NAIS Speakers, Part 1

By: Neil Mufson
This past week when I attended the National Association of Independent Schools annual conference, I had the opportunity to hear two blockbuster speakers who were each provocative in their own ways. While neither spoke directly to educational issues, their messages had significant relevance to what we need to be thinking about teaching children today.

This week I will focus on one of those speakers, Randi Zuckerberg, and next week I will write about the second, Bryan Stevenson. Zuckerberg is the founder of a boutique marketing and media company with globally known clients like Cirque du Soliel, Conde Nast, and PayPal. Author of Dot and Dot Complicated, host of SiriusXM show “Dot Complicated,” diversity trainer, television producer, Broadway performer, and mother of two young boys, yes, she is also a former employee of Facebook, her “baby brother’s” company. (As she noted, at least she graduated from Harvard). Zuckerberg’s highly-engaging and funny talk focused on the most important technology trends in today’s workplace.

She began by talking about the blurring line that exists between entrepreneurship and business. Most successful businesses, she pointed out, have to maintain a healthy dose of entrepreneurship if they are going to survive, grow, and maintain relevance in the marketplace. She also noted that freeing employees’ creativity is more central to business success than ever.  She pointed out that FB used to have regular “all nighter hackathons” that required employees to stay overnight and work not on work but on a personal passion, favorite project, or idea. She mentioned that one major tech company has employees spend 20% of their work time following their best ideas, hunches, or interests. They feel this increases the likelihood that they will capture the “next big idea.”

Zuckerberg asserted that the new workplace is mobile and produces on-demand.  She believes that to be heard, everyone (not just businesses) needs to communicate as media companies do — visually, viscerally, creatively, and uniquely. We need “to better define our own brands.” If your messages are going to be noticed in an ever more saturated world, you have to think, act, and communicate like a content creator.
Starting to build children’s proficiencies in content creation and in the “maker movement” are  essentials, she said.  She believes that “gamification” as a motivation and communication means, virtual reality, drones, and the increasing intrusion of technophile-like devices (think Apple Watch or Fitbit) will increasingly and quickly define not just the workplace or the marketplace but everyday lifestyles.

She ended her talk by singing a song from her Broadway show Rock of Ages, and then reminded us of one more imperative for ourselves and our children — to periodically “unplug and refresh.”

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