Sunday, July 5, 2015

How to Keep Listening When the World Wants a Fight

Listen to any of the Republican candidates and it’s clear that the culture war issues that have driven so much political debates over the past 50+ years, are still going on.

Our political discourse is has polarized as ever. Even to the point where we’ve come to accept that you are never going to change anyones mind about social issues. So when we do talk, when we do try and debate, we simply talk past each other. It’s as if complicated personal issues are being discussed in a boiler factory. For no subject is this more true, than the subject of abortion.

My guest Aspen Baker, thinks there is a better way. A way to discuss perhaps the most contentious of all issues, the the subject of abortion, and use that discussion as a model to discuss other contentious issues. Her organization EXHALE has adopted Pro-Voice as its point of view.

My conversation with Aspen Baker:

Friday, June 26, 2015

Nixon's the One

Most of us know the legendary story of the group of blind men who touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk or the tail.. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement about what they experienced

This is the story of Richard Nixon.

So much has been written about Nixon. Much of it has come in waves. There was the period after his resignation, of the bad Nixon. Then after his death, the better Nixon. Now writers, journalists and historians are trying to tie all the threads together.

Perhaps Bill Clinton put it best in his eulogy for Nixon, when he said that “the day of judging President Nixon on anything less than his entire life and career must come to a close.”

Two very distinguished journalists, Evan Thomas and Tim Weiner, have, almost simultaneously, penned new books about Nixon. Evan Thomas has written Being Nixon: A Man Divided
and Tim Weiner One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon

I recently had the opportunity to speak with both of them.

My conversation with Evan Thomas:

My conversation with Tim Weiner

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Charles and Ray Eames and the technology of timelessness

Long before Steve Jobs and Jony Ives bridged the divide between design and technology, before Target began selling Michael Graves tea kettles, Charles and Ray Eames made the connection between design, public perception and function. They created designs for furniture, architecture, toys and film and in so doing set the stage for much of the way we view our world today.

They were visionaries, who were deeply grounded in the history, who understood that modern was also rooted in the classic.

Daniel Ostroff is a world authority on Charles and Ray Eames. His latest and perhaps seminal work is just out entitled An Eames Anthology: Articles, Film Scripts, Interviews, Letters, Notes, and Speeches.

My conversation with Dan Ostroff:

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Before Jobs, Musk, Hewlett & Packard, or Ford...there were The Wright Brothers

We live today in what many consider the age of technology. Everyday there are new apps, new ways in which incumbency is disrupted. But very few of the creators or inventors of today, understand the long view, or the way they are changing the world.

Steve Jobs understood. Elon Musk understands. Maybe even Mark Zuckerberg does. Part of that understanding come from education. From seeing the world beyond themselves and their work, and seeing their place in world.

During another fertile period of innovation in America, as we moved from the 19th to the 20th Century, the same was true. Sitting high atop the pantheon of those that would seek to change the world then, were Wilbur and Orville Wright. With the support of their family, their bicycle shop was perhaps the ultimate tech startup of the time.

Wilbur and Orville Wright and their family are subject of a new biography The Wright Brothersby multiple award winning historian David McCullough.

My conversation with David McCullough:

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Russian Spy, A Double Agent, The FBI and Hooters Parking Lot

Today boys want to grow up to be professional athletes, or tech billionaires. But there was time when being a secret agent seemed like just about the coolest thing to do. Whether it was the literary exploits of Bond or Bourne, or the real story of Philby or the moral twilight of le Carre, spycraft, particularly during the days of the Cold War, held a magical appeal.

It certainly did for Naveed Jamali. He dreamt of being in Naval Intelligence and it inspired him to become a real life double agent, albeit ending in the parking lot of Hooters. His is both a very American story but also an international story

Naveed tells his story, along with Ellis Henican, in their book How to Catch a Russian Spy: The True Story of an American Civilian Turned Double Agent

My conversation with Navid Jamali and Ellis Henican:

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Never bet against Elon Musk's vision of the futrue

There is always someone that leads us into the future. Someone whose vision and entrepreneurship combine to make the next big idea, the next big thing.

This has been true from Franklin, to Edison, from From Henry Ford to Thomas Watson, from Bill Gates to Steve Jobs and today Elon Musk may very well be the inheritor of that mantel.

Electric cars, commercial space travel, high speed transportation and even new forms of education, are all part of the vision that Musk sees; and and his vision is on its way to become our reality.

Bloomberg's Ashlee Vance has written a new biography, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future.

My conversation with Ashlee Vance:

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Would the real Alex Vause please stand up

Many of you, I’m sure, think you’d love the idea of seeing your life portrayed in movies or television. But imagine if you knew nothing about it. If one day, you saw an ad for a TV show, about you, or at least your life, as the central character. Would you be scared, shocked, angry, a little excited. Cleary Wolters experienced all of thee things.

As she saw her life in prison portrayed as Alex Vaus in ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK.

Originally portrayed as Nora Jansen in Piper Kerman’s book,  her life would transform again as a result of her story becoming part of an entertainment and cultural juggernaut.

Now Cleary Wolters takes her star turn as a writer and tells her story in her memoir Out of Orange: A Memoir.

My conversation with Cleary Wolters:

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

How the law is shaping families and how new kinds of families are shaping the law

In the world of families, all eyes are on same sex marriage. In the Courts, in Statehouses, and in the political arena. But on the ground, in the households and families where people live, this is just one manifestation of the change in family structures and family relationships.

As such, the world of law and particularly family law, has changed. The way in which these new, creative and ever changing familial bonds are structured, and the complex feedback loop between the legal and loving nature of these relationships, creates whole new ways that we seek legal stability in the face of social and cultural change.

A the apex of this effort are people like my guest, Law Professor Martha Ertman, whose book Love's Promises: How Formal and Informal Contracts Shape All Kinds of Families looks at the way the law is trying to stay one step ahead of the social change.

My conversation with Martha Ertman:

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Buckley and Mailer: The Difficult Friendship

Today we have talking heads and pundits. But back in the second half of the 20th Century we had writers and public intellectuals, whose ideas, attitudes and personalities became a part of our public discourse.

Two of those that were the touchstones of the times were William F.Buckley and Norman Mailer. Both wrote about history, about sex, about politics and sometimes all at once. They were the guests you wanted to have at any dinner party.

They were also, each in his own way, bad boys of American letter. Buckley with his rapier wit and insults, pushed away as many people as admired him. Mailer with his pugilistic persona, further showed that with complex figures, the public surfaces were only part of the story.

Kevin Schultz gives us a kind of conjoined biography of the two in Buckley and Mailer: The Difficult Friendship That Shaped the Sixties.

My conversation with Kevin Schultz:

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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Who cares what Jefferson would do?

If we have problems in America, the solution is usually simple, check with the Founding Fathers. Can’t figure out modern health care, check with the Founders. Can’t deal with modern weaponry on America's streets, check in with the nation's Founders. Need to improve education for our kids..maybe a trip to Mt. Rushmore will solve it? Need to fix our airports, increase cancer and genetic research, or fund manned space problem. Just check in with Jefferson and Hamilton.

Obviously a laughable idea.... but in fact this is exactly what we seem to do!! First of all our Founders, wise as they were, did not speak with a single voice, and they lived in a world that is barely recognizable from our own. So why are they relevant to every debate in America? Mostly because it’s a way for politicians to gain political traction, without having to marshall real debate or real solutions.

This is the confusion that David Sehat explains in The Jefferson Rule: How the Founding Fathers Became Infallible and Our Politics Inflexible.

My conversation with David Sehat:

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Monday, June 1, 2015

The fall of the house of CrackBerry

Many years ago, Harvard Business School perfected something called the “case study method.” A new educational innovation that presented the challenges confronting companies, nonprofits, and government organizations—complete with the constraints and incomplete information found in real business issues.

Students learned that through the process of exchanging perspectives, countering and defending points, and building on each other's ideas, they became adept at analyzing issues, exercising judgment, and making difficult decisions.

Business journalist Sean Silcoff, in Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerryconducts his own case study.

He reminds us that in real business situations, unlike business school, there are no simple solutions; personalities matter and, and he shows how easy it is to go from leader to irrelevance in an economy that values creative destruction far more than the status quo.

My conversation with Sean Silcoff:

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

One Nation Under God...and Corporation

It was Churchill who reminded us that history is written by the victors. Well this is as true of religious history as it is of military, political and geopolitical history.

Do you ever wonder how our religious and political divides of today came to be? How it is that the Republican party became a vehicle for the notion of America as a Christian nation?

We’ve all been feed the story that it’s somehow part of originalism. We’ve all been been told that America, as conceived by our founders, was John Winthrop’s Shining City on the Hill. Even our leaders today seem to succumb to that mythology. But the fact is that the idea of America as Christian nation is a relatively recent construct. One that came both out of the Cold War and of business opposition to Roosevelt and the New Deal.

This unholy alliance between Christianity and the Chamber of Commerce would continue to shape our politics and our government right up until today.

Now Princeton Professor Kevin Kruse tells the story in One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America.

My conversation with Kevin Kruse:

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Brain and the Gut...together again

We all remember the youthful spiritual song Dem Bones, about the ankle bone being connected to the shin bone, the thigh bone being connected to the hip bone, etc. What the song didn’t include is the connection between the stomach and the brain. And it’s not just about what you eat. It's about the vast array of bacteria and microorganism that live in your gut, and the impact they have on how your brain works.

Dr. David Perlmutter, the author of the bestselling GRAIN BRAIN, now takes us inside this interplay between intestinal microbes and the brain in Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain– for Life

My conversation with Dr. David Perlmutter:

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Can a Well-Tuned Brain keep up with the modern world?

Everyday it seem the world speeds up. The advances of technology, the need to make faster decisions, multitasking and a sometimes dizzying array of options, are all part of the creative destruction that is making the world a more efficient an in many ways, a better and freer place.

On the other hand human evolution is a slow, deliberate process. So, to what extent have our brains evolutionary ability kept pace with 21st century life? To what extent is this true cognitive dissonance acting as a kind of governor on our ability to do our best in this modern world and in turn what impact is it having on how we treat the world around us.

These are some of the ideas explored by the Director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, Dr. Peter Whybrow, in his new book The Well-Tuned Brain: Neuroscience and the Life Well Lived.

My conversation with Dr. Peter Whybrow:

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

There once was a time in Washington when negotiation and compromise were not dirty words

In talking to someone recently about my guest, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, they went into a bit of tirade of criticism of him, saying that he was “just one of those Democrats they trot out to make things go away, to sweep things under rug.” My friend went on to say, “it proves that it's all just one big party.”

Well the other side of that same coin is that Senator George Mitchell, through his skill as a negotiator and a listener, can find ways for people of opposing views to get along. That rather than the polarization of today, or a political world where everyone is an outlier, there are still ways to find common ground. That often, when no one is entirely happy, that’s exactly when we know the best compromise solution has been reached.

Yes, compromise. Something that’s become a dirty word today, but used to represent the highest and best accomplishment of a skilled negotiator.

Amidst the clanging of a political system that sounds more like a boiler factory, Senator Mitchell has written a memoir The Negotiator, that reminds us of both of a time gone by and a vision for what still might be.

My conversation with Senator George Mitchell:

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Project Based Learning for the Military and Business

It has often been conventional wisdom that the military is always fighting current wars, based on lessons learned from the last war. That’s why we used centralized WW2 tactics in Vietnam, and then turned around and used the lessons of Vietnam in Iraq.

But the fact is that today there is a whole new breed to military tacticians and strategists whose ideas come not from the last war, but from the creative destruction of places like Silicon Valley and and our most advanced and cutting edge business schools. Ideas that eschew top down, large organizational command and control and instead respond to the need to collaborate, be nimble, and embrace a team oriented approach to management.

In today's military much of the movement in this direction has come from General Stanley McChrystal and his team. As the leader of the Joint Special Operation Command, this new approach was essential in fighting an enemy who itself was decentralized. But It was an approach that had to first break down traditional silos, rethink the link between communications and command, create a flatter organization amidst a culture that was build on top down thinking, and bring flexibility to an institution that revered tradition.

All of these are ideas also apply to business. Now General McChrystal and his team at CrossLead, including co-founder David Silverman,  have combined these ideas and are applying them everyday. They share them in Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World

My conversation with Co-Author David Silverman:

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Why Peter Pan is the model of our Infantile Age

We are a culture obsessed with youth. We are told that youth is wasted on the young, but we do everything in our power to stay young.

Growing up is seen as giving up. We are told that with each passing year, doors close behind and head of us.

In short, youth is and has been the foundational cultural idea of the West for almost half a century. From the 60’s mantra of “never trust anyone over 30,” to to today when boomers are being pushed out by millennials.

Given the negative light cast on maturity, why would anyone every want to to defy Peter Pan, and ever grow up. These are some of the questions that philosopher Susan Neiman asks in Why Grow Up?: Subversive Thoughts for an Infantile Age

My conversation with Susan Neiman:

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