Embracing the Interrogative: Vulnerability and the Power of Unanswered Questions

Embracing the Interrogative: Vulnerability and the Power of Unanswered Questions

The interrogative is a dying form – not only of grammatical expression but of life. At a time when efficiency and productivity seem the driving forces of culture, it makes sense that emphasis should lie on the generation of answers rather than the formulation of questions. Answers, after all, mean closure – answers grant one permission to put one thing to rest and move on to the next, and that seems the very definition of progress. Questions, on the other hand, are messy, imprecise things that tend toward the propagation of their own kind, leading ad-infinitum to heaven knows where.

How do we get a group of strangers during a Books@Work session- many of whom do not consider themselves “readers” and for whom being in a room with an English professor evokes unpleasant classroom memories – to embrace their vulnerabilities and enter into an interrogative mindset?

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Weekend Reading: March 2017

Weekend Reading: March 2017

Happy Friday! We’ve scoured the web for thought-provoking articles and essays for you to enjoy over the weekend.

In the Scientific American, the University of Missouri’s Director of the Master of Public Health program Lise Saffran writes on the crucial role of storytelling in searching for truth. When confronted with facts, we often filter out evidence that contradicts our cultural predispositions. But when we hear a subjective story and feel a personal and authentic connection with someone, are we more willing to override our bias?

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Safe Spaces: Books@Work on the Shop Floor

Safe Spaces: Books@Work on the Shop Floor

Imagine yourself on an operating table. It’s a routine procedure, but you have to get it done. You choose the best doctor and the best hospital and you trust the system to deliver perfect care. It’s the last procedure of the day and the – very human – doctor is tired. But you’re comforted by the nurses and other healthcare professionals in the room: the system will protect you.

Or will it?

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The Social Side of Workplace Wellness

The Social Side of Workplace Wellness

Wellness initiatives are on the rise in the American workplace: according to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), 72 percent of U.S. employers from 2010 to 2015 purchased services to address employees’ health risks and promote healthy lifestyle choices. It’s more and more common for companies to offer gym membership reimbursements or standing work desks – anything to keep employees healthy, well and ready to work.

And yet the many programs that encourage employees to quit smoking, to lose weight, or to get their flu shot all share a pretty glaring blind spot.

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It’s About Time: Speeding Up By Slowing Down

It’s About Time: Speeding Up By Slowing Down

Every day at work, at home, at leisure, hardly an hour goes by without a comment or two about time: “I don’t have time to get everything done” or “I’d love to do that but I am busy then” – or less frequently, “I was so absorbed that time just flew by.” Time has become the ultimate scarce resource; and we use financial words to describe it. We budget time, invest time, allocate time and waste time. And like money, we always seem to wish we had more of it.

So what happens when we take time out of the work day to slow down, read and share ideas with colleagues?

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Reading Mindfully: James Joyce’s “Eveline”

Reading Mindfully: James Joyce’s “Eveline”

James Joyce is one of the most celebrated and influential writers of the 20th century. Born in 1882 in Dublin, his novels are known for their stream-of-consciousness prose and experimental style. His early short story volume Dubliners is a more straightforward read. Published in 1914, the powerful collection depicts Irish middle class life through the eyes of Dublin’s residents, including young Eveline Hill. His short story “Eveline” is a musing on home and family. How does our definition of home evolve throughout our lives?

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A Special Lens: Science Fiction at Work

A Special Lens: Science Fiction at Work

We recently had the chance to speak with Professor Robin Zebrowski, an Associate Professor of Cognitive Science at Beloit College. Among other things, she studies artificial intelligence and embodiment. Robin recently read and discussed science fiction as the facilitator of a Books@Work session with a group of engineers. We asked her to share her experience: What in particular does science fiction bring to discussions in the workplace?

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Mirrors and Windows: Experience, Memory and Literature

Mirrors and Windows: Experience, Memory and Literature

Reflecting on the purpose of her writing, the Poet Laureate for Young People, Jacqueline Woodson, asserts an evocative mission: “to write stories that have been historically absent in this country’s body of literature, to create mirrors for the people who so rarely see themselves inside contemporary fiction, and windows for those who think we are no more than the stereotypes they’re so afraid of.”

In January, Woodson came to Cleveland, sponsored by Facing History and Ourselves, with the support of Hawken School, Laurel School and the Beachwood City Schools. In an auditorium of teachers, staff, parents, and students, I first heard her metaphor and I can’t stop thinking about it.

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Weekend Reading: February 2017

Weekend Reading: February 2017

Forbes outline nine leadership lessons about workplace diversity and inclusion that we can learn from this year’s top-grossing Oscar nominee “Hidden Figures.” One tip from the movie that leaders can put into action? Removing obstacles for your workers:

“After realizing that Katherine Goble (played by Taraji P. Henson) had to spend half an hour walking across Langley each time she needed to use the bathroom, Al Harrison (played by Kevin Costner) uses a crowbar to smash down the sign that identifies the only bathroom at Langley reserved for women of color. In so doing, he effectively removes a significant obstacle to make Goble’s work easier. And, as is often the case, by identifying and fixing the problem for one person, he removed an obstacle that was impacting a large number of talented people.”

What other obstacles can we remove to foster a more diverse and inclusive workplace?

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“Moments of Pure Community”: Books@Work at The Intergenerational School

“Moments of Pure Community”: Books@Work at The Intergenerational School

The Intergenerational School in Cleveland, Ohio has a unique mission: to “connect, create and guide a multigenerational community of lifelong learners and spirited citizens.” The student body is drawn from neighborhoods all across Cleveland, and students learn in multi-age classrooms. The school recruits adults from the community to serve as mentors, making for a diverse and truly “intergenerational” experience.

Books@Work shares this endeavor toward community and lifelong learning, and it has been a joy to partner with Saint Luke’s Foundation to organize two years worth of programming with The Intergenerational School.

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