Summer is a time for reflection. Lately, I’ve been reflecting about leaving a legacy—having an impact on your field, or with your colleagues—that is meaningful and memorable. In that spirit, this month’s “Simply Brilliant” newsletter is all about legacy. It includes a Video of the Month, a Big Idea of the Month, and a Lesson of the Month, along with valuable resources from other thinkers and writers.
Video of the Month: Leaving a Legacy…A Short History of Fast Company
I’ve written three books in the last ten years, delivered hundreds of talks, and published countless essays for Harvard Business Review Online. Yet no matter what I write or where I speak, there’s always someone who wants discuss Fast Company, the magazine that Alan Webber and I launched back in the early 1990s, and its impact on their life and career. Clearly, Fast Company is my most enduring professional legacy—not just a publication or a media business, but a set of ideas about what it takes to win and what it means to succeed, with a passionate audience of readers and fans.
I’ve put together a video called “A Short History of Fast Company” that speaks to the ideas that drive the magazine, and why I think they endure nearly 25 years after Alan and I started our journey. I hope our experiences will help you and your colleagues cement your legacies.
You can watch the video here:
Big Idea of the Month: Everything I Know About Business I Learned from Watching Netflix
Okay, that’s an overstatement—but just a little. From the earliest days of Fast Company, I’ve been able to spend time with, learn from, and write about some of the most important and remarkable innovators in the world. At the top of that list would be Reed Hastings and his colleagues at Netflix. I don’t think I’ve learned more about strategy, technology, and culture from any other company I’ve studied. I recently published an essay for Harvard Business Review on the key lessons of this amazing business—lessons that I believe are relevant to every business.
Talk about leaving a legacy! Reed Hastings and the Netflix team have done just that, and how they approach their work may inform how you approach your work.
You can read my HBR article here.
Lesson of the Month: Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill
In business, you can’t think about leaving a legacy unless you also think about building a great organization—a culture that endures even after you have left. Over the years, I’ve studied organizations that are changing the game in their fields, and they’ve adopted a range of different strategies and business models. But they all hire for attitude and train for skill. They believe that one of the biggest challenges they face is to fill their ranks with executives and front-line employees whose personal values are in sync with the values that make the organization tick. As a result, they believe that character counts for more than credentials.
A few years ago, I wrote an essay for HBR that explains this core people proposition.
You can read the essay here.
And now, resources on legacy from other thinkers and writers…
Read Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race
You probably saw the movie (hopefully with your daughters). But trust me, the Hollywood version of the impact of NASA’s African-American female “computers” doesn’t begin to capture the depth of the real story. Margot Lee Shetterly’s book is engaging, entertaining, and truly profound—a case study in the meaning of legacy.
You can buy the book here.
Watch “The White Helmets” on Netflix
I rarely discuss world events in these newsletters, but this short documentary on Syria Civil Defense, volunteer emergency workers who risk their safety to rescue countrymen from Syria’s deadly civil war, is a powerful statement about leaving a legacy where the stakes involve life and death. You may have seen news reports about the successful international effort to evacuate the “White Helmets” themselves from a dangerous situation. This documentary chronicles their heroic work. You can read a brief review and find the documentary here https://www.nytimes.com/watching/recommendations/the-white-helmets
Thanks, as always, for your interest in my work. Enjoy the rest of your summer.