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Human business, human brands, human everything

Published 19 Dec 2018 3 minute read

Strategic Thinking
Human Insight

At this time of year, it's normal to look back at the year that was or to look forward and pick trends for next year. However, this year we have one simple message and it's this: next year we'll be refocusing our efforts on humans, human insight and human creativity. Here's why...

Modern life can be bewildering. AI, fake news, political division, automation, inequality, the list goes on. It's fair to say that contemporary British society, and its rich cultural diversity, is immensely complex. People are anxious about the future and this anxiety is being accelerated by new technology and the speed of social change that accompanies it. It’s leaving everyone feeling uncertain about many aspects of life, as well as contributing to the rising incidence of mental health issues, especially among young people. We simply can't say how things are going to play out, which also means we can't plan effectively.

Human Connections Count

Brands, and business in general, need to respond to these fears and anxieties by recalling their humanity and placing greater emphasis on the thoughts and feelings we have. They need to empathise with the human condition and embrace change as the new normal. They also need to show their customers what they stand for and demonstrate how they're helping them. Lastly, they need to be authentic and true to their core values, both in the way they treat their employees and their customers. They need to tell this story effectively all the time, and not just at Christmas.

In 2019 we are going to see a lot more discussion (and action) around the topic of humanising business and brands. Social scientists have been exploiting the opportunities found in data, combining powerful new analytics as well as their human craft to derive new insight into understanding human behaviours and why we do what we do. The time has come to put these learnings to better use and create bold, empathic relationships between customers and brands, based on collaboration and two-way dialogue. Empathy requires a strong emotional connection between human beings, it’s beyond calculation, statistics and dashboards. We have to regain this qualitative connection at the core of business culture.

Human brands

Brands are struggling to differentiate themselves at a time when technology actually reduces their ability to stand out from the crowd. However, by projecting a positive purpose the brand can be seen in a more human way.

Trust, in the age of fake news and poor political judgement, is key to building more innate relationships. So, how do brands build trust and attune themselves with real people and their everyday struggles? Start by being open and honest, respect the identities of the very people you want to serve and support. Be vulnerable, share what’s working and what’s not, what you are attempting to achieve and the mistakes you make in getting there. These are very human traits and those we would expect from our friends and family as we bond tightly. Of course, there’s no one turnkey solution and cultural shifts often need to happen from the inside out. Business practices, process and organisational structures have to bend and flex in order to accommodate demand that's being driven by consumers.

Human business

Humanising business requires management to evaluate the present situation, think on the direction of travel then implement change in order to achieve a new, more human-centric direction. Creating inclusive, human workplaces raises employee engagement, elevates customer-related thinking and allows individuals to fulfil their passion and purpose at work. The results are obvious: greater productivity and innovation.

New technologies have given us the printing press, the car and now automation. Tech needs humanity in order to be developed and to continue to have purpose in the world. Humanity needs tech in order to deal with life and society; from medicine, to the relatively mundane day-to-day uses of technology on which we've come to rely. It has given people more freedom and choice, and made them less dependent on those with power over their lives. It can be harnessed to drive positive advancement in the workplace that elevates talent, solves new problems with creative thinking and creates more harmonious and rewarding relationships for everyone, not just the few.

To reclaim humanity and build human brands and business, we need to go beyond re-imaging. We must educate and mobilise people with the right expertise; a socio-technical expertise. This first led to the rise of the creative economy and now it will provide the foundation for a returned focus on 'bettering' humanity. We need to create new behaviours and develop a 'maker culture' in organisations to stimulate innovation and persistent fast-failing.

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