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Creating the office of the future

The corporate office is on the brink of a major renovation. The lockdowns that began in the U.S. in mid-March in response to the novel coronavirus created an extraordinary migration as employees across the country began working at home. People patched together ways to keep going when the lights went off in office buildings, and, for the most part, it has worked: In the June 2020 PwC US Remote Work Survey, three out of four employers called work from home (WFH) a success.

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The evolution of women’s leadership

In October 2008, the Royal Barrière Hotel in Deauville, France, was the backdrop for the annual conference of the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society. I’d attended the conference before and had found it earnest and sedate, in keeping with the luxurious but faux-historic venue (the original hotel having been bombed to rubble during World War II). But in 2008 — one month almost to the day after the collapse of Lehman Brothers — rebellion stirred the air. Participants were abuzz with outrage at events that had gathered momentum in the previous months and then, with remarkable speed, led the global economy to the brink of collapse in September.

The Forum was loosely modeled on Davos: several days of panels, workshops, keynotes, champagne toasts, and five-star dinners that brought together leaders and other professionals from around the world to discuss issues of global significance. Except at Deauville, the participants,

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How fiction can help us imagine the future

Morgan Robertson was a former cabin boy in the merchant marine, had tired of sea life, spent a decade as a diamond setter, and eventually turned to writing stories about life at sea. He never made much money and died at the age of 53 from an overdose. Before he died, Robertson wrote a novel called Futility about “the largest craft afloat and the greatest of the works of men.” The vessel was the embodiment of “every science, profession, and trade known to civilization” and was a modern-day technological marvel. Deemed unsinkable, it attracted famous people from around the world to journey across the Atlantic in unrivaled comfort and style. Nineteen watertight compartments ensured the ship’s buoyancy, as she could continue to sail with nine of them flooded. And because the vessel was deemed indestructible, it carried an inadequate number of lifeboats — enough to handle only one-sixth of the

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Management lessons of The True Believer

Once upon a time, it was supposed by some in business that consumption had supplanted religion in our lives. Accordingly, firms were urged to nurture a cultlike devotion from their customers. Veteran ad man Douglas Atkin, in his 2004 book The Culting of Brands, wrote, “People today pay for meaning more than they pray for it.”

Now, by contrast, business leaders must recognize that they may have to pay for meaning on behalf of customers, employees, and even shareholders. Customers have long sought meaning from consumption, but more of them now will want a sense of purpose as well. Workers and investors, meanwhile, will want more than financial rewards in order to accept the actions of leadership. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, has gone so far as to pronounce capitalism as we know it to be dead, saying that “business leaders need to embrace a broader vision of

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Getting back to the future…of work

Business leaders who are fond of saying their most valuable assets walk in the door each morning will have to come up with a new aphorism. As more firms realize the virtues of virtual work, many business leaders are taking the opportunity to rethink their organizations from the ground up, which will change who walks through which doors, when, and how often, and even where those doors might be. In light of the disruption caused by COVID-19, workforce concerns and strategies have elbowed their

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Tom Frieden’s plan for public — and economic — health

Dr. Thomas Frieden has spearheaded efforts to improve public health for more than three decades. Few executives have more experience in leading large public health bureaucracies as they confront epidemics. After earning degrees in medicine and public health from Columbia University, he served as assistant commissioner of health and director of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Bureau of Tuberculosis Control, where his effort to combat multidrug-resistant tuberculosis became an international model. As health commissioner for New York City from 2002 to 2009, he implemented many of then mayor Michael Bloomberg’s far-reaching efforts to reduce smoking and combat diabetes and obesity. At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which he directed from 2009 to 2017, he managed the successful response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Since 2017, Frieden has run Resolve to Save Lives, a nonprofit backed by philanthropists including the Bill &

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