Aesthetic Intelligence: How to Boost it and Use it in Business and Beyond | Pauline Brown

Aesthetic Intelligence: How to Boost it and Use it in Business and Beyond | Pauline Brown


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What’s up everybody?
My guest today is Pauline Brown.
Pauline has over 30 years’ experience acquiring,
building and leading some of the world’s most
influential luxury brands.
She’s perhaps best known for having served
as chairman of North America for LVMH, the
world’s leading luxury goods company.
But she’s also taught a course at Harvard
on The Business of Aesthetics, currently hosts
her own show on SiriusXM titled, “Tastemakers
with Pauline Brown”, and is out with her first
book titled, “Aesthetic Intelligence: How
to Boost It and Use It in Business and Beyond”.
This book was so much better than I ever imagined
it would be.
And I say that as someone who has always had
unappreciation for aesthetics but who was
often conflated that with a distrust of fashion
of what I considered to be its inherent superficialities,
fleeting distinctions and labored rationalizations.
I couldn’t escape the sense that being fashionable
made caring about something that was utterly
meaningless.
Reading Pauline’s book, I’ve come to view
the business of aesthetics as more than just
a superficial necessity of modern life.
The way that Pauline writes about the allure
she felt for the tubular and rich chocolate
brown color of the Vidal Sassoon bottles of
her early adolescence or the affection she
feels today for her classic, square-shaped,
quilted, calfskin leather, blush tone lady
Dior handbag with its gold tone accents, gave
me an entirely new appreciation for the artistry,
pleasure and depth that can be found in the
multisensorial encompassment that is the aesthetic
experience from which the business of fashion
and beauty draws its inspirations and accentuates
its enticements.
If there is one message that I’ve taken away
from Pauline’s book and from our conversation
today, it is this, aesthetics matter, and
each of has the potential to boost his or
her own aesthetic intelligence through a process
of attunement, interpretation, expression
and curation.
To quote Pauline, when it comes to aesthetics,
editorial command is all important.
As Coco Chanel said, “Elegance is refusal.”
And with those words, I bring you my conversation
with Pauline brown.
Pauline Brown, welcome to Hidden Forces.
Thank you for having me.
It is wonderful having you in studio.
I was telling you how much I enjoyed your
book.
I appreciate the fact that you read it, and
you clearly, from your notes, read it cover
to cover.
That’s why I’m especially appreciative.
We’re famous for our notes here.
So, as you can see, I have 12 pages of a rundown
here of material to go off of.
But before we go down that path, maybe you
can tell our listeners, again, I read the
book but what is the book about?
The book is called Aesthetic Intelligence.
What is this about?
So, I have few agendas in writing it.
First of all, I had spent close to three decades
in industries that wouldn’t exist without
very high aesthetic content, fashion, cosmetics,
luxury goods.
There’s no reason to buy any of them for utility,
right?
So, it was clear to me in those industries,
and they’re big industries, really big, multibillion
dollars in each case, in every subsector within,
but it was clear to me that there was something
going on in the industry that was assumed
to be required there.
And yet, they’re all these other industries
that with rare exception, never thought that
aesthetics matter for them.
And then, every couple of decades, some entrepreneur
or industry leader would come around and really
transform that industry by bringing in some,
what I call, aesthetic content.
And I think the most prominent example would
be Steve Jobs, who, for the first time in
history said, “Computers are not just there
for processing power.
They’re not just there for speed and efficiency,”
but they actually are part of a consumer and
a user’s identity, and why can’t it look good
wherever it’s sitting in a room?
And in fact, he had that famous line that,
“The back of my Apple computers looks better
than the front of I think it was HPs.”
I didn’t know that line.
Or about Dell’s.
That’s great.
And you could use it on any competitors.
What an insult.
And then, I take that forward to more recently
like a Dyson.
Who would have thunk that vacuum cleaners
are anything other than dust accumulators
and dust collectors?
And the goal in Dyson’s design was something
that actually didn’t have to be stowed away
in a closet.
And now, he’s taken that particular design
principle and engineering a prowess into other
categories like air purifiers and hair dryers,
and so forth.
So, I started to see that some of the capabilities
that always existed in fashion and luxury
goods were making their way into other industries
but very slowly.
And I combine that with the fact that we’re
living an age where the traditional factors
for success, which were built on efficiencies
and scale, and global expansion, that no longer
works.
That’s just to raise to the bottom, and we
just have taken all of that as pretty much
as far as we humans can.
And so, I called this aesthetic competency.
It actually starts as a class at Harvard called
The Business of Aesthetics, which then led
to the book, and I decided it wasn’t enough
to talk about the business of aesthetics,
which is how aesthetics create value, but
how do people bring aesthetics into companies?
And that is what I called aesthetic intelligence,
and that is what the book is about.
Your class sounds amazing.
The students, it’s not the first time I’ve
heard you talk about it.
The student body must also be very interesting.
I was surprised.
So, when I was first given this platform to
teach at Harvard, I assumed that my students
would comprise mostly of aspiring marketers,
maybe brand managers, people who wanted to
go into consumer industries, and there were
a good number of those types.
But in every section I taught, I at least
had one medical doctor, because I allow a
certain number of cross matriculants.
I had some people had either come from or
were going back to work for Google.
I had hedge fund investors.
Now, what that said to me is that there was
something in the idea, whether or not I execute
it is another story, but there was something
in the idea of the business of aesthetics
that hit a button or hit a chord with all
these different people in businesses that
wouldn’t have been obvious that they needed
this or that it would benefit them.
Fascinating.
I got that feeling also that the interdisciplinary
application of what you talk about in the
book, I got that sense.
Do you feel that working now at Harvard, being
in the role of a professor effectively and
also having your own radio program, that that
gives you an opportunity to maybe reflect
on the work that you’ve done after so many
decades in the business, and to begin to assimilate
some of that and process it in the way that
you wouldn’t otherwise?
Well, yes and no.
So, first of all, I stopped teaching after
two years at Harvard in part because teaching
is a very time-intensive activity.
And what it allowed me, which is to your point,
is it gave me the independence of thought
that I never had as a corporate person.
As a corporate person, I really was very captive
to what my business card said and what the
talking points of the company or the brand
were.
As a professor, I would say two guiding principles
as to what I would teach and talk about.
And one is what I thought the truth was and
the second is what my opinion on that set.
And so, I had a level of freedom that I hadn’t
known in any of my business jobs.
The reason I say yes and no, and this was
a frustration of mine in the classroom, but
I put a lot of effort into basically illuminating
or aspiring to illuminate or to educate as
many as a hundred students, and that was a
very full section.
And I felt like, how can I take what I think
is a big idea, what I hope is a big idea and
reach a lot more people?
And for that, the book really became my vehicle.
So, when did you start the radio program?
Radio program happened in parallel and with
absolute no connection to the course.
So, as I have said a moment ago, for the first
time in my career, I didn’t have to ask anyone
for permission other than maybe my then 13-year-old
daughter.
I didn’t have a boss.
So, when SiriusXM had come to me initially
because they wanted most or more creative
angle in their business station, I asked my
real boss, which was me, would I like to do
this?
Do I have enough to say?
Would it be fun?
And the answer to all three questions was
yes.
And so, that happened about three years ago.
After about a year of doing a show on the
business channel, which is called Trendsetters,
my show was called Trendsetters, I just said
that I liked everything about the experience
except talking about business.
I was actually very interested to talk to
creative people about creative process, about
ideas, about lifestyle.
And so, lo and behold, they moved me to the
Stars entertainment channel.
And we rebranded it Tastemakers, and I’ve
been on for about two and a half years now.
So, I heard a podcast by Tastemakers.
You hosted a panel of three women.
One of them was a very funny Russian aesthetician.
Yeah, the skin care.
Yeah.
Yeah.
What a funny woman.
Yeah.
She’s a good friend.
Yeah, Karina Freedman.
She’s so funny.
She is so funny.
I know many women like that.
I feel like you’re going to blow up with this
book.
Thank you.
Yeah.
So, we’re recording this before the book has
come out, so we don’t know yet, but that’s
my feeling.
And I want to say one more comment on one
more thing, and then maybe we can go to the
beginning of the book and start to drill unto
some of the things you discussed.
You mentioned Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs has of course that great story
of how he ordered the calligraphy course at
Stanford.
And then, if he hadn’t ordered that course,
he wouldn’t have learned about Sanskrit, and
the Mac would not have the beautiful typography,
he said.
I think that’s a myth, but okay.
I know he said it.
I know he said it.
Oh, that’s not true?
I think it’s true that he ordered the course,
and I think it’s true that it had an impression
on him.
I think he has made much of a very marginal
experience.
That’s interesting.
Well, he did do that.
In fact, he did that a lot.
So, the place that I wanted to end up was
actually attention to detail.
I got that sense throughout the book, and
I get that sense generally speaking when I
speak with people that are incredibly successful
at something that they do better than anyone
else.
It’s a maniacal focus with detail and with…
if not perfection, then certainly the perfect
application of oneself, even with theater.
If you go to theater, every night is different.
There is no perfect play or version, but you
can bring your all to that performance, and
I think bringing all of yourself to something.
And so, that sort of stuck out to me in the
book, and I’m sure we’ll have an opportunity
to go through it again, but I want to sort
of go to the beginning.
You talked about this pivotal moment for you
when you were a kid.
In 1976, you write, “I yearned for only three
things in life, pierced ears, a puppy and
a Panasonic Take’n’Tape.
I begged my parents for all of them, though
getting any one of them would have made me
deliriously happy.”
And then, you go on and you actually… it’s
actually much longer.
Apparently, you didn’t get the puppy or the
piercings until later, but you did get the
Take’n’Tape.
I wasn’t familiar with the Take’n’Tape, but
there was a whole family of these portables.
Oh boy.
Panasonic portables and the tagline for Panasonic
in the ’70s was, “Just slightly ahead of our
time.”
Tell me-
And you look at it now with those stubby buttons
and those electric… yeah, colors.
Even now looking at this, right?
It really is beautiful.
It’s beautiful.
And you know what?
I had a similar sort of lightbulb moment probably
five years later, six, seven years later,
with my first Sony Walkman.
And that taxi cab yellow covering and just
the elegance, and how it sat in the hand,
and the idea, but obviously the technology
is exciting.
Because in that case, I could listen to music
without bothering other people on the go.
But I think in both cases, as much of my own
joy came from just the silhouettes of these
products and the colors, and the way they
interacted tactilely and so forth, beautifully
designed devices in both cases.
Indeed, yes.
I mean, the Sony Walkman was a… you come
across in the book as being unusually aware
of your aesthetic environment.
And reading the book, I forced myself, so
to speak, I was consciously trying to do that
last week and look at different people.
And I suddenly did become aware of all the
diversity of how people express themselves
in the physical world.
Yeah.
Through fashion and through other means.
I think people-
Were you always that ready?
So, the short answer is, I think I was slightly
more aware in general than others.
I don’t think significantly more aware.
I think we are all aware of a lot of things.
We don’t articulate what we see, and we don’t
necessarily look for pattern recognition or
try to understand how to get ahead of it,
or even ask ourselves, “Why do I have such
affinity now with a Balenciaga sneaker,” or
whatever the thing of the moment would be?
I think I probably asked myself and it probably
goes back to my sort of German heritage and
culture.
The four questions, why, why, why do I like
this so much?
But people always ask me, “Can you actually
teach aesthetic intelligence which is another
word for taste?
Can you actually teach taste?”
And I say, “Absolutely.
I mean, you don’t teach a child to enjoy ice
cream.”
There are just certain things we enjoy, certain
things we enjoy a lot, and certain things
we really don’t like as humans.
In the history of humans, I don’t think anyone
has ever said, “I’d like to listen to another
round of that jackhammer.”
I mean, it just doesn’t sound good to the
human brain, which doesn’t mean that there’s
one taste in sound.
There are people who love classical music.
There are people who love folk music.
There are similarity in taste.
There are people who had a sweet tooth.
There are people who love salty, crunchy things.
But the fact that we love sensations is a
human thing.
What we do with it and how we continue to
fight the elements, because the world is constantly
trying to numb our senses.
It’s trying to tell us to eat fruits because
they’re good for you, not because they taste
good.
It’s trying to tell us to withstand certain
conditions in a workspace, whether it’s fluorescent
lightings, because that’s what we have been
conditioned to think as a good or standardly
designed office space.
It is corrosive.
That reminds me of a line from a book by Norman
Mailer that I read years ago.
It was a nonfiction book.
I can’t remember the name of it, but he was
describing how air travel had become dreadful.
And he talked about it as part of this larger
move towards plastics.
Interesting.
And he talked about the overhead bin and everything
else, and how things were just made out of
wood or metal.
So, there is this thing that comes across
again in the book, and perhaps I misspoke
when I talked about people’s fashion or exterior
appearance.
Because actually, there’s a sense…
I mean, you talked about the multisensorial
experience in the book.
There’s a sense in which part of what we’re
talking about here is awakening one senses,
right?
Mm-hmm.
So, how much of it is about awakening, and
also how much of it is about authenticity
about authentically being in touch with what
you find pleasurable?
Mm-hmm.
So, first of all, I just have to comment on
a Norman Mailer quote.
I always say that the two most aesthetically
disturbing experiences in modern society are
going through airports and hospitals.
Hospitals.
Because in both cases, they are there to process
people who are dealing with health issues
or administrative issues, or in the case of
airports, obviously travel and mobility.
They’re in both cases so incredibly dehumanizing.
And someone could say critically, “Well, isn’t
the most important thing when it comes to
an airport that there’s security checks?”
Yeah, “Or isn’t the most important thing when
you’re being wheeled into a hospital that
you’re being properly cared for whatever the
reason you’re there for?”
Of course.
But as we’ve seen in all other industries,
somebody is going to make a decision of what
color to paint the wall.
It isn’t like there’s no paint on the wall,
and it isn’t like there isn’t any tile on
the floor.
So, maybe if that somebody, who was responsible
for that decision, took another three seconds
and gave a thought to, how does that actually
make people feel to stand on that floor or
to look from hours in a day against that wall?
There’s a lot of choices, this is not about
investment.
It’s really about mindfulness.
So, to go back to your question about, is
this about awakening?
I always say that in the process of developing
your aesthetic intelligence, there are four
distinct steps.
And the very first step and it’s so fundamental,
is exactly that.
It’s awakening or what I called in the book,
attunement.
You won’t be able to do anything in terms
of starting to curate your own space if you
don’t have a strong sense of what space you’re
in right now.
And I always say that there’s the visible
elements or the palpable elements of a space.
And then, there are other elements that I
refer to as invisible design.
So, for example, when you think of your favorite
restaurant, and if I asked you, “Well, what
do you like about the restaurant?”
Nine out of 10 people would say, “Well, I
love the food.”
Of course, you love the food.
You’re not going to love the restaurant if
you don’t love the food in most cases.
And then I’d say, “Well, what else do you
like?” because you could have picked any restaurant.
And you might say, “Well, I really like the
design of the space.”
Okay, and maybe the design would be the selection
of chairs and paneling, and so forth.
But very few people will say things like,
“You know what?
The lighting, it makes me and my partner looks
so good, or the acoustics is such that I can
hear the music, but I can also hear the conversation.”
That’s invisible design.
It has an enormous impact on how you feel
about the experience, but we don’t identify
it in the time.
And if you’re attuned, you start to identify
those cues.
So, that is the first step, attunement.
Of course, it doesn’t stop with attunement,
because you can’t… when you think of the
people who are the most tasteful that we all
know, it’s not just because they’re aware.
It’s because they take that awareness and
they interpret it, and they edit it.
And they express it in ways that get very
exciting and original, and authentic.
So, a few points about hospitals.
I completely agree in fact that would take
it much further, because I think in hospitals,
the health of impact of the anxiety of the
isolation of the antiseptic, sterile environment,
I think is you said dehumanizing, and it’s
a place where I think we need to feel as human
as possible.
Yes.
Because we’re, in some cases, confronting
very serious mortal issues.
Mm-hmm.
Richard Branson, an interesting example of
someone who transformed air travel with Virgin,
right?
And I think also in a way that what’s interesting
about Branson to me is that was he… maybe
he wasn’t, the first to deploy in-flight WiFi?
He may have been actually.
I know he was early and I know he was loud
about it.
I know he also was early and loud about massages
on the flights.
I don’t know how well that stuck though, but
it was a good idea.
Yeah.
Well, it’s interesting.
We actually also did side note for our listeners.
We did this great episode with Safi Bahcall.
It was on phase transitions, but we covered
Pan Am, the jet age and “jet set.”
And the transformation that happened during
the deregulation, but it’s interesting point
to note just because it was so glamorous and
it was such a different experience back then
flying versus what it is today.
And by the way, if you want to relive any
of that, I highly recommend going to the TWA
Bar and Hotel at JFK.
Oh really?
Are you familiar with this?
No, when did they open that up?
So, their original…
It opened up earlier this summer.
They took the terminal that was a landmark
building, an extraordinary work of design
that had been defunct for decades but had
been just sitting there, and they reopened
it as a hotel right at JFK.
Everything is very retro, very kitschy.
Wow.
It’s really well-done and it’s a lot of fun.
That’s very cool.
So, what my point about Richard Branson, the
WiFi was I believe, Branson had said that,
“It’s not just about how long the flight is.
It’s about how you perceived the flight.
And also, what can you do when you’re on the
flight.
So, if you have a lot of work to do but you
have access to WiFi and the flight takes and
say an extra hour, let’s say it takes six
hours instead of five hours versus a flight
where you’re on five hours but you have no
WiFi, maybe you’d prefer to be on a six-hour
flight with WiFi.”
I thought that was interesting just sort of
the interdimensionality of that.
Another point that came when you were talking
had to do with design about the invisible
design.
I read a book years ago called The Design
of Everyday Things.
And one of the things that I remember from
the book among many, was door handles, and
how many times that there might be a handle
on the door that you’re only supposed to push,
right?
Anyway, that came into my mind.
So, you have to bring it back to the book.
You have this other great scene as you were
in Dartmouth in your 20s.
We mentioned that.
There’s another great line of the book where
you talked about having been in your head
in your early 20s and that you had lost your
waist stylistically?
Talk to me a little bit about that.
How did that transformation happen from when
you left college where you were in this northeast
college town where you talked about eschewing
the defeminized look of your female classmates
with their duck boots?
And I have a picture-
It doesn’t get more unisex than that.
I have a picture here of a girl wearing this
green color you’d mention.
It was very much like-
Timberlands.
Uh-huh.
Exactly.
So, how did you go from that to getting into
the fashion industry?
Because you worked in so many places, I wasn’t
really able to follow that transition.
Okay.
Well, let me start by saying there were two
things that happened in my life over the course
of let’s call it a 10-year period that led
to what I described as sort of a numbing of
my aesthetic senses.
One of those two trend line is very, very
common.
So, one is that I was a serious student, and
like all people who immerse their self in
their studies, you really praised and reinforced,
and encouraged to develop your intellectual
capacity.
You don’t get a whole lot of credit for showcasing
other capacities in a classroom setting.
And I think it is by the way one of the few
problems with standard American education.
American education relative to other countries
is seen as posture and creative thinking.
But I would say for the most part, it is still
very geared toward test taking.
And as somebody who’s competitive and someone
who took my schoolwork very seriously, I just
feel like I spent so many hours sitting in
my head, and to be aesthetic is not to be
an artist, right?
So, oftentimes, people think-
How can you explain… yeah.
Explain that.
So, to be an artist is to be a maker.
Whether you’re making a painting, you’re creating
something.
Steve Jobs was not an artist.
He may have said he took this calligraphy
class as we talked about, but he never produced
anything.
He did nothing with his hands.
What he did was have an imagination of what
good looked and felt like to him.
Well, he would say he had taste.
He would say.
He had taste, and I would say there’s probably
a more powerful word.
Maybe the expression is aesthetic intelligence,
but he had… it wasn’t just that he had taste
because it was his taste.
And by the way, his taste is not my taste.
It is not Victorian taste, but it was so clear
and so crisp, and so well-executed.
And what he had was an ability to mobilize
thousands of people, some of whom were artists
or working at his art departments and creative
units, to execute on his vision.
So, first things first.
There’s a difference between being a creative
or a maker, or an artist, or an artisan, and
being someone with high aesthetic intelligence.
So, as somebody who clearly wasn’t going to
down in art path, I didn’t have really an
opportunity or mentorship, or encouragement
to explore this other side.
If I were, it would just be because I was
doing it because I wanted my bedroom to look
pretty, or I wanted to look adequately well
in an outfit.
But again, there was no use of training of
that portion of my brain.
Point number one.
Point number two, which maybe more particular
to my story than others, is I also went through
such radically different style shifts or environments
that shape style.
So, people asked me at times, so where do
you think people’s individual taste come from
since I referenced that there’s a lot of different
types of taste?
There’s bad taste but within the range-
And you have a great point in the book where
you actually say there’s certainly are something
or something along those lines.
I don’t have it on the rundown but-
Right, I mean, there is bad taste.
Yeah.
That-
And sometimes I even find it… and bad taste
can be amusing and enjoyable too, but let’s
come back to that.
But within in the range of what we would call
good taste, there are so many different styles.
Sure.
And I’ve asked myself, “So why is this particular
set of influences, what shaped this person’s
taste, and another very different shape, another
person’s taste?”
And I sort of say some of it’s a factor of
the age in which you live.
If I was born in the 1800s, same person, I’d
have a very different outlook.
Some of it is geography.
So, as a New Yorker versus someone living
in Tokyo, I have a very different set of influences.
Some of it is personal and family.
In my own family history, which I talked about
in the book and how that shaped, what felt
good and right to me.
So, to get back to this idea, I had over the
course of a 10-year period or so very different
influences that conflicted each other.
So, I came from … I was a first generation
American.
I came from a very European home, a lot of
sort of Victorian era goods and knickknacks,
and sort of historical relics.
Then, moved to Long Island.
I was in a very materialistic world, very
fashion-forward, very loud, fashion-wise and
otherwise.
And then, I’m up in the sort of the ultimate
preppy enclave of Dartmouth.
And it was a very different set of what felt
good to the norm of those populations.
And I don’t think I was strong enough to go
through that sort of serious, of different
experiences, to know what feels good to me.
And so, I come out of that, and it took a
period of time, and it doesn’t happen quickly
to sort of get back into my body and my senses.
So, you’re saying in some sense you were exposed
to a variety of aesthetic environments?
I think the combination that I wasn’t attuned.
So, I was in my head, and the influences around
me that I otherwise would have probably mimic,
which is what people do who don’t necessarily
have a strong internal compass, we’re all
conflicting.
What felt good to the community up in New
England was markedly different than what felt
food to sort of my more ethnic progressive
New York area friends and family.
So, did you not…
Because there’s a point in the book where
you talk about transition from Bain & Company,
the private equity firm, to the Estee Lauder
Companies.
So, did you begin in finance and was that
the transition that you made into-
Right.
A well-kept secret, which I’ll share with
you, so I guess it won’t be a secret anymore
is, so I’ve always enjoyed color.
And one thing that I used to do is just a
personal passion as a young teen, is I would
read the girls in the fashion magazines, the
Seventeen and Teen, and probably if I really
wanted to be aspirational, I’d look at Vogue.
And I would study particularly, because I
wasn’t really into fashion, but I’d really
study the makeup, in how the market makeup
artist, and how… what products they were
using and what colors they were using, and
how they were, in my mind, transforming or
potentially transforming faces.
And I used to practice on my sister and on
my girlfriends.
And I was sort of this closet makeup artist,
not trained, but it never left me to the point
where I actually have done entire wedding
parties, gravis, because I still…
I really enjoy doing people’s makeup.
What do you enjoy about that?
I enjoy the transformation.
I enjoy the mixing of colors.
I enjoy even just a sensorial application
of the brushes and the ointments, and everything
about it, I enjoy.
I enjoy the intimacy of just sitting very
closely and seeing a face in proximity that
we normally don’t.
But most of all, I enjoy the transformation.
So, the reason I’m bringing this up is I didn’t
know when I was leaving Bain, what I wanted
to do.
I knew I didn’t want to be, and I was on a
strategy consulting site of business.
I knew I wanted to get into a product company.
I knew that I had…
I just felt more connected to product than
I did to service.
It was this instinctive response, and I knew
that certain types of products spoke to me.
See, my thinking wasn’t much more sophisticated
than that.
And so, among the products that spoke to me,
and I remember looking at music and entertainment,
was makeup.
And so, I got from Bain to Estee Lauder in
part because I had a good strategy background
and they wanted a strategy person.
But underlying all that was actually an excitement
to be in the sector, even though I knew nothing
about makeup other than how to put it on a
face.
So, you have this great scene.
There are number of these like moments or
scenes, or quotes on the book that stuck out
to me.
I like to collect quotes.
And I guess the CEO at the time was Langhammer?
Fred Langhammer.
Yes.
Fred Langhammer.
Very tough German man.
Tough German man.
So, you have a scene where you talked about
walking into his office.
This was on your first day?
Probably my first week or two.
Then you put together a deck, or was this
deck was just-
I mean, at Bain, I-
We’ve all had to deal with these decks.
They’re exhausting.
Oh, exhausting.
And I thought that was one does, because that’s
what one does at Bain.
So, you described the deck, this is what stuck
out to me the most.
I liked it.
You described it as, it clinically described
historic performance but offered no big ideas
or forward-looking solutions.
Yeah.
Lots of graphs.
Yeah, but clinically described.
Yes.
I thought that…
That really stuck out to me.
Well, the irony is that one of the biggest
brands within Estee Lauder at the time was
Clinique, which sounds just a little bit more
romantic than clinic.
So, I mean, I’m sure that we all look for
moments or we remember things as this was
the turning point, or things are little bit
more messy than that.
But certainly, there seems to have been sort
of in some sense, an on-learning on your part?
Yeah, yeah.
Well, so I remember in that particular incident,
Fred who was a no-nonsense guy, and he just
threw down the deck.
This is not someone who, as a CEO and frankly
as a German, he did not want me wasting his
time.
And he looked at this and he knew it was a
waste of time.
And I’m shocked because again, my training
was such that this is how you look at business.
You look at it just passionately.
And I think it was one of the first times,
and it took me many, many years to piece these
altogether, that I realized that this is not
impersonal, that I have to bring as much of
myself to this job as possible.
And by the way, I have an advantage, that
Fred Langhammer, my boss and CEO, did not
have.
I wear the stuff.
If he could only imagine how a mascara feels
on lashes.
As far as I know, he didn’t wear mascara.
But I was treating myself as if I would just
an observer as he and all the other executives
were.
And so, I think overtime, I learned that the
more I could integrate, how I feel about things
as a consumer, as a woman, as an American,
and then what I think about them as well,
that the more powerful I could be in my role.
And it certainly played out that way.
Yeah.
This part really resonated with me, and it
also dovetails well with a lot of what I’ve
tried to do with Hidden Forces, particularly
in the early stages when we first launched
the podcast.
We did an episode for example on phenomenology
with Christian Madsbjerg, Episode 14 for listeners.
Christian does some type of design where generally
speaking, I don’t know if he did some design
work with Chrysler when they launched the
Continental, but it had to do with the fact
that… and I have a background working in
fields where there’s lot of quantitative analysis.
And a phenomenon that often occurs is that
people mistake the map for the territory,
right?
And it felt very much like that was something
you are describing there, and I wonder, how
common is that in your industry, and generally
speaking, in what you see that people become
so fixated on the process or on the model
that they have used to simplify the real world,
and they don’t engage with the world as it
is, how common is that do you find?
I think it’s ubiquitous.
And I think the bigger companies are and the
more established companies are, the more common
it is, which is a real disadvantage by the
way.
It’s why entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial
setups are moving so much more quickly and
gaining so much share, is that they’re real.
They’re authentic.
They’re connected to what’s happening in the
marketplace.
I think big companies are totally disconnected.
And the people who work for these big companies,
if they are connected when they start, they
are very quickly become out of touch.
I think it’s a real problem.
So, how on earth do you… because I don’t
think I could ever be successful at a large
company.
There’s a very little media view out there
on YouTube, but there’s this one video where
it’s about like four minutes or so or five
minutes, and he talked about an experience
at maybe it was when you were at Bain but
you were working with a company that was going
under restructuring.
And they had to let go of people, and everyone
was fighting for headcount, and you realized
that you didn’t really… even know headcount
was a power base, that you didn’t really want
that because you wanted to be able to focus.
You wanted to be free of that so you can focus
on innovating or moving the company forward.
What do you think the biggest challenges are
for being successful at your level?
Because again, one of the positions that you
held was that you were chairman of North America
for LVMH.
Yeah.
Well, so a couple of things.
I mean, first of all, I think it’s really
important for a person wherever they sit in
an organization, to be brutally self-honest.
And by that, I don’t mean self-critical, but
I mean honest about what you genuinely like
and how you thrive, and where you get energy
and what saps you of energy.
So many people I know start to answer those
questions with regards to what’s in the best
interest of their institution or where they
think they’ll be best rewarded, instead of
who they genuinely are.
And it’s not calm overnight, but over the
years, I’ve become very clear with what’s
important to me, with what I’m willing to
trade off in order to have the things where
I thrive and just put myself in settings where
I can do well.
So, if you take the LVMH example and there
were aspects of that experience in which I
thrive enormously and there were aspects of
it I found crippling.
But one of the things, it’s a very big company.
But if you peel the onion, and I don’t like
big companies by the way-
Which I found fascinating because you mention
that, and I found that perplexing.
But the reason I’m…
The devil is in the detail.
If you peel the onion on LVMH, it really is
a collection of a lot of small companies with
a few big ones throwing in.
So, 70 brands.
You have a couple that are 10 billion a year,
very small number, in one hand.
Do they own Gucci?
No, that’s their arch competitor.
Vuitton as one of the mothership brands and
Hennessy, and Christian Dior, Marc Jacobs,
and I could name about 65 others, but they
have a few really big brands.
The vast majority of the brands within that
portfolio are really small, surprisingly small.
They’re old.
They’re well-known, established, but they’re
small.
And so, I always looked at that company as
more of a collective than I did of a big corporation.
And for that reason, it worked for me.
So actually, let’s make a little slide detour,
stay where we are a little bit because I pulled
out some of these things from that video.
This wasn’t actually in your book, though
you touched on it.
We touched on the first one.
You had these four turning points.
One was we touched on with Fred, think and
act like an owner, not like an agent.
I think that’s what you alluding to about
the entrepreneur.
To the dispassionate analysis that I initially
approached E Lauder with which did not work.
I mean, people who are successful are generally
not thinking first and foremost what’s it
going to take for me to succeed in this job?
They are thinking first and foremost, what’s
it going to take for me to create value?
Yeah.
And that’s an owner’s mentality.
And also, I think that the sense of being
in touch with the consumer.
I mean, you mentioned that as a woman, that
you would actually try these products?
I love and it’s probably because I’m a freak
of nature, I love going to stores, not even
to shop.
Just for me, it’s an anthropological experience.
It is like, I get more joy than kids do go
to zoos.
And I like to see how people navigate when
they walk in shops.
I like to see even merchandise that I would
never remotely buy, like what’s sitting there
and why, and what’s moving and what’s not.
I’m fascinated by how stores get designed
and how misdesigned most to them are.
So, for all sorts of reasons, it was a real
frustration for me at another stage in my
career when I was a private equity investor,
focused on consumer and retail, that my colleagues
spent 90% of their time in their offices looking
at spreadsheets and financial projections,
and modeling and otherwise.
And I felt like, the rubber meets the road
in the store.
And people like Leonard Lauder, who’s the
former chairman of Estee Lauder, or Bernard
Arnault, who is the current chairman of LVMH,
they spent more time in the stores than most
of their people.
So, I’m going to touch on something, and we’re
jumping around a little bit here, because
I’ve got it all over the place, but I have
this in a different section talking about
the halo effect, which I find fascinating
and I want to ask you about that.
But this is so directly tied to what you just.
There’s a quote from the book where you write,
“If you go to a Lauder beauty counter and
inquire about a particular moisturizer, the
salespeople will rub it into your hand as
if they are giving you a massage.
In doing so, they create a very intimate,
warm moment that for most people is enjoyable
and relaxing.
How can you not buy the product?”
[laughter] It sound so sinister.
No.
But I mean, to your point, and that’s about
being in the store, and then I’ll throw another
one out there because you mentioned the department
stores, and I do want to get into that as
well.
You write, “It’s not the traditional retail
stores are dying.
It’s that they’ve lost their way.
They’re formulaic, and what’s worse, forgettable.”
Oh, yeah.
Forgettable is the worst.
Forgettable.
What’s worse than forgettable?
Nothing.
But there’s that word again though: Formulaic.
Clinical.
Right?
Mm-hmm.
That those things, and I can’t give you an
exact reason and maybe you can answer, but
what do you drive again when you use words
like formulaic and clinical, and-
Right.
Well, the irony of ironies in both cases,
those two words are typically associated with
scientific experiments and with big data and
analysis.
Dehumanizing environments.
And we have lived in a world where STEM is
everything (science, technology, engineering.
And I say great by no means am I suggesting
we throw data out the window.
We have more data that we don’t know what
to do with and we should be making better
use of it, but I’m saying it’s just not enough.
Most industries are not going to win on data
alone, and that’s why I call aesthetic intelligence,
which I think is one of the few areas we still
can win as humans, “the other AI.”
Yeah.
I mean, I was about to go there to see the
plan words.
Let’s go back again to, a little bit, you
made a point earlier about…
I don’t know if you articulated it this way,
but you’ve articulated this way in the past,
“Fight for what drives you not for what drives
others.”
Can you explain the significance of that?
Taking it back a little bit to the context
of your management style and how to be successful
working at the top of a major corporation?
Yeah.
Well, a couple of thoughts on that.
I mean, first of all, I think that philosophy
is not only an easier way to live, but I think
it’s a more enjoyable way.
I mean, for so many people I know, they kind
of bifurcated their life.
This who I am in my office, and this is how
I express myself.
This is how I decorate my space or have someone
else decorate my space.
This is my wardrobe for my professional being.
And then, they have their personal space,
and there’s so little competitivity between
that.
And especially for working moms, which I am,
it’s exhausting.
So, just to use my closet as a metaphor, like
long ago, I stopped saying, “this is where
my work clothes are, and this is where my
play clothes are.”
Now, there are certain things that would be
out of range, I’m not going to wear sweat
suit to a board meeting.
But for the most part, I bring it all together.
I want to be comfortable when I’m at a meeting.
And I also want to express myself, and look
presentable when I’m going to yoga, and how
I integrate.
It’s really about more of a fluidity in our
life, which makes it easier to live, but I
think more enjoyable.
That’s interesting, I thought of it in a different
way.
I think one of the common characteristics
that successful people have is that I think,
they tend to have a chip on their shoulder.
There’s something that doesn’t sit right with
them.
I have lots of chips.
Yeah.
So, I think it is a common… at least in
my personal experience and the experience
of people I know that we fight battles, whose
origins go back to our childhood, or in some
cases go back so far, we can’t remember where
they came from.
And it’s a challenge to extract yourself or
your own volitions or desires from those that
are shadows, really.
Now, how do you know when you’re fighting
for what drives you, and not what drives others?
Well, I would go back to the question you
asked at the beginning of the interview, which
is what’s the first step in developing aesthetic
intelligence?
It’s this very basic concept of attunement.
I think the more attuned, and now in that
case, it’s attunement to how things feel that
are hitting you sensorially.
In the case of professional, and leadership
conduct, it’s about how do things feel based
on how you’re behaving, or how others are
reacting, and how that sits with you.
I’m not a non-confrontational person, but
I get no joy in fighting.
I know people who enjoy a good fight, right?
You sound like you could be good at it though.
Well, I defend my ground.
You don’t seem like a pushover.
No, I’m not a pushover, but I’m a lioness.
I defend my cubs, but I’m not an aggressor,
right?
And so, I fight for things that to me are
whether it’s survival or it’s my territory,
I’ll certainly fight.
But I am not going to fight for battles that
I just don’t care to win.
That’s not my nature.
And my point though that what I was trying
to get at is, at least in my own personal
life and experience, it’s been a challenge,
and it’s taken a lot of work, and reflection,
and maturation to extricate myself from other
people’s battles.
The battles that I have been fighting for
so long that I thought they were mine, but
they’re really not, you know what I mean?
Yeah.
Look, we’re all growing, and I feel like I’m
still growing, and learning, and experimenting,
and getting it wrong, and course correcting,
and that’s part of the journey.
And I do think though, people who are successful
overtime, I mean there’s a lot of people who
have moments of success.
Sustainable success takes a different character.
But people who are successful overtime are
good learners.
So, there are a lot of other things from the
book that I do want to get into, but I’m curios
to talk to you a little bit about, I keep
writing it down as fashion, I know this isn’t
exactly right because the book is not about
fashion.
But fashion is important symbol.
Yeah.
I mean, and the truth is, in case it isn’t
already obvious to you and everyone listening,
I don’t know much about the industry.
In fact, reading the book…
I bought this book years ago, called Elegance
in the Age of Crisis.
And that was driven by my own interest in
things like the lipstick indicator, and the
hemline indicator from my background in finance,
and economics, and markets.
And the book was about how fashion changed
during the depression.
And I’ve always found stuff like that very
fascinating and interesting.
We did an episode, episode four, two years
ago, when we started the program, which was
on the history of American television, and
culture as historian, and culture maker.
How television interacted with the people
and people interacted with… and that created
society.
But I’m fascinated by fashion.
I’m fascinated by how it works, I’m fascinated
by what constitutes innovation in fashion.
So, maybe you can educate me and our listeners,
where do you think the world of fashion is
today, where are we today?
It’s so broken.
I think when I was coming of age, it really
was setting sort of a mood that would extend
all the way through the market.
There were certain industries, generally ones
like automotive that have long timelines that
were probably earlier in areas like, color
selection, or textile trends.
But fashion was able to absorb all of these
early trends, bring it together in a spirit,
and kind of establish the structure of a market,
and a big market.
Things have changed marketly.
I mean, first of all, very few shoppers look
to the runway to indicate what they’re going
be wearing whether it’s now or in a year from
now.
They used to do that?
They used to do that.
Shoppers, really?
So, well, if not shoppers there’d be buyers-
Taste makers or-
Taste makers, and that what I would have seen
coming out of Paris Fashion Week, which was
just a week ago, and determining the collections
for, Spring of 2020 or fall of 2020, there
would be this cascading effect.
And it would start with fashion, but then
it would ripple through beauty, or through
other related image-oriented businesses.
It just doesn’t work that way anymore.
Part of the reason is I think the best and
brightest creative minds are not going into
fashion, at least not in America.
They’re going to Hollywood, so entertainment
is hugely impactful, they’re going to Silicon
Valley, so technology has become a creative
hot bed, albeit, a different kind of creativity.
There are structural changes in the industry.
I think the economics of fashion have also
made it very unwelcoming of that next generation,
and have not had the fuel to really invest
in innovation the way, for example Silicon
Valley has.
So, I don’t look at fashion today as where
I’m going to determine where the real people
are going.
It’s almost-
That’s interesting, where the creative people
are going or the aesthetically intelligent
people.
Where the mass is, where the… what I’m going
to see, so for the same reason, I don’t look
at New York where I live or other major cities
like LA, as necessarily spawning the next
great creative thinkers.
I go to the sort of second-tier cities like
Nashville, or Savannah, Georgia, and I was
like, “Wow, really?”
And why?
Because the big cities like New York have
become so expensive to operate in, you can’t
afford to take a risk.
And to be creative, and to live off of ideas,
and to express yourself, A, you got to be
able to experiment, and B, you need time.
And cities like New York also moving so quickly.
I think that a lot of things have been turned
on their head, and yeah, I think there’s more
creativity that’s being produced than ever
in the history of man, and it come out in
the form of my daughter making Tic Tok videos,
and foodies, opening interesting restaurants,
and side snack businesses.
There’s a lot of creativity, it’s just not
coming out of the Paris runways and some of
the traditional sources.
One of the things that I was thinking about
when I was reflecting on this conversation
or reflecting on what I thought this conversation
might become or be, I feel like during the
1980s, we begun to see the power of celebrity
and stardom really blow up.
And I mean the crossover celebrity, right?
You had the athletes like the Michael Jordans,
you had the Michael Jacksons, you had the
Madonnas, you had people who were brands onto
themselves.
I don’t know that that exist really before
that.
You might have had famous actors or musicians,
but a person as a brand?
I don’t know of any-
I mean, you always had Marilyn Monroe, and
Elizabeth Taylor, and so forth, but they weren’t
productized.
Right, exactly.
But like, Michael Jordan had the Air Jordans.
And now, it feels like we’ve gone to a new
place where celebrity itself has become in
a sense commoditized or democratized.
And you’ve got all these “tastemakers or influencers”
and they’re driving so much of product placement,
and advertising, and things like this.
I mean, I’ve seen them in certain areas.
How much of that is what’s happening with
fashion?
So, I think that particular trend is short
lived because it’s not credible.
I mean, it’s clear to anyone who is following
an influencer when they are promoting something
for pay that it doesn’t have the same quality
as when they started out, and developed their
influence base, and we’re just promoting something
because they liked it.
You can see, and feel the difference, and
the bigger they get, I think the more obvious
it is.
It feels less authentic.
It is a commercial, it’s a commercial.
Yeah.
it doesn’t feel authentic.
And then it’s for the same reason that if
I see a commercial on TV for Coca-Cola, I’m
not more inclined to buy Coca-Cola because
I saw the polar bear.
I am inclined if on a hot day, someone is
sitting next to me, and sort of opening the
can, and I hear that pop, and the bubbles
come out, and it just looks really refreshing.
I mean, so our form of influence is changing,
and I do think that there’ll always be some
form of influence, just that particular sort
of Instagram-type media for doing it is probably
one that’s going to run its course.
I like the way you described the… was it
a Pepsi or Coca-Cola?
Well, that was Coca-Cola because it’s just
like Pepsi.
But I like how you described it, and I got
that feeling in the book, right?
With how you wrote, you talked about it popping,
the bubbles, you’re very attuned to the experience.
Well, so let’s think of a champagne bottle,
if you can send men to the moon, and occasionally
a woman, you can come up with an easier way
to open it then that freaking cork that pops
people’s eyeballs every New Year’s Eve.
Actually, I have a friend who’s a night actor
and says it’s one of the biggest days of the
year for calls to come, because people-
It does seem like a crazy time to be doing,
opening, like shooting projectiles when everyone’s
drunk.
But it is part of the aesthetic experience
of having champagne.
It’s a ritual, and I do think a champagne
bottle sort of like, I don’t like screw tops
on wine bottles, even though there’s nothing
to indicate that the quality of wine is sacrificed.
I feel like there’s something in that ritual,
and there’s something about the pop, and there’s
something about the cork that is enjoyable.
So, that word resonates, so does the word
sacred.
The word sacred came up to me when I was reading
your book, but ritual I think also, or maybe
just now, there’s a feeling of, for me, when
I read your work, or I read your thoughts
of the world and life being an experience.
And that you want to get as much out of it
sensorially at least as possible.
I do, and I would say as a marketer, and a
business person, the additional point is that
people don’t need more stuff.
This is the first times in history where-
We’re drowning in crap.
We’re drowning, and we’re aware of the wastefulness,
and we get pleasure more out of experiences,
and it’s why people are renting clothes because
they can post it once.
They don’t even have to put it away in the
closet.
My point being, we don’t need stuff, right?
There are few things we need.
We need enough food to sustain ourselves,
but we don’t really even eat for that purpose.
We eat for enjoyment.
So, it’s incumbent upon makers of things to
give something that provides more than utility.
What we do need, and really is a human need
is to feel alive, and whatever you can do,
whether you’re offering a product, or a service,
to make that person on the other end feel
alive, to feel human.
Whether it’s through stimulating their senses,
through giving them some joy, through surprising
them, through making them feel something that
they didn’t feel before they had interacted
with your product.
That is a service, and that will continue
to be sold in the marketplace, the rest goes
away.
So, let’s talk about the halo effect because
a few things came up.
Again, what’s the name of your Russian aesthetician
friend?
Karina Freedman, she’s going to love that
you brought her up.
She’s so funny.
I know women like her.
I love Russians.
She’s actually a great aesthetician as well.
And that you said, she’s excellent.
In fact, I kept thinking that I need to get
your recommendations.
But there’s something that she had said about,
was it her husband, I think?
She mentioned her husband was American, and
that well, she’s like, why do you…
I can’t do the accent, but why do you want
to eat chicken?
Why chicken nuggets makes you feel better?
It’s crap, it’s bad, or whatever.
But then, just made me think about how enduring
these experiences are, right?
The experience of going to McDonald’s.
So enduring, in fact that grown adults who
should know better than to eat that, will
eat because it brings them back, right?
And so, this is a way of talking about this
thing you talk about, which you call the halo
effect.
Which is that, when you’re thinking about
products or experiences, you’re not just thinking
about the actual experience itself.
But also, you’re thinking about the residue,
the memory that it will leave, and I’m familiar
with some of this from the work of Daniel
Kahneman, I think it’s called the peak-end
rule, which is basically heuristic that people
remember the height of an experience, and
the way it ends.
So, talk to me a little bit about the significance
of that in the work that you do.
Right.
Well, so the theory of halo is about 50%,
of course, it varies by different categories,
but about 50% of people’s pleasure with particular
product or service, is some combination of
their anticipation of experiencing it, and
their memory after the fact.
And yet, most companies deal with their customers
just around that point of purchase and that
point of usage.
And so, one of the best examples of a successful
application of the halo effect, and I talk
about it on the book, is Disney World.
So, when you actually think about Disney World,
and most people have been there at one point
or another, whether it was with your children
or as a child, the actual experience is not
that great.
If you’re in Orlando, particularly if you’re
there in this hot summer months, it’s a swamp,
it’s so hot.
The lines are so long, it’s expensive, there’s
so much noise, kids screaming, and crying,
and laughing.
It can be annoying if too many people are
laughing in your ears.
It’s an overload of experience.
The food is not that great, but how many people,
whatever the actual experience on that premises
are dying to go back after the fact, and why?
Some of it is just that, for most people who
go there, they were sitting on those plane
tickets for maybe two months, and everyday
leading up to it, whether it was the kids
or other family members, who are sort of anticipating
this delight, “I can’t wait to get to Disney,
I can’t wait to get to Disney.”
And then while they’re at Disney, they’re
posting, and they take great pictures, and
it’s colorful, it’s a very photogenic backdrop.
And then, afterwards, of course you’re not
going to talk about the heat.
Nobody ever talks about the swamp heat.
But they talk a lot about, “Oh, remember,
we went on that ride.”
They don’t talk about the line that they waited,
the hour line getting on the ride.
So, I think they do a great job at leaving
people with this combination of memories,
and anticipation so that they come back.
I think also the same… and you talked about
this actually in the book, the same principle
holds biology with respect to labor, and pregnancy,
and birth.
Oh, yes.
And even birth, right?
I mean, I’ve had so many of my friends tell
me that after they’ve given birth, the process
itself is obviously horrifically painful,
or can be.
And then right after they’ve given birth,
they can’t wait to do it again, which is just
remarkable, right?
And that speaks to it.
I have a friend who had her first baby two
months ago, the baby is so cute, but it wakes
up every two hours, and it’s cranky, and colicky,
and you got to change the diaper, and it’s
exhausting, and as I was observing her, it
took me back to having raise two of my own,
and birth two of my own.
That was not a pleasant time in my life, but
I always describe my kids, and I genuinely
believe, they were the best thing I ever did.
I never talk about the number of diapers I
changed, when I talk about my kids.
Yeah.
I guess nature has worked out the halo effect
pretty well for the survival of the species.
And also, this thing also reminds of when
I used to get… actually, I didn’t regularly
go to this place, probably went once, maybe
once.
In fact, this is probably the peak-end rule
in full effect.
I remember once, because it was such a great
experience, but it was extremely expensive,
and probably my barber was out of town or
something, and I went to this Japanese hair
salon.
At that time, I was living on Cornelius Street
years, and years, and years ago, and this
would have been on West Forth, between I guess
7th Avenue and-
I think I remember this place.
It very glass-open front.
Well, you need to go down, you’d walk down
some stairs, I think.
No, I didn’t go to that one.
Yeah.
I think that was the one.
Maybe that, maybe it was ground floor.
By the way, I’m not surprised at Japanese.
Did you refer to it as Japanese?
Yes, exactly.
Yeah.
They are by far, the most aesthetic people.
Yeah, they are.
And when I would leave, they would all, all
the girls would stop, it was all girls that
were in the store, and they’d be like, “Thank
you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank
you.
” And I’m like, “Okay, you’re welcome, thank
you, thank you.”
They really appreciated you.
Exactly, and that stays with you.
There’s something else here I have also, you
see this, you mentioned a designer, I thought
his stuff was moderately ugly.
Good.
At least it wasn’t forgettable.
Yeah.
But no, it wasn’t forgettable.
This is forgettable.
I mean, I just picked it because it was the
ugliest thing I could find.
I don’t know if this qualifies as pretty ugly,
which is the term we use.
Right.
Jolie laide.
Yeah, exactly.
So, this is a really interesting thing, and
it kind of resonated, because there are things…
I mean, there are people I don’t find in the
East Village charming in any way or attractive,
but some people really like it.
They like the kind of gritty feel kind of
feel.
I feel like that qualifies in a sense.
It does.
I mean, the idea behind jolie laide, which
is the literal translation from French is
jolie is pretty and laide is ugly.
And it was historically used to describe a
woman’s face, and specifically, a beautiful
woman.
And why was she beautiful?
Because there was something a little off.
She might have had a mole, maybe a gap between
her teeth, something a little bit off, not
so off that she really was ugly.
But something that fell out of the standard
of normal beauty.
I think what’s important, and I use that to
describe brands, that for things to stand
out, they have to be a little off.
When things are perfect, too clean, to orderly,
to predictable, they are forgettable.
And I feel for a lot of businesses in this
quest to be perfect, and this lack of experimentation,
and this lack of whimsy that they lose sight
of that.
And it’s why a few stores, like anthropology,
which was designed to sort of replicate a
walk in the forest, and it does a lot of things
that are kind of illogical in the world of
retail design.
But it makes their store environments kind
of exciting.
The product is not exiting, but the store
environments are.
That’s so interesting because I was going
to ask you in terms of beauty marks, and distinctions,
because I don’t think you mentioned in the
book, but I guess this is what you covered.
And you see here, I have a picture of Cindy
Crawford, of course, the most woman with a
mole in her face in the history of time.
And Michael K. Williams, who has a giant scar
from a knife that runs all the way down his
head through the side of his face.
I remember distinctively an interview he did
on television years ago where he talked about
how he turned that into something that basically
became some kind of a distinction, something
that, a beauty mark, or whatever.
And I think that’s interesting too because
that makes me think of some work that I’ve
read of philosophers in information science,
which really looks at systems that are extremely
simple, or let’s say songs that are actually
simple, no one likes them.
And if they’re really chaotic, if it’s all
noise, it’s grating, it’s horrible.
But like beauty is somewhere in between, it’s
in the complex, that’s what’s more human,
right?
And I think, yes, because by the way in nature,
which is our most beautiful expression in
this planet, it doesn’t look like a supermarket.
It’s not like all the trees are neatly lined
up on the mountain.
There is sort of a roughness, and there’s
an organicness, and the Japanese call it wabi-sabi,
which is this idea that objects are living.
And that sometimes when for example, a porcelain
plate has a crack in it, that’s all the more
part of its glory.
Right.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
That’s interesting.
And it’s the problem I have by the way with
a lot of modern architecture, when I walk
the streets of New York, all of these glass
skyscrapers, I sort of say, just because they
might be tilted a little bit differently at
the top, there’s nothing organic about them.
There’s nothing really interesting about a
lot of these buildings.
I think it’s an interesting observation.
I also wonder what you can tell about individuals
based on where they choose to live in Manhattan.
Because I think also sometimes, you go through
phases, and you like to move to different
neighborhoods.
Have you seen Man in the High Castle?
This is the one that if the Germans had won?
Yeah.
I saw the first several episodes.
Because I’d be-
Dark.
Yeah, very dark.
But I think that’s an interesting example,
one, the point about the Japanese, and sort
of the spirit, or the essence of the teacup,
the broken teacup.
But really, the Nazis, they’re whole world
was… it had to be perfect, it needed to
be cleansed, and then everything.
And whereas, the Japanese in that movie, there
was just much more soul and place for humanity.
Pauline, I’m going to move us to the overtime.
Okay.
I want to thank you so much for being on the
program, and sticking around.
For regular listeners, you know the drill.
If you’re new to the program, or if you haven’t
subscribed to our Patreon overtime, autodidact
or super nerd tiers, you can do that by heading
over to patreon.com/hiddenforces, or looking
right into the description of this Podcast
where I have a link, and you can gain access
to the overtime that I’m about to have with
Pauline, as well as a transcript, as well
as the rundown, which is full of pictures
of Kanye West, of Spock and Drag.
Okay.
That’s funny.
And pictures of Pauline as well looking fabulous.
Well, with my Faroe Island skirt, my cloud
skirts.
It is my favorite picture of you.
Thank you.
Wow.
That skirt was made by two designer friends,
and it’s a whole show onto itself about the
Faroese.
It feels very Alice in Wonderland-ness.
Hopefully, I won’t fall into that trap.
That’s a nightmare.
So, thank you so much for coming on the program.
Thank you, thank you.
It’s been a delight talking to you.
Today’s episode of Hidden Forces was recorded
at Creative Media Design studio in New York
City.
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4 Replies to “Aesthetic Intelligence: How to Boost it and Use it in Business and Beyond | Pauline Brown”

  1. Wipe off all the makeup
    Get naked
    That's the bottomline not the illusion that you put forth
    Besides we are sinusiol waves of Quantum
    You don't get it do you?
    https://youtu.be/LTzr0p0XA-c

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