The Executive Vice President’s version of the story….
Porter Novelli’s senior leaders recently had the good fortune to hear from futurist Edie Weiner, author of the best seller, FutureThink: How to Think Clearly in a Time of Change. Weiner identifies future trends to help businesses like ours prosper in a constantly changing world. According to Weiner, “the faster the change, the more important it is that we are willing to let go in order to prosper in the newer economy.”
Weiner believes that people today suffer from what she calls “educated incapacity,” we know so much that we don’t see the future. To let go, we need to see things from different perspectives and not be encumbered by preconceived notions or existing knowledge. Weiner suggested several things we all should be doing to begin seeing things differently. Among them:
- Stay current with music.
- Hire interns and use them wisely; debrief with them every day; ask them: what did I do today that you thought was stupid?
Perfect. I had just hired a summer intern, Daniella, who could make playlists for me and tell me how stupid I am. I’d be well on my way to seeing the future by the time she returned to college for her senior year.
On Daniella’s first day I shared the plan. We were going to debrief at the end of each work day and she could tell me what I did that was stupid.
She asked, “Why?”
I said, “Because I want to learn from our new generation of employees.”
We tried this for a few days. To my relief, Daniella left on day one without telling me anything I did that was stupid. She forgot. Certainly she would make up for it the following day and tell me several things.
The next day, she came up with something “You should instant message more and email less.”
A few days later, “You need to learn Excel shortcuts.” OK – my Excel skills could stand some improvement. Totally fair.
But as the summer progressed, Daniella just couldn’t do it. She kept coming up empty, which worked out well for me because I have self-esteem issues. So, I’ll help her out here. Every time I opened up the PowerPoint program, I did something stupid and she would bail me out.
Daniella has mad PowerPoint skills. Of course she does. She grew up at a time when she was doing second grade book reports in PowerPoint. I grew up doing second grade book reports with my box of 64 Crayola crayons with the built in crayon sharpener on the back.
Daniella frequently sent me links to current music videos – country, pop and rap. Everywhere I went I began to hear these songs. I started buying the songs on iTunes. She helped me get hip to current music.
Daniella didn’t turn 21 until near the end of her summer internship. On her birthday, I took her to her first legal Happy Hour at a chic Newport Beach bar where they played current music, of course – and I actually recognized the songs.
One of my favorite Daniella stories was when she was pitching a contributed article that had been written by our previous intern. One newspaper editor ripped it to shreds. He told her to rework it before he would consider publishing it. While I might have said, “Hey, Mr. Editor, I didn’t even write this!” She instead rewrote it and made it sing – and landed the placement for the client.
The week I moved my special needs teenage daughter to a boarding school half-way across the country – Daniella showed me so much kindness and compassion, maturity beyond her years. In spite of how much my heart ached, she gave me a reason to go to the office every day. Because staying home to grieve would have been stupid. We were having a great summer collaborating on exciting projects for our clients.
Daniella – I will miss you as you head back to Boulder, Colorado for your senior year. Never stop being fearless. Always pay attention to details. And thanks for thinking that I’m incapable of doing anything stupid. I see a great future ahead of you.
Now for her version of the story…