So, the last two articles I wrote here have mused on romance, idealism, romanticism and magical reality.
In (so far) nearly 300 daily articles on this site, I have covered a wide range, and beauty is a recurring theme, but what does beauty have to do with business?
A few years ago I came across the writing of Tim Leberecht, who calls himself (and this is also the title of his book) “The Business Romantic”. We’ve not yet met, though I look forward to doing so as I know we will have much to share and perhaps synthesise together!
In writing those two posts above this past week, I remembered coming across Tim so started to research his more recent work and came across a TED Talk which I will focus on here.
Tim’s talk is clunkily titled “4 ways to build a human company in the age of machines”, but truly it is about what it takes to build and grow a “Beautiful Business”.
“as machines take our jobs and do them more efficiently, soon the only work left for us humans will be the kind of work that must be done beautifully rather than efficiently. To maintain our humanity in this second Machine Age, we may have no other choice than to create beauty.”
This had me reflect on a post I wrote last year: “Why humans will always stay ahead of AI”, in which I wrote:
“I am hugely positive about the innate magic of the human race, and I feel we have a massive untapped resource available to us that is one that AI may perhaps never replicate. What is that secret, you say? Energy, emotion, and so Empathy. The ability to feel our own feelings and to feel those of others.”
I later have joked with people that as Engineers build AI, we are safe to focus on emotions, as they won’t be programmed into AI. True or not, Tim Leberecht and I are in complete agreement on the power of building a beautiful business.
Appreciating beauty creates such a deep resonance in humans, and I love what Tim taught in his TED talk from 2016. Some extracts here, then a link to the full talk.
The four things to focus on that Tim notes are:
1 : Do the unnecessary
Leading with beauty means going beyond the purely necessary, rational, logical. As he says, keep the orange balloons (you’ll need to watch the talk to get that one).
2 : Create Intimacy
“The opposite of Loneliness is not Togetherness, It’s Intimacy” ~ Richard Bach
Connection is not Intimacy, we are connected all the time with social media and with structures and methods at work. Intimacy is levels beyond that and requires vulnerability and bravery (and yes, I write about those topics on this site with regularity too).
Intimacy = “Into Me See”.
Tim talks about various examples of businesses creating the space for such brave openness within and between the people in the business and the business and its people.
Tim: “beautiful language only goes “skin deep, but ugly cuts clean to the bone,” as the writer Dorothy Parker once put it. To be authentic is to be ugly. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun or must give in to the vulgar or cynical, but it does mean that you speak the actual ugly truth.”
Let us show our true selves. Let us see and be seen. Let us be authentic. That is is truly beautiful and applies to business as to ourselves as humans.
We are all on a journey through life. None of us are the “finished article”. Let us always be curious and grow, and that applies to business too.
Tim: “the most beautiful organizations are ideas worth fighting for — even and especially when their outcome is uncertain. They are movements; they are always imperfect, never fully organized, so they avoid ever becoming banal. They have something but we don’t know what it is. They remain mysterious; we can’t take our eyes off them. We find them beautiful.”
Tim concludes his talk with:
“Beauty can save the world when we embrace these principles and design for them. In the face of artificial intelligence and machine learning, we need a new radical humanism. We must acquire and promote a new aesthetic and sentimental education.”
I agree. Business can be beautiful when it embraces what it means to be human. Appreciate beauty for beauty’s sake, be vulnerable, open, intimate, curious, authentic. Such qualities in humans are beautiful at a deep level, as they are with a business.