Joshua Wolf Shenk

Author, Essayist, and Curator

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Joshua Wold Shenk a writer of numerous successful piece and books, a curator who has worked with multiple fine institutions, and has taught at The New School, New York University, Washington College, and elsewhere. He is the author of The Power of Two: Seeking the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs and numerous articles, including cover stories for Harper’s, Time, and The Atlantic. He has also written for Slate, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and others. His book Lincoln’s Melancholy was named one of the best books of 2005 by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. He has been awarded residencies at Yaddo, MacDowell, the Blue Mountain Center, and the Norman Mailer Center; a Rosalynn Carter fellowship in mental health journalism at the Carter Center; a Japan Society Media Fellowship; and the Frank Whiting scholarship at the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference. Josh was a 2005-06 fellow in non-fiction literature at the New York Foundation for the Arts. He is the father of one son.

On the show, Shenk discussed his idea of the power of creative pairs and how they’ve been incredibly influential in the history of successful innovators and firms. Specific examples discussed include Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger, Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo, and Steve Jobs and his series of partners including Steve Wozniak, Tim Cook, and Sir Jonathan Ive. Interestingly, Shenk spoke on how a manager, who is often going to be “arranging marriages,” so to speak, ought to seek to bring together partnerships of people that will challenge one another and probably even come from different backgrounds. Successful partnerships often have an element of tension between them. However, it’s important to make sure that there is time and space for solitude for both sides, because “cooling off” is just as important for long-term success.