments CEO’s decision to cut his salary and raise the minimum wage of his employees. Women@work were the topic of a viral gender equality spoof and Meryl Streep announced plans for a screenwriting lab for women over 40. And for those of you budding entrepreneurs comes the story of Dry Bar and those yellow hairdryers.

Dan Price, the CEO of Gravity Payments announced in mid April that he would be ‘sharing the wealth’ with his employees. His plan is to raise the minimum salary for all his employees to $70K within the next three years. Business professors and cable TV pundits criticized his idea, suggesting he was crazy, going so far as to cite research that happy workers are not necessarily productive workers.

This is what you get for being innovative. How will you know unless you try it?

Conceding on MSNBC that he might be crazy, “he dismissed the back-seat business advice as misguided. Proudly calling himself a capitalist, Mr. Price…argued that the new salary structure would benefit his firm in the long run even as it would help, more broadly, to highlight the corrosive effects of income inequality in American society.”

He is building a corporate culture founded on values of fairness that he believes will benefit his company in the long run.

At the Tribeca Film Festival actor Meryl Streep announced plans to fund a screenwriting lab for women over 40.

As reported in Variety, “The retreat will be run by New York Women in Film and Television and IRIS, a collective of women filmmakers.  

“Called the Writers Lab, the screenplay development program aims to increase opportunities for female screenwriters over the age of 40. This year the initiative will accept submissions May 1-June 1, with eight winning scribes named Aug. 1.

Among the mentors to participate in the Lab’s inaugural year are writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Beyond the Lights”), producer Caroline Kaplan (“Boyhood”), and writers Kirsten Smith (“Legally Blonde”) and Jessica Bendinger (“Bring It On”).

Citing current statistics, Forbes Magazine reported : “As of 2014, women constituted only 17% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 (domestic) grossing films. Shockingly, this is the same percentage of women working in these roles in 1998. The needle hasn’t moved.”

Which leads us to ‘Its Only Fair That Men Should Have It All’ a video spoof of gender inequality. The video, created by Patricia Noonan, Nadia Quinn, and Emily Tarver used an all-female cast and crew of 70 to comment on a serious topic, with humor in words and music.

The last story of the week is a profile in The New York Times of the Drybar founder, Alli Webb.

“In just five years, Ms. Webb’s business has grown to a $50 million-a-year enterprise. (That was in 2014; the company says it is on track to generate $70 million in revenue in 2015.) This was not what she imagined growing up in South Florida. Back then, a young Ms. Webb (nee Landau), was forced to contend daily with her hair, which was wavy, and in humid Florida, very frizzy.”

What is Drybar? A visit to the website defines the product:

“Drybar is a brand new “blow dry bar” concept created around a very simple idea:
No cuts. No color. Just blowouts for only $40. You see, we believe that everyone (even us pros) prefers having someone else blow out their hair. Why? It just looks better! We also believe there has to be a better option than paying $60+ at a traditional salon, or going to a less-than-desirable discount chain. But there’s not. So, we decided to make one.”

Here is a simple business idea that originated with a basic beauty need and a woman who created a market for a product we didn’t know we needed until it arrived.

From the NY Times story: “Drybar now has 3,000 employees. There is a line of styling products, hot tools and brushes, sold in the Drybar shops and at Sephora. The company has about 50 investors, many of whom began as clients, like the actress Rose McGowan, and Alexander von Furstenberg, who got in touch about investing after he picked up his teenage daughter from a Drybar shop where she was getting a blowout. “I was like, wow, this place is so well run, just the execution, you know, everything,” Mr. von Furstenberg said.”

Most days you have to create your own success. Mr. Price of Gravity Payments is redefining employee compensation. Meryl Streep is recognizing the value of storytellers over 40. The creators of #makeitfair are reminding employers of the equal contribution of all workers. And Alli Webb has built her business based on 10 core values and a bright yellow hairdryer.

The Saturday Read – Biography

If we read biographies will be be better leaders?

A quick review of President Obama’s reading list includes the life stories of former presidents: Adams, Lincoln and FDR. The number two book this week on The New York Times Business Best Seller list is the new bio, ‘Becoming Steve Jobs’. Last week the Wall Street Journal reviewed ‘Hannibal: A Hellenistic Life’.

“It is not histories I am writing, but lives; the most glorious deeds do not always indicate virtue or vice, but a small thing like a phrase or a jest often reveals more of a character than the bloodiest battles.”  Plutarch, ‘Parallel Lives’

We read biographies to extract the wisdom of others. Biographies offer a portal into understanding the larger world where these lives were lived. Read closely they offer proof that history repeats itself.

“We live – at least in the Western world – in a golden age for biography. The depiction of real lives in every medium from print to film, from radio to television and the Internet is more popular than ever…Biography, today, remains as it has always been, the record and interpretation of real lives – the lives of others and ourselves.”  Nigel Hamilton, ‘How To Do Biography’

The ‘Saturday Read’ this week is not a recommendation of a single title, but a suggestion of a genre.

Despite a well publicized ‘biography kerfuffle’ over a new, ‘unauthorized’ biography of Steve Jobs written by Fast Company reporters, Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, it has been the ‘year of biography’, offering a variety of choices, spanning centuries.

The 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Biography was awarded to ‘The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe’ by David I. Kertzer. Also nominated as finalists in this category were: ‘Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism’ by Thomas Brothers and ‘Stalin: Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928’ by Stephen Kotkin.

The LA Times Book Prizes includes a standalone category for biography. This year Andrew Roberts‘Napoleon: A Life’ received the award in a roster of respected nominees including Pulitzer finalist Steve Kotkin along with:

Adam Begley, ‘Updike’

Robert M. Dowling, ‘Eugene O’Neill: A Life in Four Acts’

Kirstin Downey, ‘Isabella: The Warrior Queen’

On the Saturday morning of the LA Times Festival of Books I attended a panel moderated by Eisenhower biographer, Jim Newton. Biographers Downey and Kotkin revealed their subjects were very unlikely historical figures. Looking back at their early years, Isabella of Spain and Stalin showed little promise for the lives they would eventually lead. Yet all of these writers crafted stories of actors who emerged onto the global stage amid success, controversy and failure.  A. Scott Berg who published a hefty bio of Woodrow Wilson last year closed the discussion describing the role of biography as “a way to illuminate the times”.

This weekend, select a book from those suggested here or find one about someone you admire and perhaps would like to emulate. Discover a mentor in the pages of biography.

‘The Freeways Considered As Earth Gods’ a poem by Dana Gioia

The Friday poem is for all of you who spend time commuting to work. After reading poet Dana Gioia’s poem, I doubt you will ever experience being stuck on the 405 freeway in the same way. If you are not familiar with Mr. Gioia’s work, his personal career story, beginning as a graduate of the Stanford Business School and moving on to become a vice president at General Foods is not your typical path to poetry. From 2003 to 2009 he served as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and currently lectures at the University of Southern California.

The Freeways Considered As Earth Gods

These are the gods who rule the golden land.
Their massive bodies stretch across the countryside,
Filling the valleys, climbing the hills, curving along the coast,
Crushing the earth from which they draw their sustenance
Of tar and concrete, asphalt, sand, and steel.

They are not new, these most ancient of divinities.
Our clamor woke them from the subdivided soil.
They rise to rule us, neither cruel nor kind,
But indifferent to our ephemeral humanity.
Their motives are unknowable and profound.

The gods do not condescend to our frailty.
They cleave our cities, push aside our homes,
Provide no place to walk or rest or gather.
The pathways of the gods are empty, flat, and hard.
They draw us to them, filling us with longing.

We do not fail to worship them. Each morning
Millions creep in slow procession on our pilgrimages.
We crave the dangerous power of their presence.
And they demand blood sacrifice, so we mount
Our daily holocaust on the blackened ground.

The gods command the hilltops and the valleys.
They rule the deserts and the howling wilderness.
They drink the rivers and clear the mountains in their way.
They consume the earth and the increase of the field.
They burn the air with their rage.

We are small. We are weak. We are mortal.
Ten thousand of us could not move one titan’s arm.
We need their strength and speed.
We bend to their justice and authority.
These are the gods of California. Worship them.

Dana Gioia ‘Pity the Beautiful’ Graywolf Press, 2012

The ghost writer and your resume

Can I hire someone to write my resume and cover letter? Of course you can, but why would you? Cover letters and resumes are documents that convey a voice, your voice, and outsourcing your career narrative surrenders ownership of your story.

We are all ‘resume procrastinators’ to a point. It’s only when we face a career transition that we scramble to pull something together. And it’s at these times that we may be at our most vulnerable, and not thinking from place of confidence in our talents.

A resume is a living document requiring ongoing updates. It’s an opportunity to organize your experience and reflect on where you are in your career. The simplest approach is to set up a file, physical or virtual, and periodically add accomplishments, community activities and education. At least once a year, create a revised resume, incorporating your experience from the previous year.

The cover letter allows you to connect the dots of your experience in a coherent presentation of value to an employer. It can only be written when you know the requirements of a potential position and can articulate the links between your resume and the employer’s requirements.

If you reset your thinking and use the resume as a career management strategy vs. a job search tool, it becomes less daunting and more useful. If you are concerned about your writing skills, it’s a bigger issue than crafting a cover letter. Consider taking a continuing education course in professional writing. Strong communication skills are fundamental to your career advancement.

Once you have a first draft of your resume and cover letter, you can begin to ask for feedback. Career counselors can offer suggestions on content, emphasis and presentation. Industry professionals can add a layer of expertise based on the documents they see specific to their career field. At the end of the day, these are your documents and you are the final editor.

Your resume and cover letter are your RSVP to a potential career opportunity. These two documents start the conversation that will continue in an interview. Begin the conversation with your voice, not the voice of the ghost writer.

A ‘commencement reflection’ for earth day from Paul Hawken

Paul Hawken, the entrepreneur, environmentalist, journalist and author adressed the graduating class at the University of Portland in May, 2009. His lifelong focus has been sustainability and he has successfully changed the relationship of business to the environment in all of his endeavors.

In his speech he spoke of our relationship to the earth, particularly in these challenging economic times when it would be easy to declare environmental issues an expense item vs. a way to create jobs and generate revenue.

“There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. The earth couldn’t afford to send recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.”

I encourage you to read the entire text of the speech. It frames the issue of preserving the earth in poetic term with realistic urgency. But his words do not just apply to our environmental challenges. They can be applied to any obstacle you encounter on the way to your dream.

“Each of us is as complex and beautiful as all the stars in the universe. We have done great things and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are graduating to the most amazing, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed. They didn’t stay up all night. They got distracted and lost sight of the fact that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss.The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hope only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.”

How big is your dream?

What is your dream? Alexa von Tobel the CEO of LearnVest believes “you have to dream big because no one else can dream for you.” Her dream to build a financial planning company led her to take a leave from Harvard Business School. In the heart of a recession with no salary and no income she started with an idea of a website.

Explaining her vision in a December, 2014 interview with Time Magazine:

“You go to a mom and pop certified financial planning firm,” she says, “you’re paying for that overhead, for that parking lot, for that mahogany desk, for that receptionist at the front,” she says. LearnVest, on the other hand, is just a website. It shifts the data entry onto users and the number crunching onto automated software. As a result, her staff can focus on dispensing advice in unprecedented volumes. Von Tobel says LearnVest is aiming to have a single financial advisor serve upwards of 1,000 customers, a ten-fold increase over the typical small firm.”

Two weeks ago, her interview with Adam Bryant was published in the Corner Office column in The New York Times.

“Sometimes when I’m mentoring people, I’ll say, “What’s your biggest dream?” and it will be something small and I’ll say: “Dream bigger. Just give yourself the ability to say, ‘I want something bigger,’ because who cares if you fail? Truly, who cares? So dream bigger because no one else is going to do it for you.”

Which brings me to Jeff Lee and Ann Martin and the Rocky Mountain Land Library. In the early 1990s they visited The Gladstone Library in Wales and their vision began to take shape. A residential library founded by the former prime minister with his own collection, the website describes a mission “dedicated to dialogue, debate and learning for open-minded individuals and groups, who are looking to explore pressing questions and to pursue study and research in an age of distraction and easy solutions.”

The story of Jeff and Ann’s dream was told by NY Times reporter, Julie Turkewitz in ‘A Haven for Readers Nestled Amid Mountains of Books’.

For more than 20 years Jeff and Ann have been investing in books as they worked at the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver, building toward their dream: “a rural, live-in library where visitors will be able to connect with two increasingly endangered elements — the printed word and untamed nature.” 

Anticipating a broad range of audiences, the venue will connect visitors with literature of the west and nature.

How big is your dream? Use this summary of the Rocky Mountain Land Library from the NY Times as a model:

“The project is striking in its ambition: a sprawling research institution situated on a ranch at 10,000 feet above sea level, outfitted with 32,000 volumes, many of them about the Rocky Mountain region, plus artists’ studios, dormitories and a dining hall — a place for academics, birders, hikers and others to study and savor the West.”

Dream bigger.

Women@work… continuing the conversation… know what you’re worth

Do you know what you’re worth? This isn’t a gender specific question, however, former Co-chairman of Sony Pictures, Amy Pascal believes women should know their value and set realistic salary expectations.

During an interview with journalist Tina Brown at the ‘Women in the World’ conference in San Francisco on February 11, Ms. Pascal described the Hollywood culture, and addressed the criticism she received when the studios’ data was hacked, revealing the salaries of female actors was lower than the compensation of male actors.

“Here’s the problem: I run a business. People want to work for less money, I’ll pay them less money. I don’t call them up and say, ‘Can I give you some more?’ Because that’s not what you do when you run a business. The truth is, what women have to do is not work for less money. They have to walk away. People shouldn’t be so grateful for jobs. … People should know what they’re worth.”

There continues to be a discrepancy in salaries between men and women. Employers have a role to ensure equity, while at the same time returning a profit to share owners.

And each of us is a ‘free agent’ with a set of skills and competencies that have a market value. That may sound blunt, but we ‘own’ this issue and we have a choice to accept an offer or walk away.

You don’t know what you’re worth? Time to get busy on your research. Take out that resume and assess your experience. What is your core skill set? What is unique about what you have to offer? Who are the employers willing to pay for your expertise?

Think like an entrepreneur. What is the valuation you place on ‘organization you’? Who is willing to make a fair ‘investment’ offer?

Salaries may be the last ‘best kept secret’ of the workplace. And this is where you have to disconnect from your virtual world and go out and have some one on one conversations. Learning about how compensation is defined and determined is a ‘before the offer’ activity.

Success at work is less about salary than finding a culture where you can flourish. But if you find a job you love and later learn you are not paid equally, your attitude will erode over time and that will not be a good thing for your career.

The week@work April 13 – 19 Apollo 13, Brian Grazer & Adderall in the workplace

The week@work celebrated authors and their books at the LA Times Festival of Books in Los Angeles, commemorated the courage of the astronauts on Apollo 13 and explored the growing abuse of attention deficit disorder drugs in the workplace.

It’s interesting how the dots connect. Yesterday I was sitting in a large auditorium at the University of Southern California listening to an interview with Brian Grazer, producer and now writer, describe a self-improvement process he has utilized since graduating from college. Each week he identifies at least one person, a stranger, he would like to meet and have a ‘curiosity conversation’. It’s a practice he continues to energize and expand his capabilities. Speaking earlier this year at SXSW he emphasized “Curiosity is the source of all my success.”

In 1995 he produced the film Apollo 13, recounting the story of the astronaut’s survival. The key word is survival. His process in selecting this project connected back to a woman, Veronica Denegra, who had been tortured for 18 months in Chile for her opposition to the government. It wasn’t his interest in space, but his memory of Ms. Denegra’s story of survival that connected him to Apollo 13.

“You can never know how the dots will connect; how opportunities will come alive when you never knew they existed.”

The talented professionals at NASA who brainstormed their way through to a successful conclusion of the Apollo 13 mission were honored this week at the San Diego Air and Space Museum on the 45th anniversary of the mission. The story of the ‘real life’ events led by mission commander Jim Lovell and flight director Gene Kranz remains a model case study of problem solving, teamwork and creativity in an extremely high risk work environment.

In the December, 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review three authors described their findings on how CEO’s innovate. In ‘The Innovator’s DNA’ Jeffrey H. Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clayton M. Christensen identified “five “discovery skills” that distinguish the most creative executives: associating, questioning, observing, experimenting, and networking. We found that innovative entrepreneurs (who are also CEOs) spend 50% more time on these discovery activities than do CEOs with no track record for innovation. Together, these skills make up what we call the innovator’s DNA. And the good news is, if you’re not born with it, you can cultivate it.”

Here we have Brian Grazer, producer, who appears to be the poster boy for the innovator’s DNA, telling the story of another illustration of innovation, in the story of the Apollo13 crew and the folks on the ground at NASA who brought them home, 45 years ago this week.

“The conversations are the artistic fertilizer of what comes up on the screen. It enriches everything that lives in your mind in terms of exploring possibilities.”

The third story this week appears on the front page of the Sunday New York Times, ‘Abuse of Attention Deficit Pills Graduates Into the Workplace’. A generation that employed attention disorder drugs to stay up late to study for a final or complete a paper has now continued the practice, ordering ‘pills on demand’ to complete work assignments.

“Doctors and medical ethicists expressed concern for misusers’ health, as stimulants can cause anxiety, addiction and hallucinations when taken in high doses. But they also worried about added pressure in the workplace — where the use by some pressures more to join the trend.”

Young professionals believe they need these drugs to get hired. And once hired, believe they need chemical support to sustain their productivity, to be competitive.

We are only at the beginning of this story, but leaders should be paying attention and consider the effects of an organizational culture that facilitates this behavior. A dose of management emotional intelligence and creativity might go a long way to building an alternative workplace, a place where productivity is fueled by ‘curiosity conversations’, not drugs.

Mr. Grazer believes “Curiosity is the solution to every problem that you’ve got.” And he may be right.