Manifesto for
Human-centered Growth

How to learn and grow?
Setting the directions in the modern days' economy
for a fast-paced, but human-centered
future present

A personal view on growth
and high-performance

by Priszcilla Garami-Varnagy
Founder, CEO of Superflow

We lost real connection, so we need to restore it.


There is a problem with most business goals today. They don’t motivate us to be our authentic selves, neither to become our best selves. We don't learn what is important for us in life as an individual, as a company, as a leader, neither as an employee - and that needs to be changed.

Most businesses rush employees into a rat race to do more of the same thing - just faster, better every day. Keeping people on an infinite linear path: more money, more attention, more resources, more followers - without real value. It is a zero-sum game in a technology-lead world. This way we can never get enough until we exploit this planet.

The only way out is to rethink what learning and growth means and find new ways to add value to our clients, owners, employees, partners, to the younger generations - as well as to all of us, humans.

Are we prepared for the future? manifesto for human-centered growth

Are we prepared for what's coming?

I strongly felt it is the time to redefine what we stand for as a business. This is why I wrote this Manifesto. I can't help but agree that this moment, right now, is the most complex, uncertain, dynamically changing, limitless and empowering in the history of mankind. We are capable of so much, yet we limit our capabilities by design. Besides, we bite more than what we can chew. Burn-out rates are skyrocketing - most people are out of balance and don't see a clear direction forward. It is high time to change. But are we prepared?

Negativity spiral of burn-out increases as growth serves only growth itself

We are busy ticking off to-dos and catching up with all the news on social media, yet we never can scroll to the end. When we generate revenue, it often just triggers more costs - under the name of growth. We shouldn't just sit tight as the norms and priorities are passing us by. We need to design the optimal experience.

Designing the optimal experience

To lead in a human-centered way and design a future we actually want to be part of, we should find a way to be our authentic selves: we need to discover and use our strengths to solve the right challenges driven by our motivation, empathy, vulnerability and values - and do it together as part of our business. We need to set quality goals besides quantitative general business metrics on a regular basis. These quality goals could target experiences to design not only for our customers but also for our teams without making harm for the planet and our societies. Ultimately, fostering employee wellbeing leads to better business outcomes that builds a sustainable future. It isn't easy. It might even seem as hard as deciding to go on a diet in the middle of world-hunger. Or going into ice water on the coldest days of winter with the goal of developing brown fat. We need this toughness to concentrate on employee development and wellbeing both in prosperity and in recession, even if our economy isn't built for that. My main point is that the road to happiness is not only to go faster and live longer but to live better, balanced, driven by our vision and values. I strongly believe it is possible to build companies that optimize for a positive-sum game: companies that build for continuous learning, reflection, collaboration and integration rather than beating the competition, companies that favor trade agreements and create win-win situations. We should be able to tell how our future is going to be better than our present experience learning and improving for our own sake and for everyone involved.

This is what I call human-centered growth.

Should we leave this planet before we fix it?

Rather than designing the optimal experience, sometimes it feels like leading companies are searching for the solution everywhere without concept and answers. While web2 keeps trying to make technology look and feel more human, web3 tries to make technology look more… technological - even if it has a clear value of distributing ownership to everyone involved, this vision sometimes gets lost in the maze. We are both excited and frightened by the potentials of building generative AI. While I personally favor technological advancements, we shouldn't let our creations slip out of our hands like a crypto-Frankenstein that we awe for its pure existence, but own the affects of technology for a better world.

Escaping the social media algorithm domination

With the global average of 2-3 hours of time every single day scrolling on our phone - that is 2-3 months in a year - we are playing a dangerous game ruled by algorithms designed by engineers, not yet by psychologists or healthcare specialists. We are exposed to a narrow range of viewpoints and information, which sneaks into our lives and shapes our values, beliefs, and attitudes. We are driven by the dopamine shots of uncontrolled scrolling until it rewires our brain. In some ways, it feels like most of social media, productivity & deep tech companies have given up designing for a healthy planet. But it doesn't have to be that way. When we have a sense of understanding where the destination will take us and why it is better than today; understanding what we naturally are best at, we can better define what we can give. So, what if we craft an alternative game and rethink the rules?

Should we leave this planet before we fix it? by DALL-E
Redefining growth with values image

Redefining Growth with values

No matter if we continue our lives on Earth or on another planet, we need to know what an optimal experience means and how to create one. I believe, human-centric cultures deeply care about both professional growth opportunities for the company and personal growth opportunities for the individual without sacrificing neither individual wellbeing nor business success.

After all, what is human-centered growth?

Growth that puts people first - it defines growth from the perspective of all humans who takes part in growing the organisation either as a client, shareholder, employee or eco-system partner and defines both quality and quantity metrics that showcase how each stakeholder benefits from growing a company in terms of revenue, profit, number of employees and its product-or service offerings or other quantitative metrics. Thus, it adds value and quality goals to the usual business KPIs. It transforms regular business OKRs. It breaks down the long-term vision, mission and purpose of the company into mid-term objectives and key results.

It defines and creates more value for people.

These quantitative and qualitative goals make sure that both the process and the outcome become desirable. This will attract more people who want to experience the growing value either as a client or as an employee. Eventually, our objectives will generate win-win situations, the company will grow purposefully and we will feel meaning, balance, satisfaction and personal growth.

Hybrid work at our pace

We all need to feel trusted, independent and in charge of our own productivity to be engaged at work. Over 87% of employees value the opportunity to work remotely. I cannot agree more that we can no longer be attendance-driven, but rather, we must be loudly and boldly outcomes-driven. Although 69% of mid- to large-sized employers now require their employees to return to the office a few days a week even with jobs that can be done remotely, I am convinced remote work is here to stay for a good reason.

Ways we can scale a positive culture

Achieving meaningful goals that we feel proud of doesn’t require anyone to spend all the time in an office every day. In fact we can reflect on where our team is heading in an online workshop that doesn't have to be long when everyone is prepared and did some pre-work. We might want to get together for special workshops, thinking and planning with our team. Social events outside the office help us connect to each other as humans. But even a fully remote company can just as well find ways to bond people cultivating personal online relationships, coaching, mentoring and paying attention to how we are, as we can do it in the physical space. The way we work depends on our different work styles and needs as humans. As long as we share the same values, we can trust each other to find the best ways to produce high-quality outcomes. So we need to hire value-fit candidates, then throughout project-work protect them from groupthink and support them with frameworks and coaching. Listen and make sure there is space for knowing what matters to each and everyone and encourage them to get their points of view across on how they see our team can make the most of the processes and outcomes. Work is also for the benefit of the employee - growing in their careers and expressing themselves. Culture scales in a hybrid and in a fully remote company just the way we cultivate two-way communication streams.

Recruitment, flexibility & Flow

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic more and more people raised questions on where they are going with their careers and who they are actually impacting or helping. It isn't just that they needed more income due to budget cuts and layoffs, they wanted to imagine new ways of creating value.

From recession, we find flexibility

When a recession seems inevitable, companies lay off workers to cut costs, introduce hiring freezes and withdraw job offers. Even if a recession doesn’t occur, swapping out full-time permanent employees with contractors and gig workers might make sense to freshen up the perspective and keep the focus concentrated. Time-bound projects aren't only helping freelancers. It makes companies nimble and easier to maneuver about when to grow or when to enter rough seas. This way we are much more resilient. We don't need to initiate new projects just for the sake of keeping somebody employed if the project does not make sense. However, it is way easier to keep the team lean and smart rather than letting our talent go, even if letting go happens with empathy and care.

Keep job-descriptions fluid, find Flow

Can we craft job descriptions that holds the opportunity for our employees to get a gig work inside our company or create something new with value? We perform at our best in a Flow experience, when the challenges we take are in balance with our capabilities, skills, curiosity and motivation. In Flow states, we perceive a shift in motivation and all aspects of mental and physical performance are amplified. By turbo-boosting learning, motivation and creativity, flow is also amplifying the core competencies required to keep pace with radical change. This is why we keep positions and job descriptions also fluid, not set in stone - depending on the strengths, motivations and qualities of people holding them. I believe our company will grow most in a healthy, sustainable way when all our people are aligned on their personal growth path to the company's goals, balanced on their capabilities with the capabilities the challenge requires and when they are motivated about the projects they are working on.

Transparent Innovation and Research Labs

Economic downturns will likely continue to impact industries. No business is prepared for an economic downturn, but cutting edge companies listening to the changing customer needs will take a creative approach and find their way out. This means that consumers will see more value and increasing efficiency will take shapes and forms that are unheard of. A local family-run business or a globally scaling SaaS company can both go the extra mile expressing they care about people: employees, clients and users and want them to thrive. Their main goal is keeping people happy.

Insights collected, transparent roadmap

Small or large businesses create and validate value if they continuously gather and listen to client insights and learn from that, just like could bootstrap a customer feedback management SaaS company to $3M ARR without any investment simply experimenting with a growth team while making their product development roadmaps public. Focusing on client insights we can recognize the needs for high-impact development requests, so we are better positioned to sell premium services locally or globally, which helps us generate profit and keep better margins which contributes to a more sustainable business. Client advisory councils ensure value generation through carefully designed workshops. In such co-creation sessions, our most important clients and partners listen, reflect, ideate, share best practices, prioriotize, plan and iterate new prototypes and new development directions together. Obviously, the most important is the implementation of the planned features in a coherent, simple and intuitive solution.

Research Labs for a healthy business

Beyond short-term growth goals, we need to invest into researching new technologies' effect on long-term health, wellbeing and optimum performance. Companies, just like BetterUp, have established Research Labs to conduct validated studies and understand lasting behavior change on personal and professional growth to positively influence the direction of product development. I believe in building a learning organisation with regular sprints, plans and experiments to validate value, inspired by cutting-edge research and supported by the management that seeps down to every level of the organization. Would you want your kids to be a top user of your product / service and see them advocate for your brand? For us, I'd like every team member of us to say yes, as it means our company hasn't sacrificed value and purpose for the speed of growth.

By Ben Kolde from Unsplash
by Daniel Korpai on Unsplash

New ways to look at product-lead growth

While companies are coming up with newer and newer versions of products, the way most businesses look at user engagement also needs to significantly evolve. We shouldn't just be stuck on 'engagement' metrics that captivates the user and no matter what, wouldn't let them go. There's more to product value than tracking how standard KPIs go, e.g: clicks, views, session duration, shares, average time on page, opens per week, etc. Fortunately, more and more high-performing companies are adopting a value-add mindset.

Authenticity, while telling a product story

While measuring retention, frequency of usage and conversion rates are important to keep track of, we need to look one step beyond that. User retention is just the byproduct, not the end-goal. Product teams should find a way to agree on the why and measure the impact they have on the business. They shouldn't be valued by how much they ship. The product should just be useful. Marketing should talk about how the product helps a user now with the occasional founder stories about what they recently learned (instead of generated blog posts on fluffy industry trends and social media posts about Henry Ford and Steve Jobs quotes that they never actually said). It means saying no to popular keywords, opportunities that would increase the generic quantitative metrics without direct value to the user. What’s popular to an algorithm isn’t necessarily good the way it is. The reason people buy your product should be the way it solves their problem. The reason why they read your blog is because they want to learn something about what you did and be more successful by adopting the learnings. We more and more value authentic, personal stories. Just like the mighty BeReal team that has set out to transform social media to be more authentic and grew with a steady pace to over 10 million users in 2 years. By packaging our product in an interesting, compelling, valuable and relatable way, we reach product-market-fit and grow our brand. And while building our brand by telling our unique stories, we remain authentic and helpful.

Reflection brings unity

I believe, with frequent reflection on how to be helpful and add value, we give clarity and alignment for our teams on what features to design, test, build and ship, and what can be traded off. It also gives people the feeling of growth on real outcomes. And even if it is a struggle sometimes to let go of seemingly easy opportunities, it really is worth it to focus. Analytics and usage patterns are great, but real users can tell you a full story about what matters, which helps our teams not just build, but simplify. We need to keep these conversations continuously alive. A North Star Metric and relevant KPIs can help us get closer to our product vision, and as Rand Fishkin said about marketing, it can provide an insight into the soul of a company. Then I believe the product is the hand that connects the soul of the company with its heart through mindful action - feature development, enhancement that adds true value to users. And we need to show heart just as well for our public audience, clients, as for our internal team.

People-first client experience

It is like being with family – when a client knows they can lay back, be open and have trust because we will take care of them. It is the characteristic of companies that pay attention to what the client feels, thinks and does before and after meeting their solution and optimizes for that consciously, learning by doing. Empathic companies' vision come to life driven by a capable team. These companies are more transparent to their process. They are not just startups but e.g. indie consumer brands that openly share the ingredients they use. Companies with customer-first value don't turn evil as they grow. They just really care.

Listening - driven by design

Before we design, we make discovery interviews with our users to know what matters. Before we implement code, we make UX tests and interviews to validate we'll achieve the planned value for our users and it empowers them. We design, measure and iterate the User Journey so that the operations and customer success colleagues get aligned on all client values. We don't just measure conversion rates. We build products and services not for the short-term but for the long run. We understand what creates magic. If we run into a problem, we should always write a personal acknowledgement note and offer to make it right - coming from the head of the department or higher level leadership. Just the same way to celebrating success.

Spread customer empathy to all teams

We share stories internally in the team. What did we learn from Discovery interviews or from ongoing usage data? We want all our people to feel the pain and delight of our customers. A narrative should always be our first deliverable. We make it our responsibility to help the entire team understand the why of a feature development and a project using stories. If a team agrees on the why, they have a better chance of uniting on the what. We combine data, ideas, and customer compassion into effective narratives. Stories are more persuasive—and complete—than raw data or abstract ideas. We need data to make stories tangible and valid. But the story adds a sense of warmth and humanity.

Focus. Leading is curation

We can't do ALL well and in order to focus better, leaders need to design the puzzle pieces of the mission and values of the company. Designing pathways to achieve the vision. Leaders need to listen, capture insights, and let everyone else put their piece of the puzzle to the right place. Achieving a vision is not like a math equation with right-wrong answers, there are multiple great routes to success, yet we must focus and iterate. The first version can always be exceeded by incorporating team feedback and users’ data. Going from building block to building block, step by step, this is how we all become architects - building something stable for a long-run.

Derived from the North Star Metric

We shouldn't just adopt generic metrics used by all companies because without solution-specific metrics, what we build becomes uniform. Value is shown by product-specific metrics, like Canva has been tracking the number of designs created since its launch in 2013, and just recently has celebrated 15 billion designs created by the community by 2023. Canva teams knew stories behind all these designs matter. The North Star Metric can not be revenue. We grow best when all teams in the company can transform the mission to a single goal that reflects on product / service quality. We try to get as close to defining impact as possible. The North Star Metric must be derived from a true understanding of what action provides the most realized value to the customer. It provides clarity for our teams to perform best and define goals to focus on sprint by sprint.

Be proactive by design

I believe it is important to be proactive instead of waiting for command. The leaders' job is synthesizing the company vision with the team's vision on 'what success means' to each team, until it is formed into commonly shared meaningful goals. We promote for teams to set ambitious goals, prioritize, hustle to execute them and celebrate success. We let everyone come up with projects, steps and to-dos that help us achieve the next milestone or objective. Track goals and outcomes, not hours spent. Empower proactive, rather than reactive project management, - product and service design.

High-performing teams

Kind, caring and high-performing are not mutually exclusive characteristics of a team. Think of the best leaders you’ve ever worked with. I bet they cared about you as a person, and they inspired and pushed you hard involving you in the right projects, opening the right doors and giving you meaningful feedback. Leaders of high-performing teams are like coaches.

Performance vs. trust

When leaders trust their team members and know they are not 'quiet quitting' when they do remote work, they actually need less meetings. More empowerment helps people hit higher goals and unsurprisingly perform better. We need two-way communication, social connections, get to know how we can best support personal growth journeys, but we don’t need meetings all the time. We need to leave much more time for productive work than time spent in meetings. Too many circular conversations and not enough decision-making is undermining quality work. We need people in the organization who can take on high-level ownership of goals and empower the team to make things happen. High-performing teams can take an idea to an actual product in a few days with a delightful product experience. They are fast-paced still thoughtful, not because they are rushed to do so, but because they focus on a few key objectives. They are ambitious, committed, and caring. They love solving hard problems and are great at it, they support their fellow teammates and are happy to provide constructive feedback as if one wins, the whole team wins.

Individual growth and team growth

Anything that can help people grow in their role or beyond, it should be on the company. If we can, we should provide employees with their favored tools to do quality work. I have experienced that helping people grow both personally and professionally is one of the best added values we can provide. Learning is growth. And it starts with trying new things, learning by doing.... so, we should not be afraid to make mistakes as long as we have a way to learn from them to make ourselves better. On the long run, it makes us resilient and capable of driving change. And team growth is not about the size. A smaller, determined team with a 'can do' attitude often can develop a more successful, more trustworthy product in shorter time than a large development team. Everyone sitting in the same boat needs to raw in the same direction. And our goal is to teach everyone how to do it best, so we learn together. A unicorn can only fly if everyone is ready to spread their wings.

High-performing Teams in Superflow's Manifesto
Balance between wellbeing and growth

Growth metrics vs. employee wellness

How I see the goal of life, for me it is getting back to being perfectly ourselves while we experience a constant feeling of progress. As I see it, our business is a means to that. To find balance for taking on everyday challenges that we can solve with the skills we have – and let go of the rest. Employees who are engaged at work but not thriving have a 61% higher likelihood of ongoing burnout than those who are engaged and thriving. I believe in hustle in order to go on an unbeaten path to create new value. But I don't believe in hustle culture, growing and scaling as a goal in itself, neither do I believe in taking on investment just for the sake of #startuplife. There is no point in chasing multiple yearly revenues like there is no tomorrow just to be justified. If the product is not mature enough, if it works best for a niche group of people or if it only delivers on its promise in an unscalable format e.g. when paired with consultation, it makes no sense to set multiple yearly revenue goals and work 20 hours a day non-stop to meet them. This is especially hard to grasp when successful people like Elon Musk preach working twice as hard as others. I don’t mean a 4-day-workweek means an ultimate solution, I just mean be mindful of your energy, it doesn’t worth setting unrealistic goals and see people burn out. Dare to dream your dream and live life according to what you believe in. We need the time, space, and agency to grow at our own pace. We need to take care of ourselves and find meaning in our work but also outside of it, independent from the speed of growth.

Meditation & stress management

I can't be happier about the spread of meditation apps and mindfulness trainings for employees - they are long overdue. As a psychologist, I have seen they provide great support to people and convey a message that the company cares about them. But they shouldn't just remain a surface treatment while managers continue to generate the multitude of underlying reasons why people become stressed and burnt out in the first place. The leadership team shouldn't just sit there waiting for the Chief People Officers to create a great employment experience. It's vital that leaders develop curiosity about their team members’ strengths, drivers and interests, where they want to develop and what keeps them at the company. Team leads should all address these topics on 1:1 sessions. A meditation app can help someone reduce stress levels, but doing fulfilling work that requires one to use what they naturally have talent and interest in, and doing it in a sustainable pace also contributes to mental health that we cannot forget about.

Diversity from the core

We should be mindful of what data about users, employees and new hires we track and what we do with it. It is extremely easy to reinforce our biases and conserve the original situation by distinguishing a group of people in any means. Equal opportunities and encouragement, listening to what insights and suggestions they have to share, providing learning and development plans should go for every single person driven by leadership. Anonymity of answers on a listening tour or on a brainstorming session supports diversity and an inclusive culture. Always design for evaluating what people have to say purely on the impact and feasibility of their content, regardless of the author's introversion or extraversion, how many friends or connections they have, their nationality, gender, lived experiences, ability, and generations. Make processes risk-free and provide equal chances to learn and be discovered for the positive impact they create.

AI is not taking over our jobs

Unless we want them to. In the past few decades automated robots have improved efficiency in various industries by replacing people at the production lines and ChatGPT can now do or enhance the work of students and workers alike. However, it doesn't mean technology will eventually need to replace all of us.

“AI design will allow creatives to concentrate on their real jobs.”

reportedly said Tim Cook, CEO of Apple. 

Not just the creative industry can find a great source of inspiration in AI generated content, but all industries even as of right now, let it be marketing or UX copy, a professional essay or design and illustration or feedback on a business plan.  What really happened is more people can get over the writers blockage, speed up complex problem-solving, discover their creative skills or trade generic stock images for those generated by Dall-e, Midjouney, Stable Diffusion, and similar AI. It is similar to working with a colleague - think of either a junior or a supervisor. Juniors have amazing ideas, fresh perspectives, but usually seniors need to review and polish the outcome, sending it back for refinement before it gets published. And supervisors may point areas in our project that needs improvement, they might even give hints how to do it, but will they take our jobs? Not at all. They are great colleagues, they inspire and help us learn and take many tasks off of our shoulders. AI will work the same way, as a private mentor and trainee for all of us.

Technology can be a great colleague, or a friend

Even designers are exploring different collaboration models with AI and creating Figma plugins to help them be more efficient in their day-to-day tasks. More and more plugins help create software code, design a screen based on text command or evaluate a students' essay for university. The output is great as a base line, but we can enhance is with our curation, unique perspectives, emotional intelligence, empathy, values, reading between the lines .... so the output is going to be exceptional when you select the best version from the multiple generated outputs and you work with it, iterate it, refine it, polish it and bring it to life. With AI, you can definitely get a tireless assistant who can help you at every step of the way, patching up your skill gaps, as long as you know how to collaborate with them. You can win a work-friend who never gets upset, never feels insulted about what you say, will always be there to listen and never forgets to invite you to the party. Technology is like that at work. They can have a special role and place in the team, they might even be cute, as long as we expect the right things from them, know their strengths and weaknesses.

Being more human in a technological world

In an era of technological advancement, we will need to get people to care about people first. To be better at being human - from the heart. Generally, we can say that machine-learning algorithms and AI is more efficient and accurate in collecting and analyzing data, pattern recognition and making predictions or suggestions based on that, but AI cannot create a meaningful vision. It cannot make judgment calls or use intuition to be culturally sensitive. It doesn't know how to be good to people. It may connect seemingly unrelated data in new ways, it can predict the popularity of a solution, it can generate new versions - but it doesn’t understand the experience it creates. It doesn’t have a vision of a better world, so we cannot rely solely on technology to design and implement a world where humans thrive.

Where can we be the value-add?

We can use our emotions, empathy, ethics, and values to interpret insights. So where can we be the value add? Where we design the algorithm with care, point AI in the right direction, and give meaning to the analysis. As MIT Professor, Rosalind Picard said "We really do need to build teams that have very different kinds of people who look not only at what we can do, but what we should do. Our teams should bring in lots of different perspectives on the kinds of impact we might create with a feature development or with going forward with what we call 'business as usual'. They probably should talk us down from some of the convenient directions or ideas and help us go a little slower, but a little further together."

Humanity-centered design

Optimizing for human-centered growth is the first step to take care of ourselves, the companies we run and the direct eco-system around us. Being successful also requires us to open the door to asking the question: ‘Is this solution good for our customers? Is it also good for the environment and for the planet? Is it not hurting any group of people?’

Designing for a positive-sum game

The best thing about driving businesses forward in the 21st century is that we can have unlimited number of approaches to a solution. We should be constructive: find ways to make things work the best way. Business plans and results are not quiz answers, there is not one best answer to find. Using our creativity, we can generate a multitude of new, conscious answers that has more chance of resulting in the outcome we want to create. We want to create a positive outcome not just for the company's shareholders, not only for the customers, neither just for our colleagues, but for people and the planet in general for the long-run - and in my opinion that is the meaning of being human in a technological world.

Be more our authentic selves

This is how we can impact a lot of people around us in a positive way. Where through listening, empowerment, and learning by discovering our unique capabilities and perspectives, anyone of us can solve meaningful challenges while being our authentic selves. We will drive new possibilities and select the initiatives that are feasible for the whole ecosystem, not just for humanity, but for all living creatures and the non-living things that surround us, the climate, the planet, the environment. So this way, through creativity, we will not only achieve more, but reach our full potential. And in this world, humans and machines together, we can shape the world the way we want to see it.

Superflow sustainable business growth overview

I have written this manifesto, because in this fast-paced, uncertain world I felt I need to reimagine our priorities and beliefs to build Superflow with a mindset to stay kind, help our clients and employees succeed, grow and feel good about ourselves. With that, I hope I can inspire you, too to write your own.

Priszcilla Garami-Varnagy

CEO, Founder of Superflow  
Adjunct Faculty at SMU Cox School of Business

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