Entries by Brian Gallagher

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The Entrepreneur Who Wants Us to Rethink What’s Worth Wanting

A powerful idea, that of mimetic desire, seems to be getting out there, spreading like a compelling meme. Chloe Valdary, for example—the Black entrepreneur who was profiled this year in The Atlantic concerning her heterodox antiracism programs—said yesterday, on Twitter, that she recently learned about mimesis theory, and found it fascinating. “When liminality”—meaning a period […]

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Why a Basecamp Founder’s Blog Post Blew the Company Up

In 2018, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the founders of Basecamp, published a book on workplace culture. On the cover, a big red X crosses out a list of ostensibly undesirable traits of job life, things like “80-hour work weeks,” “endless meetings,” “no time to think” and, lastly, “chat’s blowing up.” Scrawled underneath this […]

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Why Promotion Is a Moral Hazard

Jessica Kennedy gets frustrated when people—often academics—try to paint industry and finance as evil. Business rightfully attracts moral critique, of course, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t those in industry who are awake and alert to its ethical shortcomings. Kennedy points out that, while working in investment banking, she was as focused on ethics then […]

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Watch Us Discuss Our New Era of Organizational Culture

Three forces—the rise of affective polarization, the social fragmenting of an engagement-focused media ecosystem, and the growing importance of politics to the self—help to explain the recent assault on the United State Capitol. At least, that’s how Ethical Systems’ founding director, Jon Haidt, an expert in the political dimensions of social psychology, described the situation. […]

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The Case for a Time-Affluent Workplace Culture

Not long ago, NPR spoke with the descendants of the eminent economist John Maynard Keynes. In 1930, Keynes speculated about the future in an essay titled, “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren,” famously suggesting that, by 2030, Americans would enjoy a 15-hour workweek. It is perhaps one of the most depressingly wrongheaded predictions, concerning societal progress, […]


Why Do People Become Whistleblowers?

Listening to one of our latest episodes on Breaking the Fever—our podcast in partnership with Preventable Surprises—I was struck by the acuity of one remark in particular. It was about the mind of a whistleblower, the motivations and sense of identity at play.  In retrospect, it wasn’t so surprising to hear. Our interviewee, the entrepreneur […]

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The Gray Rhino Trump Ignored and Still Tries to Hide

Perhaps nothing more perfectly encapsulates Michele Wucker’s idea of a “gray rhino”—an obvious threat, a crisis we see coming—than the COVID-19 pandemic. And perhaps no one more perfectly represents the onlooker—who doesn’t get out of the charging rhino’s way—than Donald Trump.  After introducing the concept, the inverse of Nassim Taleb’s “black swan,” in 2013, Wucker […]

Conspiracy Thinking in the Workplace Isn’t Harmless Gossip

There was a moment, in our recent Breaking the Fever podcast episode, when I felt compelled to pause the recording. I wanted to linger on what our guest, Robert Brotherton, an expert on the psychology of conspiracy thinking and author of Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe in Conspiracy Theories, had said. Today, in America, he […]