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The Humane Top Ten

James Warren January 28, 2020
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The Humane Top Ten: Insights and Ideas For People, Companies and Brands 

The team at Share More Stories (SMS) spent a full year engaging brilliant, beautiful people of all walks of life and listening to their stories. Here is a summary of the insightful shared wisdom we gleaned from our journey.

1 | Find the Human in Your Future.

Change is everywhere in our world. Change can be polarizing, inspiring, confusing, and sometimes exhausting. We are immersed in a world that cycles faster and in more complex ways than we are used to. At SMS, we are excited about what the future offers in its new frenetic form; including the technology that we feel strongly will augment human capability and capacity. Yes, change can make us feel vulnerable, but it can lead to new adventures, and elevate us to new heights. If we see it coming, we can work with intention to make room for the “human in the change.” Making room for our feelings, needs and values will shape what we think and ultimately drive the decisions we make.

SMS Recommends

    • Person: Get in the flow! You are part of this new world, own it! We must consider the frames we use to guide us, the shared experience of those around us, and the emotional authenticity within us to go in better directions together. While owning this new world, also invest time in nature, relationships and real-life experiences.
    • Company: Invest equally in your people along with technology. Help them learn new skills and grow. Support them in their desire to belong and to do something meaningful. Get them engaged in your company’s purpose, in your brand’s idea.
    • Brand: Invest in human experiences along with your investments in technology. Find ways to help the humans who work for your brand connect in human ways to the humans you want to choose your brand.

2 | Fear is Subsiding, Joy is Rising.

In reviewing the data we have collected since 2015, we see an optimistic trend: fear is subsiding and joy is rising. The attitudinal scores for fear and joy are swapping places when comparing 2015 to 2019. We see this a positive harbinger of a shift in human perspective.

SMS Recommends:

    • Person: Become the joy. Put yourself in situations that create joy. Fight for joy. Persist in your joy. In our conversations we found joy lives in all kinds of places, including travel, meeting strangers, connecting with others, and enabling your sense of curiosity.
    • Company: Create time and occasions for joy at work. Perhaps it is celebrating new things that teams are learning. Maybe you can create joyful corporate traditions that allow all of you, together, to reconnect to your corporate purpose and the positive impact you are making together in the lives of your consumers and communities.
    • Brand: Take joy in your brand executions, especially the small ones. Your brand stands for something. Push that meaning into how you show up in the world. It will make you and your consumers joyful.

3 | Human Perspectives are Made Up of FTVN.

We are complex beings and how we interact with the world is determined by how we feelthinkvalue and need. We also found that the emotions we express are intertwined. Understanding those interrelationships is a way to be more comfortable with our inherent contradictions and so, feel more authentic more of the time. More deeply understanding these interrelationships can also guide both leaders and brands to express themselves in ways that most people will recognize as more relatable, real and authentic.

SMS Recommends: 

    • Person: Deepen your approach to life; realize we are all complex and intertwined. Give each other and yourself a judgeless place to exist where we can find our path to growth, healing, or adventure.
    • Company: Become more curious about the people in your company.  How many groups of employees emerge when you think about segmenting them on how they feel and think, and what they need and value? This deeper understanding will better equip you to lead your organizations and drive better outputs.
    • Brand: Become more curious about the consumers of your brand. Seek to understand them more deeply, and think more about how you can serve those people, not just what they can do to help grow your business. That deeper understanding will help you more deeply connect and drive higher loyalty among those groups.

4 | Health and Happiness Have a Lot to Do With the Frames We Live In.

How well our mental frames of life fit cleanly around us, or not, has a lot to do with our health and contentment. We humans like boundaries in our physical, mental and emotional spaces, but in concert, if we are out of line with those boundaries, we feel it, think it, and act upon it. Frames are all around us. If you consider that we all cognitively live within frames of thinking and feeling, you also see that frames are our sense of place. Some people are trapped in less than perfect frames, some joyfully live within well-designed frames, and still some are wandering frameless. We found that often pleasure is the feeling of release we experience when we re-frame how we are viewing our lives, decisions and boundaries.

SMS Recommends:

    • Person: You can control some of the frames around you, and transcend those you can’t. To better frame your life, consider the cognitive image of a healthy, worthy, impactful you, and live within it. Don’t forget to leave room for your failures. No one who is growing is perfect.
    • Company: Does “failure” need to be re-framed in your culture so more people can try new things and drive more innovation? Does “performance” need to be re-framed to include learning? Do some of your policies need to be re-framed to provide guardrails and also allow individual applications or interpretations within those guardrails?
    • Brand: What are the frames that are in need of change for the people you serve? For example, if your brand plays in the space of pleasure, does “caring for oneself” need to be reframed as central to the important value of “caring for others,” making pleasures less guilty and instead, a critical part of personal health and wellness?

5 | We Desire a Different Form of “Connectedness.”

We live in a world of connected isolationism, a free and immersive world of escapism. Addicted to the blue light of our devices, we often mindlessly and more routinely grab for our electronic companion, and less often our physical ones. Digital connectedness is wonderful in ways, but left unchecked it is overused. We need to actually flip this and focus on our real-life connections. It is an important habit to put into our lives.

SMS Recommends: 

    • Person: Seek out the physical and emotional intimacy of togetherness. It is healing. Use your phone without guilt, but find moments with those you love, or want to get to know, where it is physical first.
    • Company: Create intentional opportunities for teams to come together; especially those which are largely virtual.
    • Brand: Evaluate the opportunities you can create to allow your consumers to connect to real people from your brand and invest in those occasions and people.

6 | Trust Determines Engagement and Thus Outcomes.

Whether discussing a trip to Sweden, an Instagram post, or a doctor’s visit, trust is a key measurement of the level at which we will authentically engage. That engagement often has a determinant relationship with the outcome of the situation. So for example, if I don’t trust my healthcare provider, insurer or financial planner, I may not be as forthcoming about my needs or health/financial choices, which directly impacts my getting the care, coverage or advice I need.

SMS Recommends: 

    • Person:  Trying to raise children, lead a group, or just increase your friends list in 2020?  Consider how you create trusting environments that allow for comfortable connections. Ask yourself how much trust you extend to others? More trust can be transformative to your relationships and your life experiences.
    • Company:  Check the trust levels in your organization in 2020… what you find matters. Do employees trust the company? Leaders? Each other? Do leaders trust employees? Each other? If trust is low across any of these relationships, your company results will suffer.
    • Brand:  Be worthy of consumer trust in 2020. Choose to show that you trust your consumers. How you represent yourself, your intentions, and how you engage are significantly important to the success of your program. Trust is a critical factor to brand success and impact.

7 | Authenticity is a Feeling, Faking It is a Tool for Growth.

In our study of authenticity, we found that “faking it” is often a tool of growth for those climbing to an adventurous new level. We found the old adage “fake it until your make it” to be resolute within many of the stories we read. We also noted that while in an inauthentic state, we experience higher anxiety and stress. In concert we found across the spectrum that we desire more structure when we are feeling vulnerable or fearful. Authenticity is contextual, and is often a signal that we have achieved a sense of comfort on our way to a better version of ourselves.

SMS Recommends:

    • Person: Take risks, but have a plan. Faking It is an acute state full of ups, downs, and learning. Short sprints outside of your comfort zone make you stronger and more adaptable to new situations. It is no place to stay for too long, though. Those who progress feel great with their efforts, those to do not feel like imposters.
    • Company: Support employees’ desires for personal growth by giving them new challenges to tackle, while allowing space for some failure, and provide the structure they need along the way.
    • Brand: Consider the roles of adventure, liberty and excitement in your brand experience. Are there contexts in which your brand can play this role, or the associated role of structure-provider, as a way of helping your consumers grow in the ways they want to?

8 | The Identity of Work: Anxiety vs Accomplishment.

We are all seeking more from the work we do, as the “corporate contract” of post-WWII continues to break down. We are seeking meaning, purpose, adventure and growth. The workers of today and tomorrow are creative learners. Both as our needs and expectations change, and more creative learners come into more businesses, the structure that larger organizations can provide will remain desirable. We just need that structure to be more adaptive, allowing individuals to navigate the boundaries of that structure in their own way.

SMS Recommends:

    • Person: Find more you in your work, and be effective at it. Work is core to who we are. There are few things in our lives that impact us more than the jobs we do, including the ones that pay us.
    • Company: Have a clear purpose behind your company. Engage employees in what you are trying to achieve together, beyond generating “shareholder value.” Adapt your structure to set clear boundaries and drive alignment, while also allowing room for personal adaptation (e.g. setting core work hours 3-4 days a week and allowing individuals to set their own optimal work hours around that core schedule).
    • Brand: Be clear about the idea your brand represents. Is it a meaningful idea that is valued by your consumers? Are you creating opportunities for your consumers to contribute to how your brand shows up?

9 | What Brands Must Become.

We found across the year that brands are losing influence. We live in a state of digitality, an interruptive world of ubiquitous digital messaging interspersed with memes, bubble games and puppy pictures. Many firms measure single digit percentages in the Click Thru Blues, while the majority moves on, “Bye Felicia.” More of the same will have diminishing returns approaching zero. The brands of the future need to consider what they will become to continue.

SMS Recommends: 

    • Person: Vote with your consumption. We need our brands to become partners in a better world. Consider how your consumerism is contributing to the world we live in. Nothing speaks louder than you.
    • Company: If you think your employees are not important to your brand, think again. A brand can not elicit an image that is not implicit in the culture of the company who hosts it. A worker is a consumer is a worker. Engage your employees deeply with the idea that your brand represents.
    • Brand: As you go to market, execute your brand in a way that represents that idea and the interrelated emotions, values and needs that go along with it. Absolutely continue to strive for relevance online, but don’t stop there. Also find ways to execute your brand idea in real life.

10 | Don’t Let Just the Data Lead.

There were several times this year where we ran our algorithms and then dove into the results with a “meh” response. We didn’t immediately see the answer. Sometimes we would see a spark of something and perform machine learning against a new question, or we would cluster the stories differently and that reframing would open the door to our thinking. Often we would return to the stories themselves for collective context from a regrouped pile of stories. What we learned was the process was iterative made up of intermixed doses of human and machine learning to arrive at insight. We built a healthy respect for the potential gap that is being generated in “shallow data” and how to properly interact with humans.

SMS Recommends: 

    • Person: Just remember now that you are one of the world’s most radical digital operants, that you are even more trained at being a human. Re-sensitize to your own signals, and create space for the human in your connected world.
    • Company: Don’t be satisfied measuring your organization only with the data you can download from systems. Have more conversations. Listen more closely. This will lead you to not only better questions and new measures, but also better ideas to support everyone’s success.
    • Brand: Take care when chasing clicks, likes and views. While relevant, they aren’t the measures that your plans should be built around optimizing. Balance those data with deeper, human understanding. Commit in 2020 to spend more time, in real life, with your consumers: listening to them, watching them and even experiencing some of what their lives are actually like. This will help you build a more intuitive connection and empathy that will lead to better execution and ideas along with greater impact.

Whether you are a person, a company or a brand, we believe 2020 is kicking off a future that can include more joy. To get there, we need to be more human, more humane. The team at SMS are huge fans of data and this digital era we live in. With that said, we also believe data alone can lead you into sub-optimized, less impactful outcomes. Everyone’s plan should start with the humans involved: your consumer, your employees, and the world at large. What are you doing for your humans? We invite you to think more about what we learned in our Top Ten, and join us on this journey to human + digital.

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