The week@work – “and the winner is…”, transition@the Met, stress@work, and ambition

The week@work started with ‘the mistake’ at the end of the Oscars ceremony, and continued with a visible transition at the top of the most prestigious U.S. art museum. On the job ‘burn-out’ continues to take a toll on all @work, and may explain the recent Uber executive’s meltdown. And, a leading fashion designer is launching a campaign to ’embrace ambition’.

When we make a mistake @work, we typically don’t have an audience 32.9 million folks watching. But that’s what happened Sunday evening when the wrong envelope led to an ‘epic fail’ in the announcement of Best Picture winner. The New York Times film critics shared their reactions.

“…in its own way, last night’s spectacle — so relatively smooth, until all of a sudden it was anything but — represents a Hollywood watershed or, at least, like the original “Bonnie and Clyde,” the arrival of a new generation. The envelope mix-up was painful, but it brought to the stage two directors in their 30s with five features between them and reminded the audience that Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins are not enemies.  A.O. Scott

“Honestly, I don’t know. But something happened that seemed to simultaneously tell us who we were, are, believe ourselves to be. This is, what, the fourth time since November that the country has gathered for an evening of live television, only to be part of a rug-yanking ceremony. After Sunday night, the presidential election, the Super Bowl and, to a different but related extent, the Grammys, I’ve officially come down with outcome-oriented post-traumatic stress disorder — Ooptsd, as in upside my head.”  Wesley Morris

And from Hollywood, where the trade publication Variety’s cover seemed to mirror the events, Claudia Eller, co-editor in chief provided context for the ‘morning after’ cover.

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“The high stakes and cutthroat tactics enlisted during Hollywood’s annual award season have long rivaled those of hard-fought political campaigns. But this year’s race showed the entertainment community at its absolute best. This was not a case of winner-take-all, but rather — as our cover story hopefully and joyfully exemplifies — proof that contenders share similar dreams, struggles, and frailties, and in fact can show respect and a generosity of spirit toward one another, whether they win or lose.”

On Wednesday morning I received this email from Thomas P. Cambell, Director and C.E.O. of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“I write to share the news that I have decided to step down from my role as Director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is not an easy choice to step away, especially at such a transitional moment. That said, the Museum’s current vitality is what makes it the right moment to do so. For the next stage of my career I look forward to new challenges beyond The Met, always in service of art, scholarship, and understanding.”

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What now? From Margaret Lyons on Twitter, “Please, someone: Set a prestige drama among the employees of a world-class museum.”

Maybe the Met could use a ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ treatment. Are you listening Jeff Bezos?

Holland Carter offered ‘How to Fix the Met: Connect Art to Life’

“What I can talk about is art, and how a museum can make people care about it. If historical art is now a hard sell, and it is, learn to sell it hard. That means, among other things, start telling the truth about it: about who made objects, and how they work in the world, and how they got to the museum, and what they mean, what values they advertise, good and bad. Go for truth (which, like the telling of history, is always changing), and connect art to life. Mix things up: periods, functions, cultures. (You can always unmix them.) Let audiences see that old is always new, if viewed through knowledge.

To present art this way — to pitch it, advocate it, make it snap to life — is to rethink the basic dynamic of a museum, turn it from passive to active, from archival to interactive, while letting it be all of these. This is the work of curators, and the Met has some fantastic ones. But to do their job boldly and radically, they need the attentive, encouraging permission of an alert director, probably meaning one who isn’t also saddled with being the company’s chief accountant.”

Rachel Feintzeig asked ‘Feeling Burned Out at Work? Join the Club.’

“Stress and anxiety are cited in 70% of the calls placed to phone-counseling lines at Workplace Options, a provider of employee-assistance programs; in 2014, 50% of callers complained of those feelings. Total calls to those counseling lines reached 42,500 last month, an 18% increase from 2016’s average.

Gallup’s most recent large-scale survey about burnout in the U.S., conducted in 2012, found that more than 40% of workers were so stressed at work they felt burned out. A more recent survey of German workers, conducted in 2015, found that nearly a quarter felt burned out.

Workers aren’t “assertive about their boundaries because they fear for their jobs,” said Alden Cass, a Manhattan-based clinical psychologist who treats patients with high-stress jobs. Burnout begins when a worker feels overwhelmed for a sustained period of time, then apathetic and ultimately numb, he said.”

Not sure if Travis Kalanick of Uber is suffering from burn-out, but last week’s viral video arguing with one of his employees was the culmination of a series of PR nightmares for the executive. Adrienne LaFrance reported ‘As Uber Melts down, Its CEO Says He ‘Must Fundamentally Change’.

“It took eight years and at least as many back-to-back-to-back-to-back controversies to break Travis Kalanick.

After a stunning month of scandals at Uber, Kalanick, its founder and CEO, sent an emotional and uncharacteristically apologetic memo to his employees Tuesday night. “This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help,” Kalanick wrote. “And I intend to get it.”

The final story this week@work comes from the fashion pages and reporter Jacob Bernstein who asks ‘When Did ‘Ambition’ Become A Dirty Word? to introduce the story of designer Tory Burch and the most recent effort of her foundation.

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“There is nothing particularly fiery about Tory Burch…the issue of ambition, and the way it is used to defame women, is nevertheless personal to her.

In 2009, Ms. Burch started the Tory Burch Foundation and, through a partnership with Bank of America, saw it grow to an organization that ultimately gave more than $25 million to female entrepreneurs around the world.

Many of the recipients of these grants had experienced the same kind of sexism she faced. They were called too hungry, too intent on power, too ambitious — code words used in place of the more vulgar expressions that men (and sometimes women, too) used when they were out of earshot.

“There was a harmful double standard,” she said.”

The global campaign, ‘Embrace Ambition’ launches with a PSA in conjunction with International Women’s Day.

This week@work I encourage your ambition, and wish you a speedy recovery from “Ooptsd”, NYT film critic Wesley Morris’ appropriately new acronym for our times – “outcome-oriented post-traumatic stress disorder”.

 

 

 

 

The week@work – ‘Walden, a game’, Uber’s culture, pollution & the stock market, and the ‘folly’ of abolishing the N.E.A.

This week@work the designers of a new video game would like us to take a walk in the woods, a former Uber engineer authored a blog post that opened a window on corporate culture, an economics professor demonstrated the link between air pollution and stock market fluctuations, and the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art warned against cutting funds to the National Endowment for the Arts.

When we talk about work/life balance we typically think about disconnecting from technology, not using it as a portal for relaxation. Robin Pogrebin‘s article ‘In Walden Video Game, the Object is Stillness’ offers an example of a seemingly contrarian application.

“…the new video game, based on Thoreau’s 19th-century retreat in Massachusetts, will urge players to collect arrowheads, cast their fishing poles into a tranquil pond, buy penny candies and perhaps even jot notes in a journal — all while listening to music, nature sounds and excerpts from the author’s meditations.

While the game is all about simplicity, it has actually been in development for nearly a decade. The lead designer, Tracy J. Fullerton, the director of the Game Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, came up with the idea as a way to reinforce our connection to the natural world and to challenge our hurried culture.

“Games are kinds of rehearsals,” Ms. Fullerton said in an interview. “It might give you pause in your real life: Maybe instead of sitting on my cellphone, rapidly switching between screens, I should just go for a walk.”

“Maybe we don’t all have the chance to go to the woods,” Ms. Fullerton added. “But perhaps we can go to this virtual woods and think about the pace of life when we come back to our own world. Maybe it will have an influence — to have considered the pace of Walden.”

Uber has a new logo and a new ranking as #3 on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies. “Uber’s most valuable asset is its data, which has been an important part of Uber’s business since it first launched.” Which is why we should not be surprised if the company is having a bit of a dysfunctional workplace moment.

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Christina Cauterucci investigated ‘The Sexism Described In Uber Employee’s Report Is Why Women Leave Tech – Or Don’t Enter At All’.

“Uber is staging a major PR defense for the second time in recent weeks after a former employee published a detailed account of persistent sexual harassment and discrimination she allegedly faced while working as an engineer at the company. Susan Fowler, who left the company in December after about a year of employment, claims in her Feb. 19 blog post that her manager sent her sexual chat messages soon after she was hired. When she reported him to human resources, she writes, she was told that it was his “first offense” and that she should switch teams if she didn’t want a negative performance review from him. Fowler later found out that other women had reported witnessing inappropriate behavior from this same man, and each were told that it was his “first offense” and not a big enough deal to require action.

In her blog post, Fowler accuses a manager of changing her performance scores after a stellar review to keep her from getting a transfer to another team, because it reflected well on the manager to prove he could retain female engineers on his team. This is a particularly outrageous deed in an account full of outrageous deeds. Instead of enforcing a zero-tolerance sexual-harassment policy or asking female employees how management could better support them, Uber has allegedly moved to improve its substandard track record on gender by narrowing opportunities for women on staff and sweeping harassment allegations under the floor mat. Fowler writes that she made repeated, documented human resources complaints about the unfair treatment she endured, but she was gaslighted by an HR representative who told her the emails she sent never happened and that men are better suited for certain jobs than women. It took a statement on a public blog to get any action from company leadership.”

The folks who work in climate science have been under fire in recent weeks. The photo below is a reminder of what the New York City skyline looked like 44 years ago, before environmental protections were enacted.

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For those not yet convinced of global warming, maybe a direct financial consequence would be more persuasive. Scott Berinato found ‘Air Pollution Brings Down the Stock Market’.

“When University of Ottawa economics professor Anthony Heyes and his colleagues compared daily data from the S&P 500 index with daily air-quality data from an EPA sensor close to Wall Street, they found a connection between higher pollution and lower stock performance. Their conclusion: Air pollution brings down the stock market.

The effect was strong. Every time air quality decreased by one standard deviation, we saw a 12% reduction in stock returns. Or to put it in other terms, if you ordered 100 trading days in New York from the cleanest-air day to the dirtiest-air day, the S&P 500 performance would be 15% worse on the 75th cleanest day than it was on the 25th cleanest day. We also replicated this analysis using data from the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, and saw the same effect.”

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Finally, this story is not only for those who work in the arts, but for all of us whose curiosity and creativity were sparked by a play, music or a visit to a museum. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s director, Thomas P. Campbell warns against ‘The Folly of Abolishing the N.E.A.’

“All too often, art is seen as a “soft” subject, the first thing to be cut, whether by local school boards or the federal government, when money is tight. But looked at purely in dollars, it is a false saving. The N.E.A.’s budget is comparatively minuscule — $148 million last year, or 0.004 percent of the total federal budget — while the arts sector it supports employs millions of Americans and generates billions each year in revenue and tax dollars.

The United States has no ministry of culture. In this vacuum, the N.E.A., founded in 1965, serves three critical functions: It promotes the arts; it distributes and stimulates funding; and it administers a program that minimizes the costs of insuring arts exhibitions through indemnity agreements backed by the government. This last, perhaps least-known responsibility, is crucial. This fall, the Met will host a major exhibition on Michelangelo that will bring together masterpieces from across the world. The insurance valuation is a whopping $2.4 billion — not even our museum, the largest art museum in the nation, could come close to paying the premium for such coverage without the federal indemnity the N.E.A. makes possible.

I fear that this current call to abolish the N.E.A. is the beginning of a new assault on artistic activity. Arts and cultural programming challenges, provokes and entertains; it enhances our lives. Eliminating the N.E.A. would in essence eliminate investment by the American government in the curiosity and intelligence of its citizens. As the planet becomes at once smaller and more complex, the public needs a vital arts scene, one that will inspire us to understand who we are and how we got here — and one that will help us to see other countries, like China, not as enemies in a mercenary trade war but as partners in a complicated world.”

This week@work take a break and visit your local museum. Then go home and send an email to your member of congress. Remind them of the importance of “investing in the curiosity and intelligence of its citizens”.

 

Photo credit: Manhattan Skyline, May 1973 – Chester Higgins NARA

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 ‘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.