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What's in the Centre?: Cracking the Code of Core Meaning
All human-made existence has something in common that generally defines those things’ future, life and meaning. How do we decode that essential meaning, and why is it important?
In the world of brands, institutions, and societies, a singular essence defines all human-made entities, guiding their future, breathing life into them, and shaping their meaning. So, what's this core element, and why does it matter?
Welcome to the fourth edition of Code Uncovered, where we delve into the central forces that steer the destiny of brands, institutions, nations, and everything in between.
The genesis of insight
The idea of these central forces, the lynchpins of our decisions and direction, has been on my mind for some time. Years ago, alongside Tugce Akbulut, an impact design curator in The Netherlands, we crafted a transformative program for ATÖLYE Academy: "Sensemaking and the Idea of Holistic Design." This course tackled a fundamental question that every decision-maker should ponder: What lies at the heart of our choices? The program's success demonstrated the thirst for deeper understanding in a world often obsessed with speed and automated decisions.
We showcased and established scenarios and cases where even a minor decision, whether in design, implementation, marketing or any other field in the business world, makes a considerable difference depending on the decision's underlying central reason, objective, desire or expectancy. It was a success for many participants, and we could see how their decision-making practices started to change throughout the program. They began to move away from our current age's obsession with speed and quick (even automatised) decisions.
A broader perspective
In the face of a decision, if we step back, we discern a panoramic view, a holistic understanding that can illuminate the core code embedded within our choices. This code serves as the touchstone, the North Star, guiding our choices, big and small. It marks a departure from the frenetic pace of our times, urging thoughtful consideration.
Exploring the Circumcenter
Following the training program's triumph, our collaboration led by Cross Change from The Netherlands resulted in "Circumcenter," a series of interviews supported by the Turkiye Circular Economy Platform and EBRD.
This endeavour sprung from the same roots, seeking the epicentre of decisions. We engaged with entrepreneurs, innovators, designers, and startup founders, each a decision-maker in transitioning to or promoting a circular economy. Their insights were nothing short of inspiring, revealing the profound meaning encoded within the centre of their choices. We had guests from global denim fabric producers to sustainable investment banks, from food waste management startups to a regional beer and beverages conglomerate.
The project was called Circumcenter because we were trying to (metaphorically) discover the centre of our guests' decisions. A primary question we asked them was, 'What was at the centre of their decisions in life, business and the future?' Their decision-making reasoning, the central values in their lives, and their business outlook on the industry inspired us and created a wealth of information.
Now, we arrive at the focal theme of today's newsletter: the core code.
As a decision-maker in business, brand, or communications, what defines your entity's core? Do you think your choices resonate with this central code?
Let's explore this further through some illustrative examples.
For some, insurance signifies more than protection; it may embody guidance towards a better life. A cross-cultural strategy project we worked on targeting high-net-worth individuals (HNWI) in Saudi Arabia unveiled a web of cultural codes.
Our objective was to discover the cultural codes behind the reluctance of Saudi HNWIs to subscribe to premium health insurance. We figured that religion, power dynamics, and aspiration are central codes interwoven to form a complex narrative. We discovered that insurance's root meaning differed for diverse audiences, especially in Islamic cultures where protection could only come from a divine power.
To connect with this audience, we advised the core meaning to be shifted from 'protection' to 'guidance', helping individuals access their aspired lifestyles worldwide.
Dirt is Good
It's essential to unearth the nucleus of your brand or business to bridge the gap between your intentions and your audience's reality. While a toothbrush brand claiming to improve family relationships might seem absurd, Omo's (Persil) "dirt is good" campaign hit the mark.
It tapped into a core meaning: getting [your hands] dirty signified experiment, effort, fun, learning, and accomplishment... in short, a life well lived required getting dirty. Dirt is Good emphasises the value of learning through mistakes, resilience, and enjoying life's simple pleasures, such as enjoying a nice dinner without fear of spilling food on the tablecloth. Therefore, discovering such a central code makes your brand relatable, relevant, meaningful and cherished.
Your core, your essence
As you scrutinise your brand, product, service, institution, or even yourself, reflect on this question: What lies at the heart of your decisions? What central code defines you or your brand? Share your insights and stories; let's learn from one another's successes and failures.
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