Talking about empathy has become a must for companies and marketing agencies. The concept is attractive to engage with customers and generate sentiment among potential and loyal consumers. Sweet and tender images and music populate media and social media, pretending to break our heart and show compassion for the less privileged in the unequal times we live.
But empathy is a lot more than that, of course. Beyond the sentiment, it is a skill that actually very few people have or understand. Empathy is difficult for most of us because it fights the ego we have been glorifying for centuries in the western world. Empathy implies humility and sensitivity, and demands total immersion in the story and conflict of others, to the point of questioning our identity and beliefs.
Empathic beings know and feel the thoughts and feelings people in opposite situations have, they get why others have them and how they feel. They understand how others perceive and understand reality, and are also able to not see others through their own story. These beings are capable of creating and running human-centered organizations and policies that put people first deeply and have the capacity to innovate for them, bringing real value to everyone. But current times do not really help to do this. We are getting more and more used to see people as their social media profile, the pictures they share, and the stories they tell in platforms and screens. On top of that social distancing and security measures to prevent health issues make us voluntarily think of others as dangerous and suspicious.
In practical terms, our current history is pushing us away from empathic visions and more empathic organizations. It becomes really hard to design and run businesses that are actually human-focused instead of technology or information focused. The easy and profitable path is to find a great idea, grow it exponentially using technology and media, monetize it, and jump into the next one before we see any impact. Results need to be faster than life. Never the less, they are short term.
In a parallel dimension of reality, the human-centered approach exists. A few eccentric millionaires, the usual intellectuals, some Hollywood celebrities, and a bunch of powerful Millenials have understood that the long term survival of our society requires putting human beings first and prioritizing benefit over profit and sustainability over growth (especially exponential growth).
These visionaries are contradicting the trends and leaping in time into a future where we may actually survive. Their secret is simple, they understand the world as a system where humans are not on top but in the center, in direct relation to all living beings and the markets and with the power and responsibilities that make them truly own the world.
Gerry Marten’s Human Ecology - Basic Concepts for Sustainable Development
The human-centered approach is possible in your organization if your vision is truly outside the box and the game you play is real profit, purpose, and impact. These three elements are linked together and act as a powerful algorithm. The impact is the change you cause in people and society. It is intentional (or not) and determines all the relations you establish between your organization, people, and entities (private or public). it becomes beneficial or a heavy burden depending on its nature. The purpose is the path you follow to achieve your impact, planned or not this path defines you and becomes systematic in the implementation of processes, objectives, and projects. The real profit is what your organization actually obtains after causing the change by implementing the purpose, but this one is tricky since it may be only partially perceived. Profit is commonly valued in money terms which is just part of it.
The balance of a company by the end of the year beyond its final earnings is what the organization obtains in terms followers and haters, a place in the mind of people, stakeholders, shareholders and industry, a shorter or longer deadline for its existence, higher and lower risks of expansion, internal cultural development and the right to be invested in or not.
The human-centered approach improves most of the earnings mentioned before and paves the path to financial, social, and organizational sustainability by making. people engage not only as customers, investors, or employees but also as competitors, copycats, and aspiring workers that extend your deadline into the future.