Beyond Boom, Doom, and Gloom, We Need a More Optimistic Vision for the Future of Work
Why The Business Romantic Society is hosting a House of Beautiful Business at Web Summit in Lisbon.
By Tim Leberecht
A new pop-up community that appears near large technology and business conferences, the House of Beautiful Business serves as a sandbox, stage, and salon for a growing community that wants to shape the very human future of business. The House of Beautiful Business is driven by the belief that as machines do things more efficiently, we humans must do them more beautifully in order to thrive in a global economy transformed by AI and automation.
When we, The Business Romantic Society and our partners, hosted the inaugural House of Beautiful Business during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, we were encouraged by the enthusiastic response and the immediate creation of this new community. From November 3–10, right before and during Web Summit in Lisbon, we are now running our second House.
Last year, when Web Summit took place in Lisbon for the first time, The Atlantic wrote a scathing review titled: “Watching the World Rot at Europe’s Largest Tech Conference.” And while this sentiment may be slightly exaggerated, we believe there is a desire for an alternative space to the transactional hustle and bustle of the 60,000 person conference and trade show.
In a playful and intimate setting, the House of Beautiful Business in Lisbon will bring together business and nonprofit leaders, start-up founders, investors, writers, philosophers, scientists, designers, technologists, artists, and others to discuss and prototype how to lead with purpose and passion; how to build human companies and workplaces; and how to design for deeper connections in an age of exponential change and massive societal disruption.
A guild of soul-searchers in the age of machines
The House of Beautiful Business is like a guild for soul-searchers in the age of machines, one that seeks a coalition, rather than opposition, of technology and humanity. Martin Reeves, a senior partner at Boston Consulting Group and the director of the BCG Henderson Institute, which is one of the main partners for the House, puts it this way:
“We are keen on co-creating a positive vision for the future of business that makes the combination of exponential technology and humanity more than just the sum of the parts. To do so, we must look beyond conventional thinking and allow for unorthodox perspectives from multiple disciplines. There is no passive forecast for the future of work — it will be what we make it, and that begins with imagination of what we want it to be.”
Topics at the House will cover the diverse relationships between humans and technology and range from purpose, conscious capitalism, and the rehumanization of business, to the role of the humanities in strategy, to artificial emotional intelligence, blockchain, and the future of identity.
Programming will include keynote talks and fireside chats, debates, panel discussions, Live Action Role Plays, workshops, art installations, social experiments, field trips to Lisbon’s beautiful businesses, breakfasts, dinners(including one hosted by Portuguese perfume composer Lourenço Lucena), late night living room conversations, Fado and other musical performances, and silent (as well as not so silent) parties. Moreover, the House will feature a mini-recording studio, and participants will have access to a video corner for documenting the ideas they generate.
Where CEOs meet philosophers, and robots meet poets
Speakers and contributors, also known as “Residents,” include:
- Dennis Mortensen, founder and CEO of digital assistant provider x.ai
- Leila Janah, founder and CEO of Samasource, author of Give Work, and Fortune 40-under-40 social entrepreneur
- Limor Schweitzer, founder and CEO of humanoid robotics firm RoboSavvy
- Haje Jan Kamps, the co-founder and CEO of LifeFolder, a start-up that facilitates end-of-life conversations with chatbots
- Pamela Pavliscak, a social psychologist exploring emotionally intelligent tech
- David Okuniev, co-founder and co-CEO of Typeform that makes “beautiful and human online forms”
- Aditi Khorana, acclaimed author of The Library of Fates and Mirror in the Sky
- Gianpiero Petriglieri, associate professor for organizational behavior at INSEAD and leadership expert
- Arun Chaudhary, the digital storyteller for the Obama White House and Bernie Sanders’ campaign
- Keira Havens, co-founder and CEO of Revolution Bioengineering, a company that produces color-changing flowers
- Helene Lundbye Petersen, currently the artist-in-residence at the Danish Parliament
- Anita Zielina, Chief Product Officer of Neue Zurcher Zeitung, who will speak about nothing but the truth
· …and many more.
Residents of the House will work together on the Handbook of Beautiful Businessthroughout the week, which will be presented as a closing gift and practical guide to the public.
A beautiful escape to what really matters
The House of Beautiful Business in Lisbon will take place in two beautiful venues: The Studio and The Palacio. The Studio is our main event and co-working/communal space in the heart of Lisbon’s central and pulsating Chiado neighborhood. It will be open every day from early morning to late at night, catered by a chef-in-residence with family-style meals. The Palacio is a residential palace (officially known as the Palacio de Conde de Óbidos) in the Lapa district of Lisbon, and the venue for select signature events throughout the week.
The House will kick off with field excursions and a House-warming party on Friday, November 3rd at The Studio, followed by a public debate on “Next Start-up: Humanity” at The Palacio on Saturday. On Sunday, November 5th, the Conference of Beautiful Business will present a special full-day programfeaturing keynotes, panels, and workshops to take place at The Palacio.
To take part in the House program, you may either purchase a Membership Pass for the whole week with access to all events and activities or a special day-pass for the Conference of Beautiful Business on Sunday, November 5th. The launch and the closing event are free.
The House of Beautiful Business offers:
- a comfortable home base during Web Summit — to work, network, and co-work;
- an eclectic group of leaders from business, the public sector, and the arts, to engage with in a rich dialogue about key trends affecting the future your organization;
- an opportunity to explore how to maintain a human-centric culture in light of datafication and automation;
- a growing community of beautiful business people devoted to exploring a humanist way of doing business.
It’s time for beautiful business — we hope to see you in Lisbon!
This article first appeared in the Journal of Beautiful Business.