The week@work: “The Education of Silicon Valley”, Gen Z@work, mid-career sabbatical, & a new era of human spaceflight

This week@work a NY Times Op-Ed contributor wonders if Mark Zuckerberg should have taken more humanities courses, Gen Z begins to enter the workplace, while millennials take sabbaticals, and NASA introduces the next crew for commercial human spaceflight.

In her first Op-Ed for The New York Times, tech journalist Kara Swisher applied her expertise to explore ‘The Education of Silicon Valley’.

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“All these companies began with a gauzy credo to change the world. But they have done that in ways they did not imagine — by weaponizing pretty much everything that could be weaponized. They have mutated human communication, so that connecting people has too often become about pitting them against one another, and turbocharged that discord to an unprecedented and damaging volume.

They have weaponized social media. They have weaponized the First Amendment. They have weaponized civic discourse. And they have weaponized, most of all, politics.”

What’s it like to be a member of the Facebook corporate family today? You signed up to follow the Pied Piper of Menlo Park into the new world of global connectivity and you find yourself in the midst of global propaganda wars.

“At a recent employee Q. and A. I did at YouTube, for example, one staffer told me that their jobs used to be about wrangling cat videos and now they had degenerated into a daily hell of ethics debates about the fate of humanity.”

All companies evolve over time. Founders adapt or abdicate. Mr. Zuckerberg has done neither.

“Mr. Zuckerberg stuck with this mix of extreme earnestness and willful naïveté for far too long.

Because what he never managed to grok then was that the company he created was destined to become a template for all of humanity, the digital reflection of masses of people across the globe. Including — and especially — the bad ones.

Was it because he was a computer major who left college early and did not attend enough humanities courses that might have alerted him to the uglier aspects of human nature? Maybe. Or was it because he has since been steeped in the relentless positivity of Silicon Valley, where it is verboten to imagine a bad outcome? Likely. Could it be that while the goal was to “connect people,” he never anticipated that the platform also had to be responsible for those people when they misbehaved? Oh, yes. And, finally, was it that the all-numbers-go-up-and-to-the-right mentality of Facebook blinded him to the shortcuts that get taken in the service of growth? Most definitely.”

Corporate impact on society is not benign. Leadership is about understanding impact and nimbly responding to lights blinking red. There’s a Harvard Business School case here with implications far beyond the impact on share owner revenue. And for those who work@Facebook, it may be time to evaluate the ‘values fit’.

On the subject of ‘values fit’, journalist Ryan Jenkins identified the ‘Top 25 Employers Preferred by Generation Z’.

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“More than 60 percent of Generation Z’s top employers are global entities which is consistent with the 74 percent of Generation Z stating international experience (e.g., travel and working with global clients/colleagues) is an important aspect of potential employers. 

The presence of technology companies on the list isn’t a surprise especially since three-quarters of recent college graduates report having majored in a STEM-related field. Generation Z is the first generation to shift the tide toward STEM-related fields of study and seem poised to close the STEM gap.”

The top five in the survey: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Google, Local Hospital, Amazon and Walt Disney Company.

While Generation Z plans their workplace entry, millennials are contemplating mid-career sabbaticals. Ben Steverman shares ‘Why It’s Time to Quit Your Job, Travel the World’.

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“Millions of Americans obsess over their careers and fret about saving, terrified they won’t have enough to ever retire. The advice not being offered by some experts may surprise these worried souls: Take months or years off from work, travel the world, and enjoy yourself.

There’s prudent logic behind a relaxing mid career break. With longer lives come longer careers and longer retirements – the first so that you can afford the second. But a 40-year career, ending at age 60 or 65, is a very different prospect from a 50-year career ending at 70 or 75.

Taking a break to travel isn’t a crazy move, especially for millennials, because it can help give workers the stamina for longer, more sustainable careers, says Jamie Hopkins, a professor and director of the retirement income program at the American College of Financial Services. The prospect of a future trip also give young workers an extra reason to save, live within their means, and pay down debt – an incentive that’s far stronger than the dream of retiring in several decades’ time.”

Where to travel on your mid-career sabbatical? Perhaps the galaxy and beyond…

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This past week NASA introduced the next generation of astronauts, ‘NASA Assigns Crews to First Test Flights, Missions on Commercial Spacecraft’. (Which has got to be good news for those who go to work in space, where the commute today begins and ends in Kazakhstan.)

“Today, our country’s dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “This accomplished group of American astronauts, flying on new spacecraft developed by our commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX, will launch a new era of human spaceflight. Today’s announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation’s leadership in space.”

The agency assigned nine astronauts to crew the first test flight and mission of both Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. NASA has worked closely with the companies throughout design, development and testing to ensure the systems meet NASA’s safety and performance requirements. 

“The men and women we assign to these first flights are at the forefront of this exciting new time for human spaceflight,” said Mark Geyer, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “It will be thrilling to see our astronauts lift off from American soil, and we can’t wait to see them aboard the International Space Station.” 

With this ‘week@work’, the workthoughts blog returns after a two month hiatus. Stay tuned for new categories and join the conversation on work & workplace.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credits: NASA Commercial Flight Crew courtesy NASA, St. Jude Marathon Weekend courtesy of Biomedical Communications

The week@work – @AMarch4OurLives, Evolve Entertainment Fund, ‘Wonder Boys’, Facebook & “always a little further”

It happened again this week@work: violence@work – another school shooting, this time in Florida. In Los Angeles a new entertainment industry diversity initiative was announced by Ava DuVernay and Mayor Eric Garcetti. And three ‘long reads’ on creative partnerships, Facebook’s identity, and a polar journey.

Violence@work
The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school are grieving for their colleagues and teachers who were murdered in another incident of workplace violence on Valentines Day. Since Wednesday, a remarkable group of student representatives have  given voice to the anger at adults who have failed to keep students safe in their schools. This time, high school students organized @AMarch4OurLives for policy & change vs. thoughts & prayers.

“Every kid in this country now goes to school wondering if this day might be their last. We live in fear.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Change is coming. And it starts now, inspired by and led by the kids who are our hope for the future. Their young voices will be heard.
Stand with us on March 24. Refuse to allow one more needless death.”

It may not be a surprise that this group, from this high school, seized the moment and demanded change. Their school namesake, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, was an author, editor, environmentalist and early advocate for women’s right to vote. gettyimages-112963085-e1518738141248.jpgJournalist Mary Schmich interviewed Ms. Douglas. “She was 95 by the time we met, hard of hearing, almost blind and as opinionated as ever.
I’d gone to visit her because finally, after decades of crusading to save the Everglades from being turned into subdivisions and shopping malls, she’d begun to see the fruits of her labors.
She had battled governments, developers, engineers, sugar cane industrialists and the apathy of normal people. She had pushed so hard and for so long that the state had finally committed to preserving one of the world’s great wetlands. We have her to thank for Everglades National Park.
Had she ever been discouraged, I asked?
“What does it matter if I’ve been discouraged or encouraged over the years?” she said, brusquely. “This thing’s got to be done. It’s not a question of how I feel from moment to moment.”

Inclusion@work in Hollywood
Speaking of thing’s got to be done. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, and producer Dan Lin announced the creation of the Evolve Entertainment Fund to promote inclusion @work in Hollywood.

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Journalist Dave McNary reported on the new initiative. “The Evolve fund is an alliance between the City of Los Angeles, industry leaders in entertainment and digital media, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions. The EEF has already secured 150 paid summer internships for students participating in the Hire LA’s Youth program — partnering with leading entertainment and digital media organizations that include DreamWorks Animation, Ryan Murphy Television, Film Independent, WME, CAA, Kobe Bryant’s Granity Studios, and Anonymous Content.

That number is expected to grow to 250 by the end of 2018, with a goal of 500 placements by 2020.

“As we radically reimagine Hollywood, it is critically important that young people are included in our vision,” said DuVernay, founder of Array Entertainment and EEF co-chair. “Real change happens when we take tangible action — and that means giving young women and people of color opportunities in the industry early on, so they have the chance to shape its future.”

‘Wonder Boys’
The next three articles fall into the category of ‘long reads’. The first, from reporter Laura Jacobs recounts the creative partnership of Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins. In 2018 we celebrate the centennial of both the composer and choreographer.

IMG_0443.jpg“Both these men were about energy—positive, negative, generative—and while they racked up stunning achievements separately, they were elevated when joined. Put them together in collaboration—in masterpieces such as the joyous ballet Fancy Free, the breakaway musical On the Town, and the electrifying experiment West Side Story—and you had an ongoing theatrical Manhattan Project, work kinetically detonated, irreducibly true, and oh so American.

They met in October of 1943, the beginning of what Bernstein would call “the year of miracles.” Bernstein was living in New York City, marking time as the assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, and Robbins was in the classical company Ballet Theatre. Both were hungry for the Big Break, but it was hard to see anything on the horizon. Bernstein’s would come a month later, when on November 14 he took the podium at Carnegie Hall—without rehearsal!—and conducted for the ailing Bruno Walter. This kiss of fate allowed him, in one afternoon, to loosen forever Europe’s grip on the conductor’s baton. His debut made the front page of The New York Times, and the skinny kid, soon dubbed the Sinatra of the concert hall, soared to stardom. Two months later his Symphony No. 1, Jeremiah, was premiered.

Robbins had to make his own luck. Though a dazzling mimic and scene-stealer in character roles, he was tired of dancing courtiers and exotics in the corps. He wanted to choreograph ballets that were immediately American. After inundating company management with over-ambitious ideas for ballets, Robbins finally offered up a timely, simple scenario—three wartime sailors on shore leave in Manhattan. Management bit. All he needed was a score, which took him to Bernstein’s studio in Carnegie Hall.”

When Vision and Reality Collide @Facebook
Next, Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein take the reader ‘Inside The Two Years That Shook Facebook – And The World’

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“The stories varied, but most people told the same basic tale: of a company, and a CEO, whose techno-optimism has been crushed as they’ve learned the myriad ways their platform can be used for ill. Of an election that shocked Facebook, even as its fallout put the company under siege. Of a series of external threats, defensive internal calculations, and false starts that delayed Facebook’s reckoning with its impact on global affairs and its users’ minds. And—in the tale’s final chapters—of the company’s earnest attempt to redeem itself.”

“Always a little further…”
On Sunday, January 24, 2016 British polar explorer, Henry Worsley died in hospital in Punta Arenas, Chile. He had been attempting to cross Antarctica on foot, unassisted and unsupported. He had traveled 913 miles since November 13, 2015 and was 30 miles short of his destination.

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On Friday, January 22, Henry Worsley called Antarctic Logistics and Explorations to request a rescue.

“When my hero, Ernest Shackleton, stood 97 miles from the South Pole on the morning of Jan. 9, 1909, he said he’d shot his bolt,” the British adventurer Henry Worsley said in the message. “Well, today, I have to inform you with some sadness that I, too, have shot my bolt.”

“My journey is at an end,” Mr. Worsley said. “I have run out of time, physical endurance and a simple sheer inability to slide one ski in front of the other to travel the distance required to reach my goal.”

Writing for The New Yorker, staff writer David Grann takes us on the journey behind the headlines into ‘The White Darkness’.

“Worsley was a retired British Army officer who had served in the Special Air Service, a renowned commando unit. He was also a sculptor, a fierce boxer, a photographer who meticulously documented his travels, a horticulturalist, a collector of rare books and maps and fossils, and an amateur historian who had become a leading authority on Shackleton. On the ice, though, he resembled a beast, hauling and sleeping, hauling and sleeping, as if he were keeping time to some primal rhythm.

Worsley’s journey captivated people around the world, including legions of schoolchildren who were following his progress. Each day, after trekking for several hours and burrowing into his tent, he relayed a short audio broadcast about his experiences. (He performed this bit of modern magic by calling, on his satellite phone, a friend in England, who recorded the dispatch and then posted it on Worsley’s Web site.) His voice, cool and unwavering, enthralled listeners.

By the middle of January, 2016, he had travelled more than eight hundred miles, and virtually every part of him was in agony…”

“Always a little further”—a line from James Elroy Flecker’s 1913 poem “The Golden Journey to Samarkand.” The motto was painted on the front of Worsley’s sled, and he murmured it to himself like a mantra: “Always a little further . . . a little further.”

 

 

The week@work: innovative companies, Mark Zuckerberg’s global community, famous writers attend a security conference, and a design idea for a friendlier office

This week@work Fast Company announced the ‘World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies’ and Mark Zuckerberg shared a template for the future of Facebook – ‘Building Global Community’. In a first, the Munich Security Conference included literary panels on their agenda. And, we found a simple ‘office design hack’ to encourage communication.

Amazon was named #1 on the 2017 Fast Company ranking of the world’s most innovative companies “for offering even more, even faster and smarter”. Noah Robischon reported on Jeff Bezos’ ever-accelerating world of ‘continuous evolution’.

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“Unlike Apple, Google, and Microsoft, Amazon is not fixated on a tightly designed ecosystem of interlocking apps and services. Bezos instead emphasizes platforms that each serves its own customers in the best and fastest possible way. “Our customers are loyal to us right up until the second somebody offers them a better service,” he says. “And I love that. It’s super-motivating for us.” That impulse has spawned an awesome stream of creative firsts…

Bezos’s strategy of continuous evolution has allowed the company to experiment in adjacent areas—and then build them into franchises. The website that once sold only books now lets anyone set up a storefront and sell just about anything. The warehouse and logistics capabilities that Amazon built to sort, pack, and ship those books are available, for a price, to any seller. Amazon Web Services, which grew out of the company’s own e-commerce infrastructure needs, has become a $13 billion business that not only powers the likes of Airbnb and Netflix, but stores your Kindle e-book library and makes it possible for Alexa to tell you whether or not you’ll need an umbrella today.”

On Thursday Facebook CEO and Co-founder Mark Zuckerberg set out his vision for his company in a 5,000 word post on Facebook.

“On our journey to connect the world, we often discuss products we’re building and updates on our business. Today I want to focus on the most important question of all: are we building the world we all want?”

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Josh Constine reported on the ‘evolution’ of Facebook’s strategy.

“Mark Zuckerberg never saw Facebook as just a business, and so never accepted his role as just a businessman. 

Five years ago, in Zuckerberg’s pre-IPO letter to Facebook investors, he wrote, “There is a huge need and a huge opportunity to get everyone in the world connected, to give everyone a voice and to help transform society for the future.”

Now with Facebook reaching 1.86 billion users and building technology to expand internet access everywhere, his constituency exceeds that of any nation. He’s made monumental strides toward steps 1 and 2.

Today, Zuckerberg offers a vision and rallying call for working toward step 3 — to “develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us.”

Not everyone is sipping the magic elixir. From ‘across the pond’, Carole Cadwalladr shared her opinion for The Guardian.

“But here’s another response: where does that power end? Who holds it to account? What are the limits on it? Because the answer is there are none. Facebook’s power and dominance, its knowledge of every aspect of its users’ intimate lives, its ability to manipulate their – our – world view, its limitless ability to generate cash, is already beyond the reach of any government.

Because what Zuckerberg’s letter to the world shows is that he’s making a considered, personal attempt to answer… the wrong question. He is wrestling with the question of how Facebook can change the world. Whereas the question is: do we actually want Facebook to change the world? Do we want any corporation to have so much unchecked power?”

The annual Munich Security Conference included a literature panel, ‘The Cassandra Syndrome’. Madhvi Ramani considered the significance, asking the question, “Why are famous writers attending the world’s most important security conference?”

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“With the rise of illiberalism, post-truth politics, and transatlantic uncertainty, the very pillars of the West are being shaken. In times of turmoil, people often look to literature for illumination.

Like Cassandra, who warned of disaster during the Trojan War, writers often take a longer view of issues. They are uniquely placed to examine and critique society from a removed perspective—as Don DeLillo once said, “The writer is the person who stands outside society, independent of affiliation and independent of influence.” All three writers involved in the MSC talks are known for their incisive, often critical, engagement with the politics, history, and cultures of their milieus.

Literature can help untangle the complexities of people’s lives and emotions and, as studies have shown, foster empathy: books are a key ingredient in an open, pluralistic, democratic society.”

Cari Romm shared the results of recent research from designer Daniel Krivens ‘The Design Hack That Makes for Friendlier Offices’ – eliminate “elevation segregation” by resetting the seating to ‘bar level’.

“…so many workplaces are designed to be a divided plane between those sitting, standing, and walking. When someone is sitting down, they are roughly 12 inches below the eye height of someone walking by—and this elevation segregation means everything to workplace productivity and conviviality.

What it means, essentially, is the difference between intentionally seeking someone out for a chat and just happening to fall into conversation.”

Finally this week@work, @YosemiteNPS, the annual phenomenon of ‘firefall’ as sunset reflects on the national park’s Horsetail Falls.

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Photo Credits: Amazon drone photo/Amazon, MSC photo of author David Grossman  MSC/Koch, Yosemite firefall/ NPS Yosemite

The week@work:’post-truth’, Facebook’s ‘news feed’, Gwen Ifill, a new leader @Lincoln Center, & Udacity’s tech job tryouts

This past week@work Oxford Dictionaries declared ‘post-truth’ the 2016 word of the year, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg realized his job description included a responsibility to combat fake news. In contrast, the week marked the death of an authentic journalist, PBS NewsHour co-anchor Gwen Ifill. Lincoln Center chose a new leader from academia and MOOC provider, Udacity announced tech job tryouts.

On Wednesday, the BBC reported “Oxford Dictionaries has declared “post-truth” as its 2016 international word of the year, reflecting what it called a “highly-charged” political 12 months.

It is defined as an adjective relating to circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals.

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Oxford Dictionaries says post-truth is thought to have been first used in 1992. However, it says the frequency of its usage increased by 2,000% in 2016 compared with last year.”

The Economist explored ‘post-truth’ in ‘The Art of the Lie’.

“The term picks out the heart of what is new: that truth is not falsified, or contested, but of secondary importance…

Post-truth politics has many parents. Some are noble. The questioning of institutions and received wisdom is a democratic virtue. A sceptical lack of deference towards leaders is the first step to reform. The collapse of communism was hastened because brave people were prepared to challenge the official propaganda.

Post-truth has also been abetted by the evolution of the media… The fragmentation of news sources has created an atomised world in which lies, rumour and gossip spread with alarming speed. Lies that are widely shared online within a network, whose members trust each other more than they trust any mainstream-media source, can quickly take on the appearance of truth. Presented with evidence that contradicts a belief that is dearly held, people have a tendency to ditch the facts first. Well-intentioned journalistic practices bear blame too. The pursuit of “fairness” in reporting often creates phoney balance at the expense of truth.”

The New Yorker contributor, Nathan Heller examined one example of the phenomena in ‘The Failure of Facebook Democracy’.

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“The unexpected election of Donald Trump is said to owe debts to both niche extremism and rampant misinformation. Facebook, the most pervasive of the social networks, has received much scrutiny and blame. During the final weeks of the campaigns, it grew apparent that the site’s “news” algorithm—a mechanism that trawls posts from one’s online friends and rank-displays those deemed of interest—was not distinguishing between real news and false information: the sort of tall tales, groundless conspiracy theories, and oppositional propaganda that, in the Cenozoic era, circulated mainly via forwarded e-mails.

Facebook is not the only network to have trafficked phony news, but its numbers have been striking. A much-cited Pew survey, released in May, suggested that forty-four per cent of the general population used Facebook as a news source, a figure unrivalled by other social networks. An analysis this week by Craig Silverman, of BuzzFeed, found that the twenty top-performing fake news stories on the network outperformed the twenty top real-news stories during the final three months before the election—and that seventeen of those fakes favored the Trump campaign.

If a majority of Americans are getting their news from Facebook, then Facebook surely has a civic obligation to insure the information it disseminates is sound.”

Which brings us to the initial response from Facebook founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

“Identifying the ‘truth’ is complicated.”

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On Friday, he posted details of the projects in place to address the issue.

“A lot of you have asked what we’re doing about misinformation, so I wanted to give an update.

The bottom line is: we take misinformation seriously. Our goal is to connect people with the stories they find most meaningful, and we know people want accurate information. We’ve been working on this problem for a long time and we take this responsibility seriously. We’ve made significant progress, but there is more work to be done.”

Buried in paragraph four was this nugget that seemed to transfer ownership from the corporation to the community, ignoring a leader’s civic obligation.

“We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties.”

Contrast this approach to the definition of the role of a journalist, courtesy of the American Press Institute.

“The journalist places the public good above all else and uses certain methods – the foundation of which is a discipline of verification – to gather and assess what he or she finds.”

So let’s return to the days of ‘truth’ and remember the contribution of journalist Gwen Ifill through the eyes of two colleagues.

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‘What Gwen Ifill Knew About Race in America’  by Jeffrey Goldberg “An insufficient number of people have recognized what is obvious. Gwen’s death is a punishing blow to her family, and to her wide circle of friends, to her colleagues and to her viewers. But it is also a cruel blow to her profession, which hasn’t recently covered itself in glory. And it’s an especially cruel blow to her lovely nation, which is right now in need of her bravery, her farsightedness, and her willingness to tell the truth. Hers is an incalculable loss.”

‘The Life and Example of Gwen Ifill’ by David Brooks “Gwen worked in a tough business, and being an African-American woman in that business brought its own hardships and scars, but Gwen’s smile did not hold back. Her whole personality was the opposite of reticent, and timidity was a stranger to her. When the Ifill incandescence came at you, you were getting human connection full-bore.

I suppose every profession has a few people like this, people who love the whole profession, who pay compliments when its standards are met and who are tough when they are not.

Gwen’s death merits a bit of the reaction that greeted the death of the writer Samuel Johnson centuries ago: She has left a chasm, which nobody else can fill up and which nobody has a tendency to fill.

Now that Gwen is dead, who is the next best thing? There’s nobody. There are many great people who will follow her example. But nobody quite reminds you of Gwen.”

In other news this week@work:

‘Debora L. Spar, Barnard President, to Lead Lincoln Center’Michael Cooper for The New York Times  “In appointing Ms. Spar, who is also an author and a former Harvard Business School professor, Lincoln Center’s board looked beyond arts administration circles and decided to tap someone with experience running a large nonprofit and with a track record of raising money for capital projects — skills that could prove useful as the renovation proceeds.”

Mr. Cooper reported in a related story that you may want to share with the aspiring musicians in your life, ‘It’s Official: Many Orchestras Are Now Charities’.

‘Udacity, an Online Learning Start-Up, Offers Tech Job Trials’Steve Lohr for The New York Times “The program, called Blitz, provides what is essentially a brief contract assignment, much like an internship. Employers tell Udacity the skills they need, and Udacity suggests a single candidate or a few. For the contract assignment, which usually lasts about three months, Udacity takes a fee worth 10 to 20 percent of the worker’s salary. If the person is then hired, Udacity does not collect any other fees, such as a finder’s fee.

The Blitz initiative and Udacity’s evolution point to the role that nontraditional education organizations might play in addressing the needs of workers and employers in the fast-changing labor market for technology skills.”

In closing this week of work, I am still trying to clear the fog in my brain and understand ‘post truth’. I reside in the real word, but apparently it’s changing. What does work look like when words hold no meaning?

I’ll end with classicist Mary Beard‘s reflection on the U.S. election.

“Trump and Trump’s policies are truly ghastly, but you have to face the fact that a very large number of people actually voted for him. What is more, resentment at “the elite” has morphed into a proud contempt for truth, expertise and knowledge – not unlike Michael Gove’s jibe at “experts” before the Brexit vote. And in the broader context of political rhetoric, the idea that he won’t be as bad as he claimed is more, rather than less, worrying. I thought that the conciliatory speech was the worst thing I had heard all evening. The idea that he could be thanking Clinton for her service to the country (“I mean that very sincerely”) and be speaking of “binding the wounds of division” – when only the day before he’d promised to impeach her and poured salt into the very wounds he was now promising to heal – beggars belief. It has nothing to do with being “gracious” (as the television pundits had it), and everything to do with words not meaning anything. It was precisely what ancient rhetorical and political theorists feared almost more than anything else: that speech might not be true, and the corrosive effect of that on popular power.”

 

Photo credits: Facebook Menlo Park HQ courtesy of Facebook Newsroom Media Gallery, Mark Zuckerberg from his Facebook page, Gwen Iffil/Morry Gash AP

 

 

The week@work – Super Bowl@50, Facebook@12 and unemployment@4.9%

This week@work the center of the media universe shifted from Iowa to New Hampshire, and Silicon Valley where, separated by about 12 miles on Highway 101, Levi Stadium in Santa Clara will host the 50th Super Bowl game, and Facebook celebrated it’s twelfth birthday at corporate HQ in Menlo Park. And, in the U.S. the unemployment rate dropped to 4.9%, the lowest since 2008.

In the lead up to the big game there were hundreds of stories about those who choose football as a career, from the high school senior announcing a college choice to the veteran player rewarded with membership in the Football Hall of Fame.

The typical NFL player takes their first step in their career at the annual February ritual, ‘National Signing Day’. It’s the day high school football players sign a ‘Letter of Intent’ to accept an offer of admission and commit to play football at the collegiate level. This year, Tom Brady and Derek Jeter were on hand in Ann Arbor, Michigan to participate in ‘The Signing of the Stars’ “a flamboyant national signing day pep rally streamed live on Wednesday by The Players’ Tribune — the website founded by Jeter, a Michigan native — and intended to build the hype around this year’s class of prospective Wolverines football players.”

Time will tell if the top college recruit, Rashan Gary, from Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey will advance beyond his playing days at Michigan.

On the other end of the football career spectrum is recognition as an inductee into the NFL Hall of Fame. The class of 2016 includes former Oakland Raiders quarterback, Ken Stabler who let his team to their first Super Bowl victory after the 1976 season.

“While generally a cause for celebration, Saturday’s announcement of the class of 2016 for the Pro Football Hall of Fame carried a somber tone as Ken Stabler, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the Oakland Raiders, was elected days after it was publicly revealed that he had had Stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a degenerative brain disease, before his death in July.

Stabler, known as the Snake, who won a Most Valuable Player Award for the 1974 season and led the Raiders to the team’s first Super Bowl victory after the 1976 season, was previously a finalist for election three times, but this year, as a senior candidate, he was elected alongside Dick Stanfel, a star offensive lineman in the 1950s. The modern-era electees were Brett Favre, Marvin Harrison, Kevin Greene, Orlando Pace and Tony Dungy, as well as Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., who owned the San Francisco 49ers for all five of their Super Bowl wins and was elected as a contributor.”

On Wednesday, journalist, John Branch’s profile of Stabler, and his life after football with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (C.T.E.) was published in The New York Times.

“After retiring from football, Stabler worked as a broadcast analyst for the N.F.L. and for the University of Alabama, where he had played quarterback under Coach Bear Bryant. His damaged knees became such a problem in the past 10 years that he rarely ventured out.

“His vision of what a leader is, what a strong person is, is someone who did not show signs of weakness,” said Alexa Stabler, 29, the second of Stabler’s three grown daughters. “Because it would affect the people he relied on and the people he cared about, whether that was his family or his teammates.”

When Stabler was 31, a 1977 Sports Illustrated feature story detailed his penchant for honky-tonks and marinas, usually with a drink in one hand and a pretty woman in the other…He pondered what he might do after football.

“My lifestyle is too rough — too much booze and babes and cigarettes — to be a high school coach,” Stabler said. “I’d hardly be a shining example to the young athletes of the future.”

His family hopes that the most powerful lesson he provides is the one delivered after he was gone.

In between signing day and induction into the Football Hall of Fame, if you’re impossibly lucky, is a chance to compete in the national championship of professional football, the Super Bowl.

The annual spectacle, held this year in the vortex of Silicon Valley has exposed the growing economic divide, “gentrification, sky-high housing prices and the technology industry’s influence on local government, even the nation’s biggest party has become a battleground.”

“The cost of hosting the Super Bowl — estimated at about $5 million for the city — has unleashed a storm of anger among residents already resentful of the influx of expensive restaurants, high-end stores and rich, young tech workers who have snapped up apartments in historically low-income neighborhoods. To tidy up for the tourists, the city’s large homeless population has been swept out of view, which some people here see as evidence that this city, long a seat of leftist activism, has sold itself to corporate interests.

“In San Francisco, we’re supposed to be the bastion of crazy liberals,” Ms. Leitner said. “Instead of raising wages for teachers so they can afford to live here, why are we spending money on a party for people who work for the N.F.L.?”

Fast Company writer, Michael Grothaus marked the birthday celebration on Thursday at Facebook.

“It’s a bit crazy when you think about it, but Facebook is 12 years old today. On February 4, 2004, Mark Zuckerberg launched his fledgling social media site at Harvard. And the rest, as they say, is history. Twelve years on, Facebook has become the largest social media company ever. It influences myriad aspects of our lives and recently passed a billion active users each day.

It’s also kind of doing what candy makers and online retailers have tried to do in the past by deeming February 4th as an unofficial holiday that it hopes catches on: Friend’s Day.”

A look back to the 2004 Harvard Crimson article about ‘thefacebook.com’ may be the best  argument for why venture capitalists should be reading their alma mater’s student newspaper.

“Thousands of students across the country use it. Major corporations are falling over themselves to buy it.

But nearly a semester after creating thefacebook.com, a social networking website launched on Feb. 4, Mark E. Zuckerberg ’06 doesn’t seem to have let things go to his head.

Wearing a yellow t-shirt, blue jeans, and open-toe Adidas sandals, Zuckerberg sits on a ragged couch in the middle of a messy Kirkland House common room, surrounded by strewn clothes and half-closed boxes.

Amidst this squalor, he smiles.

“I’m just like a little kid. I get bored easily and computers excite me. Those are the two driving factors here.”

Thefacebook.com allows university students to create personal profiles listing their interests, contact info, relationship status, classes and more.

It started locally at Harvard. It now has almost 160,000 members from across the country.”

Twelve years later, Thomas Friedman considers the question, ‘Social Media: Destroyer or Creator?’

“Over the last few years we’ve been treated to a number of “Facebook revolutions,” from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street to the squares of Istanbul, Kiev and Hong Kong, all fueled by social media. But once the smoke cleared, most of these revolutions failed to build any sustainable new political order, in part because as so many voices got amplified, consensus-building became impossible.

Question: Does it turn out that social media is better at breaking things than at making things?

Recently, an important voice answered this question with a big “ yes.” That voice was Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian Google employee whose anonymous Facebook page helped to launch the Tahrir Square revolution in early 2011 that toppled President Hosni Mubarak — but then failed to give birth to a true democratic alternative.

“Five years ago,” concluded Ghonim, “I said, ‘If you want to liberate society, all you need is the Internet.’ Today I believe if we want to liberate society, we first need to liberate the Internet.”

Beyond the Super Bowl and Facebook, the economy continues to improve. The jobless rate is under 5% and wages are rising.

“It’s not that the new data blew the lid off expectations or pointed to some radical acceleration in job growth in the opening weeks of 2016. Quite the contrary. The nation added 151,000 jobs in January, which was below analysts’ expectations and well below the revised 262,000 jobs added in December. That looks an awful lot like “reversion to the mean,” and it wouldn’t be surprising if final revisions show a slower pace of job growth across the two months.

But while economists and financial markets have traditionally placed the greatest weight on that payroll number as the key indicator of whether economic growth is speeding up or slowing down, we’re entering a phase where some other components of the jobs report are more important.”

Two additional articles of interest this week profile the executive who created the culture at Netflix and a BBC photo essay on the career dreams of the children who have fled Syria.

‘The Woman Who Created Netflix’s Enviable Company Culture’  Vivian Giang for Fast Company – “The woman behind “Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility” was the company’s chief talent officer at the time, Patty McCord…Instead of listing the company’s core values like every other company was doing, McCord decide to write down the things the company valued, what mattered to them, what they expected in their people.”

‘When I grow up I want to be…’ (BBC) “Despite their current predicament, children who have fled the conflict in Syria and are now living in neighbouring countries dream of what the future holds for them, and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) sent photographer Meredith Hutchison to find out.”

To end this week@work, let me introduce you to Rama, age 13, and her dream of becoming a doctor, as a reminder to honor your dreams.

_88034777_a80f7902-6be1-4991-913e-aed456838390.jpg“Walking down the street as a young girl in Syria or Jordan, I encountered many people suffering – sick or injured – and I always wanted to have the power and skills to help them.
“Now, as a great physician in my community, I have that ability. Easing someone’s pain in the most rewarding aspect of my job. To be able to give them relief is the most rewarding aspect of my job. To be able to give them relief and make them smile – this is what I love most.”

 

The year @work – equal pay, organization culture, Mark Zuckerberg’s books, the widening class divide, space exploration & Hamilton

Topics of work and the workplace often captured the headlines in 2015. And some of those headlines seemed to echo the 1970’s. As the economy improved, the wage gap between rich and poor increased. And we are still talking about equal pay for equal work.

One flashback was posted on the NPR website on January 2 in tribute to former New York governor, Mario Cuomo, who died on New Year’s Day. The post included the text and video of his speech to the Democratic National Convention in 1984, two years after the Equal Rights Amendment  failed to gain support from the 38 states required to pass.

“We speak for women who are indignant that this nation refuses to etch into its governmental commandments the simple rule “thou shalt not sin against equality,” a rule so simple —

I was going to say, and I perhaps dare not but I will. It’s a commandment so simple it can be spelled in three letters: E.R.A.”

Even though this year’s slate of Presidential candidates includes two women, the legacy of Cuomo’s passion is largely ignored.

Two stories in the past year served to visibly illustrate the continuing inequity.

In Hollywood, major studio, Sony was hacked, revealing, among other things, the disparity between the compensation of lead actress Jennifer Lawrence and her male co-stars. Madeline Berg covered the story for Forbes

“More frequent are anecdotes of discrimination like those recently related by Selma Hayek, Gwyneth Paltrow and even Streep.

All of these women have echoed the sentiment of Patricia Arquette, who brought the issue to the world’s attention at last year’s Oscars when she said in her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress, “It’s our time to have wage equality for once and for all.”

But it is not only the number on the paycheck that is the problem: Women are also greatly underrepresented on the big screen, leading to fewer opportunities to make money, an issue that Reese Witherspoon brought up at the American Cinematheque Awards in October: “Women make up 50% of the population, and we should be playing 50% of the roles on the screen.”

That is a dream that is far from a reality. According to a report by the Annenberg School at USC’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative released in August, only 28.1% of characters in 2014’s top 100 films were female and of that percent, only 21 had a female lead or co-lead.”

The misrepresentation is even worse behind the camera: Of the same films, women made up only 1.9% of directors, 11.2% of writers and 18.9% of producers. This only aggravates the problem. The report found that in productions where women held key positions off-screen—as directors, writers and producers—the films featured women more often, and in less sexualized roles.”

We may find it hard to garner sympathy for those who earn millions @work for acting or competing in sport. But those are the visible workers who set the bar for the rest of us on the lower rungs of the career ladder.

The year in sport was dominated by the FIFA scandal, but women who work in sport created the memorable moments of the year. Christopher Clarey, summarizing the year in sport for women noted ‘Women Surge On Playing Field but Fall Behind in Boardroom’.

“As visible as female athletes were in 2015, women lost prominence and power in another key domain in the sports world: the boardroom.

Stacey Allaster, chief executive of the WTA Tour, stepped down citing burnout and the desire to spend more time with her young children. Debbie Jevans, a Briton who was perhaps Europe’s leading women’s sports executive, also cited personal reasons for resigning as chief executive of England Rugby 2015 less than six months before the start of the Rugby World Cup that she had been instrumental in organizing.

Another industry leader, Mary Wittenberg, who oversaw the New York City marathon as chief executive of New York Road Runners, resigned to lead a start-up lifestyle company, Virgin Sport.

Allaster, Jevans and Wittenberg were all replaced by men, and by year’s end there was no woman leading a major professional sport, not even one for women. Steve Simon is in charge of the WTA, Michael Whan is in charge of the L.P.G.A., Jeff Plush runs the National Women’s Soccer League in the United States and Mark Tatum oversees the W.N.B.A., the most prominent women’s professional basketball league, on an interim basis after Laurel J. Richie stepped down after five seasons in 2015.

Considering the scandals and governance crises that enveloped leading male-dominated federations like FIFA and the I.A.A.F. in 2015, more women in power looked very much like part of the solution. The men could clearly benefit from new perspectives.

“For me, the most important thing about diversity in a workplace is definitely making everyone feel included,” Wittenberg said. “But the diversity that comes from diversity of thinking is also invaluable, and if you don’t have diversity around your executive table or any table, I think you really run a risk today. Organizations, and especially political organizations that lack diversity in any number of ways, including gender — you’re not coming close to representing a world view. Leadership today should be challenged at every turn.”

The topic of work/life balance continues to dominate the water cooler conversations from Silicon Valley to Wall Street. And the conversation is at the heart of defining organizational culture.

In mid-August The New York Times published a story, ‘Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace’ with the following sub-heading: “The company is conducting an experiment in how far it can push
white-collar workers to get them to achieve its ever-expanding ambitions.” 

Definitely not a ‘puff piece’, but an important piece of journalism that ignited a dialog not only between the Amazon PR machine and the editors of The NY Times, but among workers in a variety of work settings about organizational values and personal tradeoffs. How an individual’s values mesh with those of their employer will determine ultimate success or failure. Who will you become? is a far more important question to ask than   What is the salary offer?

This was also the year that Mark Zuckerberg encouraged others to follow his example, and read a recommended book every two weeks. The final recommendation in  ‘A Year of Books’ was announced today, number 23, ‘The Beginning of Infinity’ by David Deutsch.

Richard Feloni compiled a list of the first 20 recommendations.

“Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made a tradition of dramatic New Year’s resolutions, and this year he decided that he’d read a book every two weeks.

He wanted his selections to focus on “different cultures, beliefs, histories, and technologies.”

“Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today,” Zuckerberg wrote on his personal Facebook page. “I’m looking forward to shifting more of my media diet towards reading books.”

Hopefully, we have all met our resolutions from January and shifted our media diet to include some ‘long reads’ outside our comfort zone.

As the economy continued to improve, the gap between rich and poor widened. Claire Cain Miller examined the impact of differences in child rearing on growing class divisions.

“Children were not always raised so differently. The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is 30 percent to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than those born 25 years earlier, according to Mr. Reardon’s research.

People used to live near people of different income levels; neighborhoods are now more segregated by income. More than a quarter of children live in single-parent households — a historic high, according to Pew – and these children are three times as likely to live in poverty as those who live with married parents. Meanwhile, growing income inequality has coincided with the increasing importance of a college degree for earning a middle-class wage.”

And for awhile, a movie about space, not that one, the other one – ‘The Martian’, seemed to re-energize NASA’s plan to restart manned space exploration beyond the International Space Station.

Doug Bolton of The Independent reported on last week’s suspension of a proposed mission to the red planet.

“NASA has decided to suspend a mission to Mars scheduled for March 2016, due to the lander springing a leak.

The InSight Mission, which would have seen a rover analysing seismic activity and the interior structure of the red planet, was called off by Nasa bosses after technical staff failed to repair a leak in one of the rover’s prime instruments.

John Grunsfeld, the associate administrator for Nasa’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said: “We push the boundaries of space technology with our missions to enable science, but space exploration is unforgiving, and the bottom line is that we’re not ready to launch in the 2016 window.”

Which leaves our space efforts to two remarkable American entrepreneurs, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. In May, Jessica Orwig expressed optimism in the future of private space exploration.

“This year is shaping up to be an extremely exciting time for the future of commercial spaceflight, which will be built upon the backbone of revolutionary 21st-century rockets. The private American space companies Blue Origin and SpaceX are paving the way.

Blue Origin, which was founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in 2000, successfully launched its “New Shepard” space vehicle for the first time on April 29. The vehicle was named after Alan Shepard, who became the second human and first American to enter space 44 years ago. It is designed to eventually boost six people to space, where they can experience weightlessness for 10 minutes before returning to Earth. The ride is for entertainment and therefore not exclusively for astronauts, but these kinds of temporary spaceflights could become a new way for astronauts to train for coming space missions.

Two weeks earlier, on April 14, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, founded in 2002, attempted to land one of its Falcon 9 rockets on a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets are designed to boost spacecraft to greater heights than Blue Origin’s and are therefore involved in other missions outside of commercial spaceflight, including supplying the International Space Station, launching satellites into orbit, and aspirations to reach Mars.”

On December 22, NBC News reported “SpaceX completed an historic vertical landing of its Falcon 9 rocket on Monday night — the first time such a feat had been achieved.

The launch and landing in Cape Canaveral, Florida, were the first from the private U.S. spaceflight company since its rocket exploded on liftoff in June.

SpaceX has come close to landing a rocket but until now, never actually pulled the feat off. Blue Origin, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, stuck a landing last month — but Musk pointed out that was a suborbital trip, the requirements for which are considerably different.”

And then there was ‘Hamilton’ the musical. Just as the founding father was about to be replaced on the U.S. ten dollar bill, his story took center stage this summer on Broadway. In a 2015 recap article, ‘Surprises from 2015 and Reasons for Hope’, Gina Bellafante examined the ‘Hamilton effect’ on five year olds.

“As if it weren’t surprise enough that a hip-hop musical about the life of the country’s first Treasury secretary would become a Broadway sensation, finding impassioned fans in both President Obama and Dick Cheney, “Hamilton” has found an unlikely cohort of obsessives among 5-year-olds in New York, thanks to the cast album and scenes available on YouTube. At least one kindergartner in Brooklyn is regularly going to school with white socks pulled up over his pants. Some children are demanding quill pens, and many are singing the songs at home over and over and over.

“This is the new ‘Frozen,’” one already fatigued mother observed. Expect heated arguments about the limitations of Federalism among first graders next year.”

 

The week@work – Mark Zuckerberg writes a letter, equality comes to combat, 20 predictions/20 years, the November jobs report and terrorism@work

This week@work was dominated, until mid-week, by the story of the ‘Chan Zuckerberg initiative’ to set aside 99% of their Facebook wealth, and overshadowed a major shift in policy within the Pentagon, opening all combat jobs to women, without exception. The November jobs report continued the positive trajectory of the economy with the revision upward of September and October numbers. And the editor of Fast Company Magazine offered ‘Twenty Predictions for the Next Twenty Years’.

All of those stories pale in comparison to the return of terrorism to the workplace at a holiday party at 11 AM on Wednesday in San Bernardino, California.

Mark Zuckerberg wrote a letter to his new daughter and lots of attention was paid to the section on sharing his wealth.  Carmine Gallo of Forbes took closer look and noted that the letter read like a great speech.

“As you’ve probably read by now Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan welcomed a daughter into the world in a very big way – with the creation of a new initiative to donate 99% of their Facebook shares ($45 billion currently) to philanthropy. That’s the headline. I was struck, however, by how the open letter to their daughter read more like a speech than a letter. It was meant for the eye…and the ear. It was meant to inspire a generation to commit itself to giving and to making the world a better place.

“Like all parents, we want you to grow up in a world better than ours today,” the letter begins. Read aloud at an average speaking pace, the 2,200-word letter takes about twelve minutes to recite, the ideal amount of time for a good speech (many of the most notable speeches in recent history clock in at 15 minutes or less).

Zuckerberg’s hope for his daughter’s generation provides the theme of the letter, a headline that fits into one short sentence. In bold letters, Zuckerberg writes:

“Advancing human potential and promoting equality.”

Amanda Platell of The Daily Mail offered an alternate version.

“Let’s start with the ‘friends’ you may have on Facebook. Do not confuse them with the friends you should trust in the real world. Many will barely know you, plenty may be jealous, others will be insincere and spiteful…

If I have learned anything from running Facebook, it’s that there is no such thing as privacy any more. After all, that’s how I made our billions!

Come to think of it, perhaps we won’t give you a computer until you’re 18, just to be safe. Love, Dad.”

On Thursday the Dan Lamothe reported on the groundbreaking change in staffing policy at the Pentagon.

“Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said Thursday that he is opening all jobs in combat units to women, a landmark decision that would for the first time allow female service members to join the country’s most elite military forces.

Women will now be eligible to join the Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces and other Special Operations Units. It also opens the Marine Corps infantry, a battle-hardened force that many service officials had openly advocated keeping closed to female service members.

“There will be no exceptions,” Carter said. “This means that, as long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before.”

Robert Safian, the editor-in-chief of Fast Company magazine marked the twentieth anniversary of the publication with ‘Twenty Predictions for the Next Twenty Years’.

“We celebrate birthdays to remember all that has gone before, and also what is to come. This month, with issue No. 201, we recognize Fast Company’s 20th anniversary by looking toward the future. The dynamic change of the past two decades is just a warm-up for what is still to come.

I have used the phrase Generation Flux to describe this era of transition. Because the changes are coming so fast, there is a rising premium on our ability to adjust, to be adaptable in new ways. This can be scary for some, but it is also undeniably exciting, and for those prepared to embrace this emerging reality, the possibilities are tantalizing.

What follows are 20 observations that we believe will hold fast in the years ahead. They are predictions and, as such, are fraught with limitation and supposition. None of them, on their own, is shocking. That is by design. In combination, though, they outline a world of tomorrow where work is still personal, computing is still social, and knowledge is still power. And where the rules for success will be ever-changing.”

Bouree Lam covered the optimistic economic report from the Labor Department on Friday.

“The November jobs report is out, and it’s meeting what were moderately high expectations. The figures from the Labor Department show that the unemployment rate remained at 5 percent and the economy added 211,000 jobs in November. Jobs were added in construction, health care, and “professional and technical services”—the Labor Department’s term for an assortment of white-collar jobs. Among those, the construction sector showing particularly strong growth, adding 46,000 jobs.”

On Wednesday morning a group of colleagues went to work at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California. As they were taking a break, preparing for a holiday celebration, one of their team and his wife, both heavily armed, entered the room and changed lives forever.

In 2014 there were 404 workplace homicides, 80% were shootings. The ‘mass shooting’ in San Bernardino was the fourth of this year.

Yesterday the editors of The New York Times published an editorial on the front page of the paper, ‘End the Gun Epidemic in America’.

I’m done with the retailers who give away guns to the first 200 customers on Black Friday. And I’m not comfortable with my cubicle mates carrying weapons to work. The workplace is a place to create, engage and perhaps follow a dream. Fear and hostility have never been a productive part of life @work. The last time leading by fear worked was in the mid-20th century Catholic grammar school classroom.

“It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency. These are weapons of war, barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection. America’s elected leaders offer prayers for gun victims and then, callously and without fear of consequence, reject the most basic restrictions on weapons of mass killing, as they did on Thursday. They distract us with arguments about the word terrorism. Let’s be clear: These spree killings are all, in their own ways, acts of terrorism.”

On March 4, 1933 newly elected President Franklin Roosevelt delivered his inaugural address. The familiar phrase, “…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself..” has been whispering from the back of my mind since Wednesday and I think it’s particularly relevant to our political conversation today.

“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

 

 

 

The week@work – Mark Zuckerberg’s parental leave, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem have lunch, and 29 words to avoid in an interview

The stories selected from this week@work include Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to take two months of parental leave, a conversation between Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem, and advice on words to avoid in an interview.

Mark Zuckerberg’s choice to ‘lead by example’ and step away from work to care for family may signal to Facebook employees and other CEOs that the world is finally changing for dual career parents.

Covering the story for Wired, journalist Julia Greenberg wrote:

“Zuckerberg is perhaps the most prominent chief executive of a major public tech company to take this much time off following the birth of his child. That’s important, because executives set the tone for a company (and, in some ways, the country) when it comes to balancing work and family.

Like some other major tech companies, Facebook already offers new parents a parental leave plan considered very generous by US standards. New parents at Facebook can take four paid months off. They receive benefits such as $4,000 for each child born or adopted. As we’ve written before, however, employees may feel reluctant to take advantage of such plans if their companies don’t have a culture that encourages taking time off. And company culture typically comes from the top.

 Let’s hope more companies will offer new parents more leave, and that dads will be able to follow his lead.”

One of the highlights of The New York Times Sunday Style section is the ‘Table for Three’ feature. This past week, Philip Galanes shared the conversation between Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem.

I recommend reading the complete interview, if for no other reason than to provide a historical context for the current conversation on gender discrimination in the workplace. Here is a short excerpt.

PG: One of the cleverest things you did as a litigator was demonstrate how rigid gender roles harm men as much as women.

RBG: There was an interesting case this court decided in the first year Justice O’Connor was on the bench, about a man who wanted to go to the best nursing school in his area, but it was women-only. You could read between the lines what she understood: There was no better way to raise pay for women in nursing than to get men to do it.

GS: Equal pay for women would be the biggest economic stimulus this country could ever have. Big-time profits are being made from gender roles as they exist. It would also be win-win because female-headed households are where children are most likely to be poor.

PG: Last subject: You are both bridge builders. Justice Ginsburg on the court; and Gloria, with a sea of men and women over the years. Any advice for getting along with people who disagree with us to the core — like Justice Scalia?

RBG: Last night, my daughter and I got a prize from a women’s intellectual property group, and Nino [Scalia] was in the video, saying his nice things about me. He’s a very funny man. We both love opera. And we care about writing. His style is spicy, but we care about how we say it.

GS: I think Ruth is better at getting along with people with whom we profoundly disagree. I feel invisible in their presence because I’m being treated as invisible. But what we want in the future will only happen if we do it every day. So, kindness matters enormously. And empathy. Finding some point of connection.

Moving to the job search, Jacquelyn Smith writing for Business Insider provides us with a list of ’29 words you should never say in a job interview’. Drawing on tips from Michael Kerr, here’s a sample:

“‘Money,’ ‘salary,’ ‘pay,’ ‘compensation,’ etc.  Never discuss salary in the early stages of the interview process, Kerr says. “Focusing on the salary can raise a red flag with potential employers that you are only there for the money and not for any deeper reasons,” he says. “More and more, employers are looking for people who align with their mission and values.”Negotiations can and should be done after — or at the end of — the interview phase.

‘Weaknesses’ or ‘mistakes’   Never voluntarily talk about your weaknesses unless they ask you with the standard interview question, ‘What’s your biggest weakness?'” says Kerr. And don’t bring up mistakes you’ve made at work, unless you’re talking about them to show how you’ve made significant improvements.”

Two other articles of interest were published on the Fast Company site this week:

‘Where Google, Apple and Amazon employees want to work next’Lydia Dishman

‘The World’s Five Biggest Employers Aren’t Who You Think’Charlie Sorrel

One more thing…

This past summer I celebrated July 4th in Brussels. It’s one of my most favorite cities in the world. The people I met in shops and restaurants are in my thoughts this weekend. Be safe.

The Saturday Read – Summer Books

We have summer in our sights, anticipating travel, adventure, rest and relaxation. Harbingers of the coming season are the summer reading lists from the traditional print book review sources, the icons of Silicon Valley and the titans of Wall Street.

The act of picking up a book, unrelated to work or school, has moved away from the center and occurs only on the periphery of our lives. We seem to have relegated reading to the category of indulgence vs. necessity. We give ourselves permission to read in summer, during an interval when we step away from work.

Writing in The Irish Times, Isabelle Cartwright considered the question of why we read.

“…the simple answer is for pleasure. But what exactly is the nature of that pleasure? Reading removes us from the structure of our lives, from the routine, the sequential habits of our day-to-day living. We enter instead another time zone. The plot, characters and setting occupy us, and while we read we inhabit the others’ reality. The pleasure therefore is derived from escaping our own small, limited and often repetitive lives and entering an exotic elsewhere.

But perhaps there is also the attraction of reserving something private for ourselves, something outside of the public world of relationship, family, work and occupation; something that is not encumbered by the stricture of time and self.”

For those of you who need a utilitarian rationale to set aside time to read, there is research to show we are morally and socially better as a result of our efforts:

Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, and Keith Oatley, a professor emeritus of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto, reported in studies published in 2006 and 2009 that individuals who often read fiction appear to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and view the world from their perspective. This link persisted even after the researchers factored in the possibility that more empathetic individuals might choose to read more novels. A 2010 study by Mar found a similar result in young children: the more stories they had read to them, the keener their “theory of mind,” or mental model of other people’s intentions.”

We become more emotionally intelligent as we read.

If that doesn’t convince you, the ‘Lifehack blog’ lists ’10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day’ (not just in summer): “Mental stimulation, stress reduction, knowledge, vocabulary expansion, memory improvement, stronger analytical skills, improved focus and concentration, better writing skills, tranquility and free entertainment.”

I think they’re on to something here, for all you skeptics. A few of these skills match exactly to what employers look for in potential candidates: communications and problem solving. Maybe reading is a necessity and not an indulgence.

Here is a menu of links to the popular reading lists this summer:

The Los Angeles Times – Summer reading guide: The 136 books you’ll want to read

The New York Times – When the Water’s Too Cold, Something Else to Dive Into, A Critic’s Survey of Summer Books

USA Today – 25 Hot Books for Summer

The Washington Post – A great leadership reading list — without any business books on it

Bloomberg – Books Worth Reading This Summer

NPR – Four Books That Deliver Unexpected And Delightful Surprises This Summer

A Year of Books, Mark Zuckerberg

Beach Reading (and More), Bill Gates

10 Beach Books from J.P. Morgan’s Summer Reading List

Happy sand in your toes, head in the clouds, sea spray on your face reading!

Mark Zuckerberg’s Year of Reading Dangerously

Most of us have given up on our New Year’s resolution as the calendar turns to spring. But Mark Zuckerberg is well on his way to keep his promise to read a book every two weeks with the announcement of the sixth book in ‘A Year of Books’‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ by Thomas Kuhn. This is not Oprah’s Book Club. Aspiring entrepreneurs who one day hope to achieve Mr. Zuckerberg’s success are quickly learning that the content of his choices is not for the faint of heart.

Professor Kuhn argues in his book “that transformative ideas don’t arise from the day-to-day, gradual process of experimentation and data accumulation but that the revolutions in science, those breakthrough moments that disrupt accepted thinking and offer unanticipated ideas, occur outside of normal science.” 

Disruption? Didn’t a couple of Harvard professors invent that idea a few years ago? This is why we read books written 53 years ago. It humbles us with the realization that we are not the inventors, but actors in a greater historical narrative.

The other books picks have been published more recently and are thoughtful meditations on our humanity, creativity and change. I’m sure many are attempting to decode a pattern in the book selection rather than accepting that Mr. Zuckerberg is seeking a better understanding, as a reader, of the challenges we face, and as a leader, understanding the broader context of the global community that is his customer.

The first five books selected:

‘Creativity’  Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace

‘On Immunity’  Eula Bliss

‘Gang Leader for a Day’  Sudhir Venkatesh

‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’  Steven Pinker

‘The End of Power’  Moises Naim

Why do we read books recommended by leaders and celebrities? Maybe to get a sense of how their reading habits led to their success. That’s where we start. But it’s where we go from there that personalizes a reading list to expand our understanding of the world beyond our community.

Follow the tangents, the annotations you make in the margins to discover both the old and new in your world and your profession.