True Confessions of a Business Romantic
By: Connie Blaszczyk, Managing Editor, Monster Resource Center
Are you bold enough to be a business romantic? And no, we’re not referring to workplace Cupids…
Author Tim Leberecht, who coins the terms in his new book, The Business Romantic: Give Everything, Quantify Nothing, and Create Something Greater Than Yourself (Harper Business, 2014), explains that business romantics are first and foremost humanists. They’re bold enough to upend traditional business behavior — and brave enough to bring heart and soul to their work.
This intriguing model was first inspired by Leberecht’s own popular 2012 TED Talk, 3 Ways to (Usefully) Lose Control of your Brand.
In this Monster interview, he explains his own personal epiphany that led him to become a business romantic and how it can benefit the workplace.
Monster: What exactly is the mindset of a Business Romantic?
Leberecht: It’s a mindset that explores without exploiting. A lifestyle and leadership style in business that maintains a sense of wonder, doubt, and vulnerability as the basis for the ability to appreciate and manage complex relationships and contradictions.
Monster: When did you know you were a business romantic?
Leberecht: It goes back to 2004 when I was serving as an advance press chief for the Athens Olympic Torch Relay. It was then that I experienced my own business romantic epiphany moment.
As part of our six-week trip around the world, the flame touched African soil for the first time in Olympic history. I remember being in Tahrir Square in Cairo and feeling a sense of awe when I saw the pride and joy of thousands of Egyptians around me. It was one of the most romantic moments of my life and the best job I’ve ever had.
I realized then that this intensity of emotion was exactly what I wanted to experience for the rest of my career. I then looked to business for a sense of adventure and meaning far beyond profit and productivity.
I wrote The Business Romantic because I believe we need more romance in our lives and that we can find it in and through business.
Monster: You advocate for being vulnerable and passionate at work — and not always playing to win a zero-sum game. Is this a new gestalt for employers and their workers?
Leberecht: I hope so! The Business Romantic aims to show that while romance is a world view and a lifestyle, it can also be a powerful framework for business.
As professionals, we need to build romantic “muscle” and practice “acts of romance.” With the book I wanted to uncover the secrets of business romantics, and help those who aren’t romantics to recognize its value.
Monster: How did you test your theory?
Leberecht: As part of my research, I wanted to test the market demand for “Business Romanticism.” So I created and posted a fictitious sample job description. I received more than 100 applications in the first week! My favorite one was “I love this job description, but I will not apply because that would be utterly un-romantic”…
I think we all want material gains and social “security” through our work, but we also all have an innate desire to connect with something greater than ourselves and to believe in something. The quest for meaning, beyond our individual pursuit of self-realization and happiness, is an incredibly strong driver.
I view romance as a key factor of happiness and meaning: it is the best way to describe a profound desire for the world’s beauty that cannot be captured in quantitative terms.
Monster: You also say that work is no longer defined as a place that we go to — but rather define it by what we bring to the work. Can you explain?
Leberecht: This is actually a quote from researcher and writer Stowe Boyd who wrote an article about a start-up named Somewhere that I cite in my book. He said that work is increasingly “a thing we do, not a place where we go.”
With nearly 50% of the global workforce projected to work remotely by 2020, and 75% of the workforce Millennials by 2025, we’re witnessing a profound work revolution: in increasingly fragmented talent markets, tomorrow’s knowledge workers will be digital nomads, interdisciplinary micropreneurs, personal brand-builders, and hybrid “hackers.”
The construct of employment with a company is just one of many platforms for these type of workers. Their unique capital will be as much data-driven as it is cultural and romantic.
Companies who appeal to their values and how they make them feel will become even more important in attracting and retaining them. Passion and purpose will play a bigger role in the design of careers, and permanent learning will no longer be a means to an end, it will be the end.
Tim Leberecht is author of The Business Romantic (Harper Business, Jan.) and chief marketing officer of NBBJ, a global design and architecture firm that helps organizations like Amazon, Boeing, Google, Samsung, Starbucks, and Tencent create meaningful experiences. Previously, Leberecht was CMO of product design and strategy firm Frog Design. He has spoken at TEDGlobal, The Economist Big Rethink, DLD, and the Silicon Valley CEO Summit, among other venues. His TED Talk, 3 Ways to (Usefully) Lose Control of Your Brand, has been viewed by more than 700,000 people to date. Based in San Francisco, Leberecht serves on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Values and on the board of Jump Associates, a strategy and innovation consultancy.
Read More: Resolve to Be a Business Romantic