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The juicy stuff

The juicy stuff of Heart, Body & Aura

Why HBA is the way to create a meaningful business and brand

by Jonas Bergvall — August 2016

The basic thinking with the Heart, Body & Aura model is not new. To have a clear purpose of why your company exists and living your (brand) values are ideas that have been part of brand development theory for quite some time. Business strategy however has often tended to live in a separate silo from brand strategy, and although there are obviously great examples of companies who have managed to marry the two, the Heart, Body & Aura model is a way to get rid of unnecessary jargon in order to get to the ”juicy stuff” easier and quicker.

Business + Brand

Because the juicy stuff is complex, opaque, fluffy and fleeting. It just is. Meaningfulness is always contextual and it takes creativity, empathy, a keen ear and an ability to deal with realism to understand it and transform it into something tangible. The old logic of business as usual was built on assumption of objectivity and rationality, while the brands became the imaginative storytellers. This dichotomy is falling apart.

There’s no easy path to excellence, no guru who can show you the way in an hour’s speech. It’s up to you and your team. The good news is that it’s not terribly complicated. Commit to collaborating to shape a powerful story about why people should come to work and how they can pull together to build a future. The glue and the grease—combined with a dose of good old-fashioned discipline—will allow the team to unleash your company’s collective ambition.

This quote is from Harvard Business Review 2011 and I couldn’t agree more. This is what the Heart, Body & Aura model is all about - a company’s collective ambition, the glue and the grease. And it’s true, it’s not terribly complicated, the HBA model is an attempt to make it even less complicated. But, and this is a big but, it is complex. Business as usual thinking often sheds away from complexity, based on the assumption of rational human beings with a self interest. Strategy becomes easier that way, but not very realistic. Reality is ultimately complex and we need to be able to deal with this complexity. This is where you find the juicy stuff.

One really good article about this marriage between business and brand strategy, or more simply put – value driven innovation, is this one How to create strategy that works written by the Australian firm Brand Truth. It offers a very good summary of the basic assumptions that also the HBA model is built upon. Combine this article with Simon Sinek’s ”Start with Why” and you have a very good platform for grasping the potential power of the HBA approach.

However, there are a few important differences. By using the ”How to create strategy that works” article mentioned above as a springboard I will offer how I believe we can think slightly differently in order to create meaningful businesses and brands:

”Embracing strategic intuition” is certainly important. Keeping your mind open is crucial for the Heart development. But by inviting a vivid imagination it easily becomes a rather flat brainstorming which too often just produce ideas that already exist. In order to understand the meaningful we need to define and understand the context. Otherwise brainstormings usually becomes too much about ”solutions”. It’s just as important to understand the problems, where and why these problems exist and how solving these problems will lead to something better.

”A robust Vision”. The HBA model is all about the Mission statement - ”what is the difference we do”. The Vision statement is built on the idea that the future holds something inspiring. There at least two problems with this. One, the future is unclear to say the least. Two, the trust levels in this world are so low that even though you paint a beautiful picture of the future, how can you make anyone believe you are capable of leading us there? No, the Mission statement is more important, show us in action right now what the difference you seek to make is. Your story is in your actions and vice versa. Say what you do and do what you say. If this feels like it could risk to be too boring then your actions aren’t meaningful enough.

”Brand Blueprinting”. One major difference with the HBA approach is that the main purpose is not to build relationships, it’s about belief. The idea of building relationships easily leads you down the path of creating façades and making promises you can’t really keep. By having a clear Mission you engage with your customers and stakeholders as associates rather than targets. This way, transparency become your best ally and not a threat.

Last I want to point out maybe the biggest difference and advantage with the HBA model. Although it uses a process to be developed, even linear, it’s not layered. The Heart - the mission and purpose, is just as visible as the Body (how the Heart is embodied in a business model) and the Aura is about making these clear, expressive and trustworthy. The best analogy is to see this corpus as a function rather than a magnet. Simply because making a difference is more meaningful than promises. Aim for the juicy stuff.