Beautiful Business Letter #3 - Dirty Laundry

Beautiful Business Letter #3 - Dirty Laundry

As the House of Beautiful Business, we’re naturally biased towards beauty, but we also realize there is no beauty without ugliness. To be authentic is to embrace the ugly along with the beautiful—and revel in the transforming power of both. More on that in November in Lisbon!

But for now, let’s start with a subset or sibling of ugly: dirt. Dirt is highly subjective: What is dirty to one person might seem spiffy clean to another. In fact, an employee of the cleaning products company Kärcher once pointed out that cleanliness is often just a diffusion of dirt. 

Dirt is a cultural concept, as the articles in this issue illustrate. From the wisdom of the late Tolulope Ilesanmi, a professional cleaner, to gossip and its surprising value for organizations, the commercial history of menstruation, and some telling data about our cleaning habits (are you one of the 37 percent of people who change their bed sheets once per week?), we’re celebrating dirt in all its literal and metaphoric splendor.

Let’s dig into the dirt!

Your House of Beautiful Business




The Dirty Laundry List
A quirky compilation for romantic readers. How many more socks are you slated to lose in your lifetime? Find out.


Gossip is Good

It turns out there’s an upside to dishing. Prosocial gossip is a good way to educate the people around you—and maybe even save a life.
Read more


Blood Stains

Monthly female bleeding is as natural as a human physical process gets. But it’s not treated that way. Read more


The Cleaner

For Tolulope Ilesanmi, who died of a sudden heart attack last year, cleaning was a spiritual practice. “What is most in need of cleaning in the world is the intangible,” he said. In 2015, House curator Tim Leberecht interviewed him for a video series on business romantics. Watch 

The Laundress: Dona Olivia
This straight-up tourist piece showcasing lovely Lisbon has some great footage (at 24:46 minutes in) of the city’s last professional washerwoman. Now almost 90, with a face full of good humor and hands still strong enough to wring a load of towels, Dona Olivia in her beautiful outdoor laundry may awaken a latent desire to plunge your hands into warm, soapy water and experience the satisfaction of coming clean.

The Church: The Magdalene Laundries
The now notorious Magdalene Laundries were part of a network of “charities”run by the Catholic Church in Ireland between 1922 and 1996. The women who worked there—in dangerous conditions, for little or no pay, sometimes held against their will—were doing penance for their purported sins, which often meant wedlock pregnancy or otherwise not conforming to social mores. The girls were typically orphans, or deserted or abused children. The last 220 survivors recently convened in Dublin at a two-day conference sponsored by the Irish government, in a moving testimony to these women’s refusal to be shamed by an institution with a lot of dirty laundry to air.
Read more

The Feds: Money Laundering
In the early part of the twentieth century, “laundering money” was not an illicit activity reserved for criminals: The U.S. Treasury had a laundry in the basement of its building where the women of the “redemptive department” cleaned up to $80,000 grimy paper bills a day, saving the government a quarter of a million dollars a year—and pleasing the soft hands of the nation’s bankers. Read more

P.S. We’re delighted to announce the new speakers we just added to the House line-up: Lacey Leone McLaughlin, co-founder and CEO of Flerish, a personal coaching app built on the growth principles of LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman;Verena Bahlsen (photo, right), co-founder of Herrmann’s, a restaurant, food incubator, and film studio that serves as Bahlsen’s (maker of the tasty biscuits!) innovation hub; Shermin Voshmgir (photo, left), founder of BlockchainHub and director of the Research Institute for Crypto Economics at the Vienna University of Economics; and Elad Verbin, founding partner and lead scientist at Berlin Innovation Ventures and a vocal advocate of what he calls a "humanistic token economy."


Nik Macmillan, Norman Rockwell, 
Mohmmad Metri, Tolulope Ilesanmi, 
Blockchain for Science, Herrmann's

Beautiful Business Letter #2 - Gathering

Beautiful Business Letter #2 - Gathering

We are often asked about the objectives for the House of Beautiful Business, and there are many. But the most important one is simple: to gather.

For most of our species’ history, we’ve been hunters and gatherers. These days we mostly just gather: our thoughts, Instagram photos and memories, art, data, insights, ideas, ourselves—and others: in business meetings, retreats, dinners, birthday parties, weddings, or rallies. We are often not aware of the hidden secrets and deeper structures of these gatherings or how we touch the lives of others through them.

As analytical tasks are increasingly performed by AI, business leaders are discovering they must become the gatherers-in-chief, finding meaning in information and designing experiences that inspire their employees, customers, and society at large. If the future workplace resembles a conference, then it’d better be one you would attend a second time.

Priya Parker, author of the new book, The Art of Gathering, (and, as we are thrilled to announce, a speaker and resident at this year’s House), argues that gatherings are one of the most underestimated leadership tools. We spend hours and hours on the PowerPoint presentation and only later realize our strategic plan was not embraced because we failed to welcome everybody with a handshake at the launch event.

Knowing how to gather requires two skills: to be able to discern what really matters, and to bring it to life so that others can see it, too. Clearly, if we became better at gathering, business—and life—would be more beautiful.

The pieces featured in this letter on gathering are online as part of our revamped Journal of Beautiful Business, which shall serve as our own main gathering point for articles, interviews, and essays going forward. 2017 House resident Nina Kruschwitz, who worked with Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, and other MIT luminaries, has joined our team as editor-in-chief, and we also welcome Sarah Souli as contributing editor, a freelance journalist currently based in Athens, after several years in Tunis. 


Have fun gathering!

Your House of Beautiful Business team


Excerpt Chapter: Decide Why You Are Gathering
Priya Parker’s new book, The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, is a welcome addition to the toolbox of anyone who convenes, hosts—or attends—gatherings of every stripe. These two brief excerpts from the first chapter address why it’s critical to have a purpose for your gathering—and offer some strategies to help you figure out what that purpose might be. Read more

Q&A with Priya Parker
As the founder of Thrive Labs, Priya has helped hundreds of people, from community activists to CEOs and heads of state, create gatherings that are both memorable and transformative. She recently took time out from her busy book launch schedule to answer some of the questions we posed to her by email. Read more

gathering data.png

Gathering Data, Giving Identities  
According to the World Bank, there are more than one billion people in the world without any sort of identification. Over half of them are under the age of 18. Moldovian entrepreneur Mariana Dahan launched the World Identity Network (WIN) which uses blockchain technology to provide self-sovereign identity to the invisible. Read more


AI Superpowers and the Future of Work
Kai-Fu Lee is the founder and CEO of Sinovation Ventures, a Chinese technology investment firm, and the author of the upcoming book, AI Superpowers. He was named one ofTime’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2013. Before founding Sinovation, he was president of Google China. Lee sat down with Martin Reeves, director of the BCG Henderson Institute, to talk about the impact of AI on companies, industries, and nations. Read more

P.S. Here are some impressions from our own team gathering last week in Lisbon as we prepare for the House in November. We are incredibly excited about what’s in store – more to share soon! 

Photo credits: Riverhead, Mackenzie Stroh, 493 Images, Business Wire, Mary Ann Elies, Joao Noguiera

Beautiful Business Letter #1 - Amazement

Beautiful Business Letter #1 - Amazement

We hope you are enjoying the beautiful spring!

As a member of our community, you’ll be receiving this Letter at least every month going forward. (You can always unsubscribe here — hearts will be broken, but we’ll hold no grudges). The Letter will feature regular updates on all House of Beautiful Business activities, including upcoming dinners and salons in Europe and the US, and our soon-to-be-announced program for our flagship event in Lisbon on November 3-8. We also aim to spark conversation and insights on all things beautiful business, so we will share essays, blog posts, and other content found at the intersection of business, technology, and humanity(ies).

Two weeks ago, we attended the TED Conference in Vancouver where we co-hosted a dinner together with our partner, the BCG Henderson Institute. We invited 50 select TED attendees to explore “The Amazement Cycle” with us, from intrigue to inspiration to boredom to annoyance to worry and back. Toastmasters included Beth Comstock (former vice chair of GE), Frida Polli (CEO, Pymetrics), Tony O’Driscoll (Head of Duke CE Labs), and Shelby Jiggets-Tivony (Executive Creative, Disney Parks). The soundtrack was composed and performed live by “musebots” — creative AI that was riffing on each of the Cycle’s moods.

 Photo: TED

Photo: TED


The dinner was a nod to the theme of this year’s TED conference, “The Age of Amazement,” which begs the question — in light of the recent Facebook crisis and overall techlash — of whether what we really need is less amazement and more beauty in business. If anything, here are “4 things business must do to make the term 'amazing' meaningful again.”
The original meaning of amazement (before it became trivialized as "awesome") was bewilderment, and bewilderment seems to be an accurate description of our current global sentiment, as we find ourselves in a deep transition that is both painful and enthralling. Existing narratives are feeling old, and we are in dire need for new ones.
This is what we’re trying to accomplish with the House of Beautiful Business. As our friend and advisor, INSEAD professor Gianpiero Petriglieri, put it, “every vision is a place.” Ours is a house, designed to collectively craft, embody, feel, taste, and smell new visions for the future of work — and humanity. Gianpiero, in his new essay on the importance of tribes for one's career, articulates the very essence of our House: to be a safe and a strong space.

To get you into the mood for November, here’s our preliminary floorplan...



Can Bots Help Us Deal with Grief?” by Evan Selinger / With his invention of a chatbot simulating his deceased father, Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad sparked a discussion about the “digital resurrection,” the ancient idea of tricking death, and the consequences on human feelings.

Can the World’s Largest Dictionary Survive the Internet?” [The Guardian podcast] / The magic of dictionaries, the smell of old paper and collected wisdom  and the efficiency of online translators. One of our favorite podcasts about the future of things that should remain. 

How We Can Teach Computers to Make Sense of Our Emotions / In his TED Talk, Raphael Arar explains how art teaches AI to understand complex feelings such as nostalgia and intuition to reach the ultimate goal of creating future technology that is both intelligent and human.

“Here’s How to Win at Monopoly, According to Math Experts by Hannah Fry and Thomas Oléron Evans / The heart beats faster, the level of frustration reaches new heights. For the ones of you who still like to play board games (and want to avoid the negative side effects), here's a bulletproof way to outsmart luck in any upcoming Monopoly game.

“The New Power Structure” by David Brooks and “New Power” by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms / Old vs. New Power, hierarchies vs. movements, and a glimpse behind the scenes of the structures that shape our world (and the human beings who thrive in them).

“Embracing the Robot” by John Danaher / What makes a great relationship, and will we be able to create robots that understand the definition of love? What sounds crazy to most is already a reality  and John's approach a refreshing and optimistic one we think the world needs.

Ideas, Emotions, and Innovation: Riding the Amazement Cycle by Martin Reeves, Tim Leberecht, and Jack Fuller / When worry turns into the feeling of intrigue, and curiosity fights the initial fear of something new, it energizes us to play and take action. For leaders and innovators especially, being aware of the idea-journeys can be essential to creating more value and harnessing the perfect timing for things that might change the world.

“The End of Wow, The Beginning of Beauty by Tim Leberecht / “The difference between wow and beauty is the difference between useful and precious, between merely engaging customers and truly touching them emotionally.” Read Tim’s take on the current Facebook affair, the meaning of trust in times of a fundamental digital crisis, and the outcomes we hope for that would make our businesses, relationships, and ultimately our lives, more beautiful.

Ps. Worth listening to: the Soundtrack of Beautiful Business on Spotify.

With warm regards,

Your House of Beautiful Business team