In our ever-evolving technological landscape, the balance between AI advancements and the essence of human touch is pivotal. Today, we're excited to bring you an enlightening discussion with Eric Solomon, an expert who has seamlessly intertwined cognitive psychology with global branding, AI marketing, and digital storytelling. From top-tier creative agencies to the helm of The Human OS, Eric's journey is a testament to the power of human-centric brand-building in the age of AI.
Fractional Focus with Eric Solomon
What is your specialty and how did you gain mastery over it?
I started my career as an academic, earning my PhD in cognitive psychology (with a focus on AI/ML) 20 years ago. Post-doctoral work led, unexpectedly, to the business world. My initial focus was in top-tier creative agencies, with a focus on technology accounts. I moved from there to founding a creative strategy team at YouTube; becoming the head of the Spotify brand; running an AI marketing team at Google; leading global business marketing at Instagram; and serving as the CMO for Bonobos. I founded The Human OS in 2019 to help businesses grow sustainable brands, rooted in the humanity that's so often lost in the pursuit of growth at all costs. Since founding my company, I've worked with over 50 companies to build their brand, tell their story, advise their CEOs and leadership teams, and help them navigate technological change. I'm a sought-after speaker working on my first book about what human skills we need to gain to thrive in the AI age -- something that every company, big or small, we need to grapple with in the coming years. I've become a master of foundational brand-building and storytelling through my model, The Human Operating System, which treats brands as holistic, packaged systems that drive result for all stakeholders, from shareholders to employees.
What are some of the most successful things you have done personally and professionally?
I'd point to a few things here. And I'm especially proud of them because I never expected or deserved a life like this given where and who I came from:
I finished my Master's and Ph.D. in cognitive psychology in 2001 and 2004, respectively, and that set me down the path that I'm on now.
I had the opportunity to create a new org at YouTube back in 2011, and grew that up to 70+ people over the course of 4+ years. This was in the early days of digital video, and I got to work with the Top 50 global brands in the world as a result. Also, I won an award for being the best team coach in the company. I learned how to manage large teams and difficult stakeholders.
Then, I moved to Spotify. There, I was the first to build the brand architecture and launch it in (then) 59 countries. I learned how to influence globally and eat well in Stockholm.
At Instagram, I was the CMO on the business side. My global team was responsible for growing the platform into a $10B business. There, I learned what it was like to work at a company as the founders were being ushered out by a new era for the company. It was a wild ride.
As the CMO for Bonobos, I learned what it meant to be a CMO at a company (then) owned by Walmart. It wasn't for me. And that led me to a greater epiphany:
The MOST successful thing I've done is leaving the corporate world to start my own LLC, The Human OS™. I donned the cloak of performance, but I've never been a corporate dude. I've always been an entrepreneur. So, I'm most proud of going out on my own and thriving as a writer, an advisor, a speaker, a consultant, a fractional CxO, and a force for good in the world.
What tactical advice in your field of expertise do you have for someone?
The biggest one I'm thinking about right now: With every technological advancement, it's up to us to adopt new skills to navigate that change. Now that we're barreling firmly in the age of A.I., I think the skills we need to adapt are around what makes us uniquely human. I'm writing about this very topic, but this is a "must-have" for any business: How do we double-down on what makes us human when it will be increasingly hard to tell what is real or fake; truth or hyperbole. The pitfall here is that if we don't pay attention to the qualities of humanity, we're at risk of having this technology surpass us.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to build out a team/product/service in your fractional function?
The most valuable component of any team or company is it's PEOPLE. There's no product or team to build without the right people to do it. And increasingly those people are looking for meaningful and value in what they do. So, my advice is always to hire based on potential and team dynamics ahead of resume and check-list qualifications.
- People Over Technology: No matter how advanced technology becomes, the human essence remains irreplaceable. Companies must prioritize human-centric values and approaches.
- Adapting in the AI Era: As AI becomes more prevalent, businesses must focus on nurturing and leveraging what makes us uniquely human.
- Hiring Dynamics: Potential and team dynamics often trump resume credentials. It's essential to focus on the holistic fit of a candidate.
- Embrace Humanity: In an age where distinguishing real from fake becomes challenging, businesses must double down on authenticity and truth.
- Value-Driven Work: Employees today seek meaning and value in their roles. Companies should ensure that their mission aligns with these aspirations.
As a leader thinking about who to work with and when, imagine working with the business CMO at Instagram, the CMO at Bonobos, and expert thinker - and asking them questions and having Eric help you solve problems daily. That is the power of a Go Fractional builder, and the benefit to him personally of working on his projects and embedding into your company.
If you want to start getting unstuck on some of these challenges that Eric or others could help with please reach out to Go Fractional.