Markus Gull
Brain with many question marks

What can we learn from butter cookies, Kantwurst and AI for our stories?

One of the most embarrassing behaviors in digital savoir-vivre is supposedly googling yourself. If that's the case, I'm going to do it next. The counter-current system of the social norm is our source of life and biotope in equal measure.


In the blogcast, I read this recent blog article to you. With emphasis, of course!

Before that, however, I will ask ChatGPT what they know about me, as a kind of bow to the spirit of the world that is currently blowing. Practically everyone who has done this so far has been able to find out something special about themselves in this way, including the day they died a long time ago. Socrates laughs a little while googling "I know that I know nothing" with his other hand and promptly lands on his plump Wikipedia entry.

Nevertheless, anyone who wants to know something and is self-respecting no longer googles, but instead goes straight to the artificial intelligence funnel. Answers then trickle out without end, and what more could you want?

Let's think away all the threats posed by AI. Frankly, it is to be feared that the threat phase has already passed, Pandora's box is wide open and the sorcerer's apprentice should soon be calling for the old sorcerer while his breath still lasts, with the python around his throat. So let's put that out of our minds and look forward to all the good data that AI could generate for us. Little imagination is enough not to grasp, and certainly not to grasp, what is out there. Or will soon be.

The things that don't exist? Or what doesn't exist? - One of the great philosophical questions immediately springs to mind: "Why is there anything at all and not just nothing?" One of the fundamental questions that was raised 310 years ago. By Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who - for the education crisis generation - did not invent Leibniz butter cookies, but a piece of modern philosophy. You can google it.

If you ask ChatGPT why there is anything at all and not nothing, the surprisingly compact result ends as follows: Each of these perspectives offers different answers to the question, but none can conclusively prove why there is anything at all and not rather nothing. It remains a question that continues to fascinate and occupy philosophers, scientists and theologians alike. - Yes, great. Thanks for ... nothing. So we continue to ponder for ourselves and hope for an upgrade of the software.

Admittedly, I myself am programmed more for art than for the artificial and am therefore an evangelist of analog creativity, but I still have an open heart for digital tools. AI little things like DeepL make my life much easier and with AudioPen I am now in intensive conversation with AudioPen as I wander around contemplatively. Okay, the conversation is a monologue, but we're still very much together.

Questions upon questions.

When I experienced a smart planner in an international brand project last week who used AI to create a full research package in no time at all, my mouth watered. What impressed me most of all, however, were the smart questions the guy asked, i.e. the prompts. Because AI quickly teaches us one thing about itself: the defiant protective wall against a tsunami of profanity storming in from the sea of data is built from the skillful, the good, the clever questions. And a sentence from the old couch potato Immanuel Kant, who did not invent the sausage of the same name (nor the butter cookie), but rather the Enlightenment, so to speak, is already resounding: "Have the courage to use your own intellect."

That's what it's all about: "... your own mind!" Because, digital or analog: the person doing the work still determines the tool. For now, but time is slowly running out.

Answers are a dime a dozen. Ask anywhere, anyone or anything and you'll be inundated with answers. You're defenceless, you'll be inundated with answers, one way or another. The social media platforms are almost bursting with answers, some of them are even useful, oh yes they are.

But what we need are the skillful, the good, the clever questions. And it looks like we need better questions than we have been asking regularly on a large scale. Especially in a business context.

The wizardly magic question word for this is "Why?" As in "Why do we do what we do?" If the answer is, "Well, logo, so that we make a profit! Shareholder value, baby!", or "So that we can gain market share, become and remain the market leader!", or "Because prosperity needs growth, stupid!", then these answers are probably not wrong, but definitely not right. They are undoubtedly the answer to the unasked question, "What is the opposite of enlightenment?", because that is, again Uncle Kant: "... the exit of man from his self-inflicted immaturity."

Business for the sake of growth, innovation for the sake of the new - that is the direct path to self-inflicted immaturity, to dependence on profit as the purpose of existence. All cheering calls from this box as targets for himself, his team, his employees, no matter how much visionary glitter they are sprinkled with, are nothing but will-o'-the-wisp, nothing but the noise of defeat. The fanfare of the triumphal procession into self-inflicted nonsense. This can then be experienced as inner resignation, frustration, depression or burnout. Such things grow on us, successful people. And, can someone take the opportunity to ask what kind of prosperity is causing the number of mentally ill people to rise like crazy worldwide, especially among young people?

What are we doing?

With increasing digitalization and thanks to all the uncomfortable answers that AI has in store, the crucial question is written on the wall with Milton Friedman's nosebleed: "What are we here for?" - For what and for whom? This is the question of meaning, of our story, of the starting point, the path of transformation, the destination of our journey and of the healing knowledge we bring back to our old world when we return home. This is the question of how we succeed in our lives and how we succeed in ourselves.

Wouldn't this question be the perfect starting point for a new story, for the NEW STORY about our economy, about business, about what, how and where we work? And why, above all. And for what. - For profits? Yes, absolutely! Bring it on! But there's something even better. For... each other, for example.

Many of the great universal stories that we humans share across generations ask questions and seem to give us answers. In fact, they guide us towards the possibility of an answer. They encourage us to use our own minds and illuminate the way out of our self-inflicted immaturity.

So if we ask the question "What we are here for" at the beginning of our story - or, as many, many, many are currently doing, at the beginning of a new chapter of their story, their change process, their re-branding, questioning brand values, things like that, at the beginning of the chapter of transformation, then we will end up with something better than just companies and jobs that are good. Then we have those that are good for something, for all of us, because after the happy end is true growth: growth beyond itself, beyond market share and profit. Then we have what is often referred to as a "sustainable company story", but which means a resilient company. Naturally, this does not only apply to companies, but because story acts as a universal force, it only applies to companies because the spark first ignites in each of us and then spreads from us to others, to groups, communities, teams, companies and society.

It's about the whole thing.

We prompt such fundamental questions not with artificial, but with artistic intelligence. At the same time, the answer to this provides information on our original question of why we are here at all, we humans, what the purpose of our existence could be. Then an AI result becomes a real-life experience.

However, what AI does for us before it does what it should rather not do: it points out to us that the quality of our questions to ourselves needs the most careful attention. Only in this way do we receive questions as powerful answers to important questions that we should have asked ourselves long ago.

At this point, the philosophical poet Rainer Maria Rilke flies in and joins the poetic philosophers Kant and Leibniz. He carries a little letter to a young poet in his beak, which reads: "You are so young, so young at the beginning, and I would like to ask you, dear sir, as best I can, to be patient with everything that is unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books written in a very foreign language. Do not search now for answers that cannot be given to you because you could not live them. And it is about living everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without realizing it, live into the answer one day in the distant future."
If that's not Artful Intelligence from the master class, then I don't know what is.

If you feel for yourself, your profession, your company, your team or your brand that the questions about the true value, the why, the what for, the meaning of your work are getting louder, that you are searching for the decisive question about your purpose, about your new story, your NEW STORY, if you, like many others, are on the move and ready for transformation, you probably want supportive guidance from a mentor who uses a glowing question mark as a walking stick. And if you feel I could be that for you, I would be honored to guide you with my NEW STORY programs. You can find everything here, here or here.

Either way, if we questioned ourselves and our actions more often and got to know and understand ourselves and each other better, we would all be happier and more loving with ourselves than we are now, and with our fellow human beings too. Our world would be a more peaceful place than it is today. That would be really intelligent, wouldn't it?

Besides, my grandmother, old Story Dudette, thinks it would be a sign of enlightenment in action. She's currently busy making a splendidly fat anniversary cake for Immanuel Kant's 300th birthday, on which she's sprinkling crumbs from Leibniz butter cookies with the congratulatory words: "New Story. New Glory."

Share now

Newsletter subscription