After All This, Let’s Make Business More Beautiful
As we slowly return to work, the question is: do we want a return to business-as-usual? What do we want to keep? And what can we change?
For many of us, the pandemic has made very clear that business-as-usual is no longer working:
- The extraction of natural resources, one of the main pillars of capitalism, has caused the climate emergency.
- The extraction of internal resources has led to a mental health crisis. Anxiety, stress, depression, and burn-out levels are at all-time highs. 44% of workers say they’re exhausted on the job, up from 34% in 2020, and employee burnout soared as a result of COVID-19. Younger generations are especially struggling and want their employers to pay more attention to the mental health challenges they face. 70% of millennials and Generation Z consider mental health to be the challenge of the day.
- Trust in business and its leaders is at an all-time low.
- Democracy is in decline, and political polarization at fever pitch, fueled by growing social inequality.
- Add to that the disruption through exponential technology. The advance of AI and robotics, blockchain/decentralized web/NFTs is shifting the conversation from a focus on efficiency and optimization to creativity and generation, opening new possibilities and creating new jobs, but also threatening human labor and agency.
- The bottom line and GDP alone are no longer sufficient metrics when it comes to human and planetary flourishing. We need new indices such as wellbeing, prosperity, or planetary boundaries to measure what truly matters — while allowing ample space for appreciating what must remain immeasurable.
- The paradigm of “winning” at the heart of business-as-usual produces too many externalities; in fact, we now realize that if winning is the only option, we risk losing everything.
In light of all this, we need new north stars, narratives, paradigms, and practices that produce better results but also excitement. They will not come from business books or schools alone, but from economics, tech, science, the humanities, and the arts living together under one roof.
Enter the House of Beautiful Business.
Our mission with the House of Beautiful Business is to inspire and equip leaders and professionals to reinvent their organizations — and themselves — so they can lead the shift from “business-as-usual” to a new form of business that is more beautiful.
What exactly is Beautiful Business?
We like to refer to the famed Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa and his line, “Beauty is what does not exist.”
Beautiful business is everything we desire and are left wanting; beautiful business is everything business-as-usual is not (yet):
- Soft and tender when business-as-usual is hard and harsh
- Fluid and flexible when business-as-usual is slow-moving and rigid
- Melancholic when business-as-usual is forced optimism
- Poetic when business-as-usual is explicit and numbers-oriented
- Deep when business-as-usual is efficient
- Ecological when business-as-usual is purely economical
- Asking beautiful questions instead of having all the answers
The building blocks
Beautiful business can be pursued on societal, organizational, and personal levels.
On the societal level, we are keen to explore concepts such as Universal Basic Income; circular economics; and the four-day work week; as well as nurture an appreciation of planetary boundaries and the rights of all living things; a growing collective consciousness regarding social injustice and structural racism; of diversity, equity, and inclusion; and algorithmic and non-algorithmic ways to overcome political polarization.
On the organizational level, we must further develop concepts such as purpose-driven organizations, self-organized collectives, platform cooperatives, return-to-community exits, more equitable board governance, Teal Organizations, Zebra startups, the Art of Gathering, and other forms of organizational designs and workplace cultures that allow for greater intimacy, community, and complexity.
And on the personal level, we must make human flourishing the center of our career, instead of status and power. We must better our understanding of regenerative leadership, foster the connection between New Work and inner work, and be mindful of our planetary resources and our own. Moreover, we must make space for intimacy, emotional agility, and fluid, non-binary identities. The human workplace is not one where we are happy all the time but one that allows us to be sad whenever we are.
At the House of Beautiful Business we want to drive these changes on all three levels.
Since our launch in 2017, the House has grown into a global community of more than 10,000 people and a concentration on these activities:
- We work as a think tank with organizations around the world, including companies like BCG, Google, the international insurance company Ageas, the German e-commerce leader Otto Group, Porsche, PwC, SAP, Salesforce, SYPartners, but also non-profit organizations like the National Headstart Association, More in Common, and IEEE, the world’s largest professional association for engineers.
- Earlier this year, we launched a membership program, House Residency, that allows individuals and teams to take part in a year-long transformation and learning journey and work together on projects.
- Finally, we curate, design, and produce transformative events and experiences (including our main annual gathering and more than 30 community-hosted Chambers of Beautiful Business around the world), featuring the most radically interesting thinkers, leaders, and changemakers we can find.
At a crossroads
It is time to gather and to gather ourselves. We can use this critical fork-in-the-road moment and try to return to how things were before COVID, when concepts such as purpose, humane work cultures, sustainability, and social justice were compelling as long as businesses could afford them.
Or we can use this moment to double-down on these concepts. We can fundamentally reimagine business, and reinvent the role of business in society: how organizations are run, how we work, and how we lead our lives more beautifully.
We have choices. You have choices.
The making of Beautiful Business
How difficult is it though? What does beautiful business mean in reality? How do we make it concrete? Actionable, measurable, and still lovable? Where and how do we begin?
These are the questions we will explore at our main gathering this year that will take place from October 29 to November 26, 2021 with the theme “Concrete Love: The Making of Beautiful Business.”
Concrete Love will assemble hundreds in Lisbon and thousands online, and feature more than 100 contributors, including AI Now Institute co-founder Meredith Whittaker; Meow Wolf co-founders Caity Kennedy and Matt King; robotics artists Sougwen Chung; bestselling author and Quiet Revolution founder Susan Cain; philosopher and Sacred Economics author Charles Eisenstein; Legatum Group CEO and partner Mark Stoleson; CMO and CXO of Deutsche Bank, Tim Alexander; digital anthropologist and bestselling author Rahaf Harfoush; chief design officer at Salesforce, Justin Maguire; language-based NFT artist Jonathan Rosen; TikTok Boom author Chris Stokel-Walker; Steven D’Souza, head of leadership development at Philip Morris International; global strategy advisor and bestselling author Parag Khanna; economist Fanta Traore, co-founder of The Sadie Collective; Michaela Musilova, director of the HI-SEAS analog space research station; Jacqui Lewis, public theologian, antiracist activist, and author of Fierce Love; robot ethicist Kate Darling; Kelly Stoetzel, head of thought leader programming, Clubhouse; Kalypso Nicolaïdis, chair of international affairs, School of Transnational Governance, EUI; Anne-Sophie d’Andlau, co-founder and deputy CEO of activist hedge fund CIAM; head of the built environment at Google, Michelle Kaufmann; dancer and activist Ahmad Joudeh; and Ocean Mercier, head of Te Kawa a Māui, Victoria University of Wellington; among many others.
Concrete Love will comprise two parts:
ACTS (October 29–31, in person in Lisbon, right before Web Summit and COP26, and live-streamed online): three days to learn about the big ideas shaping our (post-)pandemic world through talks, debates, performances, and immersive experiences;
ACTIONS (November 1–26, online and at local events worldwide): four weeks to deepen the conversation and collaborate on making some of these ideas work in our organizations and lives, including in-depth discussions, workshops, masterclasses, and a community townhall every Friday, facilitated by The Coaching Habit bestselling author and coach Michael Bungay Stanier.
At the end of Concrete Love, you’ll be overwhelmed but have a plan; you’ll have found your match (or your people); you’ll gain the courage both to resist and to say yes, wholeheartedly; and we’ll celebrate all of that with the ultimate holiday party.
Concrete Love is our response to the forces and burning questions that will define 2022 and everything thereafter
It is an invitation to open your mind and roll up your sleeves, to step back and step in. “My ultimate purpose is to show how working faster most likely reinforces the crisis we are trying to evade,” philosopher Bayo Akomolafe, who will speak at Concrete Love, reflects.
It is an invitation to gather so we can feel and embody emerging knowledge together — and act on it. “The felt and embodied have always been a feminine way of approaching the world,” Concrete Love speaker, afro-feminist and writer Minna Salami, remarks, insisting on a more “sensous” conception of knowledge.
“We sense that ‘normal’ isn’t coming back, that we are being born into a new normal: a new kind of society, a new relationship to the earth, a new experience of being human,” the author Charles Eisenstein observes. And he writes: “We are all here to contribute our gifts toward something greater than ourselves, and will never be content unless we are.”
Cerebral and embodied, Concrete Love will challenge us to dream bigger and act faster. It will make the future of work personal and the future of business a passion project. It will examine our evolving, complicated, mixtopian relationship to tech; enter alternate worlds and realities created by architects, gamers, artists, and developers; discuss more effective and humane ways to collaborate; new forms of agency and activism, indices and metrics, and social contracts; and explore next frontiers for humanity — and the same age-old yearning for belonging.
We will make business beautiful by making beautiful business together. There will be friendship, and perhaps even love. Concrete Love will be philosophical and practical, lofty and light, exuberant and conflicted, rich with the mixed, “bittersweet” emotions that Susan Cain, speaking at the event, portrays in her forthcoming book of the same name.
It will be explicit and mysterious, raw and refined, messy and moving: a delicate dance.
The Journal of Beautiful Business is part of the House of Beautiful Business, a global platform and community for making business more beautiful.
The House will host its signature gathering, this year with the theme Concrete Love, from Friday, October 29 to Sunday, October 31, 2021, in Lisbon and online, and from November 1 to November 26, 2021, online.
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