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business leaders future of work leadershipImagine sitting at a dinner table with some of the most fascinating people from history, long-gone family members, today’s biggest celebrities and thinkers, and people who have changed the world. It would be an amazing dinner conversation! During my weekly podcast The Future of Work Podcast, I ask a few fun questions of my guests to get to know them better. I often ask who they would have dinner with if they could choose anyone alive or dead. The question stumps many of them, but the wide variety of answers show just diverse and interesting these people are.

Family was a popular response for many executives. Jenny Dearborn, Senior Vice President and Chief Learning Officer at SAP, said she would dine with her grandmother who lived to be 100. Her grandma was always optimistic, positive, and smart, and Jenny would love to learn more about her life as a professional artist.

Also wanting to have dinner with her grandmother is Dr. Alissa Johnson, Chief Information Security Officer at Xerox Corporation. Her grandmother grew up in Florida, and Alissa would want to compare her grandmother’s life to where we are today in terms of culture and technology. She says her grandmother would be able to give her perspective on how things can change in 100 years and what things she should focus on today that will stand the test of time.

Georgia Collins, Senior Managing Director and Co-Leader of the Workplace Strategy Practice at CBRE, said she would dine with her grandparents. Both of Georgia’s grandmothers were ahead of their time and went to Stanford when not many women were attending. Georgia would love to relate the stories of her grandmothers to her current mission to promote more women in today’s workforce.

Monica Pool Knox, Head of Global Talent Management at Microsoft Enterprises, said she would eat with her grandmother, who grew up in a time of segregation in the south. Monica calls her grandmother a trailblazer, and they would have a lot to talk about, from their shared love of basketball to her grandmother’s tenacity and diverse experiences.

Teresa Roche, the Chief Human Resource Officer at the City of Fort Collins, would love to have dinner with her mother, who died when Teresa was in her early 20s. More than 40 years after her death, Teresa would love to ask her mom a long list of questions about how she raised seven children while working. From the historical side, Teresa said she would choose Eleanor Roosevelt as a dinner guest so she could better understand what she did everyday to collaborate with such diverse opinions during a challenging time.

Other executives also chose to hypothetically dine with historical leaders and thinkers. Peter Walmsley, the Chief People Officer at GSN Games, said he would have dinner with Mahatma Gandhi so he could get a better understanding of how to lead a group of people and drive change in a non-confrontational way.

Tim O’Reilly, CEO of O’Reilly Media, chose Socrates so he could ask him questions about his changing time that relate to how our world is changing now. Tim would ask the big questions that Socrates was the first to answer, like what is justice, what is truth, and how do we think about these things?

Rosetta Stone Chairman, President, and CEO John Hass chose to have his dream dinner with Leonardo DaVinci because he has always been fascinated by him as a thinker, artist, and scientist. John said we would want to learn how DaVinci’s mind works and learn from someone who was so forward-thinking across different aspects of humanity.

It’s amazing that of the many people I’ve asked this question to, no two people have chosen the same dinner guest. Though these dinners may never happen, it’s always a fun and creative exercise to consider who of the billions of people who have lived, people would want to join for dinner.

My new book, The Employee Experience Advantage (Wiley) analyzes over 250 global organizations to understand how to create a place where people genuinely want to show up to work. Get my free training series to create powerful Employee Experiences, future proof your career and life, or become a member of the new Facebook Community The Future If… and join the discussion.

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