The Empathy Gene

January 01, 2014

The Empathy Gene

I read this article about the D.school — formally known as the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University. A founder, David Kelly who is also a founder of IDEO, says that one of the key skills they want to inculcate in students is how to develop “an empathy muscle.” D.school students are taught to think about people, visit their homes or wherever people’s problems exist. But also importantly, students are shown how to push away from those tantalizing computer screens and spreadsheets and go out into the world. What a concept. Can I sign up now? Students work on infant mortality, malnutrition, maladies like club foots, and such mundane things such as a better way to eat ramen noodles. They are taught and challenged to solve societal and life’s everyday problems by having the empathy that allows them to see the solution.

Of course, I made the leap to how this applies to corporate and CEO reputation. CEOs today must have the “empathy gene” to succeed or else they are not listening. Part of the backlash against former Mayor Bloomberg of New York was that he was perceived to be missing this gene. New New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, in contrast, is seen as a public official with empathy built into his DNA  — especially as he continues to fight against inequality in New York. Lets see how much de Blasio focuses in the months ahead on the needs of working people and getting things done. First, he has a major snow storm to deal with coming our way.

 

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross
lesliegainesross@gmail.com

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of reputations.

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