Boris Johnson’s Teacup – An instance worth a thousand bearing all within itself

Today Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minsiter, published his 50-page ‘exit strategy’ document from the coronavirus lockdown. There is just one part of this launch that I would like to analyse, that is his teacup. This is not a humourous article, it is written with seriousness and sincerity. And this is because for me the teacup represents ‘an instance worth a thousand bearing all within itself’.

The photograph above was included in today’s report by the Daily Mail. I am including it in this article under fair use giudelines in order to allow me to offer my critique, which I believe is important.

I would like to suggest that this teacup is empty, despite Johnson using it in a photo opportunity to suggest that it is full. I have many questions relating to this cup, the principle ones being “who walks through a London park with an actual cup of tea?”, “where did the cup come from and where was the tea poured?” and “are we really supposed to believe that a British Prine Minister would walk though a park on his ‘own’ on his way to work?”

I believe that this teacup is empty. However, on Saturday Johnson also walked through a park, fully suited, with a cup of Costa coffee who according to the Daily Mail, “was strolling through St James’s Park in glorious sunshine swigging from a reusable Costa coffee cup on Saturday.”

Credit: Steve Back

In this instance it is a little more plausible that the cup actually had coffee in it, but again I would like to suggest that this is a photo stunt set up to promote Johnson’s proposals for getting British people back to work, hence the imagery of a London office worker with their morning coffee heading to the office.

But that teacup – it really managed to annoy me somewhat, and the reason is that I absolutely believe that it is empty. This is very metaphorical for my attitude not only towards the Concervative Party but pretty much all political parties. The empitness represents their essence and substance. By what does it mean to refer to the teacup as ‘as instance worth a thousand’.

The full phrase “an instance worth a thousand bearing all within itself” was coined by Goethe, for whom it was a key concept in his scientific investigations based on observation. One approach in science is to search for many different examples of a phenomena, after which you then attempt to extract out and abstract out all that they have in common.

Goethe however took a different, but complementary approach. Like Francis Bacon before him, Goethe created subtle yet powerful ways of observing living phenomena in nature in order that he could then understand the hidden orders of patterns and processes of those phenomena. The idea is to find one instance of a phenomenon which fully contains every aspect of it, as a type of archetyal instance. We use this phrase many times in Customer Experiences with Soul in order to show how this principle can be used to determine the true essence of a brand, product, service, organisation and experience. Here is one example, bad coffee in good hotels:

“No matter how good the other aspects of a hotel may be, one detail which can leave a lasting impression is the feeling we get from starting our day with a great cup of coffee. This may seem like a trivial point, but there is something significant to learn about customer experience design. Sometimes we can find a phenomenon, such as the coffee in a hotel, which contains the whole essence of the brand, the company, the values, the experience as a whole; and when we find this archetypal experience, it is worth a thousand less archetypal experiences.”

This example of Johnson’s empty teacup shows us the importance of both transparency and authenticity. The reason is that leadership which inspires and engages has to come from within, and not from superficial photo opportunities which are quite obviously staged, and which therefore insult the intelligence of those people who are meant to be the recipients of that particular message. We are not dealing with a simply slogan to promote a political party. We are dealing with matters of health, and of life and death.

Credit: Holonomics

Our coffee cup is transparent and full, in contrast to Johnson’s which is opaque and yet empty. We deliberatey chose the image of the transparent glass coffee cup for our cover for a reason, and that is because we work so much on the principle that ‘internal = external’:

“The ability to develop customer experiences with soul means having the ability to relate from within, a ‘within’ which must be in harmony with the essence of the company. If not, there will be incoherence between how you express yourself, what you mean, and how you act and interact with those around you.”

How different would the communications around the behavioural responses be if the universal human values were present. Again in Customer Experiences with Soul we offer this reflection:

“The five universal human values of peace, truth, love, righteousness and non-violence form one of the key pillars of Holonomics. When these human values are in place, there is much less reliance on rules, bureaucracy and control, allowing organisations become agile, resilient and sustainable, being better able to evolve as changes in the environment demand. No matter what life may throw at us, with human values operating we are all able to align ourselves behind a single vision; we are valued as human beings, and solutions can emerge naturally, as and when they are needed.”

That which is relevant to business leaders and those who head up other organisations is also just as relevant to political leaders. And right now, Boris Johnson is simply not my cup of tea. I long for a leadership who recognises the maturity of the electorate, and has an ability to develop a dialogue with the public in a manner which does not rely on spin, manipulation and a fear of losing a false narrative.

Let’s keep calm, let’s carry on, and let’s treat people with the maturity and respect they deserve, in order to enable us to have the conversations necessary for us to collective find our path forward through this tragic global crisis.

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