Curtis Michelson

Name:  Curtis Michelson

Title:   Founder/Principal

Organization:  Minds Alert, llc

Born and lived:  Miami, Florida born and raised. I’m part Cuban on my Mom’s side. Graduated B.A. Philosophy and minor in Computer Science from Florida International University in 1989.  Then I lived for a stint in Managua, Nicaragua, which was my political awakening.

Early life:  After seing firsthand the effects of U.S. imperialism abroad, I came back home with a commitment to work for positive social change. I was a community organizer in the PIRG movement and in 1991 moved to Orlando to open a field offce where I helped build awareness around public interest issues and led nightly door-to-door field campaigns in neighborhoods around Central Florida. I’ve stayed involved in community organizing throughout my life around issues of environment, healthy democracy and legacies of racism. I’m currently on the board of Southern Truth and Reconciliation (STAR) and an active member of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) as we work to bring the untold and unvarnished legacy of slavery into public consciousness. I was recently at the opening in  Montgomery Alabama of the Legacy Museum and the Memorial for Peace and Justice. And I serve on the EJI Central Florida task force where we are working to place historic markers to honor those lynched in our area, and to reach out to their descendants in a conversation of truth and reconciliation.

Professional career and activities:
I have zigged and zagged through entrepreneurial ventures and failures, led some exciting technology projects and organizational change initiatives in the U Press sector, and I do a fair amount of coaching, training and speaking these days. My professional research interests hover around the tools of collaboration and the ‘soft skills’ (emotional intelligences, meta-cognition, culture change) which are truly the hard ones. I’m the co-creator of the Discovery Leadership framework and I use this framework and the coaching techniques in my work with clients. Globally, I network with like-minded change facilitators and thinkers and I love to collaborate and pair up with them on projects. I’m also actively learning the Enneagram personal typology system because I believe it’s a useful growth tool to assist leaders at all levels to move organizations forward. My enneagram coach is Clarence Thomson.

Family:
I have one son, he’s 10 years old and his name is Adin. Adin loves to solve the Rubiks cube really fast. It scares me how fast he does it. My partner is French and we live in Orlando together and we travel back to France each summer to spend time with her family. My Mom and Dad still live in Miami, and I personally believe my mom’s chocolate chip cookies, which she fed to every local organizer in Miami from 2008 to 2012 help Barack Obama win Florida, and the Presidency, twice. 😉

In my spare time:
I play drums, both hand drums and Roland V-Drums.  The former band I played in (The Forefathrs) released four albums two of which received national airplay on NPR through the syndicated show “Echoes” with John Diliberto. Love to get hands in soil and plant native Florida flowers and fruits. My wife and I tend the garden regularly. It’s a very balancing activity in a very stressful time.

Favorite books:
Oh my, so many. Currently reading Lincoln in Bardo. I love poetry as well, especially the work of Marge Piercey and two personal inspirational favorites are David Whyte and Rob Brezny.

Pet peeves:
• people who listen only to figure out how/when they can re-insert into the conversation
• place’ism – the bias for one’s local geography as if it should matter to everyone like it does to you
• news as entertainment

Philosophy:
It’s always work in progess. But my thinking framework stems from process and systems thinkers such as Henri Bergson, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Whitehead, Bertanfly, and more recently, Ken Wilber. Perhaps simply put, I’m an evolutionary, not a revolutionary (though folks don’t always recognize the difference.) I believe all good work – work worth doing – is self-transcendant in some way, and should always strive to bring everyone forward a developmental stage at a time, without judgement or harshness. I’m advancing an integral philosophy of curious friendliness to all, what Anna Deavere Smith calls ‘radical hospitality’.

Most memorable career achievement:
Staging a mock trial for a software development methodology called Waterfall. I was the defense attorney representing against the plaintiff Agile. I actually got my guilty party off, and had to take a long shower afterwards. 😉   See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BtQNgikAoo

Goal I hope to achieve five years from now:
I hope to catalyze a creative community who can co-author a book of modern applied philosophy – bringing systems thinking and process philosophy into the business and organizational development domains.

How/where do I see the industry in five years (please answer this question if you answer none of the others):
I see many forces converging on the Academy and the Academy is under-prepared for the waves of change washing over it. Higher Ed (and libraries inside them) are no more immune to the problems with old style top-down hierarchical management than corporate America is. I see creative experimentation happening in pockets (innovation spaces, collaboration labs being pulled into libraries, and publishers working with libraries) and think those sorts of partnerships will yield much fruit. Classic PESTLE analysis points to enormous forces that will impact us all. Libraries(ians) should be some of the best equipped to not only foresee these changes, but they also need to find their inner change agency strengths and be leaders in the evolution of libraries.