In 4th Century BC, Aristotle spoke of two kinds of knowledge we as human beings should ever increase in. The first of these two kinds of knowledge is techne from which we get the word technique, and the second is sophia from which we get the word wisdom.
Aristotle believed that with wisdom we would reach “eudaimonia”, a complicated greek word, which in basic terms means fulfilment, a deep form of satisfaction; a form of happiness which is in line with our rational natures. Aristotle tells us this is achieved through self-knowledge: it is connected to who our friends are, our sense of purpose in life, being part of a community to where you’re contributing and other important aspects of our life.
To be honest, we’re not good at wisdom, or the psychological. We don’t seek wisdom in the 21st Century. This is for a few reasons, one of them would be the popularisation of romanticism in the 19th Century, it’s concern was instinct and is still the prevalent pattern of today. Love and work are the two constitutes of happiness in the 21st Century, but they seem to be the two things we imagine that we can get right simply by instinct. We believe people’s best chances of finding fulfilment comes from not thinking too hard about why they’re doing it. We worship instinct and impulse in the two areas where they have catastrophic results.
As consumers, business is incredibly unpopular and we live in suspicion of it because we feel they sell us bullshit. Marketers, and business stand accused of not selling us things that we need in order to have a good life; generating vain desires and leading us to buy things that don’t actually lead to a flourishing life.
Think of the concept of brand, much revered within the industry, disliked outside the industry. What a brand promise often is pegged to are higher needs which are associated with wisdom, flourishing and what we would deem “the good life” but the actual product which is attached to that brand, is very far removed from the promises of the brand. The messages being engaged in order to sell you certain products generate that suspicion.
Let’s look at the promise of travel. The underlying promise of travel is quiet deep, it is that we will be "satisfied” by travelling abroad. Brian Chesky, owner of airbnb did a study and found that 75% of people are disappointed with their journey; not that the room or breakfast wasn’t nice but were disappointed in the deeper promises of travel. One of these promises is that our relationships will go better when we travel with someone, so we travel in order to revive our relationship. Another is connecting with another culture, another is travelling to sort out our heads about our careers and our future; that travel will give us that all important perspective. If you look at how these promises are played out with travel, the results are pathetic. A thing that brings a couple down is not going to be solved by lying next to a scented candle or a more attractive view over the horizon of New Zealand, this does not solve the problems of the relationship because that’s not where the problems of the relationship arose. Ditto for career and connecting with other cultures because we can’t connect with other people whilst in museums. Brian Chesky has redefined airbnb as an organisation that is in the business of "happy travel" rather than "a online service to rent properties", at the time of writing this blog, he is currently restructuring the organisation to accommodate for this redefinition.
As seen in Maslow’s pyramid of needs. Most of our economy resides at the bottom of the structure: Travel, food, shelter and so on. The economy of the future will explore the higher regions of this pyramid as it attempts to meet our higher needs as human beings.
For example, Facebook latches onto the psychological need to solve loneliness, the need for connection with others. It’s a psychological need meeting a technological platform. It's the first billion dollar company that really explores the third level of the pyramid and we're going to see more industries birthed further up the pyramid.
In order for there to be a better marriage between a brand promise and the brand's product, we need to start re-catergorising businesses. Here are some examples:
• New Reporting is not “getting the most important information from around the world, really quickly, without bias ", it could be redefined as “equipping each individual with information which is most important to their flourishing and the flourishing of their community." This redefinition changes what news reporters actually do.
• The goal of Wealth Management is not just "growing by more that 10% per annual", but "is in the business of teaching people how to live well around money."
Again, like airbnb, this changes what the organisation is actually about yet beautifully marries brand promise and the brand product/service.
We’ve only begun to scratch at the true needs of human beings. It's time to move up the pyramid, seek wisdom; with it, we will achieve eudaimonia (fulfilment).