Customer Experiences with Soul

Last year I gave a TEDx talk in Florianopolis, Brazil on Customer Experiences with Soul. The concept Customer Experiences with Soul is based on our philosophy of Holonomics, and is a term I coined in order to express the essential way in which it is no longer enough for business to have a purpose, it also needs to be in touch with its soul, a soul which collectively expresses itself through each part.

My talk is now available to watch on Youtube. As I am speaking in Portuguese, I thought I would publish this article which is a translation, including the slides from my talk.

Customer Experiences with Soul

Thank you. I am going to start with a question. This question may seem strange. If you can answer the question, you will understand what authentic wholeness is, and will be able to design customer experiences with soul.

Here are some peonies. My question is – how many peonies can you see?

Wild peonies


To understand why we need to ask this question, we have to go back to the British industrial revolution. In the eighteenth century the British had an absolute obsession with measurement, as you can see by these instruments which are in the British Science Museum.

British Science Museum

Photo: Simon Robinson

The British began to become obsessed with quantification, and this led to the British being responsible for many of the world’s innovations and technology, but it came at a price. We lost our connection with the qualities of life. In the nineteenth century British biologists came to have an obsession with measurement and classification. If you are a British botanist in the nineteenth century, you will look at peonies and you will only be concerned with difference.

Nowadays there are over a thousand different varieties of peony. But can we see these peonies differently?

If we return to our question “how many peonies can I see?” I could say that I can see four peonies, and I also see the One peony, being itself, differently. When you encounter the One peony not in your thinking mind but in your intuition, you are encountering the living peony, and you are connecting with the livingness of life. Products and services can also have this same living quality of wholeness, authentic wholeness, but very few do.

I would now like to show you a real case study which demonstrates this principle.

Before I do, I just need to mention one thing. The English phrase “customer experience” is much broader than the Portuguese phrase “experiencia do cliente”. Right now, all of you are having an experience of TEDx Floripa, and this is a “customer experience”.

In 2014 I was invited to help Hospital Sírio Libanês in São Paulo create a communications event in order to communicate their strategic map to every single person in the hospital, the whole organisation. Over the course of a week we ran one-hour sessions with up to 100 people each, reaching 2,300 people in total. On all the table you see a mixture doctors, nurses, admin staff, managers, porters – so each table represents the hospital as a whole.


Photo: Simon Robinson

We made no attempt to communicate the strategic map – very few people would have understood it. On these tables you can see the strategic map told as a story. Each story is so long that one person can only read a part. We had doctors and surgeons listening to secretaries and nurses tell the story of how the hospital aims to get to 2020, and so we are moving away from social hierarchy and towards an experience of wholeness.

On each table people then discussed the challenges facing the hospital, and how they could overcome these challenges as a whole. We then asked people to create something that represented the solutions they discussed. Here is one example.


Photo: Simon Robinson

In this model you can see every single person in the hospital focussing on the patient in the centre. Very few organisations in the world manage to achieve this level of customer experience.

In this picture below you will see the phrase Calor Humano. During this event, people came to realise how calor humano represented the very essence of customer service at the hospital.


Photo: Simon Robinson

It is Calor Humano that each and ever patient and family and friend experiences at Hospital Sírio Libanês and it is extremely difficult to create. Calor Humano is how the strategy, brand and essence of Hospital Sírio Libanês is expressed through each person. When each and every person expresses this level of service to others, then you know your customer experience is authentic and has soul.

You can really sense the calor humano in this group as they held hands spontaneously as they presented their solutions back to the whole group at the end of the session. I love this photo a lot.


Photo: Simon Robinson

This is Dr. Paulo Chapchap who is one of the joint heads of the hospital.  For me he is an incredibly inspirational leader.


Photo: Simon Robinson

For the vast majority of the time, when walking around, he wasn’t speaking, but listening. Not only was he listening, but also totally trusting in the process, not imposing his thoughts on others, but allowing each and every person to express themselves. Very few senior executives of his level have his humility, presence, and ability to really see each and every person in the whole organisation.

Here in Brazil, it is incredible how many people tell me the reason for the poor levels of customer service here is simply because “this is Brazil”. This is nonsense. That attitude is terrible and will never lead to the design of great customer experiences. Brazil does have some amazing leaders who are developing businesses with soul, and I just want to list a small number briefly.

This is Luis Norberto Paschoal, President of DPaschoal. DPaschoal are taught to never sell you a new car tyre if there is still life left in your current tyres.

Luís Norberto Pascoal

Luís Norberto Pascoal with Maria Auxilidora and myself

This is Sergio Chaia, Vice President of Symantec and ex CEO of Nextel. He practices Buddhism and is introducing Buddhist concepts of leadership into his companies.

Sérgio Chaia

Photo: Simon Robinson

This is Marcio Fernandes, President of Elektro, who has developed the concept of the happiness of profit. Electro as an organisation is a network of valued and happy employees.

Macrio Fernandes

Photo: Simon Robinson

This is Lindolfo Martin, founder of the chain of stores Multicoisas who I met in 2013 when we discussed the role of intuition in leadership. Multicoisas offer an extremely high quality customer experience, and they certainly do not make the excuse that “this is Brazil”.

Lindolfo Martin

Photo: Simon Robinson

And finally, Chaordic, here in Florianopolis, are a great example of a company with soul. Their core values are summarised by the letters ACDC

Amor (Love)

Their leaders are totally focused on delivering a world class customer experience. And recently they won a Best Place to Work award which is brilliant.

Great companies are the ones who design customer experiences with soul. Experiences with soul are the only ones which truly resonate with people. A customer experience has soul when it has the quality of authentic wholeness, the principle of life itself.

How many peonies can I see? The one and the many.

Wild peonies


When you can connect with the soul of your organisation and experience the way in which it is expressed through each and every part, then you will have created a living, authentic brand. Thank you.

3 responses to “Customer Experiences with Soul

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