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Geraldine Laybourne: Theory X, Theory Y, and Theory G: From Gak to Get the Money

[ photo: Geraldine Laybourne ]

Theory X, Theory Y, and Theory G: From Gak to Get the Money

Even if you've never heard of Douglas McGregor or taken a business course, you're probably familiar with his famous Theory X and Theory Y business management models. But you've probably never heard of Theory G, because we just made it up. It's the Geraldine Laybourne '69 model, and it ought to be taught in every business school. Theory G holds that if you want to unleash the creativity of the people who work for you, you have to create the conditions for it. Laybourne is famous for doing things like bringing buckets of gak to her staff meetings' giving her people "recess" putting five recent college grads in a room with a bunch of computer gadgets and seeing what they come up with. You want people to think playfully? Encourage them to play.

It's the model Laybourne used to develop Nickelodeon into the most highly rated cable network in the country, and to develop Oxygen Media into the premier cable network for women.

Two other Laybourne business trademarks: do your homework, and take risks. Well trained Vassar grad that she is, Laybourne always goes to the source. According to Matt Stump, writing for Cable World online, "Laybourne built Nickelodeon with a never-ending mantra of listening to children." Wanna find out what kids like? Ask them. Better yet, bring them into the studio, give them a bunch of awesome stuff to play with, and see what they do with it.

"Ren and Stimpy" and "Rugrats" now seem like classics, but at the time, they were risky. "The vogue at the time was to create animation based on pre-existing, pre-sold characters from toys or movies or books," Laybourne said in an interview with Penn Graduate School of Education Magazine. "But we had this hunch that there were animators all around the world who had characters living inside them the way Kermit the Frog lived inside Jim Henson and Mickey lived inside Walt. Sure enough, we sent out scouts who came back with eight groups of characters and we green-lit three of them."

More: http://vq.vassar.edu/issue/summer_2000/article/pure_oxygen

"A Breath of Fresh Air," by Nancy Brokaw, Penn Graduate School of Education Magazine, Spring 2004
Cable World, February 2000
Photo credit: College Relations photo archives