Get Schooled Scores a Spot on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in Gaming List

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The lighting-thumbed gamer diehards will nod in knowing agreement as they glance at Fast Company’s roll call of the 10 most innovative companies in gaming – streamer Twitch, gamemakers 2K and Activision Blizzard, founding father of modern gaming Nintendo. But the name at number nine might teach even the most seasoned gamer something brand new: Get Schooled, the non-profit organization whose primary mission is inspiring students to finish high school and succeed in college.

How exactly does an organization founded via a partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Viacom crash a who’s who of modern gaming giants? By adopting the fearless attitude and experimental dynamic of a Silicon Valley start-up driven to solve an complex problem.

“Get Schooled has a track record of success in part because we have adopted the principles of a high performing tech start up: we value partnerships, use data to continuously improve and have learned how to fail fast,” said Marie Groark, Executive Director of Get Schooled.

Those improvements have hinged upon a bold and vast adventure into gamification, a realm that many high school students know well and require no primer to engage with. The pivot began just two years after Get Schooled launched in 2010, transforming www.getschooled.com into an immersive gamified universe, where competition, point scoring and rules have engaged millions of young people, who can cash out their points for stuff like autographed gear from NBA and NFL stars, calculators or backpacks in a rewards store sponsored by the organization.

Students can also earn scholarships, or celebrity appearances by the likes of DJ Khaled, Nicki Minaj, James Harden, KeKe Palmer, Nick Cannon, Ne-Yo, Chance the Rapper and Ludacris. Check out Kendrick Lamar’s visit to Bethel High School in Alaska, a former “drop-out factory” that earned the visit by winning one of Get Schooled’s national points-based competitions:

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Younger Inspires Creativity at the Fast Company Innovation Festival

by Chanel Cathey, Viacom
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10:  (L-R) Darren Star, Patricia Field, Debi Mazar, Hilary Duff and Nicole LaPorte speak onstage during "Inside TV Land's Hit Show "Younger" With TV Icon Darren Star, Patricia Field And Debi Mazar" at The Fast Company Innovation Festival on November 10, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Fast Company)

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 10: (L-R) Darren Star, Patricia Field, Debi Mazar, Hilary Duff and Nicole LaPorte speak onstage during “Inside TV Land’s Hit Show “Younger” With TV Icon Darren Star, Patricia Field And Debi Mazar” at The Fast Company Innovation Festival on November 10, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Fast Company)

Fast Company launched its first-ever Innovation Festival in New York City this fall with speakers that included Serena Williams, Gwyneth Paltrow, Steve Aoki, Neil Blumenthal, Ava Duvernay and more. The event brought together trailblazers and extraordinary personalities for talks to spark conversation and inspire creativity.

A festival highlight was a keynote session with the creator and cast of the hit TV Land series, Younger. Hundreds lined up outside of NYU to take in the conversation. TV icon and Younger creator Darren Star took the stage with legendary costume designer Pat Field and actresses Hilary Duff and Debi Mazar to share a behind-the-scenes look at how the show is created and reveal the secrets behind the scene-stealing fashion.

Fast Company’s Nicole Laporte moderated this conversation, highlighting how Younger tackles the realities of pursuing your dream job, trying to make it, dating, ageism, feminism and more. The comedy has been lauded by critics and the show uniquely addresses the generational divide in the workplace with humor and fun. Set in New York and Brooklyn, Younger, with its fresh take on real issues, has multi-dimensional appeal and is swiftly winning over fans of all ages.

Creator Darren Star – who is no stranger to hit shows and has brought Sex and the City, 90210 and Melrose Place to TV –explained his creative process. “I start with the character and an idea” said Star. “Especially for a TV series, I want it to thematically say something about the time that we’re in and talk about the world.”

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10:  Producer Darren Star (L) and fashion designer Patricia Field speak onstage during "Inside TV Land's Hit Show "Younger" With TV Icon Darren Star, Patricia Field And Debi Mazar" at The Fast Company Innovation Festival on November 10, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Fast Company)

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 10: Producer Darren Star (L) and fashion designer Patricia Field speak onstage during “Inside TV Land’s Hit Show “Younger” With TV Icon Darren Star, Patricia Field And Debi Mazar” at The Fast Company Innovation Festival on November 10, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Fast Company)

Younger follows 40-year-old Liza Miller (Sutton Foster), a recently divorced mother that pretends to be in her 20s to re-enter the workplace. “I love this concept of a women who has to lie about her age to get back into the workforce,” said Star. “I know women who have been out of work for a while, raising their kids, and they go back to work and it’s not so easy.”

Star pours these real experiences into his characters, and it’s addictive to watch the charming and witty plot unfold. He admits that casting and chemistry are everything for a show, because the actors bring depth to the characters and make it believable.

“Darren’s a pro at many things like casting,” said Field. “When I read this script and here’s a 40-year- old woman and she’s going to be 25 and I’m like how am I going to do this? I’m a costume designer, I’m not a magician. Then I met Sutton Foster and thought this is perfect casting – she has an energy all her own that’s wide-eyed, a youthful energy inside of her.”

The show is a creative force from start to finish; from the smart script to the incredible cast to the amazing outfits Field imagines – fans can’t get enough.

“This is fun for me, people are watching for the clothes,” Star shared with a laugh. “The audience gets so much enjoyment from watching the actors and what they’re wearing. It’s another way to watch the show.”

On the panel, even Hillary Duff couldn’t hide her anticipation at discovering the upcoming plot twists. “I want to know what we’re doing next season,” she exclaimed.  If you feel the same way, here’s a sneak peak of the next season, which debuts with a one-hour premiere on Tuesday, Jan. 13 on TV Land.

In addition to the Younger panel, attendees were treated to spots featuring creators and talent in the Viacom family discussing key themes like innovation, collaboration and driving culture throughout the weeklong festival. This video series, like the all-star Younger panel, will hopefully inspire the next generation of groundbreaking show-runners, writers and actors to tap into their own creativity, pursue their passions and innovate often.

Fast Company Viacom Collaboration from Viacom on Vimeo.

Comedy Central’s Michele Ganeless, ‘The Woman Behind the Funniest Shows on TV’

by Daina Amorosano, Viacom

 

michele-ganelessFor the past decade, Comedy Central President Michele Ganeless has overseen a network that has assembled a stellar slate with a mix of established and emerging favorites — from The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and South Park to Inside Amy Schumer, Key & Peele and ­@­midnight. It’s also drawn in a deeply devoted, engaged community of fans.

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Scratch Reveals Banking’s Increasing Irrelevance Among Millennials

by Chanel Cathey, Viacom

PiggyBank

Viacom’s Scratch embarked on a three-year study, aptly titled the Millennial Disruption Index (MDI), to decode the industries most ripe for disruption at the hands of millennials . The results are in and it’s clear that the financial services industry is struggling to engage and inspire millennials – as consumers and as employees — foretelling what could be the beginning of significant change in this sector. Fast Company signaled this imminent disruption when it unveiled Scratch’s study in Sorry Banks, Millennials Hate You. In fact, millennials don’t hate banks; far worse, traditional banks are becoming irrelevant, as the largest generational cohort in history looks elsewhere to meet their needs.

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