Furniture-maker Herman Miller has written about the importance of empathy in its innovation process on its Discovery blog, referencing our work in Wired to Care. A nice little appetizer of a pice.
- May 6, 2011 1:29pm , Comments Off on Empathy at Herman Miller
- May 4, 2011 9:46am , Comments Off on Further Scientific Evidence That Empathy is Physical, Too
In Wired to Care, we discuss how special cells in our brains called mirror neurons allow us to experience what other people are feeling — not just in an imagined way, either. Repeated tests have shown that both people performing an activity and people observing an activity experience identical brain activity.
And new research shows that this goes far beyond our minds. Researchers in Europe recently went to the Spanish village of San Pedro Manrique to look at how mirror neurons respond to a particularly extreme physical test — ritualized fire-walking. For those of you who have never had the pleasure (don’t worry, we haven’t either), this consists of walking 23 feet along a bed of blazing oak coals. This tradition has gone on in San Pedro for time immemorial, every June 23 in recognition of the Summer Solstice.
The researchers wanted to see how the ritual truly affected the community. Not just from an anthropological or cultural standpoint, but from a biological one. So they outfitted the firewalkers with heart-rate monitors, and they did the same for those merely observing. What they learned was astonishing. Family members of fire-walkers and other long-time residents of the village had almost exactly the same heartbeats as the people walking across the coals. The same peaks, the same valleys, and the same pace. Tourists who were there to view an oddity, however, were out of sync.
The empathic implications of this are quite remarkable. When we view someone else as being like us, whether through family ties, friendship, or simple identification, we are capable of literally syncing our physiology to them — feeling what they are feeling. When the fire-walker conquers danger, all of his observers do, too. Conversely, when we view other people as tourists do, we don’t really feel what’s going on with them — we see novelty and we don’t really get it.
The challenge for companies is to truly identify with the people they hope to serve, not to see them as novelties. When you can get inside their heads, it’s remarkable what you can learn.
Via New York Times.
- January 18, 2011 12:07pm , Comments Off on Wired to Care E-Book Edition on Sale (1/17 to 1/22)
Do you love free knowledge? Then you’re in luck! The Kindle edition of Wired to Care is now available for free this week (U.S. customers only) on Amazon.com and Whispernet. Named a top read by both BusinessWeek and FastCompany, Wired to Care shows how companies prosper when then create widespread empathy. To get your e-book edition, click here.
- December 14, 2010 11:49pm , Comments Off on Check Out Our New Hybrid Thinking Blog!
Almost two years ago, we released Wired to Care, our first book and the definitive guide to harnessing empathy as an engine of growth. Today, we’d like to announce that we’ve got a big new idea, one that’s still in its early stages. That idea is hybrid thinking, the conscious mash-up of multiple disciplines to solve most intractable ambiguous problems facing us today. When multiple disciplines inhabit the same brain, something magical starts to happen. The disciplines themselves start to mutate. They hybridize.
There’s a lot to say about it, a lot to discover, and a great conversation to have along the way. Check out the discussion at our new Hybrid Thinking blog. We can’t wait to hear from you!
- November 30, 2010 10:53pm , Comments Off on The Evolutionary Advantages of Empathy
The survival of the fittest might not mean what we assume it does. The Darwinian idea of natural selection posits that weak species die out while those with advantageous traits persist, which has given us our current selection of flora and fauna worldwide. But a new USA Today article by noted aging journalist Gail Sheehy suggests that empathy itself might be one of the traits that allows people to thrive.
As Sheehy notes, a recent study at SUNY-Stonybrook found that older adults in a caregiver role were more likely to live longer than peers without someone to take care of. Moreover, Darwin himself argued it was our ability to get along with each other, form cities and develop civilization that has given us such significant advantage over animals. After all, one person is pretty poor at fighting a lion or catching a wildebeest, but 30 can do it just fine. And companies can extend their lives just as readily as people can. The only way for that instinct to get along to be triggered is in-person, up-close and personal. So enjoy your longer life, and remember who’s counting on your business.
- November 30, 2010 10:30pm , Comments Off on Reflections on Creating Widespread Empathy at Healthcare Design 2010
Michael Plueghoeff, the author of the blog for Steelcase’s Nurture, a healthcare environments and furniture venture, has a nice post up reflecting on Dev’s recent keynote at Healthcare Design 2010 in Las Vegas. A veteran of many quality healthcare conferences, he had kind words to share:
I thought, and a number of others who heard him agreed, that Mr. Patnaik was an excellent choice to kick off the conference. He focused on the disconcerting reality that many organizations have lost critical connections with their key constituencies and how to remedy that situation by working to create widespread empathy that leads to innovation, growth and success.
Thanks, Michael. There’s nothing more gratifying than meeting other like-minded individuals in business.
- August 22, 2010 9:55pm , Comments Off on Lessons From the Year’s Least-Empathic Leaders
The Sunday Business section in the New York Times has an incredible, detailed article that neatly lays out what not to do in the face of a business crisis. Reporter Peter S. Goodman makes a lacerating case against BP’s dreadful response to the Gulf oil disaster, Toyota’s tentative apologies amid a mass recall, and Goldman Sachs’s defiant admission that it had bet against its customers in the months leading up to the financial collapse of late 2008. The article frames the problem as being poorly practiced public relations, but we think it instead emphasizes how difficult it is to conduct good PR when the underlying story is an unpleasant one.
It would be hard to find a collection of executives who possess less evidence of empathy for the people affected by their companies’ decision-making. Tony Hayward of BP, for example, made headlines by proclaiming that “I want my life back” while over-seeing the clean-up following the explosion of one of his company’s oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico — a message that landed with a thud in the face of his many employees who had actually lost their lives. Akio Toyoda of Toyota, meanwhile, made a tone-deaf appearance in Congress during which he apologized for some quality problems with his company’s cars but refused to acknowledge the extent of the mistake. And, of course, there was Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, who dubbed banking “God’s work” shortly after a meltdown that showed the wages of greed.
How can any leader behave in such a publicly out-of-touch manner? Each of these leaders has acted in a fashion that seems to demonstrate that they have no idea how to make right the wrong that they have done, and, worse, none of them seems to have any notion of why anyone is angry with them in the first place. How to avoid such a problem in your own business? For one, it helps to not actually do harm, as the preponderance of evidence suggests these companies did. But secondly, the simplest way to stay on a true path and make business about generating positive social impact is to know, respect, and understand the people you serve.
Familiarity doesn’t breed contempt. It fosters respect. We would all do well to remember that.
- August 8, 2010 8:10pm , 1 comment
Our old friend Sam Ford of Peppercom has a great column up at Fast Company about how too many marketers are willing to bombard their audiences with messages and blasts that have no relevance to their lives. Sam’s suggested solution? Empathy. If more marketing managers remembered what it feels like to get hounded, they would never do it themselves.
Marketers continue all-too-often blasting audiences with the same types of messages they lament as audience members. And too many, for some reason, seem unable to connect the dots between the telemarketer harassing us and the role we play with the audiences we bombard from our cubicle or office.
Hear, hear, Sam. Give it a read and let him know what you think!
- July 12, 2010 10:29am , Comments Off on UXGuys Blog: “about as engaging as it gets for me.”
Pete had the chance to connect with the Calgary chapter of the User Experience Book Club a few months back, and the group has now reviewed Wired to Care for their readers. They describe empathy as being at the absolute core of the work they do:
So how does the notion of empathy fit into user experience design? Well, it is actually one of the most important concepts when approaching a design problem and this is why “Wired to Care” continues to bubble up to the surface when I am thinking about design problems. If a company can’t understand what is happening when a customer interacts with their product or service—the challenges, the constraints, the “ah-ha” moments—then it is going to be a very tall order to gather requirements and create solutions that actually solve any sort of problem relating a customer and/or user.
- July 5, 2010 10:59pm , Comments Off on Searching the Human Terrain for Vision
S. Anthony Iannarino of The Sales Blog has published a terrific article discussing how the U.S. military’s Human Terrain System (a group of Army-employed anthropologists who talk with civilians in war zones to understand how to create more lasting peace) relates to the process of sales. The HTS is a powerful example of empathy trumping aggression time after time. In one celebrated case, the HTS managed to stop insurgent violence in a small city near Fallujah by rebuilding a volleyball court that had been destroyed in fighting. The town hadn’t provided cover for insurgents because they hated American troops. They provided cover because they were upset that their favorite recreation had been disrupted.
As Iannarino rightly notes, most companies too often fall into a mindset of fighting insurgents instead of understanding why they hold appeal. Rather than launching new solutions based on brand, competitors, or emerging technologies, it’s much more helpful to understand the lay of the land. You need to know the situation on the ground.