Holonomics Education in Harvard Business Review Brasil

Harvard Business Review articleHarvard Business Review Brasil is the same journal as the English language edition. Each month all of the articles are translated into Portuguese, and then in addition every so often there is one additional Brazilian article published as well.

This month HBR Brasil have published an article by Maria and I which is an extended case study of BrewDog. As well as appearing in print, our article can also be read on the internet without a subscription here: hbrbr.com.br/nao-comece-um-negocio-comece-uma-cruzada

For those of you who do not read Portuguese I will give a brief summary of each of the sections.


The title is Não Comece Um Negócio, Comece Uma Cruzada which translates as Don’t Start a Business, Start a Crusade.

Here is a translation of the opening paragraph:

‘Don’t start a business, start a crusade’ is the clarion call of James Watt, the co-founder of BrewDog to the new generation of young entrepreneurs looking to create twenty-first century disruptive startups. This philosophy rejects the concept of minimum viable products, and instead emphasises three major inter-related pillars of culture, core product quality and gross margin. This article provides an in-depth case study of BrewDog, and shows how its culture of passion, purpose and focus on people led it to meteoric success, significantly impacting on the incumbent giants in the global beer market.

As well as talking about the punk ethos, we talk about the origins of BrewDog and how it has come to dominate the global craft beer market.

In Brazilian Portuguese, the word “punk” is used. However, Brazilians can say things like “O meu dia foi punk” which translates something like “I’ve had a terrible day day”. We therefore have a paragraph to tell Brazilian readers that the English sense of “punk” is much more positive than the way it is used in Brazil.

The crusade always comes first

This section is about the fact that the mission is the most important thing to think about when starting a company. We discuss the way that BrewDog’s mission is “to make other people as passionate about great beer as they are” and how BrewDog is committed to independence.

Company Culture is 33.3% of Everything

Photo credit: BrewDog

Photo credit: BrewDog

This section starts with various research showing failure rates in startups. We talk about the three main pillars and include a quote from the book Business for Punks by James Watt:

  1. Company culture
  2. The quality of your core offering
  3. Gross margin

We then list the five most significant and important influences listed by Watt in his book  which he considers contributed to the success of BrewDog:

1. Crystal clear clarity
2. Integrity
3. 360 Degree Communication
4. Empowering people
5. Culture fit

You can read my book review of Business for Punks here. I have also written a follow-up article exploring the way in which the punk philosophy can be applied in large corporations: Corporate Punks – A Contradiction in Terms?

Customer Experiences with Soul

Photo credit: BrewDog

Photo credit: BrewDog

Last year I coined the phrase “customer experiences with soul” and this relates to some really quite deeply philosophical and spiritual ways to approach customer experience design. I define a customer experience with soul as one in which every single part contributes in an authentic and optimal manner to the customer experience as a whole.

Photo credit: BrewDog

Photo credit: BrewDog

In this section I use the example of coffee in BrewDog bars and the Dear Green roastery as an example of attention to detail and care for the customer experience.

I conclude this section by saying that “Great companies are the ones who design customer experiences with soul. When you can connect with the soul of your organisation and experience the way in which it is expressed through each and every part, then you will have created a living, authentic brand.”


This is a section about Equity for Punks. We include a short quote from Watt’s talk at the London School of Economics:

“The Equity Punk community are the heart and soul of our business, and to have that community hyped about what we do has enabled us to grow as fast as we have over the last four years. We engage our Equity Punks in the decisions we make and how we grow, how we develop the business. They help us choose which beers to make, they help us to decide which cities to open bars in, and they are very much part of the team and part of the journey we are on as a company. So for us Equity for Punks has been really game changing.”

Maria and I define sustainability as “the quality of our relationships” which is included in this article, and so we add in a little bit of additional analysis as to what makes Equity for Punks strong, as well as innovative:

“In our work we define sustainability as “the quality of our relationships”. What we do is to help business leaders develop a more dynamic and systemic appreciation of all the relationships in both their business and environmental ecosystems, and how these interconnected relationships impact on their culture, mission and ultimately their bottom line. Watt describes BrewDog as being “a kind of modern day punk co-op that is ultimately about connectivity, culture and community”. The way they achieved this level of relationship and engagement with their customers was with their groundbreaking Equity for Punks programme.”

Transparency as Marketing

This final section comes back to the main theme of having an authentic mission and values, and how everything a business does should be considered as marketing.

We finish with the following conclusion:

“BrewDog are an authentic business and brand because you know exactly where you stand with them. They are who they are, they live an bleed their mission, and they are not trying to be all things to all people. The punk attitude of BrewDog provides us with business manifesto for a new generation of entrepreneurs, people who need to learn the ways of finance and team building as passionately as they are constructing their apps, platforms, events and experiences.”