The week@work – “our culture is changing”, internship access, sexual harassment@Fox & the June jobs report

For the 67th time in his term, President Obama ordered the flag of the United States be flown at half-staff; this time in memory of the police officers in Dallas. Sixty-seven times, a record for a presidential administration.

This week@work we look at two responses to the violence, consider an opinion on internship access, examine a high profile workplace harassment lawsuit, and the implications of the June jobs report.

“As a mark of respect for the victims of the attack on police officers perpetrated on Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Dallas, Texas, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, July 12, 2016. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.”

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On Friday morning, veteran CBS newsman, Bob Schieffer, was asked to provide context to the events of the past week, drawing on his 50 years as a journalist.

“One thing we overlook: our culture is changing…We are becoming a less patient society, we are becoming a more demanding society, for want of a better word, we are becoming a ruder society, and we see this playing out in road rage, in the way we treat one another…Nobody is satisfied with anything now…People are dissatisfied, frustrated and they act out…”

Libby Hill of the Los Angeles times reported on host of the Daily Show Trevor Noah‘s, seven-minute monologue “in the wake of the police-involved killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.”

“It always feels like, in America, if you take a stand for something, you are automatically against something else…It’s either one or the other…But with police shootings it shouldn’t have to work that way.

 You can be to be pro-cop and pro-black. Which is what we should all be. It is what we should all be aiming for…The point is you shouldn’t have to choose between the police and the citizens they are sworn to protect.”

If the world is changing outside our workplace, what’s the impact on our daily work lives? Does frustration on the 405 translate into contention in the conference room? Our lives don’t fit neatly into the ‘work’ and ‘life’ box. We will need to draw on every ounce of empathy to listen, reflect, respect and respond.

Sometimes we just don’t think about how the system is ‘rigged’ and why people are angry. Skeptical? Let’s talk internships.

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On Tuesday, Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation penned an opinion for the New York Times, ‘Internships Are Not A Privilege’.

“Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. And while many Americans believe fervently and faithfully in expanding opportunity, America’s internship-industrial complex does just the opposite.

And whether it’s an internship, college admission or any of the many other factors that determine a successful life, leaders who say they want to address inequality actually — and often unconsciously — reinforce the dynamics that create inequality in their own lives.

The broader implication is privilege multiplied by privilege, a compounding effect prejudiced against students who come from working-class or lower-income circumstances. By shutting out these students from entry-level experiences in certain fields, entire sectors engineer long-term deficits of much-needed talent and perspective. In other words, we’re all paying the price for unpaid internships.

For countless Americans, me among them, internships have provided a foothold on the path to the American dream. Simply by making them more accessible to all, we can narrow the inequality gap while widening the circle of opportunity, long after the summer ends.”

Another major workplace story broke on Wednesday with news that Gretchen Carlson had filed a lawsuit against Fox News chairman, Roger Ailes, exposing a culture of sexism and workplace sexual harassment.

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Gabriel Sherman covered the story for New York Magazine, reporting:

“Fox News host Gretchen Carlson may be the highest-profile woman to accuse Roger Ailes of sexual harassment, but she is not the first. In my 2014 biography of the Fox News chief, I included interviews with four women who told me Ailes had used his position of power to make either unwanted sexual advances or inappropriate sexual comments in the office.

And it appears she won’t be the last, either. In recent days, more than a dozen women have contacted Carlson’s New Jersey-based attorney, Nancy Erika Smith, and made detailed allegations of sexual harassment by Ailes over a 25-year period dating back to the 1960s when he was a producer on The Mike Douglas Show. “These are women who have never told these stories until now,” Smith told me. “Some are in lot of pain.” Taken together, these stories portray Ailes as a boss who spoke openly of expecting women to perform sexual favors in exchange for job opportunities. “He said that’s how all these men in media and politics work — everyone’s got their friend,” recalled Kellie Boyle, who says Ailes propositioned her in 1989, shortly after he helped George H.W. Bush become president, serving as his chief media strategist.”

And while we are on the topic of women@work, Andrew Das reported on the ongoing story, ‘U.S. Women’s Soccer Players Renew Their Fight for Equal Pay’.

screenshot-11.png“Beaten in federal court and rebuffed at the negotiating table, the United States women’s national soccer team is taking its fight for equal pay back to friendlier turf: the court of public opinion.

Beginning with an exhibition match this weekend in Chicago and continuing through the Olympics next month in Brazil, members of the team said on Thursday that they would embark on a campaign that they hope will increase the pressure on the United States soccer federation to pay the women compensation equal to their counterparts on the men’s national team in their next collective bargaining agreement.”

On Friday, Adam Shell of USA TODAY, analyzed the June jobs report from the U.S. Labor Department.

“After stalling briefly, the U.S. job-creation engine is again revving into high gear, rejuvenating Wall Street and sending stocks close to record highs.

The U.S. economy created 287,000 new jobs in June, which was 100,000 more than economists had forecast and the best monthly gain since October 2015.

And that is about as good a news headline as Wall Street could ask for after May’s gloomy jobs report (the initial 38,000 May jobs count was revised down to a paltry 11,000 in Friday’s report) and all the Brexit-related doom-and-gloom the past few weeks that put a scare into investors.”

cm-p12vwiaeczwd-jpg-large.jpegOn Saturday evening, for ‘one last time‘ –  “Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of the Broadway smash “Hamilton,” made a subdued final bow Saturday alongside two other departing stars — Leslie Odom Jr. and Phillipa Soo — in the show that has become a cultural phenomenon.”

Miranda’s final performance Saturday at the Richard Rodgers Theatre was also the last for Odom Jr., who won a Tony Award as Aaron Burr, and Soo, a Tony nominee who portrayed Eliza Schuyler. The three — plus an ensemble member — took their bows together but none said anything.”

Hoping for a better week@work to come.

 

 

The week@work – Tonys, LinkedIn, Microsoft, ‘Brexit’, Orlando, and how to make a good teacher

This week@work the amazing Broadway production of Hamilton took home eleven Tony awards, Microsoft absorbed LinkedIn, young workers in Great Britain contemplated life after ‘Brexit’, journalist Anderson Cooper reported from Orlando, and we learned teaching can be taught.

Rolling Stone Magazine reporters Amy Plitt and Phoebe Reilly tallied the ’20 Best, Worst and WTF Moments at 2016 Tony Awards’.

“On a night that was marked by tragedy — and occurring mere hours after news broke of the deadly mass shooting in Orlando, Florida — the Tonys provided a much-needed bit of levity. The performers and honorees didn’t shy away from speaking about the shocking events of the day, but the overall mood was one of celebration. Part of the credit goes to the master of ceremonies James Corden, best known as the goofy host CBS’s Late Late Show, yet still a dorky theater kid at heart; his charming, cheerful persona brought an upbeat mood to the proceedings. And the Hamilton effect — and the fact that it was just a strong year for Broadway in general, with plenty of wonderful productions to celebrate — surely had something to do with it as well.”

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One of the best moments was James Cordon’s resume review of Tony nominated actors and their appearances on Law and Order.

“If you’ve ever thumbed through a Playbill wondering “Where have I seen that actor before?!?,” the answer is usually: Law & Order. Corden made very rewarding use of this New York actor résumé mainstay last night when he called on Claire Danes for her memorable portrayal of … L&O’s Tracy Brandt. The joke only got better as Corden showed footage of Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom Jr. (who were in the same episode!) and poor Danny Burstein — the Fiddler on the Roof star played six different roles on the series, and each time Corden flashed the photo of another character, the audience (and Burstein) laughed harder. Apparently, there is absolutely no continuity on Law & Order.”

And now you know.

The breaking business story on Monday was news of the Microsoft/LinkedIn acquisition. The New Yorker’s Nicholas Lemann examined ‘LinkedIn’s Complicated Bet on the Future of Work’.

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“LinkedIn, the business-oriented social-networking company that Microsoft acquired, this week, for $26.2 billion, was founded on two premises. The first was that, even in the winner-take-all world of Internet businesses, there would still be room for a niche company (meaning, in this case, only four hundred million registered users, and a hundred million users per month). The second was that what it means to work in a business is now profoundly different from what it was in the Organization Man era. White-collar employees are highly unlikely to spend a lifetime with a single employer, and more and more are not employees at all in the traditional sense. They self-manage their careers, in part by maintaining online personal networks, rather than have them managed by a corporate human-relations department.”

Now LinkedIn will function as part of a Fortune 50 corporate structure and employees will move from an entrepreneurial culture/ stock option pay structure to an “alternative universe, where, by tech-company standards, employees stay an unusually long time—the average tenure at Microsoft is five years, versus two years at Google, according to data from the consulting firm PayScale—and are unlikely to get rich from their stock options zooming up in value, as was the case for Microsoft employees back in the twentieth century. They are going to be their world’s equivalent of corporate lifers, with generous salaries and benefits and some measure of job security, while working to promote the continued growth of a very different kind of work arrangement elsewhere in the economy.

The technology world seems to be creating a small number of extremely successful people, a larger number of well-treated corporate employees, and an even larger number of people who wish they could be employees.”

And then there are the rest of us who now face the prospect of LinkedIn ads invading our quiet space as we commit great thoughts to Word and fill in Excel spreadsheets.

Randall Stross shared his opinion, ‘Why LinkedIn Will Make You Hate Microsoft Word’.

“My version of Word, a relatively recent one, is not that different from the original, born in software’s Pleistocene epoch. It isn’t networked to my friends, family and professional contacts, and that’s the point. Writing on Word may be the only time I spend on my computer in which I can keep the endless distractions in the networked world out of sight.

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, an associate professor of English at the University of Maryland and author of “Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing,” said the move reflected a failure to understand what writers need. “Most of the most innovative writing tools now on the market position themselves precisely as distraction-free platforms,” he said.

What Mr. Nadella fails to see is how extending LinkedIn’s “social fabric” to Word will kill the magic, not speed it up.”

On Thursday, voters in Great Britain will choose to leave or remain in the European Union. Kimiko De Freitas-Tamura reported ‘Brexit’ Vote Worries European Up-and-Comers Lured to Britain’.

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“For years, Britain’s relatively vibrant economy has attracted a steady flow of young people fleeing a lack of opportunity in their home countries on the Continent. London in particular is full of young Europeans, who have helped give the city its dynamic, global feel. From entrepreneurs, bankers and fashion designers to artists, waiters and students, all are free to resettle in Britain and make their futures here without so much as a visa.

No one knows for sure what would happen to them if Britain voted to leave the European Union — their immigration status would have to be worked out in the negotiations that would follow — but the debate itself has left some of the young people feeling fearful, frustrated and even angry.

Journalist Anderson Cooper covered the mass shootings in Orlando this week, demonstrating empathy for the victims and tenacity in interviews with politicians. Michael M. Grynbaum profiled the CNN anchor for The New York Times.

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“Anderson Cooper was reading the names of victims of the Orlando massacre on CNN this week when, uncharacteristically, his voice wavered and he drew up short. For moments, viewers around the country heard only silence, and then the sounds of the anchor struggling to compose himself.

As the news industry descended on Florida this week in the aftermath of a mass shooting in a gay nightclub, Mr. Cooper’s raw, activist-style coverage has stood out. He has held a prime-time vigil of sorts, reciting a list of the dead; refused to name the gunman, saying he wanted to focus on victims; and, in a widely viewed exchange, grilled Florida’s attorney general for defending a state ban on same-sex marriage.”

It was a very tough week@work. Colleagues celebrating their day off late Saturday into Sunday morning were viciously murdered in a gay nightclub in Orlando, and on Thursday, Member of Parliament Jo Cox was murdered as she went to work to meet with her constituents in West Yorkshire.

The last story, from The Economist, ‘How to Make a Good Teacher’.

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“Big changes are needed in schools, too, to ensure that teachers improve throughout their careers. Instructors in the best ones hone their craft through observation and coaching. They accept critical feedback—which their unions should not resist, but welcome as only proper for people doing such an important job. The best head teachers hold novices’ hands by, say, giving them high-quality lesson plans and arranging for more experienced teachers to cover for them when they need time for further study and practice.

Money is less important than you might think. Teachers in top-of-the-class Finland, for example, earn about the OECD average. But ensuring that the best stay in the classroom will probably, in most places, mean paying more. People who thrive in front of pupils should not have to become managers to earn a pay rise. And more flexibility on salaries would make it easier to attract the best teachers to the worst schools.

Improving the quality of the average teacher would raise the profession’s prestige, setting up a virtuous cycle in which more talented graduates clamoured to join it. But the biggest gains will come from preparing new teachers better, and upgrading the ones already in classrooms.”

Here’s what I think. Improving the quality of teachers will improve the quality of content taught. It will ensure a ‘safe space’ to openly discuss the issues facing our neighborhoods, counties, countries and continents. Good teachers remove the blinders of hate and discrimination. A courageous teacher at the front of the classroom cautions the young against the errors of the past, and is the best antidote to history repeating itself.

A good teacher reminds us that we are all teachers.

paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Saturday Read from the 2016 winners of the Pulitzer Prize

Four writers and journalists, whose work was featured in this blog, were among the winners of the Pulitzer Prize announced on Monday. Today, for the ‘Saturday Read’ we revisit the writings of William Finnegan, Kathryn Schulz, Emily Nussbaum and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Three journalists call The New Yorker home. On Monday, it became the first magazine to be honored with the Pulitzer Prize. Emily Nussbaum and Kathryn Schulz earned Pulitzers in criticism and feature writing respectively, and William Finnegan received the prize for biography.

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“Emily Nussbaum, who has won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, writes essays and reported pieces about television that are fearless, hilarious, and pioneering. Among the pieces submitted to the Pulitzer committee were her standout essays on Joan Rivers, P. Jay Sidney, advertising, and “Mad Men.”

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“Kathryn Schulz, who arrived at The New Yorker less than two years ago, has won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing, for “The Really Big One,” her piece on the more than a little troubling geology of the Pacific Northwest. Her evocations of the earthquake in Japan in 2011 and of the earthquake that could occur in the states of Washington and Oregon stay with us much like works of the best fiction, to say nothing of horror films.”

The Saturday Read on December 12, 2015 included excerpts from this ‘long read’.

“Just north of the San Andreas, however, lies another fault line. Known as the Cascadia subduction zone, it runs for seven hundred miles off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, beginning near Cape Mendocino, California, continuing along Oregon and Washington, and terminating around Vancouver Island, Canada. The “Cascadia” part of its name comes from the Cascade Range, a chain of volcanic mountains that follow the same course a hundred or so miles inland. The “subduction zone” part refers to a region of the planet where one tectonic plate is sliding underneath (subducting) another. Tectonic plates are those slabs of mantle and crust that, in their epochs-long drift, rearrange the earth’s continents and oceans. Most of the time, their movement is slow, harmless, and all but undetectable. Occasionally, at the borders where they meet, it is not.”

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“William Finnegan, who has been a staff writer since 1987, has won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, for his memoir about surfing, “Barbarian Days.” This project has been Finnegan’s literary obsession for a very long time. It began as a series in our pages more than two decades ago, and came to completion in June, with “Off Diamond Head,” an excerpt from the book, which was published not long after.”

The Saturday Read on August 1, 2015 recommended ‘Barbarian Days, A Surfing Life’.

“When you do a book reading in Manhattan Beach, California you need to use a microphone so the guys with ‘surfer’s ear’ in the back can understand you. Last night New Yorker journalist and lifetime surfer William Finnegan used a mic as he read from his well reviewed new book…

The Q&A at the reading was closer to a book club discussion than a publicity event. Most of those attending had either read the book or the excerpt in the June 1 issue of the New Yorker magazine. This is not just a book about surfing. Mr. Finnegan is a well regarded journalist with a resume that includes reporting from South Africa, Somalia, the Balkans, Central America and Australia. Robert Boynton included him in his conversations with America’s best nonfiction writers in ‘The New New Journalism’.”

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Lin-Manuel Miranda won the Pulitzer for drama, for ‘Hamilton’. “For a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life.”

“A landmark American musical about the gifted and self-destructive founding father whose story becomes both contemporary and irresistible.”

David Rooney reported on the prize for Billboard. “Miranda wrote the book, music and lyrics for the show, in addition to starring in the title role. The Pulitzer now further cements Hamilton’s status as the toughest ticket in town and the clear frontrunner to take the top musical kudos at this year’s Tony Awards in June.”

I have written about Miranda and Hamilton five times in the past year. My favorite is ‘The Power of Taking a Break & the Unexpected Inspiration of Reading’ on March 4, 2015.

“If Mr. Miranda had not been on vacation, taking time away from work, we may have been deprived of his creativity and ability to connect the dots as he developed his perspective for the play: “Miranda saw Hamilton’s relentlessness, brilliance, linguistic dexterity, and self-destructive stubbornness through his own idiosyncratic lens. It was, he thought, a hip-hop story, and immigrant’s story.”

Ms. Mead’s article tells the story of the evolution of Mr. Miranda’s career, the development of ‘Hamilton’, and the connections he has made along the way with mentors and creative partnerships.

Sometimes we think creativity belongs to the artist and we struggle to find opportunities to relate to our own workplace. But creativity is about imagination and storytelling our way to solving a problem. Taking time away allows for a different view. If we are open to the unexpected we can connect the dots and reframe the narrative. And, maybe be online Sunday to buy tickets and see how it’s done.”

The Holiday Read – ‘Alexander Hamilton’ by Ron Chernow

Have you just entered the chaos of holiday travel at your local airport, and realized you forgot to bring something along to read? Quick, before you lose the wi-fi, download this week’s Saturday/Holiday read, ‘Alexander Hamilton’ by Ron Chernow.

This was the year American history left boring behind with the staging of the Broadway musical Hamilton. Based on Chernow’s 2004 best seller, Lin-Manuel Miranda transformed a casual airport bookstore purchase into a hip hop score, reflecting contemporary themes of immigration, revolution and finance. This holiday break is the perfect time to dive into the 700+ page biography.

David Brooksreview summarized why Hamilton had come to be erased from the national memory, to the point we are about to eliminate his last vestige on the ten dollar bill.

“He is the most neglected, first because he was a relentless climber (and nobody has unalloyed views about ambition), second because he was a great champion of commerce (and nobody has uncomplicated views about that either) and third because his most bitter rivals, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, outlived him by decades and did everything they could to bury his reputation. So there is no Hamilton monument in Washington, but at least we now have Ron Chernow’s moving and masterly ”Alexander Hamilton,” which is by far the best biography ever written about the man.”

With the presidential primary season looming, ‘Alexander Hamilton’ is a reminder that current political tactics don’t fall far from the founders’ tree.

“In the polarized atmosphere of American politics, Burr knew that a northern renegade aligned with southern Republicans could provide a critical swing. This was Alexander Hamilton’s recurring nightmare: an electoral deal struck between Virginia and New York Republicans.

In the New York City elections that spring (1800), Hamilton and Burr descended from the lofty heights to spar in the grit and bustle of lower Manhattan ward politics…

That April, New Yorkers out for a stroll could have stumbled upon either Alexander Hamilton or Aaron Burr addressing crowds on street corners, sometimes alternating on the same platform.”

Hamilton lost, the Republican slate swept New York City, the Federalists were out and the road was paved for a Jefferson presidency.

Which brings us to a reader, like you, going on holiday, picking up a book in an airport bookstore, and the rest is, well, history.

“He told me as he was reading the book, hip-hop lyrics started rising off the page. I was completely astonished by his response.”

Miranda assured him that he was serious.

“He made a complete believer out of me,” Chernow said. “The story of Alexander Hamilton lends itself to hip-hop treatment. Hamilton’s personality is driven and unrelenting, and the music has that same quality. The music and the man mirror each other.”

Miranda purchased theatrical rights to the book and signed on Chernow as historical consultant.

“A lot of people might have started off with the unspoken assumption that history is boring — Lin-Manuel Miranda felt exactly the opposite,” Chernow said. “He felt the most dramatic way to tell the story was to stick to the facts. He felt the story was so sensational you couldn’t improve on it.”

Spend some time this holiday with the ‘sensational’ Alexander Hamilton.

 

The week@work – A school for watchmakers, innovations in teaching, #OptOutside and other leadership stories

The theme of the past week@work was innovation: creating a school for those who work with their hands, teaching history through theater on Broadway, using video games to modernize MBA education and opting out to #OptOutside.

CBS News produced a segment on luxury brand watchmaker, Patek Philippe and the creation of a school for watchmakers in New York to meet a growing customer demand for craftsmanship in a digital age. “…the 175-year-old company decided to open its own watch school at its New York City offices.

Around 300 people applied; six were chosen. for their temperament as much as for their technical aptitude. So what personal characteristics does Patek Philippe look for in order to select students?

“We need people who are committed, so commitment is a big quality,” replied master watchmaker Laurent Junod, who heads the school. Plus, “Patience, of course.”

“We do a training program here that is two years long. But the learning is not finished. You have to learn all your life.”

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The program provides an alternative career for those who seek to work with their hands. “The school is free. Students are paid a small stipend to cover expenses.

Gaman Kwok had been tutoring elementary school kids. “If somebody told me that I will be training to be a watchmaker a year ago, I would, look at them like, ‘What? Really?'”

Juan Alonzo was working at a men’s clothing store. “I want to be as good as Laurent!” he said of his ambition.

At the end of the course — if they pass their exams — Patek Philippe will hire them. They’ll move on to a lifetime of silence, and precision, and learning.”

Do you think they get an employee discount?

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There is a play on Broadway about our founding fathers, one in particular, Alexander Hamilton. ‘Hamilton’ is a hip hop musical retelling of the story of an immigrant who rose to become a force in the building of a new nation. It is based on Ron Chernow’s 818 page biography published in 2004. How many eleventh graders do you think would read an 818 page biography? How many teachers could find the time to read the same?

Sounds like an opportunity to innovate. This week the producers and the Rockefeller Foundation announced a partnership to provide 20,000 New York City eleventh graders with a chance to attend a performance and continue the learning.“The curriculum will be put together by the nonprofit Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, which plans to create a website with copies of the primary documents that undergird the book and lyrics, and teaching materials about Hamilton and the founding fathers. Students will be invited to create and share their own artistic responses to Hamilton’s life.”

Think about this – 20,000 students who probably have never had access to the lights of Broadway will now be sitting in orchestra seats for one of the most important and creative plays staged in recent memory. And, it’s about history.

“Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of “Hamilton,” said that he was frequently asked at the stage door how the show, which is both costly to attend and often sold out, could be made more accessible to young people, and he said finding a way to do that has been a priority for him. Mr. Miranda, 35, is a graduate of the Hunter College elementary and high schools for gifted students in New York City.

“If we can excite curiosity in students, there’s no telling what can happen next,” he said. “Not to say we’re going to make 1,300 history majors or 1,300 musical theater writers every time we do the show, but hopefully they will take away how much Hamilton did with his life in the time that he had.”

No telling what can happen next..

Shane Ferro, business journalist for the Huffington Post reported on a new video game, ‘One Day’, being developed for MBA students at the Hult International Business School.

“While it is now fairly common for video games to teach elementary concepts — spelling, basic math, typing — higher education has more or less resisted encroaching technology up to this point. Until recently, higher-level concepts have been harder to program because there may be more than one right answer. “One Day,” which its creators say is the first game of its kind, poses some fairly new questions about learning in the digital age and the role of the professor in a modern classroom.

“I’ve been a business school professor for 30 years,” said John Beck, whose educational consulting company, North Star Leadership Group, developed “One Day.” He lamented that most MBA programs rely on teaching methods honed decades before the personal computing revolution. “For 30 years I’ve been thinking the system is so broken. The case studies model dates from the 1920s, and the lecture model from the 1850s.”

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The day after Thanksgiving, previously known as ‘Black Friday’, now carries a new hashtag courtesy of the leadership team at retailer REI. #OptOutside is a campaign to encourage folks to leave the shopping behind, enjoy the outdoors and share their experience on social media.

“REI is hoping to convince consumers to start a new Black Friday tradition, one that doesn’t involve buying anything. It has built a dedicated #OptOutside website with resources on local hiking trails. REI’s campaign was built with its employees and customers in mind — the company operates as a co-op, with roughly 5.5 million members who pay a one-time fee for a share of the business. Members contribute to at least 80% of REI’s sales.

The decision to close on Black Friday is bold in an industry that has practically made the day a mandatory part of business, not only because customers demand it, but because the bottom line often does, too. The holiday shopping season is the biggest, and most competitive, time of year for retailers, with Black Friday at the center of the hoopla.”

And while we are on the subject of leadership, here are two articles you might find interesting:

‘Giving More Corporate Chiefs the Steve Jobs Treatment’ Nitin Nohira “I worry that we’re too quick to forget the accomplishments of great business leaders, and that if the people leading companies felt some solace that their long-term legacies might warrant a more careful evaluation, as is now occurring around Steve Jobs, they might make very different decisions.”

‘How Not to Flunk at Failure’ John Danner & Mark Coopersmith “Failure is a strategic resource. Like the people you employ, the money you spend or the facilities and technologies you use, it has unique intrinsic value if you’re open and wise enough to manage it as such. Treat it like unrefined ore that needs to be processed and examined to reveal its riches. Failure is reality’s way of showing you what you don’t yet know, but need to learn. It contains the seeds of precisely the insight you’ve been looking for, if you have the honesty and humility to explore those secrets.”

Workthoughts from outside the margins

Was anyone working yesterday? As social media and cable news forecast the financial apocalypse, I escaped to my ‘go to’ twitter account of Tony winning composer, lyricist and actor, Lin-Manuel Miranda. (For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past year, he is the leader of the merry band of actors who have been recreating the life of Alexander Hamilton on Broadway in nine performances per week this summer.)

And for those of you who think Twitter is an intellectual wasteland, time to get on board. You are missing out on at least one connection with an innovator who is truly transforming the American musical.

Innovation is one of our most overused words, but John Kander, composer of ‘Cabaret’ and ‘Chicago’ used that exact word to describe Mr. Miranda earlier this month in a New York Times profile.

“Innovators are usually synthesizers — they synthesize everything they know and add their own personal talents, and out comes something new,” Mr. Kander said. “What Lin is is a refreshing and healthy contemporary synthesist of everything he’s known before.”

But I digress. Back to Monday and Twitter and @Lin_Manuel. Let’s just say he has a high level of interaction with his followers. And one of those followers, @jjaxtweets, posted ‘My annual back to school post’, which #YayHamlet retweeted. And here is the message.

“Keep an eye out for that kid in the back of your classroom, scribbling in the margins. He or she is dreaming of worlds we haven’t yet imagined, scribbling toward a place we haven’t yet seen. Engage those kids, get them out of the margins, and there’s no telling where they may lead you.”

This is where a career begins. A parent, a teacher taking time to engage the child scribbling in the margins.

How do you get to Broadway or whatever your dream might be? You really, really need to love what you are doing. Check out the YouTube videos of the Ham4Ham performances between shows for those in the ticket lottery line and you get the idea.

Infuse your dream with the essence of those first scribbles, and the relationships you build over time.

Connect the dots and synthesize everything you know. Constantly nurture your talent. Lifelong learning has no expiration date.

Work really, really hard and have fun.

I think the ‘kid in the back of the classroom’ was Lin-Manuel Miranda. Or was it you?

The Power of Taking a Break & the Unexpected Inspiration of Reading

On Sunday tickets will go on sale for the musical ‘Hamilton’ as it moves from the Public Theater in New York to begin it’s Broadway run at the Richard Rodgers in mid July. It’s off Broadway performances which began last month, have received positive reviews from theater critics for its’ unique staging and musical interpretation of the life of Alexander Hamilton.

So why the theater update on a blog about work?  The New Yorker staff writer, Rebecca Mead answers in her profile of writer, composer and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda. He was on vacation in Mexico 2009 “…and while bobbing in the pool on an inflatable lounger he started to read a book that he bought on impulse: Ron Chernow’s eight-hundred-page biography of Alexander Hamilton. Miranda was seized by the story of Hamilton’s early life. Born out of wedlock, raised in poverty in St. Croix, abandoned by his father, and orphaned by his mother as a child, Hamilton transplanted himself as an adolescent to a New York City filled with revolutionary fervor…”

If Mr. Miranda had not been on vacation, taking time away from work, we may have been deprived of his creativity and ability to connect the dots as he developed his perspective for the play: “Miranda saw Hamilton’s relentlessness, brilliance, linguistic dexterity, and self-destructive stubbornness through his own idiosyncratic lens. It was, he thought, a hip-hop story, and immigrant’s story.”

Ms. Mead’s article tells the story of the evolution of Mr. Miranda’s career, the development of ‘Hamilton’, and the connections he has made along the way with mentors and creative partnerships.

Sometimes we think creativity belongs to the artist and we struggle to find opportunities to relate to our own workplace. But creativity is about imagination and storytelling our way to solving a problem.  Taking time away allows for a different view. If we are open to the unexpected we can connect the dots and reframe the narrative. And, maybe be online Sunday to buy tickets and see how it’s done.