February was Black History Month, but learning about Black history is a continually evolving exercise. Over the years since it was launched in 1970, it’s always been about remembrance and representation, then integration and justice. More recently, the terms diversity and inclusion have come to the fore. Then with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, the term ‘structural racism’ entered prominently into the public conversation, and now with a new presidential administration in power, brought largely by the mobilization of African American voters, the question of ‘remedies’ is now critically before the nation. The Center for Third Space Thinking at the University of Southern California Annenberg School is devoted to enhancing diversity and inclusion across the board by helping individuals acquire the critical skills they need to be successful in our post-industrial, digital economy. Our teaching and community service provide learners the ‘soft skills’ that complement the STEM hard skills. Indeed, our students in high school and in college have come to call them ‘survival skills’. They recognize these are ways they can gain power. This year, Black History Month is being held against the back drop of two things that BLM has drawn us to. First, achieving […]
We are committed to the growth of essential soft skills crucial for navigating challenging times like these, which can only be overcome through unity.
I begin with a confession. Oprah made me do it. For years audiences, close advisors and friends have urged me to tell the story behind the story — the story about the origins and evolution of Third Space Thinking. Third Space Thinking is a novel, communication-driven approach that empowers individuals to use ‘soft’ skills to make better choices in their lives, and ultimately to make the world a better place. So far, this idea has been a hit from Shanghai, China to Sand Hill Road in Stanford, California. Since it is ambitious, wide-angled and definitely a little weird, I designed Third Space Thinking to stand on its own – rigorous and disciplined as well as relevant to today’s topsy-turvy digital world. In other words, it’s designed to be scientific, based on lots of research and written in the third person. So when well-wishers urged me to make it more personal and ‘first person’ I shook my head no. I didn’t want to reveal my private side. Until I talked to Oprah. She had just finished an amazing speech to more than 1,000 graduates of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and their families. She was mesmerizing. Oprah called […]
At the end of 2017, and looking forward to 2018 and beyond, Farhad Manjoo, the New York Times columnist who covers Silicon Valley and the digital world in general, wrote that the big tech corporations had reached a kind of tipping point. He wrote, “This year, for the first time, tech giants began to grudgingly accept that they have some responsibility for the offline world…The dawning realization that a tech platform comes with real-world responsibilities.” Barely a month later, the highly successful CEO of one of the largest legacy companies in the country, American Express, announced he was stepping down from his old job. Faced with an enviable number of top job offers, Ken Chenault decided to leave the legacy world and switch his energies to the tech world. He will become chairman and managing director of General Catalyst, a hugely successful VC company with investments in Airbnb, Snapchat, HubSpot and others. Echoing Manjoo and other observers of the latest tumult around fake news, real surveillance concerns about Facebook and Google, and the boorishness of Uber and its leadership, Chenault told the press, “Given their age and the scale and impact they can have on our society, unless they make […]
Many people and a host of commentators instinctively recoiled at the callous management practices described in a scathing New York Times article about Amazon. So did Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and chief executive. In a memo to Amazon employees, he wrote, “Our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.” He’s right, not only on humanitarian grounds but also for reasons that should appeal to a hard-headed businessman like him. At Amazon and other businesses, the “e-word” should be the watchword. For three years my colleagues and I at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism crisscrossed the U.S. and traveled to other nations asking business leaders what attributes executives must have to succeed in today’s digital, global economy. They identified five as critical: adaptability, cultural competence (the capacity to think, act, and move across multiple borders), 360-degree thinking (holistic understanding, capable of recognizing patterns of problems and their solutions), intellectual curiosity, and, of course, empathy. These so-called “soft” attributes constitute a distinctive way of seeing the world. Taken together, they create a kind of “Third Space” that differs sharply from the other two perspectives that have long dominated business thinking: the engineering and traditional MBA perspectives. Frankly, when empathy […]
There are two big barriers to greater diversity in today’s digital economy. One is the absence of hard technical skills among those who are most highly underrepresented. These are the skills typically associated with the acronym STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. And certainly these skills are in short supply among underrepresented groups.
Last year I wrote an article for Inc. magazine about why startup leaders need to develop their interactive ‘soft’ skills to be successful. Last week, Uber demonstrated why such skills are even more necessary today.
In my previous blogs I’ve described the five competencies at the heart of “soft” skills, which emerged from four years of research and development from my team at the Annenberg Center for Third Space Thinking into the talent requirements of contemporary businesses.
With the recent Trump-China back and forth, I couldn’t help but recall my VIP visit to the opening of the Disney theme park in Shanghai earlier this year.
This electoral cycle has clearly demonstrated that our republic faces severe challenges. Whether your candidate won or lost, many Americans are deeply disappointed with the flawed process that brought us to this place.