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Business leaders have always been scrutinized for their decision making. In 1914, Henry Ford was both denounced as a fool and praised for doubling wages of factory employees from $2.34 to $5 per day. In 1987, Merck & Company decided to give away a cure for river blindness for free, an unfathomable choice for most pharmaceuticals, because they recognized the cost of the drug would be too high for impoverished international markets. Today, entire industries emerge and evaporate in just a few years, so executives must be ready to make substantive choices with limited information. Decisions on people – who to hire, fire, promote and reward – is even more complex; even if new algorithms are quantifying our daily behavior, humans create messy and imperfect data sets.

Perfect timing! Here I was thinking about the topic of ageism in the workplace, when my wife suggested that we watch “The Intern.” I was not familiar with the story, but I quickly noted the relevance. The movie is about a 70-year-old (Robert De Niro) intern working at a start-up clothing retailer in Brooklyn. Assigned to a role under the friendly, but overly-busy CEO (Anne Hathaway), De Niro played a highly professional intern with 40-years of executive experience. Due to his noticeably calm and thoughtful demeanor compared to many others in the business, Anne Hathaway’s character eventually decides to reassign her intern because he is too “observant.”

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