Shared Reading as a Foundation for Inclusive Democracy

Shared Reading as a Foundation for Inclusive Democracy

This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of John Dewey’s classic book, Democracy and Education. While much has changed in the last century, much has not: his voice continues to inspire us today as we think about the role that adult learning can play in shaping democracy. Dewey’s lesser-known friend and colleague, Jane Addams, provides important practical perspectives as she combined theory and practice in work that shaped the lives of individual people in Chicago and far beyond for many decades.

Dewey and Addams believed that democracy depends on providing opportunities and resources for every person to build his/her own capacity to contribute to the work at hand in their families, in the workplace and in the larger community.

Read More

Culture, Custom and Compromise: Veterans Read and Discuss Achebe

Culture, Custom and Compromise: Veterans Read and Discuss Achebe

On November 1, 2017, we gathered with veterans at the VA Domiciliary in Cleveland, Ohio to discuss Chinua Achebe’s short story, “Dead Men’s Path.” The VA Domiciliary – called the “Dom” – is a residential treatment  facility for veterans. We were thrilled to facilitate a Big Read as the kickoff to our second Books@Work program with this group.

Our executive director began to read aloud and the room fell silent after a few last murmurs. The rustling of paper, creaking of chairs, the scratch of Styrofoam coffee cups, and Ann’s clear voice filled the room of over 60 veterans – of all ages – listening intently. As she arrived at the end of the first page, I heard the sweet swoosh of pages turning in unison and knew this session would be special.

Read More

The Power of Unexpected Questions

The Power of Unexpected Questions

Three unrelated experiences came together in the last few weeks that led me to revisit an idea that has stayed in the back of my mind for quite some time: MIT Professor Edgar Schein’s notion of “humble inquiry,” which Schein defines as “the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, or building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.”

Read More

Crafting the Common Language: Belonging and Inclusion in Workplace Culture

Crafting the Common Language: Belonging and Inclusion in Workplace Culture

When I joined McKinsey & Company some time ago, my first day coincided with an office conference on innovation and business in the new economy, the very area in which I was hired to contribute. How fortuitous! But to say that I understood about half of what people were saying is ambitious; truthfully, despite my years as a corporate lawyer and deep exposure to business and innovation, McKinsey spoke a language I had simply never heard.  

Thankfully, I am a quick study, and over the years I became fluent in that language – and long after leaving the firm, I confess to still using certain expressions that just work. But more important than the words themselves, I learned two important things: first, that this common language was a phenomenal unifier – part of a shared culture that bound thousands of professionals who rarely spent time in the office and whose work took them to all corners of the globe; and second, they had invented it themselves.

Read More

What the Modern Workplace Can Learn from Leonardo

What the Modern Workplace Can Learn from Leonardo

In a recent Wall Street Journal essay adapted from his new biography of Leonardo da Vinci, author Walter Isaacson explores the life and mind of the ultimate Renaissance Man. How did Leonardo’s ambitious visions become realities? What made him so imaginative and prescient that people still debate his art and craft ball bearings based on his original design? What can we learn from the habits of a creative genius?

Read More

Learning Life History: Revisiting the Past to Build a Better Future

Learning Life History: Revisiting the Past to Build a Better Future

In Learning from Our Lives, Pierre Dominicé suggests that our life history, especially the history of our learning, can be a powerful resource for understanding the future we want to build. Dominicé exhorts educators to encourage adults to explore their educational biography. When adults reflect on their “life journey in learning,” he says, they “become authors of their lives.”

Each of us is a product of our biography. Can we seize on our learning life histories to learn more about ourselves in the present?

Read More

The Beauty Is in the Details: The Prismatic Effect of Literature

The Beauty Is in the Details: The Prismatic Effect of Literature

If a piece of art explores a universal idea, a specific detail often exposes the particular, redirecting a viewer’s emotions to a more personal connection and creating an opportunity for deeper reflection on beauty, love, loss or other ideas. So does the power of detail bring us each closer to an otherwise daunting piece of art.

But the visual arts have not cornered this space. Good literature also has the power to use detail to catapult us back into our own lives, to render personal even the most distant stories.

Read More

Psychological Safety and the Making of a Great Team

Psychological Safety and the Making of a Great Team

We all know the story. It was 1980 at the height of the Cold War. The United States hockey team, in an incredible feat known as the Miracle on Ice, beat the Soviet Union to claim the Olympic gold. For most, the fairytale ends there, the American team victorious.

But on the Soviet team’s flight back to Moscow, another story unfolded. The coach began to insult individual players and dole out unfair blame. A defenseman named Valeri Vasiliev furiously interrupted and, in a brave moment of protest, reprimanded the coach and demanded he take back his comments. The Soviet team went on to become the pre-eminent power in world hockey, virtually unbeatable for the next four years.

So what does this have to do with Books@Work?

Read More

Learning: It’s Not Just What You Know

Learning: It’s Not Just What You Know

In a TED talk that has been viewed almost 50 million times, Kenneth Robinson says that education “goes deep with people” when it taps into their innate desire to learn and grow. We start with creativity and curiosity that motivates our learning – but too often we lose much of our enthusiasm for “education” along the way. I like to think that each of us actually is an expert on learning. We just need to step away from the idea that learning is simply mastering new information and skills and think back to times when we learned things that really mattered to us and the people around us.

But what is learning if it’s not just the acquisition of new knowledge?

Read More

The Best Way to Reveal Essential Truth? Read Fiction!

The Best Way to Reveal Essential Truth? Read Fiction!

Throughout a colorful and productive career, Pablo Picasso exposed form and color, disassembling his subjects and reshaping them in ways that at once obfuscated and illuminated them. In 1923, in a famous written statement, Picasso defended his craft to those who failed to understand his motives and his work: “We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.”  

So how does this truth-revealing “lie” apply to Books@Work?

Read More