Usher's 'League of Men' Encourage Morehouse Students to be Innovative, Not Fear Failure

Date Released: March 31, 2017

(L to R) Steve Nygren, James Andrews, Usher, Yvette Cook, Jose De La Cruz, Russell Stokes and Greg Clay.

By Vanzetta D. Evans


“Look for opportunities to fail. Don’t be afraid to fail fast,” said James Andrews, CEO of Smashd Ventures.

That’s not advice a college student would expect to hear from a panel of successful business leaders. But that sentiment is what Usher’s New Look Foundation’s League of Men told the crowd Tuesday morning at Morehouse College.

Take risks. Think outside the box. Be creative. Embrace innovation.

“Everywhere I’ve been I’ve been a radical thinker because I am a creative person.” That way of thinking has helped propel Jose De La Cruz to the top of his profession. He is the human resources director at The Travelers Companies, a leading insurance provider.

“As a result, the teams I have supervised have been recognized for our creativity because we were thinking outside of the box,” De La Cruz said.

When thinking about a field like human resources, one may not initially think of it as an arena where creative and innovative minds can flourish. But De La Cruz and his fellow panelists agreed that it plays a vital role in business. And that is a major reason why they feel creative courses like art, music, and drama should be available to students in their formative years.

“We’re born creative,” said Steve Nygren, founder of Serenbe, an innovative residential community located south of Atlanta. “But if you look at our school system, it bars creativity.”

“Creativity is the mother of innovations. We have to fight through those barriers that try to steal creativity from our kids,” added Andrews. His company Smashd was an early investor in several innovative startups including Uber, Spotify, and Dropbox.

As president at GE Energy, Russell Stokes encourages his team to take risks.

“If you can create an environment with an opportunity to explore, people can achieve amazing things,” said Stokes. He supports and emboldens his employees to be entrepreneurs inside the company and explore new ideas. This way of thinking is what he says helped transform GE from a product company to a problem-solving company.

“Know where your passions are. It’s different for everyone, but know where your passions are,” said Nygren.

Helping youth achieve their dreams is one UNLF’s founder, singer and actor Usher’s passions. His philanthropic work with organizations such as this is one of the reasons the College honored him with the Candle Award in Philanthropy, Arts, and Entertainment at the 2017 Candle in the Dark Gala. UNLF mentors young people from middle school all the way through college with the mission of creating future moguls.

Usher said he wanted to bring this event to Morehouse in part because of the innovation that occurs on campus.

“The influential connection to thought leaders of the future excels here,” Usher said. “Whether they come from far and wide, they come here and then they go out into the world. So being able to make a connection to what we’re doing [at UNLF] in preparation for students of Morehouse is a natural connection.”



Last Modified: June 8, 2017, 13:06 PM, by: Synera Shelton

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