Why empathy is the key to change the world ?

I think I will always remember this day. On my final day at business school, I had to come to speak about a subject for 25 minutes. Mine was about anticipation in a turbulent world. I chose to challenge it by saying that in such a complex world, rational thinking was not enough, and anticipation was maybe more about adaptation. And by taking this perspective, companies should give room for emotions and especially for empathy by letting this natural human gift flourish in their people. I will never forget the way the teacher and the executive — here to evaluate me — looked at me. Just like if I was totally alien to their world.

For years now, I have been convinced that if we want to shape a better future for ourselves and our children, we should put empathy at the heart of our society. I don’t mean it is easy and I don’t mean it is enough but I think it is a great start.

Empathy is feeling with others, being able to take their perspectives without judging and connect with them in a truly humane way. Some people are able to do that, some are not. I am not sure if you can learn how to be empathetic or if it is a something you have in you from the beginning on. But I do believe you can build an environment where people feel free to use their emotional power to connect with others and with their true self more easily.

Empathy is a skill great designers have. They are able to connect with their users to create experiences, services or products that will help them. Thus, putting empathy at the heart of your business means that you are committed to make the world a better place. Being empathetic is being user-centric, and not just saying you are. But when you are able to open your heart to others, you will also experience the downsides, that is to say, you will also feel all the pain around you, all the despair and the anger. And that is not easy. It is not an easy job but someone has to do it, as they say…

Empathy cannot be taught like mathematics but we can help people to develop it. Like a flower needs water to grow, we need to nurture our heart. The process has to start at school because in most cases, that is the exact moment when kids stop to develop what Howard Gardner called the interpersonal and the interpersonal intelligences. Focusing on emotional intelligence and social skills can help kids to make great use of the natural gift of empathy. Because it is time to claim that being kind is not being weak. It is time to tell our kids that they can create a better world and make a change. It is time to educate the next generation of designers. Because design should be a priority in education. But that’s my next story…

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