Tuesday, March 26, 2019


Are You Ready for the Great Compression?
The days of the standalone anything--app, phone, watch, garage door opener-- are surely numbered. Now's the time to figure out how your business is going to fit into the next paradigm.

Executive director, Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, Illinois Institute of Technology

Many years ago, in a seminal TED talk about education and creativity, Sir Ken Robinson described a conversation with his daughter in which he tried to explain why he stubbornly chose to continue to wear a wristwatch. She pointed out that his watch did nothing more than tell the time--a ubiquitous piece of info in the digital world. In his meager defense, he reminded her, with little apparent success, that his watch also told the date. She wasn't swayed. And, in polling the audience that evening, he discovered that virtually no one under the age of 25 was wearing a watch.

The point is that the next several generations of digital natives--as opposed to those of us who think of ourselves as digital immigrants-- will assume and take so many things for granted because they will have grown up in a world where they never knew otherwise. In the next few years, we will all come to expect our devices, digital assistants and other tools and technologies to become more powerful, better at anticipating our requirements, and robust and accessible sources of answers and solutions (as opposed to choices or alternatives) across the entire spectrum of our mental and physical needs and desires.

In an "always-on" mobile world where multi-tasking is increasingly mandatory (although not necessarily effective) dedicated, single-purpose devices will inevitably come to seem inefficient, pathetically limited, and so yesterday. As time and space become ever more precious, we're in a constant struggle to make sure that the sources and magical things that we attach to (or implant in) our bodies or feature prominently on our screens, absolutely deliver the most "bang for the buck" in terms of utility, productivity, efficiency and cost.

We don't have any interest or time to hunt for the right remote or correct controller, to learn a new app or behavior, or spend a moment more than necessary in getting to where we need to be. We're in a features and functionality arms race; the competitive bar continues to rise whether you're talking about apps, watches, phones, fitness or health trackers, ear buds, etc. And, above all, we want them to be as seamlessly integrated into our day-to-day existence as possible. I want exactly what I want - when and wherever I want it - and ideally without asking.
This race is all about ease, access, convenience and "one-stop" shopping and this is why the battle to be the primary operating system in the home is heating up so quickly. Right now, we average more than eight digital devices in our homes, but that's not remotely (so to speak) sustainable. You might think you want an Alexa-enabled device in every room, but Amazon and Lennar Homes are betting that you'll want the system built in, right along with the plumbing and electrical. 

This is also why there's so much competition and confusion around mobile and in-store payment systems. Why waste time extracting and swiping a credit card to pay for anything? Look at what's going on in China with WeChat: more than 900 million daily users essentially live their entire lives on the system and send about 38 billion messages a day. Cash is increasingly a thing of the past.

Comprehensive, integrated solutions and a few dominant platforms (social, shopping, financial and maybe health) are the way the whole world is headed. Stand-alone anything is going to be increasingly difficult to sustain. If it wasn't already tough enough to be in the hardware business, it's likely that things are going to be getting a lot worse. One significant indicator of this trend is Amazon killing its branded DASH buttons. Millions of these simple, in-home reordering devices were sold and installed. What could be easier than walking into your pantry and pressing a couple of little Tide and Windex buttons stuck to the wall to order your favorite cleaning products and have them appear hours later on your doorstep?  Instead, Amazon concluded that voice ordering by consumers through Alexa-enabled products -- Alexa is increasingly being built into refrigerators, microwaves, portals, etc.-- is going to be even more compelling, and far less costly from a production and distribution standpoint. Thus, the wave of the future.

So, if you are in an industry predicated upon a dedicated device, you need to be thinking a lot about where your business is headed. You know what happened to the fax machine. But now we're talking about plugs, cords and other add-on accessories in a wireless world, along with Wi-Fi hotspots, E-Z Pass transponders, garage door openers, etc.  Smarts, as in software, continues to trump steel; any device whose utility can be folded into another platform, vehicle or software system is history.

And here's where a lot of the conventional startup wisdom is also getting stood on its head. We used to emphasize that nothing was more important for a new business than focus. Keep your head down, concentrate on doing a few things really well, identify and double-down on your USP and sustainable competitive advantage, etc. because you need to differentiate yourself from the pack of competitors who will soon enough be on your tail.

Today, fierce focus isn't enough because perspective -- seeing the bigger picture and the way things are moving -- or, as my colleague Rob Wolcott calls it, "foresight" is even more critical. It's not enough to run away from the rabbits; you've got to find or create a protected path forward that will let you grow into your own integrated solution or become an important part of someone else's plan. Just as faxes, scanners and copiers quickly merged into all-in-one machines and CD players disappeared in car dashboards, the pressure to fold additional functions into existing forms -- especially in cars and phones -- is only going to grow.

These days, part of your getting-started calculation needs to be "how can I build my business to be bought by one of the big guys." Here are some tips:

1) Don't raise a crazy amount of money too soon; get the business to cash positive ASAP so you're accretive in an acquisition.

2) Don't plan to be the best "one-trick" pony in the pack because that's an idea whose time has passed.

3) Above all, focus and fall in love with, the ultimate solution. That means solving the customers' ultimate needs as opposed to falling in love with your present product.

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Bauhaus in the Age of Frictionless Design

The cloudlike exterior of the new Kaplan Institute, designed by John Ronan, on IIT's campus in Chicago. Steve Hall

The Bauhaus in the Age of Frictionless Design
 MAR 14, 2019
The design school at Chicago’s IIT is a direct descendant of the Bauhaus. Its slick new building is, in some ways, everything the Bauhaus was not.

The Institute of Design at Chicago’s Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) may be the most direct offspring of the Bauhaus, which was the most influential design school in the world. Founded by former Bauhaus faculty member László Moholy-Nagy in 1937, and later absorbed into IIT (whose architecture school was then led by Mies van der Rohe, himself a former Bauhaus director), the graduate school has had seven-plus decades to marinate in the context of early 20th-century experiments that forged art with industry.

And architecturally, it’s been an exceedingly steady simmer—until now. Mies designed IIT’s campus, including the famous steel-and-glass Crown Hall. The Institute of Design’s new home, the 70,000-square-foot Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, is the campus’s first new academic building—by Mies or anyone else—in 40 years. It represents one of the most pervasive and influential types of architectural space today. The building looks, and functions, like a tech office, with break-out spaces, a communal kitchen, acoustically swaddled furniture, and staircase seating. The Institute of Design shares the $37 million facility with IIT’s entrepreneurship and maker hub.

Staircase seating in the bright-white new Kaplan Institute. (Steve Hall)

Like many tech offices, the building is open-plan, but with spaces for group huddles and private concentration. (Daniel Chichester)

Walk into the Kaplan Institute, and the first thing you’ll notice is how bright and pristine it is. The white walls, floors, and ceiling are a counterpoint to the dour brick and black steel of Mies’ ultra-minimalist campus. The original Bauhaus was obsessed with materiality, delving into how each material expresses its fundamental nature, whether ceramic, fabric, metal, or paper. But the materials at hand today are much different. “We define material to be data,” said Denis Weil, the institute’s dean.

The old Bauhaus was as obsessed with new technology as these designers are today, but in the 1920s, that meant welding glass with steel. Today, it means virtual, digital products. Much of the school’s output, then, is not tea kettles or chairs, but apps and other feats of computer programming.
After graduation, Weil says, most students will work in innovation consulting with large consultancies, as front-end designers with tech firms, or in traditional UX design. And this transition from corporeal to digital drives the formal expression of the building.

The original Bauhaus was obsessed with materiality. “We define material to be data,” said Denis Weil, the institute’s dean.

On a tour, Weil showed off past and current projects at the school, and their wild diversity would have delighted the Bauhaus founders, given their own push to break down barriers between industrial production, artisanal craftsmanship, and experimental art. One project he pointed to used audio greeting cards to help police explain Miranda Rights in Spanish. Another was an attempt to elicit more energy-efficient behavior by apartment tenants. This is design that’s about making strategic interventions to change human behavior, rather than offering up widgets to make problems disappear.
Germany’s Bauhaus was run on a more cloistered studio-based model, where masters would create alongside apprentices, away from the distractions of the world. The infrastructure required for those studios (looms for textiles, kilns for pottery) encouraged more physical separation, as opposed to the institute’s current digital-heavy scrum.

“The studio comes from a time where we felt that designers need to withdraw, and that the power comes out of the vision of the designer,” said Weil. “That’s not at all how design happens today ... if the designer’s role is [that] of the integrator and facilitator, it makes sense to have a studio as a place where you interact—hence the open-office concept.”

The Kaplan building is not a temple of holy creation, but a conference room for sorting and crowd-sourcing the best ideas. There’s a public-to-private spectrum of spaces, from shielded chairs for solitary work to grand forums. Most space is in-between, with moveable walls and bump-outs for conversation among a handful of people. The building is filled with colorful furniture and writeable dry-erase walls. Its architect, John Ronan, wanted it to be friendlier than the typical Miesian architecture on campus.

Bottom of Form
“I wanted to use materials that were not available to Mies,” said Ronan, who teaches at IIT’s architecture school. That meant an ETFE façade system. ETFE (or ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) is an ultra-strong and lightweight polymer, and Ronan used it to cover the center’s second floor. Three balloon-like sections make up the semi-opaque walls. A pneumatic system automatically inflates and deflates chambers of the ETFE to block excess light on sunny days or let more light in when it’s overcast.

The ETFE wall on the building’s second floor modulates daylight and glare. (Zach Mortice)

As the second floor cantilevers out over the glass-walled first floor, comparison to a cloud is unavoidable. The design products of the school migrate to the cloud and the building turns into one—albeit a cloud that’s been poured into rectilinear, factory-stamped mold. But the first-floor machine shop, filled with 3D printers, routers, and laser cutters, is a clue that physical objects do still have a place here.

Despite the digital focus, not all of the school’s products are immaterial. (Daniel Chichester)

The halls of the early Bauhaus were wilder than these quiet corridors, with avant-garde dances and parties. For a metal-themed Bauhaus party, for instance, “Invitations suggested that gentlemen come as an egg-whisk, a pepper-mill or a can-opener, while ideas for the women included a diving bell, a bolt or wing-nut, or a radioactive substance.” One of the Bauhaus’s earliest sages was the robed mystic Johannes Itten, a devotee of an obscure neo-Zoroastrian, racist religious sect called Mazdaznan, who began each class with controlled breathing exercises. And then there’s the photo of dark-haired female Bauhaus students messily coiffed in the style of the Cure’s Robert Smith, which offers something  timeless about outsider self-expression.

”The mystical-robe stuff is completely gone,” said Jeffrey Mau, an instructor at the Institute of Design who focuses on the history of the Bauhaus. Today, “You won’t find too many art-school kids with blue hair and tattoos. Everybody looks like they’re in business school.” Which makes sense, because some are (the Institute of Design offers a dual MBA degree).

But the tidiness isn’t totally antithetical to the Bauhaus in its prime. The Bauhaus’s second director, Hannes Meyer, nurtured the school to profitability through commercial partnerships, according to the New York Times. Its most profitable product was wallpaper, as Architect magazine pointed out.
At the Institute of Design post-Mies, Jay Doblin, who became director in 1955, sought professionalization, adding theory and critique to what had been a largely experiential field of master-and-apprentice craft. Under Doblin, faculty put more emphasis on business-friendly new product development and less on open-ended experimentation.

That legacy is reflected in the spotless, tidy condition of the Kaplan Institute. “There’s still a janitor walking around cleaning scuff marks off the floor with a tennis ball on a stick,” said Mau. “It sets a tone of, ‘Where can I spread my work out and leave it?’”

This is partly due to how new the building is—things could change. The building is made from tough and resilient materials (polished concrete, exposed fireproofing) that should be able to absorb some creatively channeled destruction. “I imagine it’ll look quite different in a year or two,” said Ronan. “It’s not a precious thing. It’s meant to be a working space that can get messy. It’s a canvas for the students to finish with their work.”

The Bauhaus was never a purist organization, but through most of its brief history there was room for art. At the Kaplan building, this space seems to have largely been filled by “innovation.” It’s in the building’s name and serves as an implicit mission statement. By moving its emphasis from experimentation to innovation, the school narrows its scope from holistically using design as a tool of self-expression to using it as a tool for technocratic managers. That, too, is a measure of the Bauhaus’s influence, which has been absorbed and re-interpreted through the day’s economic value system.

The best art and design schools are those that can take the bumps and scratches that come with an endless parade of young minds carrying bizarre and messy ideas, and it remains to be seen if the precise and tidy Kaplan Institute will be called into action this way, and if so, how it will bear the smudges. Its writeable walls are so far mostly filled with lecture talking points and assignment due dates. It doesn’t feel like a place to scribble yet.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Kaplan Institute Debuts Speaker Series to Bring Together Leaders in Business and Technology at Illinois Institute of Technology

Kaplan Institute Debuts Speaker Series to Bring Together Leaders in Business and Technology at Illinois Institute of Technology

“Real Estate Development–Deconstructed” Event Features Execs from Sterling Bay, City of Chicago, and Skender
Chicago, IL — March 19, 2019 — 
The Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship today announced that it will host Real Estate Development – Deconstructed, an intimate conversation with business, civic, and technology leaders, on April 23, 2019, at Illinois Institute of Technology’s Mies Campus. Kaplan Institute Senior Director Barbara S. Pollack announced that the inaugural event, titled Can Large-Scale, Mixed-Use, High-Tech Developments Help Salvage, Reimagine and Save Our Cities: How Will New Technologies Impact The Way Buildings Get Built In the 21st Century?, is the first in a series of upcoming fireside chats and panel discussions hosted by the Kaplan Institute to provide a new forum for leaders in innovation to learn, share, and collaborate with their peers as well as Illinois Tech students, graduates and faculty.
The initial panel will feature David Reifman, Commissioner, Chicago Department of Planning and Development; Keating Crown, Managing Principal, Sterling Bay; Justin Brown, President and Partner, Skender; and Howard Tullman, Executive Director, Kaplan Institute. The curated series of lunch-hour conversations will be open to the public and free for Illinois Tech’s students. 
“We know that breakthroughs in innovative thinking don’t happen in a vacuum,” said Howard Tullman, Executive Director of the Kaplan Institute. “This exciting new Speakers Series is designed to serve as a unique forum of ideas, in which next-generation leaders from the business, technology, and civic sectors can come together to share insights on how our city can grow together as an innovation ecosystem.”
The Series, developed by Kaplan Institute Senior Director Pollack, was created to encourage open and informal cross-disciplinary conversations concerning the future trends, concerns and considerations shaping our environments, communities, and cities. April’s event will mark the first group of prominent industry leaders expected to participate in the Series.
The Kaplan Institute opened at Illinois Tech in October 2018 with a mission of nurturing the advancement of critical and creative ideas, fostering interdisciplinary and external collaboration, and creating a culture that enables innovation and tech entrepreneurship to flourish on campus and throughout the Chicago community.
“Free and open conversations around the opportunities and challenges facing the real estate development industry like these are critical to our ability to innovate,” said Justin Brown, President, Skender. “We thank Howard, Barbara and the Kaplan Institute for bringing this diverse group together at Illinois Tech to try and tackle some of the most pressing and intriguing questions confronting the construction and real estate development sector.”
For more information about the Kaplan Institute Speaker Series, or to register for Real Estate Development – Deconstructed: Can Large-Scale, Mixed-Use, High-Tech Developments Help Salvage, Reimagine and Save Our Cities: How Will New Technologies Impact The Way Buildings Get Built In the 21st Century?, visit web.iit.edu/kaplan-institute/speaker-series. The event is free to Illinois Tech students and $5 for the general public.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

New INC Magazine Blog Post by Kaplan Institute Exec Director Howard Tullman

What Hospitals Get Wrong About Customer Focus
You can get really great care in these giant institutions, as I just learned. But if you interact with the customers the way they do, your business would keel over.

Executive director, Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, Illinois Institute of Technology

Home from the hospital. I'm still dealing with the remnants of the mystery infection that clobbered me. But having escaped, mostly in one piece, I thought it was time for some reflection as well. First, you spend much more time than you'd like sitting and sweating in your bendy bed -- sleeping for any reasonable amount of time apparently being unimportant in the scheme of things. And, because there really isn't all that much else to do, I kept thinking about process improvements, systemic changes and - in our crazy data-driven lives - what should be the realistic expectations of patients in terms of learning, in context and in real-time, about the plans for and progress of their own care.

Everyone you speak to inside and outside the hospital is an expert in health care-- no qualifications, training or experience necessary-- but I'd say a good place to start is with the idea that the system should fit people, not the other way around. If there's a theme song for healthcare today, it's got to be based on Dire Straits' song Money for Nothing ("Now, that ain't workin', that's the way you do it; money for nothin' and your chicks for free." ) because in the hospital I heard this refrain day after day:  "that's the way we do it." And you don't get anything for nothin'.  
That said, you can't get out of any hospital these days - however long your stay - without being extremely grateful for the people who cared for you 24/7 and the quality of the care you received. You quickly learn two important things when you're bed-bound and relatively helpless.

First, you quickly come to appreciate the critical importance of "friends in low places." The physicians may think they're in charge, but the real lifesavers are the everyday people -- nurses, techs, dietitians, and especially the cleaning people, who make or break your experience.

And second, you learn about pride. There are NO horrible, boring or even routine jobs in any business -- it's all up to the individual and what he or she makes of the job. Any job can be important, creative and challenging if you put your heart and mind into it; conversely, even the most creative endeavors can become routine if you don't invest in the process and just walk through the days in an uncritical stupor. Every hospital staff person I encountered was proud of their role in my care. They understood that they weren't in the food prep or blood draw or cleaning business. They were an essential and important part of the only real thing that matters in medicine: the caring and connection business. They weren't mindless or interchangeable cogs in some stupid fix-'em factory; they were individuals whose job it was to demonstrate to me and convince me that they were there to help me get better and get out. And, they did a great job. It's never the soldiers who screw things up and lose the war; it's always the generals.

I'm convinced that the technical precision, equipment and instruments, and the level of the medicine being practiced today (even in teaching hospitals) is as high as it's ever been and that's the very good news. But from the standpoint of the patient, that's only half the story. The ways of addressing the patients' mental and emotional issues and needs-- for connection, communication and information--are still as messed up as ever.  That's a big problem that clearly remains unresolved. It's a people problem -- and the people who are the problem are the physicians. Whether they're too busy, too tired, too stressed, too overly-trained to be utterly un-empathetic, or whatever it is, they suck at serving the interpersonal and informational needs of the patients. And, because they're on a crazy merry-go-round of rotations that assure that you couldn't possibly see the same docs for more than a few minutes every few days, if you're lucky, the prospect that you'll make a real connection with any of them is next to zero.    

These issues aren't that different from many of the concerns that every business faces around the critical need to be customer-centric. But what was very striking in my own hospital experience was that regardless of how many questionnaires and inquiries are incorporated into reviews and discharge procedures, if you're consistently asking the wrong questions or focused on immaterial metrics, you're not going to learn anything of value. The administrators who run these massive hospitals don't have a clue about how to ask the right questions. What you measure and pay attention to are what define and determine the success of your business. Feel-good focus groups, useless data collection, made-up metrics and ratings that don't address core concerns are a complete waste of time.

I had a volunteer conduct a questionnaire about my relationship with one of the main docs allegedly "responsible" for my care. He had to show me a picture of the doctor, who I barely recognized, and had maybe seen once in my entire visit for a couple of minutes. As he started asking about whether the physician and I had "good" substantial conversations about my questions and concerns, I actually started laughing. This was a complete waste of time. First, because the one thing that is abundantly clear is that no one at the hospital does anything by themselves - there are always 3 or 4 people in every meeting, visit, conversation, etc. So, trying to evaluate my engagement and involvement with a single doc was a joke. And second, I had no idea what this doc's role was even supposed to be in my overall care so I couldn't really address anything substantive anyway. It was an inquiry straight out of Alice in Wonderland.

There are no easy or quick answers because the health care system is completely broken (albeit still better than anywhere else in the world), but here are a few things that anyone with the slightest interest in the experiences of their patients should address immediately.

(1)  Antibiotics Shouldn't Be A là carte
I'm the patient. What do I know? There's a drug to prevent blood clots that might arise from being bedridden. Seems to make sense. But here's the thing, the schedule said to administer the drug 3 times a day, but I was asked by some very considerate folks from time to time if I wanted the shots. Would this instill a great deal of confidence in you? How the heck do I know whether I should have the shot or not? Healthcare consumers don't want more choices and alternatives - we want answers and expertise.

(2)  The Patient Shouldn't be the Last to Know
I fasted overnight several nights for no reason. Tests that were set for the following days, which required no food or drink for 8 hours prior, simply disappeared from the schedule. No explanation. No reasons given. Just gone. Emergencies, illnesses and changes in a hospital are all inevitable and readily explicable if someone cares enough to do the patients the courtesy of telling them what's happening and why. Ignorance is curable; indifference is what kills the experience and ultimately the culture.

(3)  The Patient is Entitled to A Consistent Single Point of Contact
I had rotating teams from cardiology, infectious diseases, internal medicine (maybe - not sure), and probably some others, and they would stop by from time to time to update me on the narrow and obscure aspects of their particular areas of investigation. But they had no apparent information or connection to the activities of any of the other teams. There was NO ONE who appeared daily to actually tell me what was going on with my care and progress (or lack thereof). And it's not even clear who that person is supposed to be.

If you think that problem-solving and way-finding for inbound inquiring customers in your own business is easy, you're sadly mistaken and you should spend a little time calling your business and trying to navigate your website. Nobody does it well - but when you're also stuck in a bed, the data deficiencies are even more obvious.

(4)  "Rounds" Ought to be in the Room, not the Hall
I learned what little I knew about my prognosis by eavesdropping on the morning briefings (rounds), which were being held outside my room, where someone who seemed to know something about where things stood would brief the rest of a group of other doctors about my condition. It would have been so nice and helpful had they taken the time to share the updates with me as well. Frankly, the guy in the room next door (who always had his door open) probably got better info about my treatment than I did simply because they stood right in front of his door. HIPPA Hooray. There's a sign that says I can get help on the phone in a zillion different languages, but, of course, I have no idea who to call.
Are answers easier to come by in your business?

(5)  It's Harder to Pee in Starbucks
It appears to me that any mope -- completely devoted or utterly deranged -- can walk into the hospital, hop onto the elevators, ride to some floor and wander into any patient's room without being questioned or challenged. It's honestly much harder to get into the restrooms at Starbucks. No visitors' passes required, no surgical masks offered, no invitations or permissions necessary, no limits on guests -- drop on in whenever you please. Just like Bakers Square, come for the meal, stay for the pie, no extra charge for the MRSA. 

No one expects overnight cures and simple solutions - but if you're not completely customer-centric today and fanatically focused on their experience and expectations, you're nothing. 


Chicago Sun Times

Private emails show a retiring Emanuel is still working — on building his legacy

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his wife, Amy Rule
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, joined by his wife, Amy Rule, at his announcement in September that he would not seek re-election. | Rahul Parikh/Sun-Times
As his eight-year mayoral reign winds to a close, Rahm Emanuel has been all about legacy-building. He’s been making announcements at such a frenzied pace, one might think he was still campaigning for the job he’s about to relinquish.
Now, records show Emanuel used his private email accounts to do what he does best: lobby the friends he has cultivated in the national media to tout his record of accomplishments and, just maybe, lay the groundwork for a future run for office.
Private emails released to the Chicago Sun-Times in response to a Freedom of Information request show Emanuel lobbying for favorable coverage even after Sept. 4, when he announced he had chosen political retirement over the uphill battle for a third term.
“Here is the latest data on our children’s nation-leading academic progress,” Emanuel wrote in a Sept. 20 email to David Leonhardt of the New York Times that included 2.5 pages of “data points,” as the mayor loves to put it.
In yet another email to Leonhardt that same day, Emanuel wrote: “New data on college acceptance.”
Leonhardt replied, “Thanks, I will read.”
Five days later, Emanuel wrote a similarly self-promoting email to Clifton Leaf, editor-in-chief of Fortune magazine.
“Nice seeing you. Would like to follow up re: a public schools turnaround piece. Enjoy Chicago,” Emanuel wrote.
Leaf replied, “Thank you for being here, Mr. Mayor. I thoroughly enjoyed your talk this afternoon and will follow up with your staff on extraordinary school turnaround story. Congratulations again, Cliff.”
Yumi Ross
Yumi Ross sent a glowing email to Mayor Rahm Emanuel after hearing him speak. | Sun-Times file photo
Emanuel didn’t have to offer his normal sales pitch to Yumi Ross, who serves on the board of directors of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Architecture and Design Society, the Hyde Park Art Center’s board of directors and the advisory board of CPS Lives.
On Sept. 14, Ross wrote a gushing email to Emanuel after hearing him speak at the Chicago History Museum.
“You did a fantastic job speaking. I was literally moved to tears. Fought to regain my composure when you addressed your reasons for not running. Your announcement shocked me and I remain shocked,”  Ross wrote.
“I cannot imagine anyone else as mayor. A New Yorker asked me, `Do Chicagoans know how respected Rahm is around the world?’ You’ve turned Chicago into a world-class city. You are irreplaceable. Many people have expressed to me their shock and worry that you aren’t running again. … You are a great mayor, a phenomenal elected official. Nobody can fill your and the First Lady’s shoes.”
Hedy Ratner, president emeritus of the Women’s Business Development Center, was more focused on making the most of Emanuel’s final months in office.
“What fabulous things we can do together until May,” Ratner wrote on Sept. 7, three days after Emanuel set off the political equivalent of an earthquake.
“How about minimum wage for tipped workers?”
On Aug. 9, less than a month before Emanuel’s announcement, Howard Tullman, founder of the technology incubator 1871, wrote to the mayor with an idea to help City Hall change the subject from the media’s laser-like focus on Chicago violence.
Tullman was inspired after listening to a so-called “community leaders violence call.”
Rahm Emanuel, Howard Tullman
Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined 1871 CEO Howard Tullman (speaking) in 2014 for an event at Tullman’s tech incubator, 1871, in the Merchandise Mart. | Sun-Times files
“Here’s what I would do: Get a city video crew on the street to visit some of these places where things are working. Capture two minutes of the video [B-roll], which shows what the various community leaders are doing that is helping block [by] block,” Tullman wrote.
“Make these media a–holes run some of these little pieces to off-set when [they] run all over the crappy shooting stories and tell them it’s their job to balance the news. This way is the best way to help share good ideas and successful solutions. Bad news generally pushes out good news. But, we can tell the story better.”
Emanuel replied with a simple, “Thanks.”
Dr. Eric Whitaker, a close friend of former President Barack Obama, also offered the mayor advice on July 19, more than six weeks before Emanuel’s shocking announcement.
“Dude, you had me crying today! I think more people need to see that side of you,” Whitaker wrote after hearing Emanuel give what he thought was a particularly poignant speech about his efforts to recruit college graduates to start their careers in Chicago.
“Can we [city, WBC] initiate a targeted campaign to recruit African-American and Latino students to Chicago post-graduation? We can profile individual members of our diverse business and social sector community. … In my view, we need a concerted effort to reverse the exodus of black folks from Chicago. … Here’s to middle children.”
Emanuel replied, “Call me tomorrow.”
Even the mayor’s own brother, Hollywood super-agent Ari Emanuel, used the mayor’s private emails to pitch an idea.
“Rahm, I have worked with One World Academy both personally and through the company. This is something I think you should do for the public schools in Chicago. Please let me know a good time to discuss,” Ari wrote to his older brother on Aug. 22.
On July 22, the mayor got a personal email from billionaire Ken Griffin, Illinois richest man and one of his most generous campaign donors.
“Thank you for including Citadel in your trade delegation trip to China and Tokyo,” Griffin wrote.
“I caught up with Jamil when he returned. He found the trip extremely informative and really appreciated your hospitality. All the best, Ken.”
Eddie Johnson, Ken Griffin and Rahm Emanuel
Chicago billionaire Ken Griffin is shown in April 2018 discussing his $10 million donation to reduce gun violence in the city. Also there were Mayor Rahm Emanuel (right) and Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson (left). | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
Emanuel replied, “It was a real success for the city. He was a great member of the delegation.”
The mayor couldn’t resist a little chest-pounding.
“Chicago was named for the sixth consecutive year in a row No. 1 city for foreign direct investment and fifth worldwide and only American city in top ten for the last six years.”
Eight days after the mayor’s announcement, personal injury attorney Bob Clifford wrote the mayor an email asking if the two men could “chat about two matters.”
Emanuel was at the dentist, but promised to call Clifford, adding, “Problem?”
Clifford replied, “No problem. In one situation, trying to help someone who several people say is getting a raw deal that maybe you can correct. And, in the other, re: a situation where one of my experts says city getting screwed by BCBS,” the acronym for Blue Cross-Blue Shield.
On Aug. 31, Chicago real estate broker Erik Schwab wrote a private email to the mayor after having read a front-page story in the Chicago Sun-Times with the headline, “What is he waiting for?” The story hinted strongly that Emanuel might not seek a third-term.
“I read the article in Thursday’s Sun-Times regarding when/if you’ll announce and I couldn’t help but shake my head. I would imagine there are other things they could write about instead of an election that is over six months away. I personally hope you wait until the end of the petition filing period before you make any announcement,” Schwab wrote.
“The pile of mayoral wannabes is doing nothing to set themselves apart from each other yet, let alone you. You are doing what you should be doing: governing, circulating petitions and raising money. The moment you announce, all the TV ads and pointless back and forth on everything but the issues facing our city will begin and become annoying by week’s end. … Best of luck in 2019. Hope to see your name on the ballot.”
Five days later, Emanuel announced his political retirement.

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