Meaningful connections: why authenticity and empathy matter for good business - Eight Inc.

Meaningful connections: why authenticity and empathy matter for good business

By Alexandra Almaral Oct 6, 2015

Connections matter beyond what we traditionally believe. As human beings, we seek to connect in order to find meaning. In a world where we are constantly “connected” and the number of online social networks and digital channels to enhance our lives grows, one to one human connections are becoming more valuable than ever.

My personal experience, as a global citizen, is essential to what I do and the company I work for today. I believe that as humans, we are interconnected. Understanding the power and structure of networks allows us to expand as individuals, in society and as businesses.

Born in Venezuela, I went to boarding school in the US when I was 11. I quickly learned that beyond language, emotional intelligence and empathy were key in communicating and building relationships. That was the first of many moves across continents. The changes and struggles shaped the person that I am today and guided me to the job that I love. The skills I developed are the ones that help me create strategic partnerships around the world based on understanding clients’ challenges, taking time to know them as people and prioritising consumers’ needs.

As individuals we are embedded in complex multi dimensional networks and our locations within these architectures have different implications for our lives, the type of roles we take and how we relate to those around us. Any attempt at understanding the difficulties businesses face must be anchored in an acknowledgement of the complexity of humans and adopting a holistic, no size fits all approach. Centreing business decisions around people is key to long-term success.

For Eight Inc. designing Human Experience(s) isn’t simply a buzzword, it is about creating meaningful experiences that change the way people think, feel and behave. For the last few years digital requests have dominated conversations with clients; requests to build yet another app, establishing digital presence, etc. But leaders are starting to recognize these limitations and know that this won’t necessarily impact the bottom line in the way many still anticipate. A new wave of requests marks a shift from digital to physical, shining light on physical presence and a focus back on experiential approaches. There is growing recognition that people can form stronger connections when you ground them in physical experiences, demonstrated by the number of pop ups, in store events et al.

With existing technology habits there can be a lack of physical contact, something that humans require to thrive. Therefore smart businesses understand the need to weave in physical experiences that bring back those one to one connections, which ultimately drive loyalty and trust. It requires a break from business as usual and traditional transactional measures of ROI and thinking instead about a Return on Experience, as an indicator of success.

The growth of the sharing economy and the rise of the Conviviality Culture are proof of this desire for shared, multi sensory and value/purpose driven experiences. When we strip it all back to basics, most of us share certain universal desires; a sense of belonging and recognition, a search for happiness, a desire for purpose. The leaders of the future will have an understanding of these shared essential desires with services/products that offer the flexibility for personalized choices.

Airbnb is a prime example of a business that is rooted in an intrinsically ‘human’ value; kindness. It also allows consumers a flexible service where every iteration is unique. Mindful consumption requires a nuanced approach that merges choice, value and purpose and an equally new way for us to measure them.

For me, from a very young age it became second nature to understand that connections and connecting matters. But the question still remains, how do we define and quantify value? Can connecting, trust and kindness become new currencies? If the notion of currency and exchange are shifting, how do we measure the intangible? Only with a long-term view in mind can we understand that return on experience, rather than return on investment is the way forward.

*References below are studies that look into human contact’s role in human communication and emotional development.

Paladino, M.P., Mazzurega, M., Pavani, F., & Schubert, T. (2010). Synchronous multisensory stimulation blurs self-other boundaries. Psychological Science, 21, 1202-1207

Wilhelm, F. H., Kochar, A. S., Roth, W. T., & Gross, J. J. (2001). Social anxiety and response to touch: Incongruence between self-evaluative and physiological reactions. Biological Psychology, 58, 181-202.

Alexandra Almaral is a Director in Eight Inc's London studio