The end goal of all rational humans was first and most expertly defined in the fourth century BC by the philosopher Aristotle as eudaimonia, translated as 'flourishing' or 'fulfilment' (as opposed to more transitory sensations like 'happiness').
Most businesses looking to grow are connected in some way to the goal of promoting human flourishing through finding new ways to meet customers’ authentic unmet needs (rather than simply creating new desires). Businesses know that their success depends on 'understanding their customers’ and make use of an armoury of qualitative and quantitative market research techniques to understand consumers better. Research has its place, but businesses often do not think deeply and broadly enough about human needs and are flawed in the understanding of their customers as a result. The lack of a philosophical perspective on customer needs can prevent businesses from perceiving new, unconventional and long term opportunities for growth.
So we've started a philosophical consultancy service. Below we introduce two examples of how the service might be put to good use.
What is the Eudaimonic Promise of a Wealth Management Firm?
Consider a wealth management firm. Its implicit eudaimonic promise is to help clients have a good relationship to money. That is, to help the client flourish in connection with money.
However, day to day, the services and products the wealth management firm actually provides are focused on what it believes are key concerns of customers: security and growth. These are, indeed, crucial issues. But they do not capture the whole of the eudaimonic promise made by the wealth management firm, because there are many other things that can go well or badly in connection with money.
Firms are typically not in full command of the eudaimonic promises that their operations straddle – which presents an opportunity to discover what the promises are and to exploit them properly.
The ostensible offer of a wealth management firm is: We will refine your risk and exposure & we will get you a higher rate of return than the competition.
However, the eudaimonic promise, hovering somewhere in the background, rarely put into words and yet key in motivating the client to move towards the firm is slightly different. It is: If you come with us, you will be happier around money.
The products and services of many firms frequently do not yet fully address the implicit promises emitted by the business. This isn’t because the products and services are themselves defective. It is rather, that the promise of the business is conceived in a way that misses some crucial dimensions. It hits some targets very well but is tentative or disengaged in others.
Our task is to help corporations define what their eudaimonic promise implicitly already is. And then we help them to develop their offering and communication so as to be able to fulfil this (newly discovered) promise. Corporations are often not too far from knowing their promise, but they are unable to grasp its full extent.
Therefore, the work that needs to be done, first of all, is to develop a much better understanding of what the implicit eudaimonic promise actually is. And our central claim is that such a discovery will, if acted upon, make the business stronger and more competitive.
A wealth management firm under our guidance would be focused on its implicit eudaimonic promise; that is, it would set out to improve clients relationships to money. The firm wouldn’t stop doing any of the things it does around security and risk. But it would add major new strands to the services it provides.
It would assess its clients needs at a deep level. It would ask: what would actually help a client flourish in connection with money? It might be that wealth is a source of difficult family dynamics, it may be that status is a deep (if not openly avowed) concern; it may be that the client wishes to do good through philanthropy but is unsure how. It could be that the next generation is at risk of decadence: a failure to understand the sacrifices that the privileges they enjoy have exacted on their creators.
Fully understanding clients needs – which is not exactly the same as what the client might initially present as their expectations – is a centrally important task.
In order to honour this ambition, the Wealth management firm would need to deploy an additional range of skills: either further educating their existing managers or sourcing new people and delivering new offerings and products.
These developments would provide the wealth management company with a clear competitive advantage over their rivals.
Wealth management firms compete for a limited number of clients, and their business is subject to the inescapable fluctuations of investment (which the firm cannot control as much as it would like).
The solution to this conundrum is to have a relationship with clients that has a more permanent (less volatile) base: a base that is rooted in an understanding of the clients' psychology and true nature.
What is the Eudaimonic Promise of a Hotel Chain?
When people stay in a hotel, they hope to have a nice time. And, at a given price point, the hotel management will go to great lengths to remove the obstacles to a happy visit. They aim to provide excellent beds, linen, televisions, concierge services etc.
But, in reality, there are many other kinds of trouble which might spoil a night in a hotel room. One might feel lonely, or lost. One might have a grievous argument with one’s spouse. One might stay up far into the night watching movies, only to regret it terribly in the morning. One might drink the contents of the minibar.
Typically, hotels do not particular see these kinds of problems as anything they can address. The hotel only focuses on a very limited range of factors connected with the overall eudaimonic promise.
The promise – if it were fully elaborated – might go like this: 'I will emerge from the hotel in the morning as the best version of myself, I will be calm, collected and energised'. Currently, a great many obstacles stand in the way of the fulfilment of this promise, but hotel services know how to deal with a few of them. Hotels pour their energies into a few areas (linen, number of channels etc.) while neglecting the larger picture.
A hotel chain which sought to deliver on the implicit eudaimonic promise of a night in a hotel would gradually be led to develop a raft of new services and products. It could, for example, decide it needed to offer a mini bar for the mind, (like the one we created for Morgans Hotel Group). It might offer counselling as well as massage. It might choose art to adorn its wall with a more purposeful intent.
Hotels are only at the beginning of understanding how to service their clients' needs because they have, until now, operated with far too narrow an understanding of satisfaction.
In this area, as in so many others, we at the School of Life's philosophical consultancy are ready to help – and to guide you towards thoughtful, satisfying and lucrative interventions in your operations.