Introducing Customer Experiences with Soul: A New Era in Design

Customer experience design is the forgotten dimension of sustainability. For this reason Maria and I decided to follow up our first book, Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter with our second book, Customer Experiences with Soul: A New Era in Design. We felt the need to transcend what have now become well-defined approaches and definitions of customer experience, to help companies understand why their offerings are no longer resonating with people, where the deep lack of authenticity, coherence and values comes from, and how to develop a profound understanding of the lived experience of every single person whose lives our organisations touch. This understanding is just as applicable to those businesses and organisations developing sustainable products, services, technologies and initiatives.

Around the world there is a growing awareness of the destructive nature of current economic paradigms based on fragmentation, where powerful nations aim to dominate weaker nations rich in natural resources. The most enlightened businesses are now transforming their life-destroying business models to ones which are life-enhancing and which regenerate natural ecosystems and local economies. The concept of customer experiences with soul radically transforms our attention from a focus on interactions that individual people have with products and services, to the quality of experience of communities and the richness of the quality of their lives.

In order to help businesses understand this question of being, we created the holonomic circle, a tool designed to help everyone across an organisation think about the customer experience of their offerings, and all those different aspects which need to be considered in order to be able to reach that point where the customer experience has soul. An experience has soul when one soul recognises another soul. For this reason this book reveals the hidden qualities of experience which are rarely spoken about in a business context.

The soul in customer experiences with soul is the essence of an organisation and we encounter the essence through each and every part, be it product, service, advertisement, interface or personal interaction we have with it. For this reason the term ‘customer experience’ refers not only to the interaction our paying customers have with our products, services and brands, but also to every single interaction inside the business between colleagues, employees, suppliers, shareholders and contractors, and every interaction between those who work for a business and who are representing the business, and every person who comes into contact with the business.

The holonomic circle is a framework we created to lead conversations into an understanding of customer experiences with soul. At the centre is ‘the trinity’, which is where authenticity is described as the maximum coherence between what a person says, what they mean, and what they do. The trinity equally applies to any group, team, organisation, business, ecosystem, and can include cities, states, countries and indeed movements. Coherence is a quality which can run throughout whole organisations, both internally and externally, and across supply chains, business ecosystems, and the communities with which the person or entity interacts. We encounter counterfeit purposes when what the person or group says, what the person or group means and what the person or group does fail to coalesce as a unified whole.

The Holonomic Circle articulates the meaning of soul in a design, business and branding context. It provides a holistic framework for designers, corporate entrepreneurs, creative leaders and those starting a new business or initiative to explore the principles underlying the dynamics of soulful experiences. It does so by linking the tools, techniques and frameworks for developing customer experiences with soul with an exploration of the questions of authenticity, purpose and human values.

Our book contains various elements of holistic science, Goethean science and the phenomenology and hermeneutics of Henri Bortoft, and how they can be applied in the context of design, not just in a purely commercial context, but in relation to social businesses, the development of ecological products and services, and also in relation to personal development and leadership. So for example we discus the Goethean alchemical process of the transition of consciousness (a process Maria and I have developed into a very simple circular journey from earth, water, air and fire, and its return). We also develop the Goethean approach to colour and light further by adding in Rudolf Steiner’s spiritual understanding of colour. We write about dysfunctional archetypal behaviours found in people in organisations, and we have a whole chapter on the five universal human values of peace, truth, love, righteousness and non-violence.

We introduce other tools and techniques such as ‘the ladder of seeing’ and a very powerful exercise called ‘the deep science walk’ which helps especially people in business really experience what we mean by paradigm shifts, as opposed to just talking about changes of paradigm while keeping in the same mindset. Maria and I wrote about the deep time walk in Holonomics, and the deep science walk complements this by helping people to contemplate how their own mental models currently impact on their own world views, and how new creative insights could be gained. Maria and I have already run the deep science walk a number of times to help people such as business executives learn about how others construct reality, and therefore learn how to empathise with those who perhaps have a more systemic, holistic or quite different world view.

We describe Customer Experiences with Soul as the combination of the best global design practices, Brazilian heart, Western philosophical insight and timeless Eastern spiritual wisdom. We include various interviews and case studies, many from Brazil companies never written before, with interviews from visionary leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, philosophers and activists. So for example we have an interview with Dr. Paulo Chapchap, one of the most respected surgeons in the world where we discuss how we implemented our holonomic approach into Hospital Sírio Libanês in São Paulo, one of the most important hospitals in Latin America.

Customer Experiences with Soul was written to help people shift their understanding of design, innovation, strategy, leadership and branding. It provides the guidance needed for developing, structuring and implementing customer experiences with soul, helping people to build and grow authentic businesses and organisations which honour what it is to be human in our world.


Customer Experiences with Soul: A New Era in Design is published by Holonomics Publishing, London, 2017. For more information please see the book’s website

Simon Robinson is the co-founder of Holonomics Education and the co-author of Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter. He is a Harvard Business Review author, a member of the Strongly Sustainable Business Model Group at OCAD University, Toronto, and editor of the blog

Maria Moraes Robinson is the co-founder of Holonomics Education and is an internationally recognised educator and keynote speaker in strategy, change management, sustainability, human values and the Balanced Scorecard methodology. She is a published author in Harvard Business Review Brasil, and the co-author of the books Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter, Strategy Management: Experiences and Lessons of Brazilian Companies and The Strategic Activist.