Design Thinker in Action since 2012

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Thinking About Empathy (1)

Posted on: 29 ago 2012

"I know the joy of fishes in the river through my own joy, as I go walking along the same river."
Chuang Tzu

I'm not participating much in my favorite Groups lately: Besides my regular work, I'm quite busy thinking about empathy. It might sound freaky, it's ok: I'm a nerd. I admit it. The thing is that I'm confused and need answers to my questions.

Suddenly, everyone talks about empathy. It feels almost as a new capability that never existed before...a brand new tool of understanding and innovate...

There are workshops that would teach you how to develop empathy, and conferences, books, and talks...and Empathy Tools that would use simulation devices to gain first-hand insights into particular problem related to customers that can can prompt an empathic understanding of users in a role playing situation...Are we learning a kind of functional Empathy
In other words: 

Are we learning to be empathic just to understand better our clients? Do we need to master empathy just to succeed in our professions? A product-oriented-empathy?

I don´t get it. Or maybe I do:

This obsession with mastering empathy is, at the end, another trick to engage customers back to the track? In other words, are we all faking empathy? 

I don't know. 

Empathy as the ability to understand what someone is feeling, is the essence of human kind: It is what differences us from animals. Being empathic is inherent to all of us. So let's say than being empathic is being human, isn't it?

Does it mean that we have been acting in our professions in a unhuman way till now? I mean: This "discovering" of empathy by  business and companies... is it just the evidence of our previous dehumanized procedures? Have we been living two lives: the dehumanized one at work, and the empathic one in our personal life? How can one be empathic a few a hours a day and then...choose not to? 

I don't think so. Empathy it's not only about understanding: It's about emotion.
The inner emotion of recognizing a common link, a common ground with another human being. Being one with others. Recognizing yourself in others. Real communication. What Einstein wanted to achieved, simply to "experience the universe as a single significant whole." This is possible through real empathy. 
How can you understand what anybody else feels if you don't understand your own self? Does it mean that empathy need to be mastered through personal experience and awareness?
How can you understand joy, if you have never felt it?

We need outsiders into our business and economic establishment.

In my opinion -let's say my theory- there are people that
dive deep into LIFE (the life that occurs outside an office), experiencing other worlds in first hand and learn awareness and meaningful insights completely out of our reach.

This people are almost impossible to find in a business and economy related world because, as we all know, we -professionals- are surrounded by other professionals like ourselves working, in similars environments since our graduation, with lives quite identical to ours, and so are our friends...
It takes a lot of effort and dedication to build a successful career... so most of successful professionals, CEOs and world leaders haven't had had the opportunity to know "other worlds" besides their similar own world.

Everyone talks -in our design and business context- about innovation and mastering empathy...I believe that we need to include outsiders to our business world: Empathic-outsiders to help us with their meaningful, real-life insights.

Maybe real innovation would be to permit the rest of the world in our little business world
And see what happens...

(Design thinking and design process, by the way)

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