How We Maintain Our Edge Over AI
“In a conflict between the heart and the brain,” Swami Vivekananda advised, “follow your heart.” The insight of this illustrious Indian religious and social thinker, who was influential in forging a sense of Indian nationalism in the 19th century and helped introduce yoga to the western cultures, rings true for most of us. Socrates, one of Greece’s trinity of ancient philosophers, went further, teaching that wisdom is when there is no conflict between head and heart.
As one who has been derailed, thinking these two rails of life’s train track were in conflict or opposition rather than running parallel, I see value in the insight of both philosophers. As business leaders, this balance is one of the essentials of success, not only in the pursuit of our own aspirations and visions, but also in creating company cultures other people want to be a part of. Connecting not only for eight hours a day in exchange for a paycheck, but with the whole of their heart and head.
For every CEO, and particularly every HR executive I talk to, the competition to attract the best and the brightest is their highest priority. At a recent economic summit, one thoughtful speaker called the talent pipeline “the new currency of economic development.” Though opportunities, incentives and benefits rank high on what can maintain a company’s magnetic field, Simon Sinek was quite right when he identified a company’s “why” as the real glue that holds people to a company and a company to people.
The following are characteristics of companies built on the synergy of heart and head.
1. Friends and Family: All effective parental leadership is based on a clear desire for the child’s best interests and combines lavish affirmation and support, with a healthy mix of controls and responsibilities. I am not saying you treat your employees like they are your children, but companies that treat employees like family make a connection that goes far deeper than what is contained in a job description or employee contract.
2. Celebrate the Human Factor, Not Just the IQ:
The New York Times writer, Thomas Friedman, discussed in a recent article what it was that would always distinguish humans from artificial intelligence. Quoting Dov Seidman, CEO of LRN, “Our highest self-conception needs to be redefined from ‘I think, therefore I am’ (Rene Descartes) to ‘I care, therefore I am; I hope, therefore I am; I imagine, therefore I am. I am ethical, therefore I am. I have a purpose, therefore I am. I pause and reflect, therefore I am.’”
3. Purpose Driven: It has been repeated almost like a mantra that purpose motivates people in a way that profits never will. People may not be as passionate about working for a household goods company or a clothing retailer as they are about working for Seventh Generation and Patagonia. Why? These companies have clear overarching purposes that attract and galvanize their employees, turning them into raving fans.
4. Give, Even When It Hurts: We all hear of businesses and billionaires that celebrate their philanthropic giving but neglect to give to their own employees. The best way we inspire employees to give back is by giving back to them. Then we provide multiple opportunities to celebrate their good fortune by giving to others.