A look at what – and who – is pushing the future in new directions

Essence Exposed: When the economy breaks, what happens to the soul?

If you can get past the stuffy British accents, this discussion panel on whether the free-market model has created a moral vacuum (put together by the Guardian) is definitely worth the listen. (It’s only about five minutes long.) It includes insights from Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury; Richard Sennett, a sociologist; and Susie Orbach, a writer.

Dr. Williams starts off by pointing out that the current economic crisis is just as much about pride as it is about greed. People share “the absolute terror of not being in control, the need to always be setting the agenda” and when people don’t have that, they tend to freak out. To put this in a business perspective, Cecily states, “There’s a human tendency to want to have everything figured out before taking action. For example, you often see people whose work life isn’t satisfying, yet wait to know exactly what they want to do before making a change. But you can’t really figure things out in your head; experience is the only way to really know what works and what doesn’t.  That’s not to say that thorough research and preparation aren’t needed, but it is a reminder to not suffer the ‘paralysis of analysis’.  The best one can do is to set a direction and just start moving.”

As it is, there are plenty of parallels between what the individual is feeling and what a business experiences in a time of recession. Richard Sennett points out that “modern capitalism reconfigured things like careers so that it’s no longer a meaningful concept for people to perform short-term jobs.” Short-term investment became much more popular than long-term gains and views, and when put in this kind of short-term regime, both people and businesses suffer.

Why does this happen? Orbach argues it has a lot to do with identity. “We now have this thrust…for a self that is so fractured that it can only be experienced through the latest accomplishment…” she explains. Their is an immediacy to our well-being, we tend to view our lives in terms of a checklist and when we’re in between checked boxes, we have a total loss of who we are. Orbach touches on the fact that we lack a sense of continuity and fluidity in what it is that comprises us. “It”, that feeling of self-satisfaction, simply comes and goes in such short-term wavelengths that it’s difficult to process. Our lives have become so external that we forget how to nurture our own identities.

“That is why branding is so important,” Cecily says. “A well-defined, deeply rooted sense of purpose should drive business strategy. As we know, conditions and trends can swing wildly, yet purpose is constant. Purpose is what makes a brand resilient and adaptive. In traumatic times, such as we’re in, it’s important that decisions be guided by the basics, ‘Is this who we are? Is this what we do? Does this fit?”

A brand, done well, is a distillation of purpose and personality. Branding is a process of translating that subjective, squishy stuff into objective terms. It’s an interesting process; the aim is to find language, metaphors, archetypes, style that moves seamlessly from subject (company) – object (brand) – subject (consumer) – object (purchase). A brand that resonates across all channels is a brand that has successfully articulated its purpose and meaning.  This is why it is also the seat of strategy, the cause of resilience, and the driver of loyalty.  – Pretty important stuff.

We do this as individuals too. Take Facebook, for example. We have objectified our identities in the form of the page and by adding you as a friend, joining groups, and exchanging information, we’re saying to one another – “Hey, I like who you are! I like what you’re about!”  It’s all about bonding and belonging which, when extended through a community of like-minded people gives a sense ‘tribe.’  Essentially, that is the same relationship a business should have with its clients, even though it usually doesn’t play out in such obvious terms.

“Remember, no one else can ‘do’ you,” Cecily says. “It’s you, your brand, your identity. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Just stay true to you, then use that sense of conviction to guide you through the rest.”

Article By: Ashley Dresser

View Comments to “Essence Exposed: When the economy breaks, what happens to the soul?”

  1. Keith Privette says:

    This is a great perspective. I think these challenaging times should bring out the best in our thought collaboration. Thank you for providing this perspective and all the dedication you provide with the PUSH Institute!

    Check out #FADRAA in twitter search. I have nominated you!

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