The week@work: Finding Amelia Earhart, Amy Pascal’s pivot, a ‘netflix’ of education and why you need a study plan

For a holiday week, there was a significant assortment of ideas and stories beyond the headlines. The History Channel broadcast the results of an investigation into the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, sparked by the discovery of a photo misfiled in the National Archives. One of Hollywood’s most powerful executives, Amy Pascal, reemerged as the producer behind the latest summer blockbuster and a career lesson for all. On the practical application of ideas to workplace; two articles explored the value of designing an organizational culture of learning and developing an individual study plan  as a catalyst for creativity.

At a time when there were few role models for women, aviatrix Amelia Earhart captured the imagination as she embarked on her first solo flight of the Atlantic, and later when she attempted to fly around the world in a twin engine Lockheed Electra. On July 2, 1937 she left Lae, New Guinea with her navigator Fred Noonan following a flight plan to Howland Island. They never reached their destination, fueling 80 years of theories and investigations, the most recent citing a photo found in the National Archives.


According to the research conducted for the History Channel, Ms. Earhart and Mr. Noonan were captured by the Japanese and later taken to a prison on Saipan. The authenticated photo shows a man and woman with similar physical characteristics of the missing duo. To be continued…

Before the hack of the Democratic National Committee, there was the Sony Studios hack. The studio head at the time was Amy Pascal and the details of emails subsequently made public resulted in her termination. She’s back…Brooks Barnes reported on her career transition for The New York Times.

“Ms. Pascal, a 59-year-old woman in an industry rife with sexism and ageism, seems to have emerged stronger and happier, having reinvented herself as a producer through her company, Pascal Pictures. She will deliver three films to three different studios this year, with more than a dozen more movies on the assembly line. On a personal level, after a lot of soul-searching, some in a therapist’s office, she has tried to see the hack as freeing. After all, she has no more secrets.”


How does the downfall of a powerful studio head relate to the rest of us? Chances are, in a career lifetime, you will get fired. Take note of Ms. Pascal’s evolution.

“I will always carry what happened with me,” she said. “There’s no other way. But you scrape as much grace as you possibly can off the ground and you move forward.”

Moving forward is the theme of the next two stories this week@work.

Karl Mehta and Rob Harles suggest ‘In the knowledge economy, we need a Netflix of education’.

“The problem is that we are drowning in content — but are starving for knowledge and insights that can help us truly be more productive, collaborative and innovative.”

“The solution for the learning and development industry would be a platform that can make education more accessible and relevant — something that allows us to absorb and spread knowledge seamlessly. Just as Netflix delivers entertainment we want at our fingertips, the knowledge and learning we need should be delivered where and when we need it.”

Their proposal analyzes the hurdles, and envisions “the democratization of knowledge” where employers provide “employees the skills and knowledge to thrive, which would have previously been time-consuming or impossible to obtain.”

While we wait for employers to create the learning culture utopia, how do we fuel our individual radical curiosity?

Todd Henry reiterated the importance of stimuli to creativity with ‘Why you should have a study plan (and how to make one)’.

“…most of the incredibly successful people I encounter in the marketplace have some form of study plan that they follow in order to help them spot patterns in their business, anticipate client needs, and simply spark new ideas and new categories of thought.”

He offers three steps to get started: “Dedicate a regular time for study. Study broadly and deeply. After you read, reflect.”

As we begin another week@work, #MondayMotivation – a quote from writer Maxine Hong Kingston: “In a time of destruction, create something.”



The Saturday Read ‘I Was Amelia Earhart’ by Jane Mendelsohn

Sometimes the stories behind what we read are as interesting as the books themselves. We now know that the musical Hamilton had its inception when creator Lin-Manuel Miranda picked up a book in an airport on the way to vacation.

Jane Mendelsohn, the author of this week’s Saturday Read, ‘I Was Amelia Earhart’ found her inspiration reading a newspaper article about the aviator while riding a train into New York .

“I didn’t know much about Amelia Earhart, but the idea of her surviving on a desert island, even if only for a little while, appealed to me, sang to me, waved furiously to me from a great distance. Perhaps this was because I felt at the time as if I were flying hopelessly around the world and searching for land, longing for one of those islands of stability some of us keep looking for in our 20s, a braceleted wrist held up to the face, hand shielding our eyes from the harsh sun of adulthood, not realizing that we will have to build that island for ourselves. Whatever the reason, I was certainly not the first person to be fascinated by Earhart’s disappearance. Nor the last.”

Where will you find inspiration this holiday weekend?

On this 79th anniversary of Earhart’s disappearance, go back in time as newspapers around the world reported the news:


“Coast Guard headquarters was advised tonight that Amelia Earhart was believed to have alighted on the Pacific Ocean near Howland Island shortly after 5 P.M. Eastern daylight time today.

A message from the cutter Itasca, stationed in the vicinity of the island in the mid-Pacific, said:

“Earhart unreported at Howland at 7 P.M. [E.D.T.]. Believe down shortly after 5 P.M. Am searching probable area and will continue.”

Author Mendelsohn imagines the other side of story, as Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan transition from pioneers of the sky, to survivors on a tiny Pacific atoll.

“It went very quickly, those first few days. They got out of the plane, and together looked around and tried to make sense of their surroundings. Then all of a sudden, as if part of the choreography of a dream, they set about performing the necessary rituals of survival.

They check the radio, which picks up nothing, and the fuel tank, which is low but not empty, and they confirm their worst suspicions – that they have no idea where they are…They build a fire on the beach to attract attention. They know that a search will have already begun.”

It’s not too long before Earhart spots a plane.

“In the morning I see a speck appear on the horizon, a black spot the size of an insect.

The point of blackness, which at first appears to be nothing more than a gnat, keeps coming closer, heading directly toward the island, and I tell myself that it must be a figment of my imagination. But after two minutes, it assumes the form of a plane to such perfection that I need a moment to recognize what it is…At first I take off my scarf and gesticulate furiously, but as the plane appears to lose altitude, I begin to relax and wave it calmly, welcoming it ashore. Everything about this plane conveys purpose and assurance, as if it had been designed solely to rescue us. I find the promise of its shape more beautiful than anything I have ever seen, but strangely lost to me, although I don’t understand why until it comes closer and I am able to determine that despite my wish it is not coming toward the island at all. It looked as if it were heading directly at me, but as I watch it grow larger I see it pass overhead, high above, too far to see me as I desperately shake my scarf. It circles once – for an instant I image that it is heading toward the water and I think I can make out black pontoons for landing – and then it makes a wide turn, points back to the mysterious place from whence it has come, and flies away. It hasn’t seen me at all.”

The mystery of Earhart’s disappearance continues to arouse interest as researchers continue to search for a remnant of the missing plane. Mendelsohn’s narrative offers the reader an alternative history, employing beautiful prose to recreate a time when “Planes used to be vehicles for dreaming…As soon as you saw a plane, you started dreaming. It was a thrill just to catch a glimpse of one. “

In 2012 Jane Mendelsohn revisited the subject of her 1996 novel in an Op-Ed for The New York Times.

“We still wonder what happened to Amelia Earhart — perhaps soon we may even find out — but do we know what to do with her? Do we know how to make not just her mysterious disappearance but also her miraculous life relevant and inspiring to our global society? And could she matter across the globe, that ball around which she tried to fly that feels so much smaller today but is in fact exactly the same size it was then?

Historically, one thing America has been good at is offering inspiration. We haven’t been doing a brilliant job of it lately, but in Amelia Earhart we have something, someone, to offer the 21st century: a heroine. She was a leader, not a passive bystander. She was strong, not a victim. And she was not born into a rich family, as were many other women pilots of her day, but was lifted up by her own accomplishments. In other words, she gives us good shoes to fill.”

On this weekend, when we celebrate our nation’s independence, read ‘I Was Amelia Earhart’ and discover why her life still inspires.

“Amelia Earhart can be a beacon for our country and for women and men around the globe because everyone, each of us, needs to be “aware of the hazards” and accept “the inevitable risks.”… Earhart’s mystery endures because of who she was as a person, the pilot of her own destiny, mistakes, failures and dreams, reachable and unreachable. She still beckons.”

‘Transmission’ a poem by Rachel Richardson

On July 2nd, 1937 aviator Amelia Earhart was attempting to be the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. She and her navigator, Fred Noonan had completed 22,000 miles of a 29,000 mile journey when transmission was lost. Ten ships, 3,000 men and 100 aircraft searched for the missing plane. The disappearance remains a mystery and has generated multiple conspiracy theories and continuing efforts by private organizations to discover the wreckage.

Earhart had become an early twentieth century role model for women. Her final note to her husband acknowledged the danger as well as her feminism.

“Please know I am quite aware of the hazards of the trip. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”

The Friday Poem by Rachel Richardson captures an imagined ‘transmission’ from the final moments of that flight.


There was a girl who heard it happen:
Amelia Earhart calling
on the radio, she and her navigator
alternately cursing and defining their position
by latitude, as best they could read it
in the bellowing wind, and by what
they could surmise of their rate per hour,
last land they’d seen. Stay with me, someone,
and the girl wrote each word
in her composition book, kept the channel
tuned, hunched to the receiver
when static overtook the line.
Why do I think of her?
The coast guard laughed at her father
holding out the schoolgirl scrawl
and sent him home ashamed. A lost woman
is a lost woman, he told her, and the sea
is dark and wide.

Rachel Richardson  The New York Times Magazine  January 22, 2016