The week@work – guaranteed basic income, college grad stats, internet trends and the world’s longest tunnel opens

This week@work the Swiss electorate rejected a ballot measure to provide a guaranteed basic income for citizens, the college graduate unemployment rate is 2.4%, with history majors matching mid-career salaries of business school grads, Mary Meeker projected her 2016 internet trends and 2,600 workers completed 17 years of work to open the world’s longest tunnel under the Alps.

On Saturday Swiss voters rejected a proposed plan to provide an unconditional monthly income of 2,500 francs by a margin of 77% to 23%.

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Philip Oltermann surveyed the growing economic trends toward guaranteed basic income, ‘State handout for all? Europe set to pilot universal basic incomes’.

“Universal basic income has a rare appeal across the political spectrum. For those on the left, it promises to eliminate poverty and liberate people stuck in dead-end workfare jobs. Small-state libertarians believe it could slash bureaucracy and create a leaner, more self-sufficient welfare system.

In an increasingly digital economy, it would also provide a necessary injection of cash so people can afford to buy the apps and gadgets produced by the new robot workforce.

Crucially, it is also an idea that seems to resonate across the wider public. A recent poll by Dalia Research found that 68% of people across all 28 EU member states said they would definitely or probably vote for a universal basic income initiative. Finland and the Netherlands have pilot projects in the pipeline.”

The New Yorker contributor, Mark Gimein summarized recent discussions on the topic, comparing U.S. views to European counterparts.

“…when they look further into the future, Americans talk about a national minimum income in the context of a jobless future, an employment apocalypse in which workers compete for fewer and fewer good jobs. Robert Reich, the former labor secretary, sees a national guaranteed income as the most likely endgame in an economy with “more and more people getting pushed out of the middle class into the personal service sector of the economy getting lower and lower wages.” When the Swiss talk about basic income, they’re talking about a utopian vision. When Americans like Reich talk about it, it’s a last bulwark against national impoverishment.”

‘The Upshot’ analyzed the May unemployment numbers and drew a positive spin on disappointing results. “A better gauge of the underlying rate of jobs growth is to take an average over the past three months. By that measure, the labor market is creating around 116,000 jobs per month. This is a notable slowdown from jobs growth in the 150,000-250,000 range over most of the past five years. But it’s a slowdown and not a sudden stop.”

Here’s the good news for college grads. In a separate post, the folks @UpshotNYT posed this question: “What do you think the unemployment rate is for 25-to-30-year-olds who graduated from a four-year college?”  Most folks guessed high. The actual rate is 2.4%, without a four-year college degree it’s 7%.

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While we’re on the topic of debunking ‘value of college myths’, let’s turn to a story about the much maligned history majors. (Full disclosure, I was one)

Writing in the LA Times, James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association lamented the decline enrollment in undergraduate history programs and countered with new research that suggests undergrads might want to reconsider their choice of major.

“Over the long run, …graduates in history and other humanities disciplines do well financially…after 15 years, those philosophy majors have more lucrative careers than college graduates with business degrees. History majors’ mid-career salaries are on par with those holding business bachelor’s degrees. Notably these salary findings exclude those who went on to attain a law or other graduate degree.

The utility of disciplines that prepare critical thinkers escapes personnel offices, pundits and politicians (some of whom perhaps would prefer that colleges graduate more followers and fewer leaders). But it shouldn’t. Labor markets in the United States and other countries are unstable and unpredictable. In this environment — especially given the expectation of career changes — the most useful degrees are those that can open multiple doors, and those that prepare one to learn rather than do some specific thing.”

On Wednesday The New York Times announced ‘the Internet is over’. They are changing their style rule to join the rest of the world to lowercase the word ‘internet’.

The same day, venture capitalist Mary Meeker presented her 2016 internet trends report. Inc. contributor, Jessica Stillman cited five ‘take-aways’ from the deck of 200 slides.

“Internet growth is slowing dramatically. Advertisers aren’t spending enough on mobile. Privacy concerns are “a ticking time bomb.”Search is about to be revolutionized…and so are messaging apps.”

Moving from technology trends to engineering marvels, BBC News reported on the opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland, culminating 17 years of work by 26,000 workers.

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“Swiss engineer Carl Eduard Gruner first imagined it in 1947: a massive tunnel, unprecedented in length, buried a mile and a half under Switzerland’s symbolic Gotthard mountain range.

Nearly seven decades later, after redesigns, political disagreements and the long, slow work of drilling beneath the Gotthard massif, as it’s called, Gruner’s dream is complete.

The Gotthard Base Tunnel — a record-setting 35.4 miles long, and farther below ground than any other tunnel — was inaugurated Wednesday. The occasion was marked with a celebration that promoted “Swiss values such as innovation, precision and reliability…”

Now the completed tunnel, delivered on time and within budget, will create a mainline rail connection between Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Genoa in Italy.

When full services begin in December, the journey time for travellers between Zurich and Milan will be reduced by an hour to two hours and 40 minutes.

About 260 freight trains and 65 passenger trains will pass through the tunnel each day in a journey taking as little as 17 minutes.”

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 Saturday Read ‘LIT UP: One Reporter, Three Schools. Twenty-Four Books That Can Change Lives.’ by David Denby

If you believe that the humanities are as critical as STEM skills in the 21st century workplace, take a trip back to high school with David Denby and this week’s Saturday Read, ‘LIT UP’: One Reporter. Three Schools. Twenty-Four Books That Can Change Lives.

We have this basic disconnect in our workplace today that is pitting generalists against specialists. The consequences are trickling down into our public education system.

If you’re a parent considering where to invest in your child’s college education, you’re probably looking at ‘vocational’ programs that ‘guarantee’ a job at graduation. If you’re that same parent, but now in the role of organization executive, you realize your recruiting efforts must consider ‘cultural contribution’; potential in addition to skill set. If you’re a student, you hear ‘STEM good, humanities bad; or worse, a waste of time’.

Writing in The New Yorker in February, Mr. Denby addressed the challenge in advocating for the humanities in today’s skill driven education/employer complex. He cited recent state government efforts to offer ‘bonus premiums’ in financial aid to students enrolled in STEM degree programs by cutting funding to students in the humanities.

“Lifetime readers know that reading literature can be transformative, but they can’t prove it. If they tried, they would have to buck the metric prejudice, the American notion that assertions unsupported with statistics are virtually meaningless. What they know about literature and its effects is literally and spiritually immeasurable. They would have to buck common marketplace wisdom, too: in an economy demanding “skill sets”—defined narrowly as technical and business skills—that deep-reading stuff won’t get you anywhere.” 

In ‘LIT UP’ David Denby is searching for the magic that transforms a young reader into a lifetime reader. “How do you establish reading pleasure in busy screen-loving teenagers – and in particular, pleasure in reading serious work? Is it still possible to raise teenagers who can’t live without reading something good? Or is that idea absurd? And could the struggle to create such hunger have any effect on the character of boys and girls?”

He chooses to go back to school for the 2011-12 academic year at Beacon, a New York City magnet high school, at the time located on West 61st St, observing teacher Sean Leon‘s tenth grade English class.

“School was the place to find out. And students in the tenth grade, I thought, were the right kids to look at. Recent work by neuroscientists has established that adolescence, as well as early childhood, is a period of tremendous “neuroplasticity”. At that age, the brain still has a genuine capacity to change.”

The book is structured by months, and reading selections. Mr. Leon introduces each book with inventive assignments, questions and at one point, a ‘digital fast’. Mr. Denby provides thumbnail plot sketches to shake the cobwebs from our ‘required reading’ memories. And we meet the students, by pseudonym, in their reactions to the literature.

At one point, the author gives the students a questionnaire to find out what books they read on their own, and their favorite authors. He finds three ‘real readers’ in a class of 32. “…unfairly or not, I was sorry that among Mr. Leon’s students there were no mad enthusiasms, no crazy loves, no compulsive reading of every book by a single author…”

In writing the book, he was encouraged by colleagues to create a scalable review, contrary to his initial approach, resisting quantification, and observing “a single place where literary education seemed to be working.” 

He realized that you can’t clone Beacon’s Sean Leon. He wanted other teachers to learn from Leon’s methods, but realized additional perspectives would add to his narrative.

“Typicality and comprehensiveness remained impossible to achieve, but variety was not. I delayed finishing the book, and, in the academic year 2013-14, I visited tenth-grade English classes in two other public schools – shuttling up many times during the year to James Hillhouse High School, an inner-city school in New Haven with a largely poor African American population; and five times in the spring to a school in a wealthy New York suburb, Mamaroneck, a “bedroom town” in the language of the fifties, where people sent their kids to good schools.”

Mr. Denby’s appendix includes the reading lists for each of the schools he visited and a ‘where are they now?’ college destination roster of the Beacon English Class of 2014. “There is, of course, no ideal reading list, no perfect syllabus, no perfect classroom manner, but only strategies that work or don’t work. In a reading crisis, we are pragmatists as well as idealists.”

“Teenagers, distracted, busy, self-obsessed, are not easy to engage – not by their teachers or by their parents. To keep them in the game, the teachers I watched experimented, altered the routine, changing the physical dimensions of the class. They kept the kids off balance in order to put them back in balance. They demanded more of students than the students expected to give.”

This is a book for parents, parents who are business leaders; teachers and the politicians who minimize their value; and students. We’re in a reading crisis and we need folks who have emotional intelligence, who can think, judge, make decisions and create a vision for an enterprise within a global world view.

“Teachers are the most maligned and ignored professionals in American life. In the humanities, the good ones are as central to our emotional and moral life as priests, ministers, rabbis, and imams. The good ones are not sheepish or silent in defense of literature and history and the rest. They can’t be; the children’s lives are right before them. In high-school English, if the teachers are shrewd and willing to take a few risks, they will try to reach the students where they live emotionally. They will engage, for instance, with “naïve” existential questions (what do I live for?) and also adolescent fascination with “dark” moods and the fear of being engulfed by adult society. Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, Poe, Hawthorne, Twain, Stevenson, Orwell, Vonnegut, and many others wrote about such things. And if teachers can make books important to kids—and forge the necessary link to pleasure and need—those kids may turn off the screens. At least for a few vital hours.”

The week@work – leadership, lawyers, student loans & the economy

What makes a great leader or a great lawyer? What’s the best strategy to retire student debt? This week@work surveys articles that provide some answers, and as the economy continues to strengthen, offers some practical advice on career advancement.

Joshua Rothman wrote ‘Shut Up and Sit Down: Why the leadership industry rules’ for The New Yorker. He gives us a quick tutorial on the history of leadership, why we value the concept, but are so often disappointed in the people. He alludes to the current presidential contest, and then focuses on change in both our expectations of leaders, and the roles they play in contemporary organizations.Print

“In recent years, technological and economic changes like social media and globalization have made leaders less powerful.

Leaders used to be titanic and individual; now they’re faceless guiders of processes. Once, only the people in charge could lead; now anyone can lead “emergently.” The focus has shifted from the small number of people who have been designated as leaders to the background systems that produce and select leaders in the first place.

Leaders, moreover, used to command; now they suggest. Conceptually, at least, leadership and power have been decoupled.

To some extent, leaders are storytellers; really, though, they are characters in stories. They play leading roles, but in dramas they can’t predict and don’t always understand. Because the serialized drama of history is bigger than any one character’s arc, leaders can’t guarantee our ultimate narrative satisfaction. Because events, on the whole, are more protean than people, leaders grow less satisfying with time, as the stories they’re ready to tell diverge from the stories we want to hear. And, because our desire for a coherent vision of the world is bottomless, our hunger for leadership is insatiable, too. Leaders make the world more sensible, but never sensible enough.”

The New York Times profiled two women who chose law as their profession and took divergent, pioneering paths to achieve success. What makes a good lawyer? Meet Kimberley Chongyong Motley and Damaris Hernandez.

David Jolly profiled Ms. Motley, who has been practicing her profession in Afghanistan for close to eight years and was recently the subject of an award winning documentary, ‘Motley’s Law’.

image.adapt.990.high.kimberley_motley_05feb2016_portrait.1454770287607“Ms. Motley, 40, a Marquette University Law School graduate, had never before traveled overseas when she enrolled in a Justice Department program to train Afghan lawyers and flew to one of the world’s more dangerous places.

After her nine-month assignment, she did not return home to Milwaukee, instead hanging out her own shingle in Kabul. She studied Shariah, the Islamic code that lies beneath the fragile new Afghan Constitution, and she established herself as the only foreign litigator in one of the world’s most conservative and male-dominated cultures.

Ms. Motley says she makes a point of closely studying the cultures of both Afghanistan and the courtroom. “I’m a sort of legal archaeologist,” she said. “I try to uncover laws that have not been used, and then use them for the benefit of my clients.”

Damaris Hernandez was recently promoted to partner at the firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore, becoming the first Latina to reach that position. Elizabeth Olson tells her story as a first generation college student, who advanced in her career with the support of a unique scholarship at NYU.

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That achievement is an acknowledgment of her talent and hard work. But the story of her route to the top also reveals how much more complex the journey is for minorities and women than for the white men who overwhelmingly dominate the firms. Skill is only one of the keys. Being able to navigate unspoken rules is at least as important.

“When I was the only one of color or the only woman in the room, I had the confidence to believe in my ability,” said Ms. Hernández, 36, describing the advantages of the program to her. “When you are the first, you need someone to have your back.”

Over the last decade and a half, she and 100 others who attended the New York University School of Law received that support from a scholarship program that paid their full tuition and also gave them access to a network of luminaries including federal judges, law firm partners and even Supreme Court justices.”

If you are seeking ways to reduce your student loan obligation, NPR’s Yuki Noguchi offers ‘Strategies For When You’re Starting Out Saddled With Student Debt’. It’s not just about individual liability, but also the long term impact on career choice and economic growth.

“Experts say studies show rising student debt is limiting peoples’ career options. They decide against graduate school. Or feel they can’t afford lower-paying public service jobs or the risk of starting a new business. That’s a problem, because new companies create new jobs.”

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This past week the University of  Southern California announced a tuition increase that will bring the annual bill to over $51,000. Financing college involves loans as part of the  package. Having a repayment strategy is critical to long term career success.

“Chris Costello, CEO of Blooom, a personal finance advice firm targeting lower-net-worth people, advises his firm’s clients to tackle student debt with this strategy.

First, if your employer matches contributions to a retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b), max out on the matching contributions.

After maxing out on the matching contributions, pay off the debt with the lowest balance.

Check to see if you can qualify for loan forgiveness, refinancing or debt consolidation.

Do not incur new debts: in other words, live below your means.”

Chico Harlan of The Washington Post reported on the latest figures released by the U.S. Labor Department on Friday.

“U.S. employers continued their rapid hiring in February, new government data showed Friday, a sign of the nation’s economic durability during a tumultuous global slowdown.

The U.S. added 242,000 jobs as the unemployment rate held at 4.9 percent, the lowest mark during the seven-year recovery from the Great Recession.

That pace, consistent with gains over the last year, indicates Americans are returning rapidly to the labor force, helped by steady consumer spending that is bolstering demand and prompting employers to expand their workforces. In data released Friday by the Department of Labor, sluggish wages provided the only disappointing note — a signal that labor market still has room to improve.”

Two other articles of interest this week:

’15 things successful 20-somethings do in their spare time’ by Jacquelyn Smith and Rachel Gillett for Business Insider

‘How to Advance In Your Career Without Becoming A Workaholic’ by Lisa Evans for Fast Company

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Friday Poem ‘The Persistence of Song’ by Howard Moss

The Friday Poem this week is ‘The Persistence of Song’ by Howard Moss, the poetry editor of The New Yorker for almost forty years.

“In that influential capacity, this quiet, unassuming man was one of the key figures in American letters in the late twentieth century, boosting the careers of many young poets by publishing their work in one of the few mass circulation magazines which bought poetry and paid well for it.”

This one is for the mentors who open doors, make connections and by their presence create a model to be imitated.

The poem appeared in The New Yorker in the fall of 1966 and takes us to a time in the city, when life after work was anticipated ..” When the secretaries have changed their frocks, And though it is not yet evening, There is a persistence of song.”

The Persistence of Song

Although it is not yet evening,
The secretaries have changed their frocks
As if it were time for dancing,
And locked up in the scholars’ books
There is a kind of rejoicing,
There is a kind of singing
That even the dark stone canyon makes
As though all fountains were going
At once, and the color flowed from bricks
In one wild, lit upsurging.

What is the weather doing?
And who arrived on a scallop shell
With the smell of the sea this morning?
-Creating a small upheaval
High above the scaffolding
By saying, “All will be well.
There is a kind of rejoicing.”

Is there a kind of rejoicing
In saying, “All will be well?”
High above the scaffolding,
Creating a small upheaval,
The smell of the sea this morning
Arrived on a scallop shell.
What was the weather doing
In one wild, lit upsurging?
At once, the color flowed from bricks
As though all fountains were going,
And even the dark stone canyon makes
Here a kind of singing,
And there a kind of rejoicing,
And locked up in the scholars’ books
There is a time for dancing
When the secretaries have changed their frocks,
And though it is not yet evening,

There is the persistence of song.

Howard Moss  The New Yorker, November 19, 1966

 

 

 

 

 

 

The week@work – A vacancy on the Supreme Court, the power of creative cross training, deciding to ‘jump ship’ and targeting teachers

The headline story of the week@work came with the late Saturday evening announcement of the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The theme of transition was echoed in other stories this week, on creative cross-training and deciding when to make your next career move. If you are a teacher, you may be considering both, as educational reform efforts seem to be targeting those leading the classroom vs. students.

A few hours before the Republican candidates were to take the stage in their on-going interview process for the job of U.S. president, news broke that conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had died. Within seconds, it seemed, politicians were redefining the rules on the naming of a successor. In terms of job openings, it’s one of the most coveted appointments in government. The vacancy in the judicial branch will be added to the open position of President and 469 seats in Congress on November 8. It’s enough to overwhelm your average Human Resources manager. Oh, wait, we are the human resources manager here. Time to start paying attention to resumes and experience.

Most of us hope to find meaning in our work, and make some impact on our community with our efforts. For Justice Scalia, his impact was described by Jeffrey Toobin for The New Yorker.

“The loss of Justice Antonin Scalia is immensely significant on two levels. First, Scalia himself ranks among the most influential Justices in American history, alongside such figures as John Marshall, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and William Brennan. Second, Scalia was the linchpin of the Supreme Court’s five-justice conservative majority. His departure gives President Obama—or a Democratic successor—the opportunity to reshape the ideological balance among the Justices.

When Scalia joined the court, in 1986, the leading school of constitutional interpretation was the “living Constitution”—the claim that the meaning of the document evolves with changes in American society. Scalia brought with him the concept of “originalism”—that the Constitution should be interpreted as its eighteenth-century framers understood it. In practical terms, originalism gives constitutional sanction to conservative politics.

In interpreting laws, he was the leading spokesperson for “textualism,” the idea that, when interpreting laws, courts should look not to legislative history, or congressional “intent,” but rather only to the words of the law itself. While originalism remains controversial within the legal community, textualism won support from nearly all his colleagues (all except Stephen Breyer). This means that the Justices will limit the reach of laws to their precise terms, expanding the court’s power over Congress.”

Srinivas Rao writes about ‘The Power of Creative Cross Training: How Experimentation Creates Possibility’.

Although he is describing the careers of creative professionals, his suggestions to immerse  yourself in tangential activities to broaden your thinking and portfolio, has broad application across career disciplines.

“For most creative professionals, we have a tendency to live within the limitations of our labels: copywriter, web designer, filmmaker, illustrator, and author. Those are the things we do and we get paid for.

The point of creative cross training is to immerse yourself for a short period of time in an art form that is not your primary one. For a writer that could mean designing or drawing something. For a visual artist, that could mean learning to write code.”

An entrepreneur doesn’t have the luxury of labels, and must continually cross train to develop a suite of skills in marketing, finance, customer relations and communication. If you have the mindset of an entrepreneur, creative cross training will become your mandatory daily ritual to stay competitive irrespective of profession.

Creative cross training allows you to take ownership of your career and be prepared for changes @work. Paul Sullivan explored the risks for folks who have ‘jumped ship’, leaving  a stable career to pursue a passion.

“…a Gallup Poll in October found that when American workers make a career change, they almost always do so by leaving their employer instead of taking a new job within the company. Some 93 percent said they took a new role elsewhere. The survey found this was true whether the job change occurred 30 years ago or within the last year.

…consider the tale of DeJuan Stroud, a former Wall Street broker and compliance officer…he gave up his well-paid job and put their modest savings at risk to turn a hobby — floral design, which he had learned from his grandmother growing up in Alabama — into a business.

Now, two decades later, Mr. Stroud is one of the most sought-after floral and event designers in New York City.

His is a success story. But there are big risks in following a similar path — giving up a regular salary and losing your savings for one; throwing away the security of a career is another. For those who go forward, the payoff may be more psychic than monetary, and they need to feel comfortable that the chance of a more modest lifestyle is worth it.”

For some reason, its become ok in our society to devalue the folks who inspire, encourage and transfer knowledge to each generation. Well, it’s not ok and David Denby urges us to ‘Stop Humiliating Teachers’.

“A necessary commonplace: Almost everyone we know has been turned around, or at least seriously shaken, by a teacher—in college, maybe, but often in high school, often by a man or a woman who drove home a point or two about physics, literature, or ethics, and looked at us sternly and said, in effect, You could be more than what you are. At their best, teachers are everyday gods, standing at the entryway to the world. If they are fair and good, they are possibly the most morally impressive adults that their students will ever know. For a while, they are the law, they are knowledge, they are justice.

Our view of American public education in general has been warped by our knowledge of these failing kids in inner-city and rural schools. In particular, the system as a whole has been described by “reformers” as approaching breakdown. But this is nonsense. There are actually many good schools in the United States—in cities, in suburbs, in rural areas. Pathologizing the system as a whole, reformers insist on drastic reorganization, on drastic methods of teacher accountability. In the past dozen or so years, we’ve seen the efforts, often led by billionaires and hedge-fund managers and supported by elected officials, to infuse K-12 education with models and methods derived from the business world—for instance, the drive to privatize education as much as possible with charter schools, which receive public money but are independently run and often financed by entrepreneurs. This drive is accompanied by a stream of venom aimed at unions, as if they were the problem in American education. (Most charter schools hire non-union teachers.) In the real world, however, highly unionized areas of the country, such as the Northeast, produce students with scores higher than the national average in standardized tests; the Deep South, where union teachers are more scarce, produces scores that are lower. So unions alone can hardly be the problem.”

Many recent college graduates, and career changers consider teaching as a career. In reality, our society values the profession at 70% of what peers in other professions earn.  Teachers may not be motivated by money, but that doesn’t allow the rest of us to abdicate our responsibility. It’s time to place a higher premium on those who significantly influence our future.

Two additional articles of interest to consider this week@work:

‘Women in Company Leadership Tied to Stronger Profits, Study Says’ by Daniel Victor “Having women in the highest corporate offices is correlated with increased profitability, according to a new study of nearly 22,000 publicly traded companies in 91 countries.”

‘Why do my co-workers keep confusing me with other people? Because I’m Asian.’ by Iris Kuo   “All my life I’ve been mistaken for other people of my race. It’s a degrading and thoughtless error that boils away my identity and simplifies me as one thing: “that Asian.”

 

 

The week@work – The Fed raises rates, Martin Shkreli is arrested, ‘The Big Short’ premieres and so does a small film about a galaxy far, far away

It’s that time of year when the world of finance takes center stage, only to be bested by the creativity of those who work in Hollywood. This week@work the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark rate, pharmaceutical executive, Martin Shkreli was arrested on securities fraud and the 2008 financial crisis originally chronicled by Michael Lewis, made its way onto the big screen in ‘The Big Short’. And that small movie from Disney? ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ set new records with a $238 million weekend opening.

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported on the decision by the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates for the first time in seven years.

“The Fed’s decision today reflects our confidence in the U.S. economy,” Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said Wednesday in a press conference after a two-day policy meeting. “We believe we have seen substantial improvement in labor market conditions and while things may be uneven across regions of the country, and different industrial sectors, we see an economy that is on a path of sustainable improvement.

New projections show officials expect the fed-funds rate to creep up to 1.375% by the end of 2016, according to the median projection of 17 officials, to 2.375% by the end of 2017 and 3.25% in three years. That implies four quarter-percentage-point interest rate increases next year, four the next and three or four the following. It depends on whether the Fed’s forecasts for the economy—which have frequently been wrong in this expansion—hold up.”

The Fed rate increase was one of the ‘Four Charts That Defined the World in 2015’.

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Vauhini Vara writing in The New Yorker listed the other three:

“For the first time, fewer than ten per cent of people in the world were living in extreme poverty.

Facebook took over the world.

Greece’s economy started growing again—and then shrank.”

On Thursday, Bloomberg Business noted the arrest of Martin Shkreli, the infamous pharmaceutical head, and everyone’s leading candidate for this year’s Scrooge. You may remember Shkreli from his multiple media appearances after raising the price of the drug Daraprim from $13.50 a pill to $750. Apparently he not only violated the golden rule, but also an unspoken pact among those in financial services, not to draw attention to themselves or their activities.

“While the 32-year-old has earned a rare level of infamy for his brazenness in business and his personal life, what he was charged with had nothing to do with skyrocketing drug prices. He is accused of repeatedly losing money for investors and lying to them about it, illegally taking assets from one of his companies to pay off debtors in another.

“Shkreli essentially ran his company like a Ponzi scheme where he used each subsequent company to pay off defrauded investors from the prior company,” Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said at a press conference.”

He was released on bail on Friday and did what we would all do after being publicly shamed, began live streaming, chatting with ‘supporters’.

“Which brings me to a new movie the enemies of financial regulation really, really don’t want you to see.” writes nobel prize winner, Paul Krugman in The New York Times.

“But you don’t want me to play film critic; you want to know whether the movie (The Big Short) got the underlying economic, financial and political story right. And the answer is yes, in all the ways that matter.

I could quibble over a few points: The group of people who recognized that we were experiencing the mother of all housing bubbles, and that this posed big dangers to the real economy, was bigger than the film might lead you to believe. It even included a few (cough) mainstream economists. But it is true that many influential, seemingly authoritative players, from Alan Greenspan on down, insisted not only that there was no bubble but that no bubble was even possible.

And the bubble whose existence they denied really was inflated largely via opaque financial schemes that in many cases amounted to outright fraud — and it is an outrage that basically nobody ended up being punished for those sins aside from innocent bystanders, namely the millions of workers who lost their jobs and the millions of families that lost their homes.”

Need a holiday escape from everyday villains and economic reality? The folks at the ‘house the mouse built’ offer a 135 minute visit to an alternate universe.

“Chewie, we’re home” teases the plot in the trailer for the new Star Wars movie. This week the cast of the seventh installment of the intergalactic saga walked the red carpet, four blocks long, at the Hollywood premiere.

Variety covered the opening weekend box office results.

“Director J.J. Abrams’ nostalgic take on the series of space operas George Lucas created four decades ago was a hit with critics and fans, earning strong reviews and an A CinemaScore. Its opening soared past the previous high-water mark of $208.8 million established last summer by “Jurassic World.” It more than doubles “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’s” December record debut of $84.6 million.

Globally, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” scored the second-biggest opening in history, earning $517 million worldwide, behind only “Jurassic World’s” $525 million bow. Unlike “Jurassic World,” the seventh film in the “Star Wars” franchise did not have the benefit of showing in China on its inaugural weekend. It opens there on Jan. 9.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The week@work – End of the fossil fuel era, founders, introverts, college athletes and the one business book to read

The generational disruption continues. This week@work world leaders committed to cut greenhouse gases, ensuring the environment for future generations. MTV labeled the next of these generations ‘the founders’. Silicon Valley is quickly becoming the vortex for college consulting, making sure these ‘founders’ gain admission to the best universities. And a group of Clemson alumni have come up with a creative alternative to legally compensate college athletes via crowdfunding.

For introverts, there were hints for employers to maximize success. And if you only read one business book this year, the experts recommend ‘Rise of the Robots’ by Martin Ford.

The global story this week was reported from Paris by The Guardian.

“After 20 years of fraught meetings, including the past two weeks spent in an exhibition hall on the outskirts of Paris, negotiators from nearly 200 countries signed on to a legal agreement on Saturday evening that set ambitious goals to limit temperature rises and to hold governments to account for reaching those targets.

Government and business leaders said the agreement, which set a new goal to reach net zero emissions in the second half of the century, sent a powerful signal to global markets, hastening the transition away from fossil fuels and to a clean energy economy.”

In national news, The Atlantic’s David Sims summarized the MTV survey that resulted in a name for the children of the new millennium.

“The name “The Founders” comes from the kids themselves, according to MTV’s survey of more than 1,000 respondents born after the year 2000. America is still reckoning with Millennials (loosely classified as those born from the mid-1980s to the late-’90s) one thinkpiece at a time, but according to this survey, their fate is already sealed. As the children of indulgent baby boomers, Millennials are classified as “dreamers” who live to disrupt and challenge established norms. The Founders, by contrast, are “pragmatists” who will navigate a tougher world defined by 9/11, the financial crisis, and gender fluidity. Previous generations had to worry about getting into college and finding a job, but the next one is tasked with cleaning up their mess.”

Nathan Heller, writing in The New Yorker imagined how today’s fourteen year olds will impact the economy.

“When the teen-agers call themselves founders, they are not thinking of Roger Sherman or, for that matter, of Henry Ford. They are allying themselves with West Coast startup culture—a milieu that regards inventive business-building as the ultimate creative and constructive act…In embracing “founders,” it affirms the idea that creativity is essential—and performed through business enterprise.

“If the founders hold to their founding, it is not hard to extrapolate the economic model that their interests will support. A founder-friendly society is deregulated, privatized, and philanthropic in its best intent. (See ur-founder Mark Zuckerberg’s recent tax-incentivized pledge.) “Founders,” whose popularity as a Silicon Valley concept followed the 2009 recession, has become a stand-in for more charged, and less heroic-sounding words, such as “small-business owner,” “C.E.O.,” and “boss.” To found is not to manage; it’s to dream and to design. This is the new model for innovative business, scrupulously cleansed of the dank trappings of corporate industry. It’s business all the same, though, and it aims for growth.”

If you are working in the underpaid and undervalued world of college admissions, you have a future in the lucrative business of college consulting. Georgia Perry reported on the growing industry, fueled by parental anxiety, that helps high school students find summer internships, prepare applications and refine essays.

“Private college-admissions consulting is a rapidly growing industry across the U.S. According to the Independent Educational Consultants Association, the number of independent admissions consultants in the U.S. has grown from 2,000 to nearly 5,000 in recent years. In a nationwide study, the marketing firm Lipman Hearne found that of students who scored in the 70th percentile or higher on the SAT, 26 percent had hired a professional consultant to help with their college search. The San Francisco Bay Area has a higher concentration per capita of independent college-admissions consultants than “most cities,” says IECA communications manager Sarah Brachman, though the association doesn’t have specific numbers. The IECA’s most recent report found that nationally, $400 million was spent on college consultants in 2012. Hourly rates in the Bay Area can be as high as $400 an hour, and comprehensive packages with regular meetings throughout high school can add up to several thousand dollars.”

How student-athletes are compensated continues to be a topic in legal proceedings, but this week a group of Clemson folks have come up with an innovative approach that just might work and meet NCAA requirements. Ben Strauss provided the details in his article ‘If Colleges Can’t Pay Athletes, Maybe Fans Can, Group Says’.

“The answer to the riddle of putting money in the hands of amateur student-athletes, who according to the N.C.A.A. cannot be paid, is crowdfunding, said Rob Morgan, a Clemson business school graduate and an anesthesiologist based in Greenville, S.C. His new website, UBooster, started on Friday with the goal of soliciting payments for high school recruits from fans, and delivering the money to the athletes after their college careers end.

“We think this is the direction college sports is headed,” said Morgan, who has been helped in his venture by a former Clemson football player and the interim dean of the university’s business school. “At some point, there is going to be an opportunity for players to make money, and here’s how we can be a part of it.”

“The business model is simple. Fans pledge money to individual recruits, and can leave public notes on the site urging them to attend their favorite college. Morgan said all high school recruits — men and women in every sport from Division I to Division III — would be eligible, though it would seem obvious that most of the interest and money would be directed at top-flight football and basketball prospects. The accounts lock, and no more money can be pledged to players once they formally commit to a college. UBooster will then hold the money in a trust before turning it over to the athletes after their college careers.”

Quiet Revolution founder Susan Cain is an advocate for the introvert in all facets of life. And it’s her website’s section on work that provides insight into fostering career success. This week, Liz Fosslien and Mollie West offered an ‘Illustrated Guide to Introverts in a Start-Up’.

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“Famous introvert entrepreneurs include Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Marissa Mayer, and Mark Zuckerberg.

When we imagine our ideal workplace, it looks more like a library full of quiet rooms and isolated carrels than the ball-pit and bullpen situation start-ups are currently obsessed with. As introverts, we may be outnumbered by extroverts at start-ups. According to Laney, “The introvert is pressured daily, almost from the moment of awakening, to respond and conform to the outer world.” This need to conform can be tiring. But we promise, with just a few tweaks in the workplace, you could make us very happy.”

Finally, if there is only one business book you will read this year… and the clock is ticking…the experts recommend ‘Rise of the Robots’ by Martin Ford. Jessica Stillman reported:

“According to the Financial Times and consultancy McKinsey, there’s at least one title even the busiest business owners shouldn’t miss. They recently crowned Rise of the Robots by entrepreneur Martin Ford the very best business book of the year.

Hugely topical, the book discusses the much debated idea that advances in automation will soon radically affect the labor market. “The book reflects growing anxiety in some quarters about the possible negative impact of automation on jobs, from manufacturing to professional services,” explains the FT write-up of the award. This economic reshuffle may require “a fundamental restructuring of our economic rules,” according to Ford, who proposes a guaranteed minimum basic income as one possible remedy.”

Enjoy your week@work… the founders and robots are coming…

 

 

 

The week@work – unlimited vacation, secrets of the most productive and baseball #LGM

This week@work continues the discussion of perks to attract talent, shares secrets of the most productive people and celebrates the talents of those who go to work in baseball.

On Monday evening the NBC Nightly News broadcast a story reported by Tom Costello on the new ‘discretionary time off’ policy being introduced to the 8,700 employees at LinkedIn. With no vacation limits, employees arrange time off with their managers. (What could go wrong?) For the company, with no designated vacation days, there is no need to compensate for unused vacation. With the average American worker taking only half of their allocated time away, it’s a low risk, and financially beneficial proposition for employers.

Joe Lazauskas echoed a similar theme in his Fast Company article, ‘Why More Tech Companies are Rethinking Their Perks’. He writes about a number of experiments with equity, time off and a new way to work.

“Over the past few years, some startups have begun to rethink some of the perks with which they’ve customarily attracted top talent. In their place, a new class of web 3.0 startups are beginning to embrace truly first-rate benefits, which might be giving them a leg up in a viciously competitive tech arena.

Equity that’s truly equitable… in 2013, Kik changed its policy so employees could hold onto their stock options even after they leave. In doing so, it started a small trend: Pinterest followed suit the next year to much fanfare, giving employees seven years to exercise their options. “If other companies follow suit,” wrote Business Insider, “this could change the entire landscape for startups, making it easier for them to attract and retain employees.”

One of the most compelling arguments for a new way of working came from Facebook and Asana cofounder Dustin Moskovitz, in the form of a recent Medium post. Ever since the days of Henry Ford, he noted, profit-maximizing research has backed up the notion that you get more out of employees when they’re better rested and happy.

“The research is clear: beyond 40–50 hours per week, the marginal returns from additional work decrease rapidly and quickly become negative,” Moskovitz wrote.”

Which brings us to ‘Secrets from 11 of the Most Productive People from Oprah to Aziz Ansari’. Comedian Ansari busts the productivity myth:

“While we were writing [Master of None], we would work until 6 or 7 p.m., and then we’d be done. There are other writers’ rooms where people spend nights in the office. I can’t imagine you’re doing your best work then. You’ve got to be a person and do other stuff, or you’re not going to be inspired to write.”

The big story this week@work was about the folks who play baseball. With post-season play underway, we are down to four teams competing to play in the world series. It’s an exciting time to be a NY Mets fan. And there is no better writer to convey the story of baseball than The New Yorker’s Roger Angell.

“Well, yes! Well, whew. The Mets’ breathless, division-grabbing, 3–2 win over the Dodgers last night never felt certain, and provided little fun for old at-homies like me until the last two or three outs. But check that: there was that sudden snicker in the top of the fourth inning, a little embarrassment for the moneyed, resident Dodgers, when Mets second baseman Dan Murphy, aboard again after another hit, moved along to second on a walk to Lucas Duda and, finding no Dodgers anywhere near that corner, took third as well. Oop. Then he scored on a sac fly by Travis d’Arnaud, tying the game at 2–2. The gratis extra base felt like a social error, spilled claret on the tablecloth, but in retrospect turned out to to be the pivot, the turning point of this strange, strained game.”

If you have aspirations to be a sportswriter, read everything Mr. Angell has written. And, read William Powell’s amazing profile of a sportswriter in St. Louis Magazine, ‘The Big Comeback of Benjamin Hochman.

It’s a career/life story of an eight year old St. Louis Cardinals fan who followed his dream to be a sportswriter and after stints in New Orleans and Denver, returns to his hometown to write for the Post-Dispatch.

“Benjamin pens his first column for the Post-Dispatch on September 3. We meet the next morning. The first thing I want to know is, why? He was living in Denver, one of America’s fastest-growing cities. There were four major sports teams and mountains and Peyton Manning. He gave it up to come to St. Louis, with three major sports teams, possibly soon to be two. We have a shrinking population and a landfill fire that’s burning toward a pile of radioactive waste and #Ferguson.

His response, about the Cardinals’ being perennial contenders and the stadium drama’s being interesting and so on, doesn’t answer the question. But when I walk into his living room, I instantly understand. We unpack box after box of his Cardinals memorabilia, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are posters of Post-Dispatch front pages from the Cardinals’ run in 2011, with Yadier Molina going crazy in every photo. He has balls signed by Jim Edmonds and Yogi Berra, a whole heap of replica rings. We find a copy of the Celebration! album he listened to as a kid and copy after copy of old issues of the newspaper, which Benjamin collects.

That leads me to my next question: Given his childhood, can he be an objective journalist, or will he be a fan in the press box? He even knows the Kroenkes, having managed the Mizzou basketball team when Josh was a member. This time, Benjamin has an answer ready. “I can’t be a fanboy. I have to be the guy who keeps the team accountable,” he says. “I will use my knowledge and my passion for St. Louis to enhance my writing.”

And for those of you who just don’t get baseball –

“This past summer, he created the Nine Innings project, writing nine love letters to baseball. For one, he found kids playing in the streets, just like in the good old days. For another, he tried to track down a specific stadium seat that had been hit by a famous minor league home run. For the final installment, he wrote about the bond that baseball creates in families. He wrote about his dad listening to the World Series in science class, and about a soldier serving overseas who stayed in touch with his parents by following the Rockies. It’s sure to win awards.”

The ‘gig economy’ and ‘the new romantics’

The ground is shifting the foundations of our world@work. New economic models are emerging of mosaic careers where freelancing is the predominant driver of income. In order to flourish workers will have to reimagine their life@work and add skills previously delivered through full time employers. This is the conversation that should be taking place in corporate boardrooms, university classrooms, state legislatures and presidential debates.

Don’t believe me? How did you get to work? Uber? Where did you stay on vacation? Airbnb?

The initial repercussions of the new world@work are being felt in the halls of justice as folks try to fit old definitions of work and workers into new, entrepreneurial business models.

Sarah Kessler writing for Fast Company summarized the dilemma.

“What’s at stake with these lawsuits and protests? The very definition of “employee” in a tech-enabled, service-driven 21st century American economy. Gig economy companies do not own cars, hotels, or even their workers’ cleaning supplies. What they own is a marketplace with two sides. On one side are people who need a job done—a ride to the airport, a clean house, a lunchtime delivery. On the other are people who are willing to do that job. If Uber and other companies are going to be as big as some claim, a new deal has to be brokered, one that squares the legal rules governing work with new products and services. What benefits can you expect from a quasi-employer? What does it mean to be both independent and tethered to an app-based company? The social contract between gig economy workers and employers is broken. Who will fix it, and how, will determine the fate of thousands of workers and hundreds of millions of dollars.”

James Surowiecki writing in The New Yorker described just how difficult it is to define the difference between an employee and an independent contractor.

“We hear a lot these days about the gig economy, but the issue of whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor has been the subject of intense legal battles for decades. The distinction can be surprisingly hard to make. The I.R.S. has a list of twenty factors that it takes into account, but other federal agencies have different criteria, as do most states. The fundamental issue is usually whether an employer has “control” over the work being done, but defining control isn’t always easy.”

This is where it begins in the U.S., in the court system. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs will continue to connect clients with products and hire workers who will supplement their income performing a variety of part-time professional services. Eventually the laws will catch up with the workplace reality. But in the interim, universities have to decipher the emerging skill set and prepare the next generation of workers for success.

Joseph Aoun, President of Northeastern University in Boston conducted an informal survey of the university community, tweeting the question, “What skills will graduates need for success in the gig economy?”

“…we can see five skills that will be invaluable for thriving in the gig economy:

Generativity: How to create something unique, be it a product, a service, or an idea. E.g., coming up with the idea for a widget.

Entrepreneurship: How to spot an opportunity and act on it effectively. Discovering a market for widgets.

Originality: How to view an existing subject through an unexpected lens. Realizing that the widget can be made more sustainably from recycled water bottles.

Interdisciplinary thought: How to bridge concepts from different fields to form new ideas. Combining engineering and design so that the widget is not only functional, but beautiful.

Dealing with ambiguity: How to confidently address a problem with no clear solution, often by using a blend of experience, intuition, and grasp of human nature. Faced with plunging stock prices, reinventing the company as a widget-sharing app.”

The ‘new gig workers’ will also need a basic understanding of business law and finance. Arun Sundararajan writing in The Guardian assesses the micro and macro implications of the new model.

“There’s certainly something empowering about being your own boss. With the right mindset, you can achieve a better work-life balance. But there’s also something empowering about a steady pay cheque, fixed work hours and company-provided benefits. It’s harder to plan your life longer term when you don’t know how much money you’re going to be making next year.”

In many countries, key slices of the social safety net are tied to full-time employment with a company or the government. Although the broader socioeconomic effects of the gig economy are as yet unclear, it is clear we must rethink the provision of our safety net, decoupling it from salaried jobs and making it more readily available to independent workers.”

Fundamentally, the new ‘gig worker’ will focus on human interaction vs. transactional activities. We are back to the core curriculum of a liberal arts education. The lawyers, politicians and business folk will figure out the structure and protections. The humanists will find job security in the ‘gig economy’.

David Brooks writing in The New York Times imagines the new world@work.

“What are the activities that we humans, driven by our deepest nature or by the realities of daily life, will simply insist be performed by other humans?”

“Secure workers will combine technical knowledge with social awareness — the sort of thing you get from your genes, from growing up in a certain sort of family and by widening your repertoire of emotions through reflection, literature and a capacity for intimacy.”

“I could imagine a time when young thinkers discard the strictures of the academic professionalism and try to revive the model of the intellectual as secular sage. I could see other young people tiring of résumé-building do-goodism and trying to live more radically for the poor. The romantic tries as much as possible to ground his or her life in purer love that transforms — making him or her more inspired, creative and dedicated, and therefore better able to live as a modern instantiation of some ideal.”

Gig learning is lifelong learning. We will need leaders in both education and business who will welcome the feedback of their constituencies and be nimble in their response to a world@work that is driven by human interaction in the relational and supported by technology in the transactional.