6 Principles To Create a Human-Centred Business

November 04, 2016 | Robert Schermers

“Business Humanizer?” the client read out loud from my business card. “And what does a Business Humanizer do?” she asked light-heartedly. It always triggers a question. What does business humanizing have to do with brands, organizations and more meaningful growth?

Teams and organizations more often apply business sense to humans, rather than applying human sense to business. And yet, human sense and empathy are essential drivers for both business results and positive societal impact by brands and companies.

Humanizing business means putting people and our role in society at the heart of our brands and cherishing this behaviour as an engine for growth. Can you create the difference in your organization?

The 6 principles below to help create a human- and society-centred environment. You most probably recognize them as examples of areas that can also be improved in your team or organization. Living by them will contribute to more meaningful growth.

1) Stop Being A Marketer


Mark Zuckerberg’s Personal Facebook Page

As the kick-off for a workshop, we had the team, in small groups, buy their own products in the supermarket nearby, and open, dose and prepare the products exactly according to the instructions as indicated on the pack. As any consumer would do.

The team found in around 1.5 hours, 9 relevant and quick-to-implement improvements in their product ranges, by critically evaluating their own products and those from competitors’ existing products and its texts, descriptors, instructions, educational visuals, lids, packs and dosing devices.

I am sure that many marketers now think: “That’s so obvious.” But when was the last time you actually used your own product or service putting yourself in the shoes of a first-time user? When did you last call your own service-line as if you had a question about your own product or service? When did you last place an order or made a booking or reservation online using your own apps or sites? And when did you last really seek to make a difference with your brand beyond just selling more? Do so more often and invite your teams to do so. Learn, evaluate and improve.

Develop the habit to more often look at the world around you during working hours as you look at the world when you wake up and when you come home at night: as a human being, not as a marketer or business person.

2) Stop Outsourcing Your Feelings


Steve Jurvetson’s Tesla Supercharging in Gilroy

Why do we all have strong feelings and opinions about almost everything and why do we stop trusting them in our business environment? Businesses use research to justify almost every decision, whereas the judgement of qualified team members would lead to the same and most often better conclusions.

I am not advising to throw all research overboard. But continuous research in every step of the business process is often a costly sign of flawed approval processes and/or a lack of trust in common sense and personal capabilities. Be courageous enough to also trust personal judgement at least at the first stages of innovation, communication and design. Trust in judgement as people helps develop and improve human-centred ideas.

If you do decide to do research, consider less traditional options. Stimulate your teams to talk to the people you serve themselves, as people to people. Understand the people you serve as individuals with name and faces, not as a target or consumer you aim at. It will totally change the mindset and lead to learnings that stick for years.

3) Remove Dehumanized Processes


Sage Chimera’s Grand opening of Google Boston office

We often see processes leading people instead of people benefiting from processes. We see the tool become deliverable, as if the process itself would make an impact and be the key to success.

Brand-teams and companies nowadays do take the time to define how they want to act amongst themselves and operate in the world around them. After defining vital behaviours as teams and organization, also analyse your processes and your procedures. Make sure they are facilitators for the human behaviours you want to see rather than barriers.

4) Unite in Purpose, Not Personalities


Slack Teams Do Amazing Things — “Animals!” TV Commercial

In our families, in our circle of friends, at school and university, we celebrate different personalities and views. We like profound discussions and challenging opinions and we are conscious that we learn from them, that they develop and grow us. And yet in business, leaders surround themselves with teams that only confirm their opinion. Teams see the tough challenger as someone delaying the process. Businesses often seem to be formed by people almost identical in background and personality.

Bring people and teams from very different backgrounds together and help them find their common purpose to make a difference in society, whilst unleashing the strengths of their different archetypes as team-members, building on each personality. Successful businesses and teams nourish diversity, since in our diverse world, we find our future.

5) Build Trust … And Trust … And Trust


Heinz Teh’s Starbucks Frappucino

In our private life, nothing is harder to repair than broken trust. So why would trust be a less fragile asset in business? What feels wrong at home, will also be wrong in your business reality. As a leader, walk your talk and stimulate your team to share views and opinions. Ruthlessly root out politics and any other behaviour that undermines trust. As a team, listen honestly and openly and develop each other’s ideas further. For your product or service and as a business, deliver on the image you create. As brand and company, live your purpose and make it seen in every single touch-point, being honest to your brands’ point of view. Treat the people you serve as you want to be treated as a person. Since otherwise, sooner or later, people will lose confidence in your brand.

6) Be Serious … About Play


Jason Pratt’s Luxo Jr

Create a light environment, where success is celebrated and people are recognized, an environment in which we can be tough on content because we are respectful and constructive in form and where rationality meets creativity. Isn’t that the world we like to live in? Why accept anything different at work?

Originally published on Sustainable Brands


Posted By Robert Schermers

Robert has a bachelor´s degree in business administration and a master´s in law. He started his career in the Netherlands and built his expertise over 18 years at Unilever. He worked in challenging marketing and business positions in various European countries as well as in South Africa and in Brazil. Robert knows from experience the massive positive impact on both business results and society of really putting people first in brands and teams, and is a true ambassador for humanizing business in the widest sense of the term. He loves exploring new cultures, leaving the beaten track. He has spent months traveling India and Malaysia; he has climbed Aconcagua (the highest mountain in the Americas at about 7,000 meters); he has spent weeks with indigenous families in the jungle of Colombia; and he loves to take the more adventurous routes when skiing, hiking, or diving. As a student, he already felt strongly attracted by the positive spirit, culture, beauty, and opportunities of Latin America, and his stay in Brazil made him decide to make this beautiful country his home. He currently lives with his wife in São Paulo, Brazil.

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