’s Nancy Lublin on change & innovation

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Imagine your employer has just announced a new office workspace program. Every six months there will be a ‘reaping.’ Names will go into a jar, and in the order that each is pulled, that person has 15 seconds to choose any workspace he or she likes within the organization.

The ‘Director of Fun’ at came up with this idea to support her young staff; millennials who CEO Nancy Lublin says embrace mobility, transparency and choice. As the organization’s self-named “Chief Old Person,” Lublin said the desk switching also gives everyone a chance to get to know one another.

Her name is collected with all the rest. “One time my name was drawn near the end of the reaping, and my desk was by the door where the UPS deliveries come in.”

Lublin, founder of Dress for Success and CEO of both and Crisis Text Line, visited campus Feb. 4 as part of the University’s Leadership Project, which brings speakers to campus from different industries, in different age groups, with different philosophies to explore what it takes to be an effective leader.

Like many organizations, education is flattening, too. In some disciplines, Lublin said it’s impossible for a traditional university to keep up with the pace of change, so students learn on their own through the Internet. One example: Computer coding.

“You can’t make a textbook change or approve a course change fast enough in this unpredictable field. Higher education may need to change how courses and course catalogs are managed, and that’s exciting.”

Lublin also discussed how she supports change and innovation at, and described “millennial” as a mindset rather than an age group. Suggestions included:

  • Be intentional — Make mission and values more than words, and find ways to engage people who are not motivated by money and who must operate within a tight budget.
  • Offer validation — Give people on your team a chance to shine outside of the organization. Provide opportunities for people to represent the institution they believe in by giving talks or attending conferences.
  • Provide a sabbatical program — Consider providing paid leave to allow employees to volunteer anywhere in the world.

Lublin has a BA from Brown University, an M.Litt from Oxford University, and a law degree from New York University. She is also the author of “Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business” and the editor of “XYZ Factor,” a book on millennials in the workplace written by her colleagues at She is considered an expert in digital marketing, youth culture and change management.