The Power of Learning and Reinvention

Pauline Brown office

My missives on A.I. usually focus on the first word – AESTHETICS, but I’m just as committed to the virtues of the second – INTELLIGENCE. That’s why I’ve dedicated this chapter of my career to teaching.

My move into academia began by accident. After a long career in the corporate world, I decided to take a timeout. Frankly, I was tired of focusing all my energy on helping big companies get even bigger.

Early on in my sabbatical, I was introduced to a dean at Harvard Business School, who persuaded me to design a new course. I always enjoyed giving talks to junior management and student groups, so was open to the “experiment.” I knew I’d find it interesting, but didn’t expect it to lead anywhere. Boy was I wrong!

In the course of my business career, I held four different jobs with the word “strategy” in their titles. But, ironically, my most pivotal career moves were never strategic. They were instinctive. As it turned out, my instinct to try teaching was one of them.

The popularity of my initial gig at HBS led to a book deal with HarperCollins, and, ultimately, the launch of my e-learning venture A.I. Labs. In the course of five years, I transformed my entire professional trajectory and have never been happier at work.

As a teacher, I not only do what I enjoy, but I contribute something far more important and meaningful than enriching a company’s bottom line, I enrich people’s lives. Isn’t that the real purpose of teaching? And, isn’t that why we continually seek to learn?

A love of learning runs in my blood. It’s what saved my grandparents through unimaginably trying times. All four of them narrowly escaped the Holocaust. My paternal grandparents fled Vienna for New York in 1939. My maternal grandparents emigrated in that same era from Frankfurt to Cape Town via Barcelona — a circuitous route, made all the more traumatic by the Spanish Civil War.

Both sides left all their possessions behind. But they did hold onto their intellectual acumen, resourcefulness, and curiosity. Their education had served them well.

They could not have envisioned that one day people would learn through streams of digits and widgets (as we do at A.I. Labs), but they took advantage of whatever resources they had to read books, study history, debate ideas, and engage in art & culture.

Their influence not only shaped my own love of learning, but paved the way for my latest reinvention. I now see that the creation of A.I. Labs was no accident; it was woven into my history and my being. The process even helped me get through a rather challenging period in my own life.

The effects of Covid-19 have made it a challenging period for us all. While our circumstances may not be as insufferable as those my grandparents faced in the 1930s and 40s, this disruption still calls for new thinking.

As we embark on this new year, my hope is that you’ll look to A.I. Labs as a platform for developing new ways of thinking, discovering new sources of inspiration, and creating a roadmap for your own reinvention.

Cheers to all the new possibilities ahead!

Pauline Brown grandparents

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