In Startup Smart

‘Intimate, beautiful and ugly’ isn’t a brand slogan you often hear in startup world, but these are core attributes all businesses building in the digital age should harness, says TED speaker, entrepreneur and author Tim Leberecht.

In his TED Talk: Four ways to build a human company in the age of machines, Leberecht explores why businesses should never forget what makes people people in the world of algorithms, machine learning, AI and more.

With robots expected to replace half the human workforce in the next 20 years, Leberecht explores how businesses and entrepreneurs can preserve the beauty of humanity in a world becoming increasingly devoid of emotion.

When he talks about beauty and intimacy, he’s not simply touching on our personal interactions but highlighting the real traits that set us apart from machines.

“For humans, the only work left for us will be work that will be done beautifully rather than efficiently,” he says.

“We will have no other choice but to create beauty.”

So how different are you and I to a machine?

1. Do the unexpected

The ability for businesses, startups and people to do the unexpected and go above and beyond to achieve the unnecessary sets humans apart from algorithms, says Leberecht.

He points to Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya who, out of nowhere, shared 10% of the company with all employees making some of them instant millionaires.

Read more: Why Chobani yoghurt is giving employees a 10% stake in the company

Unprompted, unnecessary acts like this fall at the heart of what it means to be human.

“You might not realise it but when you cut the unnecessary, you cut everything,” Leberecht says.

“Leading with beauty means rising above what is merely necessary.”

2. Create intimacy

By creating intimacy and removing hierarchical barriers in your business, you create space to “show something true” of your organisation, which will driver deeper and richer collaboration between all members of the team.

“We underestimate the strength of strong ties,” he says.

3. Be ugly

“Ugly cuts to the bone,” says Leberecht.

He says the ugly parts of organisations should be celebrated for everyone to see, not hidden, because hiding company flaws prevents the discovery of solutions.

“Things tend to get ugly when there are only answers,” he says.

“Beautiful organisations keep asking questions.”

4. Remain incomplete

As the perfect follow-up to point three, Leberecht talks about the importance of remaining incomplete.

It is in this space that a startup, big company, non-profit or any enterprise can continue to question, challenge, embrace imperfection and grow.

“The most beautiful organisations are worth fighting for, even if their outcome is uncertain,” he says.

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