Human-Centered Consulting? WTH is that?

Human-Centered Consulting WTH is that

What is human-centered?

The idea of human-centered, the way we practice it at Centre of Gravity is actually to imagine a world where all decisions that are being made by corporations actually put human beings at the center.

Now that sounds like an obvious thing, but usually, companies don’t behave like that. Especially companies that become very large.

Startups are usually different. If companies are still small in the stage of their inception, where the founders are still around, if it’s a startup, then usually these companies are in constant touch with their customers and their suppliers. In a startup, because money is scarce and the customers are fewer, and the team is still figuring out their products and services, they actually get feedback continuously. The team seeks out feedback, they receive the feedback, and they fix things. At this life stage, the firm is usually designed for people’s needs in mind, and usually, founders may have an intuitive sense of what they want to create.

But when the corporations become large, then all these decisions of what to do for the customer goes to the side and what gains leadership focus is how to scale. How many more stores can be opened? How many cities can we conquer? How many numbers are we making? In all these decisions, usually, the customer’s challenges, or the people’s challenges, the internal people’s challenges, the customer’s challenges all fall by the wayside.

But actually, if you look at what brings success to companies, is to serve their customers. It is to serve people. To look at their needs, and design your ecosystem around them. The paradox is that in the non-human-centered world, the people who are customers or employees or partners, etc, have to work around the boundaries that a company has created. So actually the firm is less human-centered, and more numbers-centered, or results-centered or all these jargon-laden languages that corporate boardrooms talk about.

Our view of human-centeredness — what we are trying to create in Centre of Gravity as a consulting firm, is to try and bring the customers input, or human input back into the boardroom. To reconnect them with things like feelings and emotions and things that people actually go through.

Because if you look at people’s lives, then brands, products, and services are of minuscule importance in their daily life. What people really care about are their jobs, their families, their children. That’s what really occupies their mind space. And the decisions they make in terms of choosing products, services, etc, are in line with this context. And usually, if brands don’t have this life context, then people just choose arbitrarily or will defer to some other expert to choose things if they don’t know enough or don’t care enough.

So if you really want to build a strong business and strong brands, you have to know where people come from. Which means you’re dealing with emotions, feelings, engagements, life context, etc. which is really the idea of human-centeredness. If you pay attention to those disciplines, and then align teams around this understanding, and work within this context, then the decisions that companies make for themselves are far more powerful than just looking at graphs and charts and taking calls, right.

And I think this is what we have been practicing for the last 15 years. And time and time again, we see powerful results emerge from this, which is the reason clients keep coming back to us. And I think that’s our view of human-centeredness. In a nutshell, it is to bring the human feelings and emotions and human stories back into decision making. And centering around that.

Sometimes human-centeredness gets confused with wishy-washy soft things, namby-pamby stuff. We’ve heard dialogue, like you know, “These kinds of things warm the cockles of the heart and makes you have a lump in your throat but they don’t bring business.” Stuff of that nature. And somehow in the alpha-male space of boardrooms, these are called soft skills.

But these are the real skills that help us survive in our personal life. So why shouldn’t it happen in boardrooms and companies too? So the idea of Centre of Gravity as a human-centered place is to really just bring that powerful human stuff back into corporate decision making, Where it has been absent for quite a long time. And our consulting work is designed around this. To give human understanding and to facilitate and align decision making around it. Our space itself may not have been very well defined. And this article is an attempt to right that wrong. But our outputs are there for everybody to see. And we have pioneered and championed this field of consulting for 15 years.

Author:
Navin Narayanan is a partner at Centre of Gravity. He leads HumanWorks, the school of Centre of Gravity where we teach the philosophy and method of Human-Centered Thinking and its allied skills.

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