Monday, March 01, 2021

Look Who’s Coming to Dinner

Consider this, if you will, for the next time you need an icebreaker or warm-up activity for a team or group of people who might not be totally familiar with each other. It’s also a fun topic of conversation for a spare moment with your family and friends—and could lead to some interesting debate and discussion.

The question is this: If you could invite any three people, living or dead, to a dinner party, who would you invite? You can take various approaches to the question in terms of whether you want participants to focus on living celebrities or famous people, living notable movers and shakers—but not necessarily celebrities—or historical figures, celebrity or otherwise.

(Do be careful how you ask the question however. Asking, “What three people would you like to have for dinner?” could lead to very different answers, and perhaps criminal charges related to the desecration of corpses, should such a dinner occur.)

Take note: You can also play the game at work—imagine that! Games at work—by focusing on people from your practice, profession, industry, or even company. For example: What three living marketing leaders would you want to have coffee with? What three historic marketers would you invite to a dinner party? (P.T. Barnum, anyone? Totally.)

Depending on how you approach the game and question, the results can be fun, as well as productive, especially if you’re focusing on industry or professional luminaries—and provided you further explore why you’d want to hang out with them. What questions would you ask them? What would you seek their help and assistance with? What do you think they’d bring to a project that you and your team can’t currently bring yourself? How do you think they’d approach a given challenge or problem?

In any event, here are three people that I’d like to invite to dinner—and why. I would not, however, have these people for dinner.

Benjamin Franklin

I might be a dilettante, but Benjamin Franklin was a true polymath. He was a talented activist, humorist, philosopher, politician, statesman, and writer. Franklin served and worked as a diplomat, inventor, postmaster, printer, and scientist. He was also a Freemason. He invented bifocals, the Franklin stove, the lightning rod, and other innovations. He published the Pennsylvania Gazette and Poor Richard's Almanack, and contributed to the revolutionary Pennsylvania Chronicle—as well as other periodicals. Franklin helped organize discussion groups, libraries, organizations, and universities. His entire life was dedicated to self-improvement, and his memoirs remain one of the best examples of an autobiography—as well as of personal and professional development writing. He served as an ambassador, might have been a spy, and was such a womanizer that he was frightened by his libido. The world needs more creative polymaths like Franklin.

Recommended Reading: Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Mabel Dodge Luhan

I first learned about Mabel Dodge Luhan while visiting Taos, New Mexico, with my parents, and I spent many cherished hours strolling the grounds of her home there—now an inn and conference center (something totally in line with who she was and what she did)—reading her writing while lounging on the lawn, and pondering the penitentes as I looked into the distance beyond the edge of her property. Luhan was a salon hostess, art patroness, writer, and activist. She was a strong, independent woman who aligned herself occasionally—and usually briefly—with wealthy men, and she surrounded herself with ideas, art, philosophy, beauty, and conversation. While in New York City, she hosted one of the most famous salons in American history, attracting supporters of the avant garde in the arts, politics, and society. Relocating eventually to New Mexico, she continued drawing luminaries and revolutionaries to her home, which became a spiritual oasis, as well.

Recommended Reading: Mabel Dodge Luhan, Intimate Memories

Marshall McLuhan

A Canadian, educator, and media theorist, McLuhan coined the expression “the medium is the message” and the phrase “global village,” as well as the concepts of hot and cool media. The author of books such as Understanding Media, McLuhan posited that media are technological extensions of the human body. (For example, consider the effects of the emergence of the alphabet on biological evolution in terms of which senses we prioritize.) And his work and ideas presaged the Internet and World Wide Web well before the prototypes were widely available or active. Having spent time as a student at the University of Manitoba, McLuhan later taught at the University of Wisconsin—Madison and the University of Toronto. Initially popular in the ‘60s amidst the counterculture, his work fell out of favor slightly before the public adoption of the Internet and Web, which caused a Renaissance of interest in his ideas and writing. He was a major influence on my thinking about and use of the Net in the late ‘80s.

Recommended Reading: Eric McLuhan and Frank Zingrone, eds., The Essential McLuhan

Who would you invite to dinner? Why?

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