Characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.
Holistic is generally used in conjunction with living, breathing organisms and their environment. When the word “holistic” is heard, the next word is usually health. When I decided to look-up “Holistic Management”, the concept was link to sustainable agriculture and environment.
I have always been interested in “sustainable” as it could pertain to economy and business. I am therefore interested in “Holistic” as it could be related to industrial and business management. After all, what is good for individual health, or the agricultural industry should be good for business health.
The first thing to understand about “Holistic” is that it is a concept; it is neither an idea nor a recipe. It has no “RIGHTs and WRONGs”, no “DOs and DON’Ts”.
This concept, I believe can only “felt”. I cannot be understood as math or logic can. It is of “Essence”, of “Being”, not of any metric or of any action.
I will draw here a parallel between living, breathing organism, and a business. A business is an entity of its own. It has a legal existence, owns things, acts, and sometime spawns and reproduces (especially in Franchise business models). It can be sick, and when it is, “doctors” are called to diagnose and cure the patient. Sometimes they can’t succeed and the business dies.
I do believe in certain legitimacy in viewing things this way, and I only use it to get a certain way of thinking across.
To continue the parallel, there are different levels of operation of the human body. Body, Spirit and Mind are the ones usually put forward. A quick look on the internet will very quickly reveal a number of diagrams, usually with suggestive colors to illustrate this concept of “holistic”. They are simply ways to look at the whole by concentrating on its parts. This is of course paradoxical and wrong, but allows the non-understandable to be understood when sufficiently studied, talked about, meditated upon and felt.
One such diagram is a pyramid. I will take the one I found on the site for a personal healing retreat as I found it interestingly presented:
There are 4 levels on this pyramid. But there is something familiar about it’s structure: It resembles Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow’s pyramid is taught in many marketing schools as it represents and regroups many ideas of market segmentation and argumentation. Indeed Abraham Maslow proposed his theory in a 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation" in Psychological Review. and pertains to healthy and sometimes exceptional human beings. The pyramid if often represented in this way (source: Wikipedia).
By taking the liberty to regroup the first to levels, which both refer to the body and its actions to remain alive, the next three levels parallel the holistic health diagram. One interesting thing to note is that self-actualization happens at the spiritual level. Self-actualization is what the healthiest and more exceptional human being strives for and sometimes obtain. Self-actualization is finally getting a grasp on the “real” us inside of us who knows with certainty his place in the world and performs with what seem like effortless success.
When talking about business, instilling ideas such as “spirituality” or “self-actualization” is a bit tricky. These ideas exist, and are distilled in many different blog posts, ideas, and teachings. The usual approach is to talk about leadership and vision. We are always fascinated by the vision of great founders like Henry Ford, Gustave Eiffel, or Steve Jobs. These days, Mark Zuckerberg, at just 29 years old is often cited as one of the great visionaries. These visionaries are somehow linked to something greater than themselves, that allow them to make breakthrough industries that keep on leading the pack for many years and influence society.
One who consistently analyses this, gives countless examples of successful companies doing the right thing is Ian Chamandy, a Canadian business analyst and consultant for CBC Television. His analysis of business failures and success often come from one simple word: “WHY”. His idea: to define why your clients, employees and partners should choose you in 7 words or less. He gives countless examples of those who know “WHY” and those who don’t. And they are often related to those who make it, and those who don’t.
Interestingly, another consultant independently arrived at the same conclusion and wrote books and papers on the subject: Simon Sinek whom I cite often, and will continue to do so. He talks about the “golden circle” from which he extrudes a “Golden Cone”.
Lo and Behold:
The diagram and accompanying explanations parallel the holistic healers’ and Maslow’s view. Here, there is a bit of a mix of the upper two levels. I suppose this is mainly because speaking of spiritual calling in a business context is difficult, but isn’t embracing a vision that is greater than oneself reminiscent of spiritual calling in some sort of way?
Let's just call it ENTREPRENEUR SPIRIT!