I like to think of the work that Vergant
does as a pro-social brand builder…and that I do because
I can't not…as You-Shaped.
Whether it is helping a company to make
its mark or helping a person to find their calling, this
work consists of several strong and interwoven threads.
The central thread is the crafting of processes,
products and programs that reflect, embrace and emanate
from an authentic, profound and powerful place.
The primary process is one of distilling
down to essence and building out from there.
The results are almost always:
• Clear and articulated goals
• Strong and built-in values
• Unique value propositions
• Heightened visibility
• Measurable differences and returns
• Vibrant, alive and evolving people, places, companies.
In business, this goes beyond creating
and marketing brands. It includes building brands whose
values and souls shine through; brands that stay true to
their visions and live up to their missions; that serve
key stakeholders in ways that they care about and need most;
that generate their intended results (i.e. products produced
and distributed; campaigns strategized and waged; differences
and/or dollars made); and that contribute to society in
meaningful and measurable ways.
In life, this means understanding and being
your best, most essential self -- a self that is reflected,
celebrated and deepened in the ways you live, learn, work
For as long as I can remember, I’ve
been doing such You-Shaped work for self and others…and
for entities ranging from major corporations to prison populations.
What follows are a few personal examples
of You-Shaped learning and work.
For every good reason, I hope that they’ll
help inform and inspire ways in which we can work, create
and contribute together!
Warmly and looking forward,
5405 Tuckerman Lane, #319
North Bethesda, MD 20852
301.530.0684 * fax 301.530.5869
917/334-6925 @ Vergant and on Cell
You-Shaped Learning and Work: In
Each of us learns differently. And ideally,
we will be learning for all of our lives. Perhaps the most
essential things we can learn are how we learn best and
how to love learning.
For example, while some folks have a photographic
memory, I am more olfactory oriented. From my earliest days,
I delighted in and could identify and catalogue a wild array
Implicitly, from as far back as childhood,
I linked my sense of smell to my love of learning. If my
mind tired during studies, I might peel a tangerine, sit
nearer a lilac bush or linden tree. By high school, I used
this technique more explicitly, and began blending in color
and music for optimal learning and sensory experiences.
Not only did I consciously use scent, sight and sound to
heighten interest, understanding and memory….But I
probably had far more fun than fellow students at test time
-- with concepts and their applications linked to and triggered
by shades and scents of pine, strands of Vivaldi and Chopin,
and so on. What I lacked in photographic memory, I could
usually compensate for by using all my senses, including
my senses of curiosity, wonder, awe, humor, association,
By college, I found a legitimate way around
the drinking age by being profuse, poetic and surprisingly
accurate in my descriptions of wine. And it was no accident
that my first post-college career including running Friends
of Wine magazine and its Les Amis du Vin tasting society….Or
that I would later work with Martha Stewart to extend the
encyclopedic ways of winetasting to such subjects as apples
and eggs, and with Pantone to extend their vast knowledge
of color to consumers. Throughout, I was able to hone and
cross-pollinate my own senses and preferences while helping
others to understand, celebrate, articulate and elevate
I call this practice BrainSearchery, and
will be building it out in all sorts of exciting ways in
the coming days.
You-Shaped Learning and Work: Making
While I proved adept at harnessing each
and every sense to learning and work, I also longed to learn
and work in ways that were relevant, far-reaching, real
In third grade, when assigned a science
report, I asked if our class could write science articles
instead. Why? Because articles seemed real. Scientists and
journalists wrote articles. When Mrs. Breckstein pointed
out that there were no magazines that published the science
articles of third graders, we started one. And even if it
was only read by parents, peers and the occasional strong-armed
sibling, the process of researching and writing for our
own publication rendered all of our experiments, findings
and presentations important, impactful and real.
Later, I would write for, run, start and
consult to magazines. (See here
for details.) I would use journalism and business skills
as a ticket to learn, create and contribute in ways that
impassioned me, served others and grew all of us. In one
of the creations and contributions I am proudest of, I pioneered
a teaching method that found me starting magazines and businesses
with each of the so-called “learning disabled”
students I tutored.
Believing that all of their learning channels
could be stimulated and strengthened by coupling their skills
(strong or weak) with their greatest interests, we set off
on an adventure that deepens to this day. A student that
might hate math could love pizza (itself an artful instructor
of measurements and multiplication). A child who resisted
English could nonetheless be lured to "run a magazine"
about heroes, and, in that capacity, to assign, edit, interview
and write. I knew I had taught them well when they realized
they were teaching me. (For an example, please visit In
Truth, We Teach Each Other.)
A stint in family entertainment drove the
lessons home in a mass-er market way: If we wanted Mary-Kate
and Ashley Olsen to sing and act straight from the heart,
their songs, films and shows should reflect what they cared
about and wanted to learn most: Being twins, becoming detectives,
swimming with dolphins, exploring the Wild West. In the
back of limousines, before and after appearances, we penned
songs, plotted programs, created products, had fun. It counted
towards their education and contributed to their careers.
But most of all, it was learning and work as a reflection
of who they were and wanted to be.
As an example of how strands of self,
learning, meaning and work can be bought together, I am
pleased to point you to The
Producers’ Project. The Producers’ Project
(TPP) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation dedicated
to increasing the effectiveness, relevance and reach of
education by putting powerful tools of learning, leadership,
expression and production into the hands of students and
Since June 2002, TPP has worked with New
York City Department of Education (NYC DoE) students and
staff -- in school, after school and via summer and weekend
intensives -- to produce academically aligned, artistically
expressive and issue-oriented documentaries. Now these documentaries
are going into distribution, TPP is creating original properties
for television, and learning and lives are being changed.
We are about to embark on groundbreaking
work with the students and schools of Rikers Island, including
the production of public service announcements and documentaries,
the launch of viewing libraries and screening programs,
and the development of a job training and placement program.
This work stands to encourage students to stay in school,
and to reduce the recidivism of those who haven’t…all
while creating vibrant programming for distribution in schools
and to the public.
I’ll keep you posted on progress!
Most importantly, I’d love to hear
about your experiences and aspirations. And I’d adore
exploring what we can make happen together.
Warmly and looking forward,