Empathy and corporate innovation

ph: strategy + business website

With the latest pandemic, empathy has entered the business vocabulary becoming one of the mantra in corporate management. In an interview on Strategy+Business [link here] Stanford Professor and author of “The War for Kindness” Jamil Zaki profiles the benefits of empathy for both societies and business organizations.

One of my favorite parts of the interview is definitely this one below, describing how empathy feeds innovation.

S+B: Is there a connection, then, between empathy and innovation? You talk in your book about the role of imagination in helping people build empathy. Does that ability to imagine another perspective also enable innovation?
ZAKI:
Absolutely. For instance, in many design firms, the first step employees take when they want to create something new and useful is to put themselves in the body and mind of the end-user. Through that simulation, they’re better able to innovate. This is called empathic design.

And there’s another way organizational empathy can foster innovation, which is by creating a feeling of safety. According to a study by researchers at Texas A&M University, when people feel that their leaders and managers are empathic, they spend more of their time taking risks. They feel safer trying out new ideas because they know that even if they stray off the path, they aren’t going to be scolded or shut down. And as a result, they are more productive and innovative.

Do not invest in the latest technology or innovation consultants if you haven’t validated an empathic work culture first.