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How to Add Soul to the New Business Paradigm

Image Credit: Samson Duborg-Rankin

Today’s customers are more cynical than ever when it comes to the intentions of big business. How do we create experiences for these customers that feel truly genuine? To Maria Moraes Robinson and Simon Robinson, the answer lies in a fusion of Western and Eastern thinking that acknowledges at its core the human need for connection on a deep level. Their latest book, Customer Experiences with Soul, presents a unique collision of the business-driven and the existential mind, providing a guide for applying the three levels of the authors’ trademark ‘holonomic’ approach to customer experience design.

“In the new business paradigm, you cannot design the customer experience because you are the customer experience.”

The authors characterize the customer experience as involving much more than purchase interactions. To them, the customer experience includes every interaction that happens within a business. When there is no separation between the quality of a customer’s experience and the company itself, authenticity is created. This authenticity is therefore the maximum coherence between what a person says, what they mean, and what they do. Authenticity is the fundamental inner level of a holonomic approach to customer experience.

Creating authenticity requires us to overcome some common barriers, including the tendency to value ‘thinking’ over ‘feeling’ and the focus on ego-centric patterns. The authors borrow from several psychological theories to guide the reader through the process of overcoming barriers. They explore how we can examine our personal relationships through the lens of archetypes, recognize ‘knotworks,’ and reflect on different elements of consciousness. By using various reflections to bring our sensing, feeling, intuition and thinking into balance, we create authenticity, and can then examine customer experience tools and techniques through a deeper understanding of the factors that underlie them.

The middle level of the holonomic approach guides us to consider five principles that underlie the tools and techniques that we use to create a customer experience: purpose, methods, relationships, meaning and human values. By considering these principles, we can begin to understand why tools and techniques may work in some situations and not in others. We can also examine which of these five principles need to be operating in order for a tool to be successful. Interviews with thought leaders and case studies of authentic companies provide context for each of these five principles.

A deeper dive into the principle of human values next examines the five human values of peace, truth, love, righteousness and non-violence, and offers guidance on how to introduce these values into organizations through dialogue. When these five human values are truly embodied by an organization, then the brand-customer relationship is solidified.

“The focus is (often) on the products of thinking systems, and not on thought itself.”

The Robinsons then challenge readers to put on their existential hats for the outer level of the holonomic model, which examines the very essence of experience. This outer level of holonomics contains transcendentals, a guiding set of ideas that direct exploration and dialogue around the customer experience. Considering the transcendentals allows the reader to move away from a focus on tools or techniques and into experience itself. The concepts include exploration of the one and the many, identity and difference, beauty, truth, goodness, justice, and being. The authors place particular emphasis on being, stating that “(companies) who will be truly disruptive will be the ones who … have an ability to co-create on the basis of the lived experience of their customers, rather than on models of the customer experience.”

The authors ground the full holonomic approach by describing a journey through the holonomic circle that they took with a client, and by relating an in-depth interview with an inspiring Brazilian business leader whose life and work embody holonomic living.

Overall, this unique approach leaves the reader with the profound message that authentic relationships with customers are mirrored in an authentic relationship with the self.

Alex is Coordinator for Member and Advisory services at SB, providing member companies with sustainability research to support their goals. 

Alex received her MS in Applied Social Psychology from Royal Holloway, University of London, where she focused on… [Read more about Alexandra Smith]

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