4 ways to build a human company in the age of machines
伟德国际1946手机版下载，Half of the human workforce is expected to be replaced by software and
robots in the next 20 years.And many corporate leaders welcome that as a
chance to increase profits. Machines are more efficient; humans are
complicated and difficult to manage.
Well, I want our organizations to remain human. In fact, I want them to
become beautiful. Because 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 the this second Machine Age, we may have no
other choice than to create beauty. Beauty is an elusive concept. For
the writer Stendhal it was the promise of happiness. For me it’s a goal
by Lionel Messi.
So bear with me as I am proposing four admittedly very subjective
principles that you can use to build a beautiful organization.
First: do the unnecessary.
A few months ago, Hamdi Ulukaya, the CEO and founder of the yogurt
company Chobani, made headlines when he decided to grant stock to all of
his 2,000 employees. Some called it a PR stunt,others — a genuine act of
But there is something else that was remarkable about it. It came
completely out of the blue. There had been no market or stakeholder
pressure, and employees were so surprised that they burst into tears
when they heard the news. Actions like Ulukaya’s are beautiful because
they catch us off guard. They create something out of nothing because
they’re completely unnecessary.
I once worked at a company that was the result of a merger of a large IT
outsourcing firm and a small design firm. We were merging 9,000 software
engineers with 1,000 creative types. And to unify these immensely
different cultures, we were going to launch a third, new brand. And the
new brand color was going to be orange.
And as we were going through the budget for the rollouts, we decided
last minuteto cut the purchase of 10,000 orange balloons, which we had
meant to distribute to all staff worldwide.They just seemed unnecessary
and cute in the end. I didn’t know back then that our decision marked
the beginning of the end — that these two organizations would never
And sure enough, the merger eventually failed. Now, was it because there
weren’t any orange balloons? No, of course not. But the
kill-the-orange-balloons mentality permeated everything else. You might
not always realize it, but when you cut the unnecessary, you cut
everything. Leading with beauty means rising above what is merely
necessary. So do not kill your orange balloons.
The second principle: create intimacy.
Studies show that how we feel about our workplace very much depends on
the relationships with our coworkers. And what are relationships other
than a string of microinteractions? There are hundreds of these every
day in our organizations that have the potential to distinguish a good
life from a beautiful one.
The marriage researcher John Gottman says that the secret of a healthy
relationship is not the great gesture or the lofty promise, it’s small
moments of attachment. In other words, intimacy. In our networked
organizations, we tout the strength of weak ties but we underestimate
the strength of strong ones. We forget the words of the writer Richard
Bach who once said, “Intimacy — not connectedness — intimacy is the
opposite of loneliness.”
婚姻钻探者John·戈特曼说，健康关系的地下，不在于伟大的姿态或华贵的承诺，而在于细小的表现人与人关系的一刹那。换句话说，就是亲密感。在大家网络化的团伙中，大家更为青睐弱连接的涉嫌，但大家还要低估了强连接的能力。大家忘记了女诗人Richard Bach 说过的话： “亲密感——不是连着——亲密感，是一身的反义词。”
So how do we design for organizational intimacy? The humanitarian
organization CARE wanted to launch a campaign on gender equality in
villages in northern India. But it realized quickly that it had to have
this conversation first with its own staff. So it invited all 36 team
members and their partners to one of the Khajuraho Temples, known for
their famous erotic sculptures.
And there they openly discussed their personal relationships — their own
experiences of gender equality with the coworkers and the partners. It
was eye-opening for the participants. Not only did it allow them to
relate to the communities they serve, it also broke down invisible
barriers and created a lasting bond amongst themselves. Not a single
team member quit in the next four years. So this is how you create
intimacy. No masks … or lots of masks.
When Danone, the food company, wanted to translate its new company
manifesto into product initiatives, it gathered the management team and
100 employees from across different departments,seniority levels and
regions for a three-day strategy retreat.
And it asked everybody to wear costumes for the entire meeting: wigs,
crazy hats, feather boas, huge glasses and so on. And they left with
concrete outcomes and full of enthusiasm. And when I asked the woman who
had designed this experience why it worked, she simply said, “Never
underestimate the power of a ridiculous wig.”
Because wigs erase hierarchy, and hierarchy kills intimacy — both ways,
for the CEO and the intern.Wigs allow us to use the disguise of the
false to show something true about ourselves.
And that’s not easy in our everyday work lives, because the relationship
with our organizations is often like that of a married couple that has
grown apart, suffered betrayals and disappointments, and is now
desperate to be beautiful for one another once again. And for either of
us the first step towards beauty involves a huge risk. The risk to be
So many organizations these days are keen on designing beautiful
workplaces that look like anything but work: vacation resorts, coffee
shops, playgrounds or college campuses —Based on the promises of
positive psychology, we speak of play and gamification, and one start-up
even says that when someone gets fired, they have graduated.
That kind of 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.
Like this manufacturer that wanted to transform one of its struggling
business units. It identified, named and pinned on large boards all the
issues — and there were hundreds of them — that had become obstacles to
better performance. They put them on boards, moved them all into one
room, which they called “the ugly room.” The ugly became visible for
everyone to see — it was celebrated. And the ugly room served as a mix
of mirror exhibition and operating room — a biopsy on the living flesh
to cut out all the bureaucracy.
The ugliest part of our body is our brain. Literally and neurologically.
Our brain renders ugly what is unfamiliar … modern art, atonal music,
jazz, maybe — VR goggles for that matter — strange objects, sounds and
people. But we’ve all been ugly once. We were a weird-looking baby, a
new kid on the block, a foreigner. And we will be ugly again when we
The Center for Political Beauty, an activist collective in Berlin,
recently staged an extreme artistic intervention. With the permission of
relatives, it exhumed the corpses of refugees who had drowned at
Europe’s borders, transported them all the way to Berlin, and then
reburied them at the heart of the German capital. The idea was to allow
them to reach their desired destination, if only after their death.
Such acts of beautification may not be pretty, but they are much needed.
Because things tend to get ugly when there’s only one meaning, one
truth, only answers and no questions. Beautiful organizations keep
asking questions. They remain incomplete, which is the fourth and the
last of the principles.
Recently I was in Paris, and a friend of mine took me to Nuit Debout,
which stands for “up all night,” the self-organized protest movement
that had formed in response to the proposed labor laws in France.Every
night, hundreds gathered at the Place de la République. Every night they
set up a small, temporary village to deliberate their own vision of the
And at the core of this adhocracy was a general assembly where anybody
could speak using a specially designed sign language. Like Occupy Wall
Street and other protest movements, Nuit Debout was born in the face of
crisis. It was messy — full of controversies and contradictions. But
whether you agreed with the movement’s goals or not, every gathering was
a beautiful lesson in raw humanity.
And how fitting that Paris — the city of ideals, the city of beauty —
was it’s stage. It reminds us that like great cities, 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.
So to do the unnecessary, to create intimacy, to be ugly, to remain
incomplete — these are not only the qualities of beautiful
organizations, these are inherently human characteristics. And these are
also the qualities of what we call home. And as we disrupt, and are
disrupted, the least we can do is to ensurethat we still feel at home in
our organizations, and that we use our organizations to create that
feeling for others.
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. Because if we don’t, we might end
up feeling like aliens in organizations and societies that are full of
smart machines that have no appreciation whatsoever for the unnecessary,
the intimate, the incomplete and definitely not for the ugly.
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