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We can identify and address the deepest foundational causes of human social dysfunction in organizations.

In January of 2015, we released the second edition of our game-changing book, The Commencement Odyssey: Why We All Have a Stake in Transforming the American Workplace.

Every year, a new class of college graduates struggles to make the transition from the academic environment, which rewards merit and nurtures their idealism, to the purely pragmatic and deeply dysfunctional corporate workplace in which politics often determine one’s fate.

In The Commencement Odyssey, Stephen Blair Venable explores this epic shift through his richly informed examination of the transition from academia to the corporate world. Venable ably demonstrates that “[the corporate workplace] is fundamentally ill suited to the basic needs and characteristics of the human beings who inhabit it.” As a result, the traditional hierarchical workplace has become the source of a myriad of destructive societal outcomes: (1) it is stifling the creativity and productivity of our workers, thus limiting corporate profitability and national economic growth; (2) it is driving a near epidemic of depression, anxiety, and other work-related illnesses among employees and thus contributing significantly to soaring healthcare expenditures; and (3) it is putting significant pressure on marriages and other personal relationships. Despite its outdated and distorted practices, the traditional corporate workplace remains the tail that wags the dog of American life.

Along with addressing the foundational causes of workplace dysfunction, Venable offers a step-by-step prescription for fixing the corporate workplace and bridging the gap between a productive life and a good life. In the process, Venable introduces many original substantive concepts and analyses including: (1) the “Human Assets Organization” (HAO) – an entirely new business model and organizational framework for 21st century businesses, (2) “Professional People Managers” (PPMs) – the concept that the management of people (i.e., human assets) is so vitally important that it should become a profession in and of itself rather than simply being incidental to one’s primary position or functional role in an organization, and (3) an analysis of organizational inefficiency using concepts from physics.

Venable also lays out a strong and rather intuitive case for giving all college students a chance to meaningfully consider the nature, conflicts, and perils of the corporate workplace before they actually enter it. Therein, he introduces us to his concept of “Real World Studies.”

This pioneering book will be of interest to anyone who has a stake in ensuring a healthy and prosperous society.




The Commencement Odyssey

The eBook can be purchased by clicking on any of the following links:

1. for the iPad

2. for the Nook

3. for the Kindle Edition


The Commencement Odyssey is definitely a major breakthrough. Each section provides the reader with an engaging opportunity for personal introspection and the development of a better understanding of what drives corporate America. Stephen Blair Venable’s compelling and insightful new book is a tour guided journey to the path, tools, analysis and inspiration required to create a better, more productive workplace and world.”

The Honorable Mark F. Lindsay 
Obama Administration Transition Team Leader

Senior White House Staff Member for President Clinton 

“Excellent, worthwhile read! The author takes an innovative approach to “real” issues many of us leaders are facing as we work and compete in our current structures. The analysis starts at the foundation of entering the work place –and not only highlights the business impacts but also, gratefully, takes on the societal and human impacts. I would recommend this book to all levels of leadership because it will be our senior leaders who have to own engaging in these recommendations and the new leaders who will sustain the change and disruption to current practices. This book, while rich with content, is digestible in its analysis, layout and applicable recommendations and a recommended read for any innovative leader and his/her team! I look forward to sharing it with my team and colleagues.”

Allison O’Connor 
Board Chair, American College of Healthcare Executives – Minnesota Chapter 

“Stephen Blair Venable, in The Commencement Odyssey, has analyzed the jarring cultural changes college graduates experience in their transitions from academic cultures to business cultures. He identifies the human costs and the loss of productivity and innovation that corporate organizations realize when corporate leaders do not recognize and change corporate cultures to adapt the cultures to the positive aspects of the academic culture.  This is a very worthwhile read, and I highly recommend it!”

Kent Eklund 
Founder, Cincinnatus, Inc. 

Former President, Fairview Foundation 

“Steve takes on the market’s primary challenge – maximizing human assets with an optimal mix of values, vision, and practical solutions. This is a must read for all responsible leaders!”

Ravi Norman 
Board Member, Greater MSP (Minneapolis Saint Paul Regional Economic Development Partnership) 

“The Commencement Odyssey provides an insightful, well-articulated, and entirely novel analysis of the discrepancy between the life that college graduates look forward to and the one they typically find in the corporate workplace. For those who have experienced this discrepancy, the themes will feel hauntingly familiar, though Stephen Blair Venable appears to be the first to publish this kind of analysis. He provides solutions that could transform the corporate workplace for the better, and the analysis and solutions provided will benefit the employer and employee, the college student and the corporate executive. I highly recommend this book!”

Dr. Todd Kellogg 
The Mayo Clinic 

“A very impressive piece of work with a fresh and innovative take on the mismatch between educational institutions and the world of work. This book is like a breath of fresh air in a crowded but arid landscape, and I will be recommending it widely.”

Professor Michael Schoenfeldt 
Chair, Department of English Language and Literature University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) 



Stephen Blair Venable, J.D.


Stephen holds a B.A. in English literature from the University of Michigan, a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and has participated in the Executive Education Program at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. He is a management consultant, but he has also worked as a corporate attorney specializing in employment law, successfully owned and operated a $23 million business, and run a nonprofit organization. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with his wife, Lisa.


Mary M. Byers

Executive Editor – Surgo Books™

Mary is the former Managing Editor of the University of Minnesota Press. She has more than twenty-five years’ experience in all phases of editing and preparing texts for publication: developmental and substantive editing; copyediting; proof review and management; coordinating with designers, typesetters, and indexers; fact checking; editing translations; and editing indexes. Mary has a B.A. in History from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

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