In February, SmartBrief’s SmartBlog on Leadership and the folks at Switch & Shift combined for 31 posts in a quest to help people in business improve their communication. This week, we turn to workplace morale. Starting today, both sites will be posting all week, with the SmartBrief on Leadership newsletter linking you to some of the best posts starting Tuesday, June 10, through next Monday.

Keep track of the series here, including the full list of contributors.

What’s the series about? Well, we all are familiar with the unfortunate realities of today’s workplace. Yet what we don’t promote enough are those who are making work joyful, meaningful, worthy of the time devoted to employees’ craft. So in the spirit of promoting what works for businesses regarding workplace morale, Switch & Shift and SmartBrief want to positively exploit the ideas or those companies who are doing workplace morale right by creating amazing cultures that yield tremendous results. (read more…)

Interviews and panels at conferences tend to go one of two ways: The speakers are engaging, prepared, skillful and interactive, or they are dull, don’t mesh well with each other and have little new to say. In both cases, and even on all but the best of the best panels, the speakers are all tremendously confident their opinions and projections are correct, and they substantively agree with one another.

Keep this in mind when I say that, having gone to dozens of panels over three years at the Milken Institute Global Conference, I’m having trouble recalling any panelist ever saying, “I don’t know” in response to a question about a relevant, if tricky, aspect of the business. And I’m certain I’ve never heard anyone say it multiple times like J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler did Wednesday during his interview session.

First, some background. Let’s not pretend Drexler lacks self-confidence or doesn’t take stands. His continued use of “this is just my opinion” was more of a weapon than a disclaimer — closer to a “this isn’t hard data but I’m right anyways” approach. Drexler is an unconventional but tremendously successful figure in the industry. (read more…)

A rent increase led to Airbnb. Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk talked about how his co-founders came up with the company out of necessity – a 25% rent hike they didn’t have the money for. They rented out a room on a weekend where hotels were booked for a conference and made money. But they went beyond the transaction, built relationships with those boarders and got the idea to go further. There were early struggles to raise money and win over people on the idea, and it took a while to “identify the value proposition.”

Innovation is easier and shorter-lived. Life cycles and monetization opportunity is measured now in months and weeks for many products, such as apps. Even with more manufacturing and labor-intensive products, there are subsets of short cycles. As PARC CEO Stephen Hoover said, planes may last 20 years now, but the avionics, in-flight entertainment and other featurers are routinely remodeled and upgraded. He also mentioned the likes of Airbnb, which is disrupting hotels not so much in the product but in how you find it. (read more…)

Energy is about an all-of-the-above “portfolio.” Two sessions featured energy executives arguing that energy debates are incorrectly framed when discussed as one energy source against another. Southern Co. CEO Tom Fanning noted how his company is invested in natural gas, building a U.S. nuclear plant, investing in renewables, cleaner coal and more — clean, safe, reliable, affordable energy from all sources is how the world will win the future. GE Africa CEO Jay Ireland and others discussed in a separate session how the situation is much the same in Africa. He called it having a “portfolio” of costs and of energy sources, while others, notably USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, emphasized the importance of mixing on-grid and off-grid, small and large power projects.

Central banks still run the show: The past, present and future actions of the world’s central banks drew scrutiny during a panel about prospects for the global economy. (read more…)


Veterinarian Lance S. Fox knew a good bit about climbing mountains even before he started his trek to Mount Everest, thanks to his time in veterinary school. Dr. Fox will be speaking at this summer’s AVMA Annual Convention, where members of the American Veterinary Medical Association will gather for the latest in veterinary medicine, and Animal Health SmartBrief asked for a sneak peek of his talk and a window into his life-changing trek to the Himalayas and up Mount Everest, documented in his book, “No Place but UP!” Dr. Fox obtained his veterinary degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, and he has worked in private practice and now serves as technical director in North America with the Animal Nutrition & Health division of DSM. You can learn more at his website.

A DVM’s perspective on the highest point on Earth …

I knew Everest would be hard, second only to making it through veterinary school. (read more…)