Jack Ma Brings Some Big Picture Wisdom to Davos

Along with some magic and the new metric we need to win the future.

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Having skipped this year’s World Economic forum in Davos, I’ve been hearing reports from friends who attended, and a recurring refrain has been about Jack Ma ending his Alibaba dinner with magic tricks, which he performed himself, and urging everybody to focus on their “love quotient.” You wouldn’t expect Jack Ma, the Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba, to be talking up something called the “love quotient” (or performing magic tricks, for that matter). But then again, that’s partly how he came to be running the world’s largest e-commerce company — by tapping into the zeitgeist and doing the unexpected.

In a Q&A with ImpactVision’s founder Abi Ramanana, Ma was typically wide-ranging. He opened by talking about how we’re in a moment of technology-driven transformation. But this head of a global tech company made it clear that this transformation isn’t entirely a positive thing. “This new technology will create a lot of successful people and interesting careers,” he said, “but honestly every new technology will create social problems.” He then said that in the last century, to be competitive you needed muscle. But this century won’t be about muscle — it will be about wisdom. And love. “If a person wants to be successful, he should have a high EQ,” Ma said, referring to emotional intelligence. “If you don’t want to lose quickly you will need a high IQ — but if you want to be respected you need a high LQ — the IQ of love.” 

It’s a concept I first heard him discuss in an interview with Mary Erdroes at a JP Morgan conference last year: “There is IQ and there is EQ,” he said. “But more important is LQ. You can become a money machine, but what’s the use of that? If you’re not contributing to the rest of the world, there’s no LQ …” 

And as he put it at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum, love is something that “machines never have.” 

As Ma’s very tech-driven company expands, so does his thinking about the importance of what makes us uniquely human. As he said in Davos, “computers can never be as wise as a man.” I’m looking forward to hearing him continue to develop this concept. Or maybe even a “Love Quotient” reality show — a combination of “Shark Tank” and “The Love Boat.” I’d watch. 

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