Episode 7: Cross-generational Communication & Innovation: Jessica Stollings

About the Episode

Host Monty Bruell sits down with Jessica Stollings- journalist, speaker, author, consultant, and generational translator. She is the Founder of ReGenerations, a consulting practice that helps organizations achieve better cross-generational communication. Within the US today, Baby
Boomers, Gen-Xers, Millennials, and an emerging iGen are all
struggling to coexist and communicate with one another. She talks about the rapid pace of change, communication, and our potential emerging generation from a time of immense chaos and confusion.

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Behind Episode 7

For as long as there have been people on Earth, I suppose there has been a generation gap. Has a teenager ever lived who didn’t wail, “Why don’t my parents understand me?” For that matter, I’m sure that almost every parent and grandparent has said, “I just don’t understand this young generation.” Given how pervasive and long-standing these disconnects have been, it is really surprising that it took until the 21 st century for “Generational Translator” to become an official job.

This week, I welcomed Jessica Stollings inside Studio Next. Jessica is a journalist, speaker, author, consultant, and (yes) generational translator. She is the Founder of ReGenerations, a consulting practice that helps organizations achieve better cross-generational communication. Within the US today, Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers, Millennials, and an emerging iGen are all struggling to coexist and communicate with one anaother. It’s no wonder that sometimes we all feel a bit misunderstood!

Jessica Stollings points out that Boomers are the most versatile communicators. We Boomers grew up handwriting letters and dropping them in the mailbox, but are now becoming comfortable using voice recognition to dictate email and texts. iGen members (the oldest of whom are just turning 17) are the first generation that has always been connected. Their generational DNA is 100% digital.

According to Jessica, the patterns of generational theory indicate that we are in a 20-year period called a Fourth Turning. These periods are characterized by chaos and confusion. Have you watched the news or paid attention to national politics lately???

This means that the development of this emerging generation will be pivotal. Will they restore calm and reason or pour gasoline on our already burning fire?

Join me inside Studio Next as Jessica explains how we can better understand and communicate with one another. I’ll bet that she will even have a suggestion about how we can all thrive and prosper, even as we navigate this Fourth Turning. This is one episode you don’t want to miss!

Episode 6: Schools & Innovation: Ted Alling

About the Episode

Host Monty Bruell sits down with Ted Alling, serial founder of successful companies and a driving force in the innovation economy in Chattanooga, TN. Concerned about education in their community, Alling and his wife Kelly have been working with community partners to start a male charter school, Chattanooga Preparatory School. He gives us an inside look at school innovation and the thinking behind it.

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Inside Episode 6

Ted Alling has always wanted to dance to the beat of his own drum. After graduating from Samford University, Ted went to work for third-party logistics leader C.H. Robinson, but soon tired of the large company’s conformity and restrictive environment. He thought that he could see a better, more efficient way of meeting growing customer demand and soon left his job to compete with his former employer.

While at Samford, Ted had become best friends with fraternity brothers Allan Davis and Barry Large. These three entrepreneurs put their heads together and formed Access America Transport. Fortunately, Barry’s family’s business, Key-James Brick, became Access America’s landlord and first customer. Additionally, the trio was able to leverage Key-James’ banking relationships to secure traditional lines of credit. Then they were off to the races!

Flash forward from this beginning in 2002 all the way to 2014, when Access America was acquired by Chicago-based Coyote Logistics in a deal for cash and Coyote stock. As luck would have it, barely a year later, Coyote Logistics was acquired by international logistics giant UPS. So, Ted, Barry, and Allan were able to get a “twofer” on their exit from access America Transport.

To his credit, Ted (still in his 30s) knew that neither starting nor selling Access America would be his most significant accomplishment. Ted and his wife Kelly wanted to make a positive difference in their community. They spent a few years doing some soul-searching and exploring options. Ted and Kelly finally decided that the best thing they could do would be to impact the lives of young, primarily minority boys living in disadvantaged socio-economic conditions. So, they set out on a path to start Chattanooga Preparatory School.

Slated to open in the fall of 2018, Chattanooga Prep will be a charter public school with an initial class of 60 sixth-grade boys. Located next door to Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy (CGLA), Chattanooga Prep is being modeled on its sister school and hopes to replicate its success with boys.


Despite being a public school, Ted, Kelly, and other philanthropically-minded individuals are contributing substantial private resources to creating Chattanooga Prep. The vision for the school is that it will achieve excellence by international standards and will be a model that can be replicated by other communities.

Inside StudioNext, Ted Alling and I discuss his ideas about education, achievement gaps, and how he and his team plan to create the next generation of leaders, one Chattanooga Prep student at a time. Ted and Kelly are scouring the planet, meeting with educators, innovators, and others. I can hardly wait for Chattanooga Prep’s first period bell to ring!


Episode 5: Teachers & Education: Geoff Millener; Teacherpreneurs Jenise Fletcher, Lisa Blakely, Dan Basler, & Drew Akins

About the Episode

Host Monty Bruell meets with Geoff Millener of Chattanooga’s Public Education Foundation, the developers of Teacherpreneur.  Geoff will reveal the secret sauce of this and other programs that PEF uses to produce better outcomes for schools, teachers, and students. Bruell also visits with Jenise Fletcher, Lisa Blakely, Dan Basler, and Drew Akins, representing the highest placing teams in this year’s Teacherpreneur event.  Once you hear the creativity and passion of these teachers, you will be excited about the future of public education.

Check out this episode!

Some thoughts behind Ep. 5: Public Education and Entrepreneurship

When I was in school, I’m pretty sure that I never thought about my teachers starting businesses.  For that matter, I’m also pretty sure that the school never encouraged them to do so.  Well, times have changed, and many teachers have become extremely entrepreneurial.


In fact, in Chattanooga, TN, more than 60 teams of teachers recently participated in Teacherpreneur, an annual program that helps teachers develop and launch business ideas— all within the span of a single weekend.  Many of these business ideas are about much more than making money.  Educators use the program to solve real world problems or take advantage of opportunities that challenge them everyday in their classrooms.


Of course, the Teacherpreneur teams would like for their ideas to become million dollar businesses, but that really isn’t the point.  What is powerful about this process is that it empowers teachers to use entrepreneurship to solve their own problems (and those of other teachers just like themselves).  And, let me tell you… Empowerment is contagious!


One of my main criticisms of the traditional public school hierarchy is that power and authority are concentrated at the top.  By the time you get to the classroom–the point of product delivery— you’re dealing with the least powerful representative of the system, the teacher.  What message does this send to students? Why should we expect teachers to make our kids feel valued and empowered when we don’t value and empower teachers?  This makes no sense.  So when teachers are encouraged to be entrepreneurial and grab the bull by the horns, this sends a wonderful, positive message to their students that they are capable of doing the same.


On this episode of Studio Next, I will talk with Geoff Millener of Chattanooga’s Public Education Foundation, the developers of Teacherpreneur.  Geoff will reveal the secret sauce of this and other programs that PEF uses to produce better outcomes for schools, teachers, and students.  I will also visit with Jenise Fletcher, Lisa Blakely, Dan Baler, and Drew Akins, representing the highest placing teams in this year’s Teacherpreneur event.  Once you hear the creativity and passion of these teachers, you will be excited about the future of public education.

Episode 4: 3D Printing & Building Construction: Platt Boyd

About the Episode:

Host Monty Bruell discusses the future of 3D printing and building construction with Platt Boyd, founder and CEO of Branch Technology. Branch Technology is exploring and investing in tomorrow’s housing through new technology to 3D print buildings.

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Some thoughts on Ep. 4: 3D Printing in Chattanooga, TN

When Platt Boyd moved his family to Chattanooga 3 years ago to launch Branch Technology, most people had not yet heard of 3D printing or Advanced Manufacturing. Since that time, the Chattanooga Public Library has provided 3D printers to its members, and Chattanooga has become known as one of America’s leading centers for advanced manufacturing. What a difference 3 years can make!

Just within the past year, Branch Technology has held an international design competition for 3D houses, begun construction of the winning design on the campus of Chattanooga State Community College, and has most recently (along with California architectural firm Foster + Partners) won a $250,000 NASA prize for designing and prototyping a 3D printed structure for future space stations. When it comes to Chattanooga and 3D printing, what a difference just 1 year can make!

In retrospect, it makes perfect sense that America’s most innovative mid- size city would become such a hotbed for advanced manufacturing. After all, Chattanooga does have a very rich and extensive manufacturing history. It is the birthplace of Coca-Cola bottling, and its foundries have produced most of the country’s fire hydrants ever made. Don’t believe me? Just ask your dog!

Perhaps most importantly, Chattanooga sits geographically halfway between Oak Ridge, TN and Huntsville, AL. Oak Ridge is home to Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Huntsville is home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. With neighbors like ORNL and NASA, it would be more improbable that Chattanooga wouldn’t have become a leader in innovation.

So, join me inside Studio Next as I host Platt Boyd, CEO and Founder of Branch Technology. Platt and I will discuss the future of 3D Printing, Advanced Manufacturing, and when exactly he plans to build a space station on Mars!

Episode 3: Philanthropy & Entrepreneurship: Stephen Culp

About the Episode

Host Monty Bruell chats with entrepreneur, angel investor, and philanthropist Stephen Culp about the changing face of philanthropy. Now more than ever, individuals and small groups have found new ways to work together and make things happen in their communities.

Behind the Episode: The future of philanthropy

Almost three decades after the Red Hot Chili Peppers first sang
“Give it away, Give it away, Give it away now,” few things are
more in vogue among America’s uber-wealthy than talking about
how they’re gonna give away all their darn money. In fact,
billionaires Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates have
formally created The Giving Pledge. So far, 170 of their
philanthropically minded ilk have drunk the Kool-Aid and pledged
to give away at least half of their wealth. Now that’s a chunk o’

I suppose that this is a good thing (and on the whole sure does
beat a sharp stick in the eye), but what does it really say about
our society…and about us? Back in the good ol’ days, such
fantastic wealth was generally inherited and passed down from
one generation to the next. It was considered gauche to talk
about money or to call attention to one’s charitable giving.
Creating foundations and giving to good causes was just
considered noblesse oblige, a duty that came with one’s
aristocratic station in life.

However, times they are a changin’. At no time in the history of
man has it been more true than now that the rich are getting
richer and the poor are getting poorer. The good news is that,
thanks in large part to technology, we are creating new
millionaires and even billionaires at a dizzying pace. Sadly
though, we are also sending people and families into poverty at
an even faster rate. Watch out, Middle Class. The hangman is
coming down from the gallows, and he appears to have his sights
set on you!

Time and time again we’ve seen that money isn’t the solution to
every problem. It may not be the best solution to most problems. So what if billionaires want to give away all their money to good causes? What’s the big deal? Well, for starters, we run the danger of creating a culture of dependency and learned helplessness. After all, isn’t it better to teach a man to
fish than to simply give him a bucket of fish? Next (if you’re the
rich guy) is stroking a big ol’ check really enough? There’s
something to be said for working shoulder to shoulder with your
neighbors to improve your community. Finally, giving away
money isn’t a sufficient counter to the sense of entitlement that a
lot of our 1 percenters feel.

So, what is the answer? Across America (in communities big and
small) people are finding ways to reach out and lend a hand. In
Chattanooga, Tennessee, there are organizations like Causeway
and The UnFoundation that inspire good works and provide
resources to get the jobs done. On the latest installment of
Studio Next, I talk with Stephen Culp, a founder, entrepreneur,
and investor. Stephen brings lessons learned from the Peace
Corps to the philanthropic world. As founder of Causeway, he
has brought live to the Peace Corps mantra, “Help people to help

Tune in and take a listen. I hope that you will be inspired to
make a difference in the world around you with the resources you
already have. So, use your knowledge, give of your time, and
lend a hand. I don’t really mean to discount the generosity of the
wealthy. We certainly need their philanthropy. All I’m saying is
that we shouldn’t wait for solutions to come down from on high.
Let’s just engage with our neighbors, roll up our sleeves, and
create positive change by working together to improve our

Episode 2: Education & Design: Tom Gattis, Owen Foster, and John McCabe

About the Episode

Host Monty Bruell talks with Tom Gattis, Owen Foster, and John McCabe, co-founders of Aether Learning. Aether Learning challenges conventional wisdom about how design is taught to students and practiced by professionals. This episode was recorded during SHiFT, a design camp of makers, thinkers, designers, and creators held in Tuscumbia, Alabama.

Behind the Scenes of Ep. 2: A Camping Trip in Alabama

I have to admit that I enjoy learning about wines from around the world. Every time I open a bottle of wine, I think about how many different corkscrews have been invented to accomplish what I perceive to be a fairly straightforward and simple task. There are corkscrews that twist, those that use leverage, and even some that require batteries. I’ve even encountered one or two that I was never able to figure out how to use. Needless to say, my favorite corkscrews are those that under promise and over deliver, the simple tools that just work easily and flawlessly time after time.

I tell this story about my fascination with corkscrews as a means to illustrate the importance and pervasiveness of design in our lives. From the toilet paper holders in our bathrooms to the cars we drive, virtually everything we touch began with a design and a designer who envisioned it. Some items work so well that we marvel every time we use them, while others seem to torment us as cruel pranks engineered by some evil designer for his own wanton amusement. How can great design and lousy design exist side by side?

Tom Gattis, Co-Founder of Aether Learning, says that it boils down to a combination of there not being enough good designers and a general lack of empathy. Tom believes that great design focuses on the end users of products, not just the end use. Great design is an opportunity to do kindness for strangers.

Tom and his partners, Owen Foster and John McCabe, created Aether Learning 5 years ago to challenge conventional wisdom about how design is taught to students and practiced by professionals. Tom, Owen, and John want to create disruptive models of learning and spread their gospel of unconventional thinking around the globe.

Recently, I spent a few days with the Aether Learning team and about 100 campers at SHiFT, a design camp set on 7,000 acres in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Aether has conducted 7 SHiFT camps over 5 years, with each camp having its own particular theme. The theme of the most recent camp was “Simply Complex.”

Most campers slept in tents, creating their own village of sorts upon arrival at Day 1 of camp. It won’t surprise anyone who knows me to learn that I slept in an air conditioned silo that had been renovated as a bunkhouse (though I did use the communal bathrooms). Two core tenets of SHiFT are to push boundaries and create community. Campers quickly learn that working together with one another will be central to their success.

A typical day at SHiFT begins with breakfast together at the Rattlesnake Saloon in the open air, sheltered by a humongous rock overhead. Next, there is usually a speaker, who introduces that day’s theme and activity. Then campers disperse to attack that day’s challenge, leading up to a bigger project at the end of the week. Campers come together for dinner at the end of the day to share stories and enjoy a presentation or entertainment. Finally, each day concludes sitting around a roaring fire being led in discussion by one of SHiFT’s partners called Igniters. Then it’s time for lights out and getting ready for the day ahead.

What I have gained from my SHiFT experience is a deep respect and appreciation of design and its capacity to create good in our world. Tom, Owen, and John aren’t trying to create carbon copies of themselves. They aspire to create a next generation of designers better than themselves.

Aether Learning and SHiFT are truly magical. Please take a minute to checkout my conversation with Tom Gattis, Owen Foster, and John McCabe on Studio Next. You may subscribe to Studio Next on iTunes or at www.yourstudionext.com. Also, find some really cool stuff at www.aetherlearning.com.

Think about design the next time you turn a doorknob, cook a meal, or drive a car. Design touches our lives a thousand times every day.


Episode 1: Logistics, Supply Chain, & Transportation Accelerator: Santosh Sankar

About the Episode

Host Monty Bruell talks with Santosh Sankar, Director of Dynamo Accelerator and Fund. Dynamo focuses on early-stage companies in logistics, supply chain, and transportation and recruits companies from around the world. Sankar talks about opportunities in their focus areas, things that he has seen with early-stage companies, and some of the inner workings at Dynamo.