WATCH, LISTEN & READ
Iconoclasts: Sundance Channel, Oct. 16, 10 p.m. ET/PT
The premise behind executive producer Robert Redford's engaging Iconoclasts is simple: A pair of high-profile innovators talk to each other about their aspirations and motivations, supplemented by footage of the leaders at work. This mutual admiration society offers an unusual, behind-the-scenes peek at what makes non-conformists tick.
Season four starts with a bang: Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin Group and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa unwind on Branson's Caribbean island. Like most pairings, the two seem to have little in common at first glance. But Tutu is on the billionaire's island as chairman of The Elders, a group co-founded by Branson consisting of former leaders, including Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan and former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, who gather to help resolve conflicts in places like Sudan and Kenya.
At one point, Branson vows to teach the delightful archbishop to swim. This rapidly degenerates into a splash fight, with the archbishop teasing Branson, "Why do you have so much money?" Splash. "Why are you so successful?" Though Branson dodges the questions as well as he does the water, he admits he's more interested in creating things he can be proud of than being a businessman. "I think there's not a great difference between an adventurer and an entrepreneur," Branson says. "You're trying to achieve things that have never been achieved before. You're trying to do it better than it's ever been done before."
The IT Crowd: IFC, Tuesdays, 10 p.m. ET
This over-the-top British workplace sitcom will translate to American audiences just fine: Awkward geeks on I.T. help desks are at work on the other side of the Atlantic, too!
In another familiar setup, the manager of the systems-support team at the fictitious Reynholm Industries is computer illiterate despite claiming otherwise on her résumé.
The show is an entertaining jumble of physical comedy and well-timed one-liners, including the potential catchphrases, "Have you tried turning it off and back on again?" and "Are you sure it's plugged in?"
IFC plans to run the first 12 episodes of the series consecutively, with another six to come in 2009.
The Public Speaker
Available free on Fridays at www.quickanddirtytips.com/ and on iTunes
Do your, um, workplace communication skills need, like, a little work? Lisa Marshall's new weekly podcast focuses on helping you speak more effectively and efficiently in all sorts of situations, whether you're interviewing, delivering a speech or participating in a meeting.
•Oct. 10: Mistakes in Eye Contact, or why you shouldn't continually look up or down while delivering a speech.
•Oct. 17: Cultural Communication, with examples from Marshall's interaction with her Panamanian mother-in-law.
Available free daily at www.npr.org/money/ and on iTunes
NPR launched the multimedia Planet Money — a blog, podcast and Twitter feed, so far — in August, just as the global economy started grabbing the attention of everyday people.
Editor Laura Conaway says its content is guided by the interactive nature of the Planet Money blog. Last Monday, for example, Conaway says, Planet Money was poised to have a law professor look at the bailout bill. "Then Congress punted the bailout bill, and the Dow started falling," Conaway says. Listeners were nervous, so Planet Money changed course, letting the audience into the process of reporting the story. "We put together a podcast asking three economists, 'Are you scared?' " Conaway says, adding that it's gratifying to be able to respond immediately to what's on the minds of the audience.
The MoneyTrack Method
Subtitle: A Step-by-Step Guide to Investing Like the Pros, by Pam Krueger with Les Abromovitz (Wiley, $24.95, out today)
"This drama (on Wall Street) that has just played out has underscored the need to go back to the basics," says Pam Krueger, co-host of the public-television investment show MoneyTrack. "The basics are what works. This is where the payoff is."
Krueger's new book draws stories from real people like Earl the parking-lot attendant who amassed a $500,000 nest egg on a salary of $12 an hour by using Warren Buffett-style investing and diversification. She includes experts who have appeared on her show, and aims to simplify the wealth-building process.
It's down-to-earth, unsexy, easily digested advice for the novice as well as a refresher for those who already have a hand in the market. Scam alerts detail the dangers of identity theft, mortgage fraud and con artists.
"What got us into this mess is getting away from the basics," Krueger said in an interview.
Also in October
•PBS, 9 p.m. ET Oct. 21:Frontline presents Heat, a sobering two-hour investigation by Martin Smith into climate change and how industries, including automakers and oil companies, are or are not responding to it.
•CNBC, 9 p.m. ET Oct. 14 and 10 p.m. ET Oct. 19:The Nuclear Option takes a look at the benefits and drawbacks of nuclear power as an energy source. Though no nuclear power plants have been built in this country in 30 years, ground will likely be broken for a few new reactors in 2009.
By Michelle Archer, Special for USA TODAY
CHECK IT OUT
Paulson, consensus builder
When Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson presented lawmakers with his initial three-page proposal to fix the financial crisis, there were howls of protest about his imperious approach — and his close ties to Wall Street.
But in a cover profile in October's Bloomberg Markets, Paulson is depicted as a consensus builder, a style honed during 32 years as an investment banker and eventually CEO at Goldman Sachs.
What emerges is the picture of an executive who transferred "collaborative" skills to the U.S. Treasury. With its culture of collegiality, Goldman Sachs has produced several prominent political figures, including former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin and former New Jersey senator Jon Corzine, now the governor. (In the current financial crisis, Goldman Sachs became a commercial bank, subject to federal regulation.)
Asked why the firm generates so many high-profile Washington officials, Robert Steel, who worked with Paulson at Goldman and the Treasury, says, "Goldman Sachs was not hierarchical, and people learned to work in teams and to work with people well." In the past year, Paulson's coalition-building skills have been put to the test, culminating in last week's frenetic effort to win support for a bailout package for Wall Street.
Home market took its toll
Bob Toll, CEO of luxury-home builder Toll Bros., has no excuses and freely concedes that he made some foolish deals in the years leading to the housing crisis. In the October edition of Condé Nast Portfolio, Toll talks candidly to reporter Andrew Rice about overbuilding and unwise land deals. As many other real estates executives have run for cover, Rice writes, Toll is reveling in the self-appointed role as spokesman for his beleaguered industry.
The Google phenomena
Call it the Google exodus, or the Google diaspora, or whatever. In almost any given week, blogs and business news sections perk up with news that key figures at Google are leaving. But that's because the corporate culture of Google has spawned a breed of in-house entrepreneurs who, after years at the tech hothouse, leave to put what some might call "iffy" ideas to the market test, says Esquire magazine.
Those who leave the company to launch start-ups have become something of a phenomena in Silicon Valley, reporter Luke Dittrich writes in the October issue.
Three such executives left in November to launch Merus Capital, a venture-capital firm in Palo Alto, Calif. Through the lens of Merus, Dittrich reveals the complex web that ex-Googlers are weaving around Silicon Valley. The new breed of Google graduates has already come up with a clever name to describe themselves: Xooglers. The founders of Merus are betting their connections to Xooglers will lead to big payoffs.
By Gary Rawlins, USA TODAY
WHAT I READ
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey is president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropy whose mission is improving health care.
A practicing physician, she still treats patients at a community health clinic in New Brunswick, N.J. Lavizzo-Mourey and her husband of 30 years have two adult children.
Her favorite books
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I really enjoy books about families — and history — and the struggle they go through. I think it helps us understand the vicissitudes of life.
Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, is a book about Lincoln's Cabinet and the ways in which this team of rivals had very different views on governing the country, but were absolutely determined to make this country a better place, and how Lincoln managed them. It shows how to bring together a team for a good purpose.
I like books about the struggles and triumphs of families over time. That's my all-time favorite, as far as novels. I tend to read fiction and non-fiction. The non-fiction early in the morning when I'm focusing on the things that will be helpful to me in my daily work. Often I read novels in the evening or when I'm trying to relax.
Helpful career reading
A book that has helped a fair amount is Good to Great by Jim Collins. It is a book that helps not only individual leaders but organizations understand how they can be better. In philanthropy, we are always trying to create transformative change and at the same time make ourselves better.
Another one that has been very helpful is Clayton Christensen's The Innovator's Dilemma. It is about the changes in the marketplace, human behavior that leads to future innovations. That is something we care a lot about. I have galleys for his new book, The Innovator's Prescription: A Disruptive Solution for Health Care, in my briefcase to read sometime soon.
Last book given as a gift
It was a book called Nurse: A World of Care by Peter Jaret. It is a book that conveys in photographs — and I love to take photographs myself — the ways in which nurses around the world have helped heal the world of individuals, patients and populations. I gave it to my trustees.
Last book received as a gift
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness. It's a new book by two social scientists in Chicago, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, that deals with the ways in which our environment influences our actions.
Who taught you to love books?
I think I came to love books as a result of one of my elementary school teachers. It would have been sixth grade. It was the way she talked about them and the way she catalyzed conversations between and among the students about books.
By Patrice Gaines