Tim Lebrecht sure knows how to make an entrance. Moments before he took the stage for his keynote at Xerocon Austin, lights dramatically circled the room as a beautiful piece of music crescendoed throughout the conference space. Mozart? Beethoven? Or perhaps the Harry Potter theme tune?
As the music reached its climax, technologist Tim Leberecht, author of the widely acclaimed book, The Business Romantic, and advisor to organisations worldwide, took to the stage and surprised us all by informing us that this beautifully composed piece of music was entirely written and composed by a form of artificial intelligence (AI). He explained that this was the perfect example of why beauty is no longer an exclusive human domain.
The possibilities of new technologies
From Tim’s perspective, our relationship with AI is paradoxical to our relationship with work. We bemoan going to work but it gives us a sense of identity and helps us integrate into society.
“In terms of AI, on one hand we are scared to death (I am) and on the other hand I think we hope that AI is going to liberate us from menial tasks and free us up to pursue meaningful work,” Tim explained. ‘We are also innately curious about these new forms of life. Just think of the possibilities, you might even fall in love with AI like the movie HER.”
The capabilities of AI and machine learning are almost incomprehensible. AI systems are capable of beating the world’s number 1 player in the ancient game GO, painting in the style of master and even creating images from scratch or creating entire buildings through degenerative designs. However, Tim explains there is one thing that AI can’t do and that’s live your life. Sometimes it’s the unexpected moments that are the most beautiful.
“When something unexpected happens or disrupts our routine it shows something true about ourselves,” Tim explains. “It reveals our very humanity and in that spirit organizations need to remain human.”
“As machines take over our jobs and do them more efficiently the most important thing is to do our work more beautifully.”
So how do you do work beautifully? Well, Tim encouraged delegates to think about their businesses differently, offering attendees principles to enable them to thrive while maintaining their humanity in the age of machines.
Do the unnecessary
Leading with beauty means rising above what is merely necessary. Tim likened this to Steve Jobs’ insistence that the insides of a computer should be just as beautiful as the exterior. Why? Because customers may not be able to see it but they can feel it. Tim suggested that while we appreciate business as a tool to problem solve, we vastly underestimate its power and responsibility to inspire and give a sense of meaning.
Recent studies have found that the average American has only one close friend. It appears that in these digital times we are in dire need of intimacy.
“Experts speak of an age of loneliness and social isolation,” Tim said. “It’s astonishing considering that we’ve probably never been more connected and communicative and yet we are lonelier than ever.”
This desire for intimacy and connection is so strong that people are building business models around it! Surprisingly in LA you can even rent a people walker! But how do we foster it in business?
“Identify moments in your customer and workplace experience where you can increase intimacy,” Tim recommends.
Then, you can focus on creating genuine connections through this intimacy.
Emotion makes for better business
Tim summarized by explaining that, in an age where you are no longer just competing with traditional competitors, the one differentiator is emotion. Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel.”