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AI Optimism: Eyebrows Up and Get Moving

July 31, 2023   By Jim Cuene

We've entered a new era of creativity and change, and leaders should choose optimism over worry

My former boss knew how to lead through times of rapid growth, uncertainty and change. Our firm was growing, and our work was very complex: Inventing new products and ventures for large organizations. We worked with bold leaders who were making career defining bets. We had to get it right, even when the headwinds were blowing hard: Resource constraints, hazy competitive landscapes, leading edge technologies, resistance from inside the client. It was enough to make even the most confident strategist a little nervous, and the pressure was high.

When he’d get the sense we were stressed, he’d look around the room and say “Eyebrows up, folks.” That was his reminder that we were leaders, we were in front, and the teams were looking at us and our reactions. We had to project confidence, had to show we were looking at the upside. If we were nervous, our teams would pick up on that. If we were optimistic, they’d lean towards optimism, too.

This wasn’t a CEO stressing out, asking us to “fake it till you make it”. He wasn’t asking us to perform. He was, in a supportive, lighthearted way, reminding us that good leaders should manage their emotions. He was reminding us to choose positivity, choose optimism. To focus on the upside and pursue it. And he gave us a good mnemonic to use as a reminder to reset and focus.

I had a lunch with a colleague a couple weeks ago and we were talking about the rapid, surprising and, at times, inspiring emergence of AI and the new categories of tools. I have been ruminating over what we’ll be facing: A crush of AI generating sites, synthetic content, hustle-bros offering “one simple trick to get rich quick with AI” scams, new “prophets” of AI. I was looking at the risks, and focusing on those. She reminded me, gently, that there’s so much good to be done with the tools. And, she suggested in a subtle way that I had a choice and, perhaps, a responsibility: I could lead with positivity and guide the thinking towards the good, or I could bunker down and complain.

Cover of Time Magazine July 25 1994
Time Magazine, July 25th 1994

It feels like 1994 all over again. I remember a lot of mid-career leaders back then who looked at “Cyberspace” and the “Information Highway” and thought, “No thanks!” And, while there are so many AI doomers, there are more reasons for optimism.

I do believe we’re literally entering a new era of technology and its impact on society and there’s so much work to be done to make this tech a good for society.

For those of us that have been around the block a couple times during the digital era, it’s time to get moving, to help push things forward for good. We have to look beyond improving ROAS and business ROI. Society and culture will be reshaped and leaders are needed. I want to be part of it, to help shine light on the risks while pursuing the potential. It’s time to get moving, to inspire and support the builders and makers. I’m leaning in. My eyebrows are up.

Co-Founder and CEO

Jim has over 20 years of digital brand building experience. From running a start up digital agency to leading digital strategies for global brands at Ameriprise and General Mills, he’s been at the front of digital marketing his whole career. He loves the web and the opportunities it is creating for people and businesses to actually make the world better. Jim has an entrepreneurial mindset, the ability to see how the dots will connect in the future, and the knowledge & experience to put plans and teams in place to get results now.

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