A La Carte
“Frits can speak to you from a place you may not have come from,” said Gwendolyn as she introduced her brother to those lucky enough invited into her elegant Georgetown home Friday evening to celebrate the launch of The Disruptors’ Feast, Frits van Paasschen’s new book.
The author recapped the exponential changes of the last quarter century, “The ability to store, share and manipulate information is hurtling forward, making it possible to connect billions of people to the global economic system, spreading information, disrupting industries and creating new necessities.”
Frits’ unique, multi-national perspective on the world’s ever changing economies was certainly honed from decades of international travels as CEO and global ambassador for branded companies including Starwood, Nike and Coors ... not to mention Dutch parentage and their Indonesian experience, and an all-American schooling.
The author expounded on some of the book’s core themes: urbanization, trend lines, digital networks, how to overcome cognitive bias, and live at the crossroads of all the change brought about by “software eating the world.” Most people and businesses are not prepared (and in many cases reluctant) to adapt to these trends, and in the book Frits suggests strategies to face the challenges ahead.
With anecdotes from his travels, Frits’ shared insights about staying ahead of customer needs, delivering personalization and developing a global mindset.
At the end of one Starwood trip to Shanghai for the purpose of better understanding cultural differences, the company’s president summed up their relocation in a parable: "He had once run a hotel with two chefs, one European and the other Chinese. One day, both chefs informed him that they were delighted to get the best part of the same large fish that had been brought to the kitchen—for the European chef, it was the filet, and for the Chinese chef, the cheek!"
The interesting thing about the Shanghai story is that it comes from the time Frits decided to relocate Starwood’s HQ for a month to China to help his team better understand the culture where there were a quickly growing number of hotels. He did the same when he moved the HQ to Dubai.
Believing the trend line of urbanization is here to stay because cities offer greater earning potential and encourage innovation, Frits points out, “Technology is encouraging people to trade in their idea of the perfect house for the perfect neighborhood.”
The second half of the book, while not exactly offering a blueprint for digital Darwinism, focuses on successful disruptors: Zara for its 30-day production cycle offering affordable fashion, Tesla for improving the car after the customer buys it, and Uber and Airbnb for brilliantly revolutionizing travel.
Every insight Frits so articulately shares can be applied to countries, corporations, start-ups and individuals. Take your pick. I devoured this brilliant book in one sitting.
Can’t wait for Frits van Paasschen's next feast.
January 31st is now officially Peter D. Rosenstein Day in Washington, DC.
Tuesday evening, Dr. James D'Orta, Jed Ross and their children (triplets Mary Rose, AJ and Cubby) welcomed neighbors and longtime friends into their elegant Georgetown home, a mansion once owned by Averell Harriman.
Several hundred revelers enjoyed a piano concert, cocktails and passed hors d'oeuvres as Councilmember Jack Evans congratulated Peter on his birthday.
Approved unanimously by the city council, Evans proudly read the "Peter D. Rosenstein Recognition Resolution of 2017."
Citing his early years as a teacher in New York City before working for Congresswoman Bella Abzug and coming to Washington, DC, Evans spoke about Peter's distinguished service in governement, education, healthcare and as an advocate for LGBT rights.
Rosenstein has been CEO of national associations including the American Academy of Physician Assistants, Accounts for the Public Interests, National Association for Gifted Children and the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists.
"It's 1965 all over again," added Evans, explaining that they still had work to do together.
"Happy to celebrate your 25th birthday," Mayor Muriel Bowser praised Peter, "Through your longtime work in support of your adopted city, you have counseled leaders and advocates--myself included--on matters concerning LGBTQ affairs, healthcare, and education, among many others, thereby becoming a role model and setting a wonderful example for the residents of Washington, DC."
After thanking his hosts and friends, Peter said "I met Dr. Martin Luther King ... and I can't believe we have to march again."
After expressing appreciation for his family and long friendship with Peter, Dr. D'Orta echoed Bowser and Evans about the need to remain vigilant in protecting civil liberties. Sharing with celebrants about his home's original owners, "They were two Jewish brothers from France who were forced out of Paris ... With a dream to come to DC, they started a dry goods store on M Street and built this house."
When the lavish cake was brought out, guests sang "Happy Birthday" as Peter quipped, "At a certain age, the candles just extinguish on their own."
"Mom did have a bit of Miss Havisham in her," said Andrew when I mentioned that We All Scream, the memoir of his childhood and the family business started by his grandparents, is filled with sadness and more than a dollop of Dickens macabre.
For me it's a local story as the family business is Gifford's Ice Cream, which began in 1938 in Silver Spring, Maryland. I arrived a bit later, to the planet and the neighborhood, but for four decades it was THE place where families took their kids on Sunday afternoons, where teenagers sat at the long counter, ordered sundaes and made out, and where many couples announced their engagement. It was before Baskin-Robbins and, until 1984 when they closed (by then there were four locations), these grand old-fashioned ice cream parlors were as familiar and cherished as Disneyland.
The story Andrew Gifford tells is so much more than of the demise of an American ice cream empire. With its twists and mysteries, some unsolved to the end, it's a riveting ride. From page one, you accompany a lonely kid in a big white house in Kensington as he reads comic books, builds imaginary Lego cities and escapes to the woods of Rock Creek Park as often as he can to survive the neglect and abuse he endures from mentally ill parents who are systematically demolishing Gifford's, running it into the ground. Along the way, they play cruel tricks on him and may even have poisoned the creamery.
Andrew began writing this book in 2012 following the untimely deaths of his parents (each fascinating stories in themselves) and after making a full recovery (thanks to someone you just have to discover yourself) from a 10-year debilitating battle with trigeminal neuralgia.
When we met at The Dish & Dram, the author's' favorite new restaurant a few blocks from his childhood home, Andrew arrived with longtime girlfriend Eugenie Oliver. So that answered my first question. Yes, he had truly survived and was happy. Good.
What did he hope to accomplish by dredging up unpleasant memories, not to mention decades spent digging into what happened and why, to a whole host of unsavory family members and millions of missing dollars? "My first motivation," explained Andrew, "was to provide an answer to people's nostalgia about the company. For me, Gifford's is long dead. This is a PBS special." Adding, when I mentioned several recent reincarnations of the business, he said, "I'm sickened by the rebooters."
I don't want to give too much away. Suffice it to say that Andrew Gifford is a gifted writer, who incidentally has his own publishing company, Santa Fe Writers Project.
And, in case you were wondering, no, Andrew does not enjoy ice cream or having to explain when he shows his credit card, that yes, he's one of those Giffords.