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From Commune to Co-Founder: My Journey to Scaling Humanity with AI

And the $9 trillion opportunity I see to boost employee engagement with AI

Erika Anderson
May 22, 2024
From Commune to Co-Founder: My Journey to Scaling Humanity with AI

My professional journey has been driven by a single question: where can I make the most impact? It’s the thread running through my experiences as an ecologist in Alaska, a reporter at the UN in Geneva, a literary editor in New York, a team dynamics facilitator in the US and Europe, to where I am today: co-founder of Storytell. I recently shared this story with several hundred business leaders at Singularity University's Future of AI executive program.

It all began on a hippie commune in Tennessee called The Farm, founded by a group of Californians who were convinced there was a better way to live, beyond the confines of a suburb, the boundaries of nuclear families all trying to make it on their own. One of their precepts was a focus on truth above all, regardless of consequences. Though our technology may have been outdated due to limited funds, innovation came in the form of how we interacted with each other. Yet it had its shortcomings. 

Because of the way truth with a capital T was doled out on The Farm, I spent my adult life actively exploring how we can use conflict to forge deeper connections with each other. I've taken everything I've learned and codified it in a framework called Clean Communication, which is one of our values at Storytell. We train in and practice these frameworks to dig beneath the surface in a way that prioritizes emotional safety and interpersonal clarity. Clean Communication provides simple, practical tools to navigate conflict within the workplace. By directly addressing issues that are typically ignored until they demand a reaction, we create a culture where proactive communication is the norm.

These experiences led me to recognize the immense potential of AI to empower individuals and drive positive change in how we communicate and work together. We're at a beautiful precipice, where AI is becoming accessible to us all and it's giving us a pathway, both as individuals and as a collective, to break the limits of what's possible. Through technology like AI, we now have an opportunity and responsibility to scale humanity. This is precisely what Storytell aims to do–by making intentional investments in the humans behind the screens and helping them unlock their potential with AI, we can revolutionize the way we interact and collaborate.

How are we going about that? By making knowledge workers feel like superheroes, which is a far cry from the norm. Instead of flying through our days with ease and zeal, most of us are stuck in cumbersome processes, where joy and satisfaction are merely a dream. In his most recent book, Slow Productivity, Cal Newport describes how a sense of accomplishment is critical to our spirit. Without that, the only future is burnout. 

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When we look at Gallup’s most recent report on the global workforce, we see that engagement is meager – 22% globally, 33% in the US. And yet the bright line of hope jumps out from best-practice organizations, where 70% of the workforce is engaged. When I spoke at Singularity University’s Future of AI event in May, I asked the global executives in attendance to ponder, what are these organizations doing? How do we tackle this almost $9 trillion opportunity

Here’s a first step: Partner with Storytell to improve the way we work. Storytell differentiates itself by being an enterprise collaborative intelligence platform that enables cross-functional teams to gain and share collective intelligence through natural language conversations with their data. Our users can ingest a wide variety of raw data - from PDFs to websites to CSVs - and interact with it via SmartChat. By partnering with AI, Storytell helps knowledge workers augment their productivity and cleave off layers of toil that let the light shine in. We facilitate a powerful human-AI partnership that empowers individuals to be more effective and fulfilled in their roles.

I’ll end with this quote from Cheryl, who we featured in a recent webinar. He words represent our more than 100K users around the globe: 

“Using Storytell helps me achieve a work-life balance that I haven’t had in any other company” -Cheryl Solis, founding technical writer at Stellate

I want everyone to feel as free as Cheryl does—fulfilled in her role, with time to enjoy her precious waking hours. 


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