The week@work – innovative organizations, AT&T’s new culture, Shonda Rhimes @TED, the online platform economy and pausing to enjoy the view

The week@work was dominated by the story of Apple’s opposition to the court order to unlock the San Bernardino gunman’s IPhone. Simultaneously, news was being made as Fast Company released its annual list of the ‘Most Innovative Companies’, AT&T’s leadership challenged workers to reinvent themselves,  Shonda Rhimes shared her ‘year of yes’ @TED, and the JP Morgan Chase Institute released a study examining the online platform economy, and its impact on one million of its customers.

And for balance, in this centennial year of the National Park Service, enjoy the view of Horsetail Fall in Yosemite National Park as sunset transforms the waterfall into an apparent stream of hot lava. Sangeeta Day captured the photo above for National Geographic.

On Monday, Fast Company released their list of The Most Innovative Companies of 2016. The top five are BuzzFeed, Facebook, CVS Health, Uber and Netflix.

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BuzzFeed CEO, Jonah Peretti’s vision drew on his fascination with Paramount Pictures, CNN and JayZ. “BuzzFeed has built its success, like Paramount a century ago, by owning all the elements of a modern media business: a global news team, its own video pro­duction studio, a sophisticated data operation, and an in-house creative ad agency.” 

“The “bored-at-work network,” as Peretti himself once called it, was merely a single U.S. website. In late 2014, he foresaw that people wouldn’t want to leave their social apps, so Peretti drastically shifted his company’s strategy: Instead of trying to lure eyeballs to its own website, the way most publishers do, BuzzFeed would publish original text, images, and video directly to where its audience already spent its time, some 30 different global platforms, from Facebook to the Russian social networks VK and Telegram. Rather than write one definitive article and publish it on every platform (the de facto standard in the media business), BuzzFeed would tailor content specifically for the network and audience where it’s being viewed.

How’d that turn out? Across all the platforms where it now publishes content, the company generates 5 billion monthly views—half from video, a business that effectively did not exist two years ago. Traffic to the website has remained steady—80 million people in the U.S. every month, putting it ahead of The New York Times—even though as much as 75% of BuzzFeed’s content is now published somewhere else.”

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One company that has lost its standing in the top 50 innovators is legacy telecom AT&T. As the competitors have changed with the shift from traditional phone and cellular carriers to Internet and cloud computing, the company’s leadership team is making new demands on its workforce, resetting the culture, again.

“AT&T’s competitors are not just Verizon and Sprint, but also tech giants like Amazon and Google. For the company to survive in this environment, Mr. Stephenson needs to retrain its 280,000 employees so they can improve their coding skills, or learn them, and make quick business decisions based on a fire hose of data coming into the company.

In an ambitious corporate education program that started about two years ago, he is offering to pay for classes (at least some of them) to help employees modernize their skills. But there’s a catch: They have to take these classes on their own time and sometimes pay for them with their own money.

To Mr. Stephenson, it should be an easy choice for most workers: Learn new skills or find your career choices are very limited.”

Adapting to change, learning new skills, saying yes, and taking time to play were all part of television producer Shonda Rhimes’ TED Talk in Vancouver.

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“You can do it too, say yes every time your child asks you to play. Are you thinking that maybe I’m an idiot in diamond shoes? You’re right, but you can still do this. You have time. You know why? Because you’re not Rihanna and you’re not a Muppet. Your child does not think you’re that interesting.

I said yes to less work and more play, and somehow I still run my world. My brain is still global. My campfires still burn. The more I play, the happier I am, and the happier my kids are. The more I play, the more I feel like a good mother. The more I play, the freer my mind becomes. The more I play, the better I work. The more I play, the more I feel the hum, the nation I’m building, the marathon I’m running, the troops, the canvas, the high note, the hum, the hum, the other hum, the real hum, life’s hum. The more I feel that hum, the more this strange, quivering, uncocooned, awkward, brand new, alive non-titan feels like me. The more I feel that hum, the more I know who I am. I’m a writer, I make stuff up, I imagine. That part of the job, that’s living the dream. That’s the dream of the job. Because a dream job should be a little bit dreamy.”

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In other news @TED, the annual $1 million TED Prize was awarded to Sarah H. Parcak, a space archaeologist who uses satellite imagery to discover ancient sites, and map looting.

“I wish for us to discover the millions of unknown archaeological sites across the globe. By building an online citizen science platform and training a 21st century army of global explorers, we’ll find and protect the world’s hidden heritage, which contains clues to humankind’s collective resilience and creativity.”

Unknown.jpegEric Morath reported the findings of a JP Morgan Institute Study of market volatility and the emergence of  “a new marketplace for work by unbundling a job into discrete tasks and directly connecting individual sellers with consumers.” 

Call it ‘gig’ or ‘sharing’, the economy is being supported by folks who are supplementing their income with ‘app jobs’.

“The share of Americans earning income from digital platforms such as Uber and Airbnb is growing rapidly, but those gigs typically supplement incomes rather than replace full-time work.

Nearly 1% of U.S. adults earned income in September 2015 via one of the growing number of firms that are part of the sharing or gig economy, according to a study of bank transactions by the JPMorgan Chase Institute, released Thursday. Participation has exploded since October 2012, when just 0.1% of adults were paid by such platforms.

At 2.5 million, the sharing labor force is roughly equivalent to the number of teachers and others that work for public schools in the U.S., though the study finds that people driving for Lyft or selling crafts on eBay typically have other sources of income.

The average monthly income for someone who provided labor via one of the platforms was $533, representing a third of total income. The share of active participants earning 50% or more of their monthly income has fallen since the summer of 2014, as the total number making some money increased.”

In other stories of interest this week@work:

‘Channing Dungey to Succeed Paul Lee as Chief of ABC Entertainment’ by Brooks Barnes and John Koblin   “Channing Dungey, previously ABC’s drama chief, will take over as the head of ABC entertainment, making her the first black network president.

Ms. Dungey’s elevation is a breakthrough for an industry that has often struggled with diversity, especially among the senior executive ranks.”

‘Fashion Week’s Shift Toward Diversity’ by Ruth La Ferla  “Well before the Oscars stirred a diversity debate, Seventh Avenue had been the target of stinging criticism for the sin of omission, routinely parading mostly white models on its runways.

In this latest round of shows, which ended on Thursday, many designers appeared to have taken a hard look at the highly charged issue of casting, stepping up their efforts to hire racial and ethnic minorities and sounding a chord for inclusiveness.”

And because it’s the beginning of Oscar Week:

b67e67830551ea34f84eb0edf7900236553b83045ca648f52711fe9838b7a681‘Films once were an escape from work. Now, they celebrate it. What gives?’ by Charles McNulty  “There was a time when Americans went to the movies to escape the workplace. These days, in keeping with the way our offices have taken over our lives, filmmakers have turned the big screen into one long career day.

Audiences have been invited to experience first-hand the everyday grind of being a journalist (“Spotlight”), an astronaut (“The Martian”), a screenwriter (“Trumbo”), a fur trapper (“The Revenant”) and even an inventor of kitchen mops (“Joy”).”

Pleasant dreams of gold for all, this week@work.

 

 

 

 

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.”