The evening program, Jonathan Fanton, FDR Visiting Fellow, Interim Director of Roosevelt House and former President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, continued his series of conversations with fascinating public figures with John Seely Brown – prolific author, speaker, educator, and self-described “Chief of Confusion.”  Spanning the past four decades, Brown’s career has been focused on helping people ask the right questions and make sense out of a constantly changing world.  As former Chief Scientist of Xerox Corporation and the director of its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) — a position he held for nearly two decades, Brown was deeply involved in the management of radical innovation and in the formation of corporate strategy and strategic positioning of Xerox as “The Document Company,” while expanding the role of corporate research to include such topics as organizational learning, complex adaptive systems, and nano technologies.  Brown’s research interests include digital culture, ubiquitous computing, service-oriented architectures, global innovation networks and learning ecologies.

As an accomplished author, Brown’s books are a testament to his cross-disciplinary and far-reaching thinking on information, pedagogy, the humanities and the culture of organizations.  In A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, co-authored with Douglas Thomas, Brown and Thomas make a compelling case for a new kind of learning, one growing synchronously and fluidly with technology.  In The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion (2012), co-authored with John Hagel III and Lang Davison, the trio draw on pioneering research on information flows and attention and demonstrate how the power of pull can draw out the best in people and institutions by connecting them in ways that increase understanding and effectiveness.

We hope you enjoyed what was a fascinating evening of conversation, questions and “confusion” as we entered the mind of one of the truly original thinkers on technology’s impact on organizational structure and culture.

Notable Quotes on The Power of Pull:

William Jefferson Clinton, 42nd President of the United States
The Power of Pull examines the “how question”—how can we effectively address our most pressing challenges in a rapidly changing and increasingly interdependent world? In The Power of Pull, John Hagel, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davison highlight fascinating new ways in which passionate thinking, creative solutions, and committed action can—and will—make it possible for us to seize opportunities and remain in step with change.”

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
The Power of Pull will do for our 21st-century information-age institutional leadership what Peter Drucker’s The Concept of the Corporation did for industrial-era management. This book begins to create a body of learnable principles that will revolutionize our ability to access and work with knowledge flows.”

Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO of Google
“Hagel, Brown, and Davison have given us a provocative and insightful look at the power of today’s knowledge flow. If you want to meet the challenges of working and living in the 21st century, this book should be your guide.”


John Seely Brown  Former Chief Scientist of Xerox Corporation, former director of the Palo Alto Research Center and Visiting Scholar and Advisor to the Provost, University of Southern California

John Seely Brown is the Independent Co-Chairman of the Deloitte’s Center for the Edge and a visiting scholar and advisor to the Provost at University of Southern California (USC).

Prior to that he was the Chief Scientist of Xerox Corporation and the director of its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)-a position he held for nearly two decades. While head of PARC, Brown expanded the role of corporate research to include such topics as the management of radical innovation, organizational learning, complex adaptive systems, and nano technologies. He was a cofounder of the Institute for Research on Learning (IRL). His personal research interests include digital youth culture, digital media and institutional innovation.

John, or as he is often called-JSB- is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Education, a Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence and of AAAS and a Trustee of the MacArthur Foundation. He serves on numerous public boards (Amazon, Corning, and Varian Medical Systems) and private boards of directors. He has published over 100 papers in scientific journals. With Paul Duguid he co-authored the acclaimed book The Social Life of Information (HBS Press, 2000) that has been translated into 9 languages with a second addition in April 2002. With John Hagel he co-authored the book The Only Sustainable Edge which is about new forms of collaborative innovation and The Power of Pull: how small moves, smartly made can set big things in motion, published April 2010. His current book, The New Culture of Learning co-authored with Professor Doug Thomas at USC, was released January 2011.

JSB received a BA from Brown University in 1962 in mathematics and physics and a PhD from University of Michigan in 1970 in computer and communication sciences. He has received six honorary degrees including: May 2000, Brown University, Doctor of Science Degree; July 2001, the London Business School, Honorary Doctor of Science in Economics; May 2004, Claremont Graduate University, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters; May 2005, University of Michigan, Honorary Doctor of Science Degree, and May 2009, North Carolina State University, Honorary Doctor of Science Degree, May 2011, Illinois Institute of Technology, Honorary Doctor of Design.

Jonathan Fanton  FDR Visiting Fellow and Interim Director, Roosevelt House

Jonathan Fanton, the inaugural Franklin Delano Roosevelt Visiting Fellow at Roosevelt House, served previously as president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation from 1999 to 2009. Previously, he had been president of the New School for Social Research in New York City for 17 years.

MacArthur is one of the nation’s largest foundations. Domestically, its programs encompass community development, housing, juvenile justice, and education, with a focus on digital media and learning. Internationally, it works in the fields of human rights and international justice, biodiversity conservation, population and reproductive health, international peace and security, and migration and human mobility. The Foundation is well known for its support of exceptionally creative individuals through the MacArthur Fellows Program.

As president of the New School for Social Research from 1982 to 1999, he led the integration and enhancement of the seven divisions of the university, expansion of the Greenwich Village campus, and development campaigns that increased the university’s endowment ten-fold. During his tenure, the New School merged with the Mannes College of Music, established a drama school in partnership with the Actor’s Studio, merged with the World Policy Institute, added a jazz and contemporary music program, a teacher education program, a creative writing program, and an architecture department at Parsons School of Design.

At Yale University, Dr. Fanton earned a baccalaureate degree in 1965, a master’s in philosophy in 1977, and a doctorate in American History in 1978. He taught American history, was special assistant to president Kingman Brewster from 1970 to 1973 and associate provost from 1976 to 1978. From 1978 to 1982, he was vice president for planning at the University of Chicago, where he also taught American history.

Dr. Fanton is an emeritus board member of Human Rights Watch (HRW), the largest U.S.-based human rights organization, which operates in 70 countries. He served as Chair of HRW’s board for six years, stepping down at the end of 2003. He is also an advisory trustee of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the founding Board Chair of Security Council Report. He is co-chair of Chicago’s Partnership for New Communities. He served as chair of the New York Committee on Independent Colleges and Universities and as co-chair of the 14th Street/Union Square Local Development Corporation.

Dr. Fanton is the author of The University and Civil Society, Volumes I and II. He is also co-editor of John Brown: Great Lives Observed and The Manhattan Project: A Documentary Introduction to the Atomic Age.

As Franklin Delano Roosevelt Visiting Fellow at Roosevelt House, Dr. Fanton works closely with faculty, students and other members of the Hunter community to develop robust programs in human rights, and will advise President Raab and others on strategic planning for Roosevelt House and other important college initiatives. He also serves as moderator of the Roosevelt House public program “Conversations on Human Rights and International Justice,” which brings leading figures in the field to Roosevelt House for informal conversations with Hunter students, faculty and guests.


John Seely Brown in conversation with Jonathan Fanton | Posted on May 10th, 2013 | Book Discussions, Public Programs