Madsbjerg is director of client relations and focuses on developing methodologies to study human behavior at ReD Associates, a strategy consulting firm that uses liberal arts knowledge to provide clients with insight into complex business problems. The author of books on social theory, discourse analysis, and politics, he argues in Sensemaking, published in March 2017, that despite living at a time already called the “age of the algorithm,” the key to many of today’s most significant business success stories lies in a deeply contextual engagement with aspects of culture and language outside the reach of any algorithm.
If you have no idea [how your technological] inventions will connect with people’s aspirations and challenges—you will fail
“From my experience working with major corporations,” Madsbjerg writes in “Silicon Valley needs to get schooled,” one of his recent articles, “I would say that technological advancements are only half of the picture. Knowing how to build things is great, but if you have no idea for whom you’re building them—how these inventions will connect with people’s aspirations and challenges—you will fail, no matter how many coding geniuses and data scientists you employ.”
Drawing on insights from a variety of liberal arts fields, including anthropology, art, sociology, and history, during his presentation at the Gleacher Center on May 31, Madsbjerg highlighted instances from the contemporary world in which a type of thinking he referred to as “culturally intersubjective” holds sway. Exemplified by such abilities as being able to feel the dynamic at play in a room or understand the mood of a nation, he noted a common quality possessed by all people with a generous apportioning of this capacity: they are all readers, he said, with broad curiosities and a wide base of knowledge.