I love the School of Life and have read all of Alain De Botton’s digests of complex philosophy and many of the life guides created by his clever associates. De Botton’s Consolations of Philosophy changed my life and Philipa Perry’s How to Stay Sane came to my rescue during a particularly stressful time in my career and family life.
This group of intellects and their courses and books offer tremendous support for those who want to live an ‘examined life’ which was, according to Socrates, the only type of life worth living. Their sessions on mindfulness through to having better relationships are well worth attending.
So when I got an invitation to pop along to a business conference run by this clever bunch – I jumped at the chance. Until now, the hard nosed and outcome-orientated world of business and the softer, dynamic nature of culture and psychology have been kept relatively separate. Business hasn’t felt the need to draw on thousands of years of wisdom and instead the hardest, toughest and most dominant firms have come out on top.
But in the climate we’re facing now – where everyone, including our customers, have more than enough of what they need and everyone is fishing in the same pond for the same fish, the rules of business are changing. In this climate, the ability to mine history and to look at what’s already there, what works in nature, in nurture and in culture – will be a crucial source of knowledge. If anyone was going to bring these polar worlds together successfully, it was these chaps at The School of Life.
And they did it wonderfully. I finished the day with a notebook rammed with notes and a brain so packed with ideas that only a good nights rest (preceded by a big glass of Pinot!) could calm my thoughts. The key takeaways from the day:
In this world we find ourselves in, the new rules for success won’t be around size, dominance and power. But meaning, empathy and collaboration.
1. What it means vs what it does.
The next generation will be more driven more not by what something does, but why it does it. Meaning is taking centre stage.
We are all inherently creatures of meaning and we want to know that what we’re doing has meaning. Self actualisation is the pinnacle i.e. creating something ourselves – a business, a work of art, having a baby, building a home. This self actualisation is hugely important in bringing us ultimate joy in life.
But in our in our jobs today we don’t have this ability to create, and many of us feel like little cogs in a huge controlling wheel.
The role of advertising, sales and marketing in this environment then is to feed this need for self actualisation and make the meaning crystal clear.
When you are thinking about your product or offer don’t just think what. Think what AND why, every time.
Research, surveys, questionnaires – great stuff but in reality we don’t actually know what we want to do until we do it. We don’t know we want something that doesn’t exist. As the famous Henry Ford quote goes ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses’.
Empathy is what we really need and we need it in abundance. How well do you understand your customers. Really know them? Do you put yourself in their shoes? Imagine what it’s like to live in their world, experience their pressures? Do you find this easy or incredibly difficult?
The world is changing but human psychology is fixed, the more you embrace empathy the better you will get at it.
And great empathy starts with knowing yourself first. Psychoanalyst, Peter Fonagy, discusses the idea of ‘mentalisation’ – knowing yourself helps you understand others. Start with yourself and if you do struggle with empathy it’s your own process of mentalisation that will be letting you down.
And finally, collaboration – appealing to the social self, our inherent longing to connect with other people. The success of Facebook, Uber, Airbnb are all evidence of this longing. Businesses built on collaboration are winning.
In your business, could you create a feeling of community, or cohesion? This should be a central focus. So if you’re looking for direction in your sales, marketing or wider business endeavours – these are three starting points – no longer reserved for the emotionally intelligent amongst us – but all of us must embrace these in order to win in the new work of work.
Written by our guest blogger, sales expert and new biz whizz Helen Kensett
Now Go Create is running creativity courses for business with the School of Life.