Neil McElroy, then a junior exec, recommended
to his bosses that each of P&G’s brands be
run as its own business, a decentralized approach
that inspired modern brand management.
The impact: Running Crisco or Tide proved
to be great CEO training; alums include
Steve Case, Meg Whitman, and Steve Ballmer.
Former MIT president Jerome Wiesner and architecture professor Nicholas Negroponte wanted
to reinvent university research around projects.
The impact: More than 150 companies have been
founded by alumni and MIT Media Lab staff,
including Jonah Peretti’s BuzzFeed and startups
later acquired by Dropbox, Spotify, and Twitter.
The talent agency required new employees to
start in the mail room, schooling them in the
inner workings of the entertainment business.
The impact: The program was widely adopted,
producing several generations of moguls,
including Ari Emanuel, who later merged his
upstart agency, Endeavor, with William Morris.
As the network expanded into original programming, it sought out young performers who could
act, sing, dance, and hit specific “moments”—
comedic and dramatic—to capture viewers.
The impact: Disney has created several generations of young stars, among them Britney Spears,
Ryan Gosling, Miley Cyrus, and Zendaya.
Ad agency head Bill Bernbach had the then
novel idea to pair copywriters with art directors;
the team-based approach led to seminal, widely
admired work, particularly for Volkswagen.
The impact: Young creatives flocked to DDB and
rival agencies poached them to mimic its wry
style, inspiring the ad world’s Mad Men heyday.
Before most people even had email, this Apple-backed startup envisioned smartphones and apps.
Its audacity made it a magnet for young engineers.
The impact: General Magic employees went
on to develop today’s internet-connected
device and app ecosystem at Apple, Google,
Instagram, Nest, and Pinterest.
The improv comedy theater trained performers
to be present and play to the top of their intelligence, sharpening the skills of future stars Joan
Rivers, Tina Fey, and Keegan-Michael Key.
The impact: Second City inspired several rival
theaters-slash-schools, including Upright Citizens
Brigade, a current feeder for comedic talent.
Cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin
reduced managers’ power so as not to inhibit
the creativity of Google engineers.
The impact: This teamlike approach counterintuitively produced waves of talented leaders, such
as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Scores of
“Xooglers” have also founded their own startups.
Alice Waters opened a restaurant to explore local,
organic, and seasonal cuisine, attracting chefs
interested in this revolutionarily simple style.
The impact: By focusing on ingredients, Panisse’s
chefs created New American cooking, and
alums such as Deborah Madison and Dan Barber
have elevated vegetables in fine dining.
In January, Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams
announced Daisie, an app to discover new talent
in art, fashion, film, and music—and pair them
with each other and 100 established mentors.
The impact: Daisie has attracted more than
20,000 Instagram followers and is expected to
be released in the summer of 2018.
MIT Media Lab
Illustration by Peter Oumanski
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