My work affords me the privilege of spending lots of time in conversation with client and agency team members as we seek to understand how these parties to important, often complex commercial relationships can get the best from each other.

While I tailor my interviews to specific project needs, there are some recurring, more widespread themes that continue to surface. In short, managing a business liaison successfully these days comes with its challenges.

For example, impossible diary pressure, caused by the enduring tyranny of meetings (even if they now tend to be shorter), can restrict to transactional exchanges the contact between colleagues and with external advisors.

Add to this the tendency towards remote communication (without a voice to be heard or a face to be seen), the habit of wearing headphones in the office and the impact (albeit with good intentions) of working from home and we have a business environment ripe for relationship issues.

In this regard, I increasingly find that my one-to-one sessions add value, in addition to how the output is applied, simply as outlets for interviewees to share innermost thoughts and feelings. Time and space in a busy day for safe reflection and free expression. Catharsis for some. Sadly, in many workplaces, for meaningful but informal chats, where the involvement of HR would be unwarranted, there are few people to talk to.

This chimes for me with the lead article in this month’s Campaign magazine, Saving Creativity. The piece features an interview with Chris Wylie, a key source in The Observer’s electrifying story about Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of Facebook data. I was fortunate to see Chris in a panel discussion with fellow whistle-blowers at this year’s Byline Festival. He is very impressive.

In highlighting the threat to ideas posed by poor use of data in the marketing and communication industries, Wylie identifies more concerns about societal disfunction occasioned by relentless technological advance. Specifically, he cites an unchecked online environment, society’s worship of algorithms and the spread of AI into all aspects of our lives.

Reassuringly, for a data scientist, Wylie is a huge advocate for more regulation, for some formal principles of how we engage with technology. He asserts: “I don’t believe in data-driven anything, it’s the most stupid phrase. Data should always serve people, people should never serve data.”

This is important as it is but a few steps from a threat to creativity in advertising and similar disciplines to the undermining of human free will and ultimately to the productisation of people.

As with workplace interaction, we risk losing the vital personal ingredient in business more generally at our peril. To quote Chris Wylie again: “We’re humans, we should be thinking about people first.”

My reading of the latest Campaign also reminded me of a good handle for this. Namely, human experience or HX in the modern idiom. Not an original term, perhaps, but telling in this context. In fact, creative agency Karmarama and parent company Accenture Interactive had distributed with Campaign an elegantly produced and persuasive treatise entitled Brand Nirvana. Closing the human experience gap.

The principal argument is that practitioners of marcomms have become obsessed with the customer, losing sight in the process with what’s behind this version of the c-word, namely a human.

Further, the focus on customer experience (CX), on the point at which these humans deploy their credit cards, means that brands and their audiences define their relationships in the moment of consumption. For Sid McGrath, Chief Strategy Officer at the agency: “We’re missing a trick here. These people are so much more than buyers. They have full and active lives, of which they’re only spending money for a small percentage of time.”

By contrast, Brand Nirvana, in Karmarama’s view, is the state of enlightenment that is achieved when brands begin to treat (or return to treating) their customers as humans. In Sid’s words, “the customer is dead, so long live the human being.” In other words, it’s all about HX not CX.

There’s a theme here. If we continue to pursue the theoretical possibilities tantalisingly offered by technological innovation, we will simply increase the gap between what we can do and what we, as human beings, most naturally do. And just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should!

In my specialist field, there is no doubt that technology has made solid relationships more efficient and effective. But it didn’t create the foundations in the first place and it won’t maintain the rapport and trust that nurture mutually fulfilling partnerships.

For business relationships to flourish, we must respect the need to create a human not a digital experience.

It is all about HX.