Updated: Jan 26
We first met David Edelman when he was a partner at BCG some years ago. Over 30 years, David has had an extraordinary journey as a leading Marketing Consultant, then as a CMO in a Fortune 50 company. He continues to share his expertise and wisdom as a highly sought-after executive advisor. David has stayed connected to TAI throughout his career, and it is our great fortune to have his esteem and support. David and TAI CEO Gifford Booth talk regularly about the evolution of business and leadership.
David: I read an article this week that said Artificial Intelligence can now write songs in the style of the Beatles or Nirvana. And it can generate text for sports journalists as the match is being played. So, AI isn't just a threat to repetitive blue - and white-collar jobs, as we frequently read about. It is going to be a part of every segment of our lives soon. Like oxygen, it will simply be in the background, powering our experiences behind the scenes.
Gifford: To be honest, that is scary to me. I don't know a lot about AI, admittedly, but I worry about its impact on human interaction. It seems to me that there is an equal or maybe more vital force emerging, especially after the isolation of COVID. People are longing to connect again. To talk to each other live, at a dinner party, in a restaurant, at work. Are you experiencing that?
David: Absolutely! The social drive is powerful, and I think it goes beyond just conversation. I think people have a different need in their interactions post-pandemic. We want to feel something deeply human and authentic, to connect with someone or something that really resonates with us. We need to build skills to do this well, skills that can get lost in all the discussions about digitization and AI.
Gifford: I get that … can you say more about it?
David: You know more about this than I do, Gifford. Think about it. The deepest body of knowledge from which to draw as we build this Authentic Intelligence is unquestionably the centuries of learning by leaders in the performing arts. Actors. Directors. Playwrights. Choreographers. Nowhere else in society do we see human beings connect with one another so viscerally — artists and audience members coming together as strangers, experiencing a deep and broad range of human emotions.
Gifford: That connection is because great artists keep exploring themselves and investigating changes in their impact and their relationships, no matter their discipline. Over the last 30 years, I've learned that great leaders do the same. It's fantastic to watch people step into fuller and richer relationships … and not just at work. Clients tell us about how things change with their partners, their kids, their parents.
David: Well, we learned something from being isolated … about the quality of our connections. Interacting on Zoom or Meets saved us, and yet it wasn't enough, was it? The quality of the connection lacked something – intuition, passion, that magic that happens in the physical energy between people. I felt the lack of that spontaneity, especially in the creative process at work.
Gifford: Yes! It was too easy to get distracted or to disengage. I found that the times I really connected happened when people were really vulnerable, sometimes because their kid was frustrated by a math problem or their dog peed on the rug – right in the middle of a Zoom call!
David: It’s real life that grabs us, isn’t it? That’s the other AI – Authentic Intelligence. I think the most compelling leaders and brands understand this on a deep level. All the AI – Artificial Intelligence – in the world can't meet the needs of people who are hoping for a broader, more profound connection with humanity as isolation fades.
Gifford: As CMO at Aetna/CVS, you activated a new brand mission. That involved touching thousands of clients to accelerate sales and raise satisfaction. What do you think leaders and brands must understand about this dichotomy between the automaton-like nature of Artificial Intelligence and the social yearning most people have for Authentic Intelligence?
David: I think leaders with Authentic Intelligence know who they are really well. They know what they stand for, the impact they want to have… and it's a cause that is bigger than them, a higher purpose. I heard someone call it a "noble cause." It's what I meant earlier when I said that people want to connect with something that really resonates with them.
Gifford: We’ve been reading for a while now that this kind of “larger than self” purpose is what drives millennials and Gen Z. They want to work for companies with a social conscience, a commitment to make the world better in some way.
David: There is a new awareness emerging of values like empathy and compassion. Employees want to grow their personal agency. It's not just professional development like skill-building, but opportunities for personal growth, too. I think the call to develop Authentic Intelligence will grow as fast as the call for Artificial Intelligence. Maybe even faster …
Gifford: You’re right, David. The human drive for meaning and connection – to self, to another, and others, especially around a conscious commitment, isn't going away. Thanks for reminding me of that.
In the last 30 years, The TAI Group has helped hundreds of leaders begin their journey toward building their authentic intelligence. We’d love to talk to you about taking the first step. To connect with us, click here.