The Columns

“The Misfit Economy” Writer to Speak on the Art of Being an Outsider

— by on February 2nd, 2016

Alexa Clay, a storyteller and researcher of underground subcultures, will speak at Washington and Lee University on Feb. 16 as the Fishback Visiting Writer. Her talk will begin at 5 p.m. in Northen Auditorium, Leyburn Library.

She will speak on “The Art of Being an Outsider,” and her talk is free and open to the public. A book signing will follow.

A graduate of Brown University and Oxford, she is co-author of the 2015 book “The Misfit Economy: Lessons in Creativity from Pirates, Hackers, Gangsters and Other Informal Entrepreneurs.” Clay researches and writes about grassroots innovation, technological change, economic transition and the power of misfits.

The Misfit Economy” was named the best business book to read in 2015 by The World Economic Forum, TechRepublic, The Daily Telegraph of London and The Huffington Post. In the book, Clay interviewed more than 500 Somali pirates, Los Angeles drug dealers, young hackers and New York con artists to unveil their remarkable ingenuity.

She is the founder of an experimental group call Wisdom Hackers, which seeks to tap into wisdom traditions in ways “that transcend the myopic communication of social media sound bites.”  Clay is also a co-founder of The League of Intrapreneurs, a movement to promote change from within large organizations.

“The Misfit Economy” is a lively and incisive book, according to a review in The Economist. “Their central message is that misfits make the best innovators because frustration with the status quo spurs their desire to change it. Rather than money, the real motivators are personality quirks: idealism, ambition, curiosity and stubbornness.”

Each year, the Fishback Visiting Writers program, funded by Sara and William H. Fishback Jr. ’56, brings to campus someone who has written with distinction on public affairs, nature and the environment, history or the theater. The Fishback visitor spends time with W&L students in the classroom and delivers a lecture to the local communities. Since 1996, it has brought such speakers as Diane McWhorter, Cornel West, Ray Suarez and Jane Meyer.