His approach may sound unusual, he admits. After all, most businesses run on routine, thrive on efficiency and want to minimize risk; whereas romance is all about deviating from the routine, losing control and experiencing the world – and yourself – in a different way.
Yet businesses could learn a lot from that approach, he insists. Those that don’t – the ones that only strive to deliver utilitarian value and efficiencies – will find it difficult to attract and retain talent, and foster customer loyalties. Meanwhile, workplaces that are “more surprising, interesting and romantic – not repetitive and boring” will “enhance their capacity to be human,” says Leberecht. As a result they will “forge a deep, lasting commitment to their customers, employees, and partners who will want to stay engaged with them.”
All a business needs is the courage to try something different.
That’s where Leberecht comes in. San Francisco-based, he is a consultant, speaker and the founder and CEO of Leberecht and Partners, a global collective of strategists, designers, producers and artists that helps organizations bring out their “romantic” side. The “lightbulb” moment for him was becoming CMO of a global business and realizing that its fixation on data, efficiencies and the bottom line was squeezing the humanity out of the firm.
“Later, after 10 years of holding senior leadership positions, I felt confident enough to write down my own truths,” he says, publishing a bestselling book in 2015 called “The Business Romantic: Give Everything, Quantify Nothing, and Create Something Greater Than Yourself.”
To find joy and productivity, organizations should take people out of their comfort zones. “For example, you could hold ‘speed meets,’ where a new employee sits across the table from an established employee for a minute before moving on to greet another; or you could change the configuration of your workplace to introduce an element of surprise; or establish ‘walking’ meetings, where calendar invites are sent out with a map featuring a walking route. There’s also technology you can employ to enable lunches between colleagues who may never otherwise meet.”
Keeping the mystique is also vital. “Organizations generally believe that the more they know, the better they will perform,” he says. “But there is a tremendous power in the unknown, and the most meaningful experiences for customers and employees alike has to do with mystique. For example, I know of one company that fosters this by holding meetings in the dark; plus they arrange meetings without the agenda being published beforehand.” To illustrate the power of mystique, Leberecht points to Secret Cinema, a hugely popular U.K. events company that specializes in mystery movie screenings. “The audience doesn't know what the film is going to be until the last minute, or even where it’s going to be held; but the whole point is that they are attracted by the mystery of a surprise movie in a surprise location.”