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Creating a Healthy Digital Culture: How empathy can change our organizations

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We often think of empathy as an abstract, emotional concept, maybe even see it as a weakness in an organizational context. This presentations suggests that empathy might be our greatest secret weapon to changing our organizations to become higher-performing, more innovative, better places to work, serving happier customers.

From #NowWhat15, http://nowwhatconference.com/

Published in: Technology
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Creating a Healthy Digital Culture: How empathy can change our organizations

  1. 1. This is a talk for the triangle-shaped people, the very symbols of change; the change Kevan Gilbert
  2. 2. We can imagine the future we’re heading for, we can see what stands in our way, and we know how it makes us feel.
  3. 3. That savoury-looking finish line: the end of a project we’re imagining, a digital dream we’re planning, a career we’ve picked out for ourselves.
  4. 4. We can easily see what’s blocking us: the people, the processes, the budget priorities, the time.
  5. 5. And we know how it makes us feel. That sense of ambition, that general frustration, the sense of anticipation at what the future could be like.
  6. 6. It’s all the classic elements of story. But one thing’s missing. DesireConflictEmotion
  7. 7. We may not be the hero. We may have blind spots. We may be part of a larger picture, where we are blocking other people’s paths, too. Everybody is trying to get somewhere. We might be able to get to our futures quicker by just learning to ask some good questions.
  8. 8. The best way to move forward into the future we’re imagining could be be asking what other people need first. Accomplishing your (digital) dreams starts with developing empathy.
  9. 9. There’s that word. Empathy. Accomplishing your (digital) dreams starts with developing empathy.
  10. 10. That ethereal, abstract, nebulous, wishy-washy, feel-good, hippie-flavoured word.
  11. 11. Empathy is not silliness or frivolity. It’s one of the most powerful secret weapons that could change our organizations.
  12. 12. misunderstood. It’s not kindness, although kindness may matter. It’s not pity mply insight into where somebody is coming from. It’s an understanding of uation. It may have an emotional component, but all it is, is insight. Empathy is insight.
  13. 13. And when we use it, it has incredible power. It can help organizations perform better. 1. Perform better Empathy helps organizations:
  14. 14. I see it where I’m from, in Canada. One of our clients this year was an organization in charge of making Canada more innovative, and it was our job to help them tell their story better. This group has studied the link to figure out what it would take to stop Canada’s “brain drain” — people leaving for higher salaries elsewhere. The hand-drawn Canada map is from 123rf.com, image ID
  15. 15. To have a healthy economy, you need to invest in 21st century jobs in technology and innovation. That means increasing the link between academic and industry: where people study, and where people work. This means making sure you’ve got great managers who can look after the talent you’ll be hiring. But to do that well, you’ll need great soft skills. Economy Technology/Innovation Academia Industry Managers Talent Soft Skills The hand-drawn Canada map is from 123rf.com, image ID
  16. 16. That’s the clearest I’ve ever seen the link between our economy and empathy Economy ! ! ! ! ! Soft Skills The hand-drawn Canada map is from 123rf.com, image ID
  17. 17. To think that the GDP could be so closely linked to our EQ. The same is true for our organizations. Our overall output increases when we find better ways to work together, and draw out our best. Economy ! ! ! ! ! Soft Skills The hand-drawn Canada map is from 123rf.com, image ID
  18. 18. 1. Perform better 2. Find more diverse ideas Empathy helps organizations:
  19. 19. Alex Gilliam at the National Building Museum in Washington DC, found that “outlier inspiration” caused innovative thinking to replicate. Our creativity is limited to our influences. When our influences expand, so too does our creativity. The quality and scope of our creative output expands when we involve more diverse perspectives. And if we’re in an organization whose future depends on the quality of our ideas, involving more people will increase our output. The Lego photographs here are from Alex Gilliam, and the one of Alex is from FUEL Vancouver
  20. 20. 1. Perform better 2. Find more diverse ideas 3. Create better workplaces Empathy helps organizations:
  21. 21. There is a huge deficit of listening on our organizations. Like my daughter: she doesn’t need me to do what she says, but she needs to know that I heard her. The same with our teams: the act of being heard can put so many people at ease. Like our designer, who was advocating for responsive design ahead of its time. We eventually listened, and it propelled our organization forward, but imagine if we had listened a year earlier?
  22. 22. Six Thinking Hats is a great tool for processing different types of personal thought and interpersonal discussion. Pick the right hat to draw out the right contribution. Blue is cool/ calm/control, red=emotion, white=data, green=creativity, yellow=optimism, black=risks. When we start using tools like this, we can create better places to work. That is going to increase retention and engagement as we start acting on that insight. The concept belongs to Edward DeBono, and these hat sketches are from
  23. 23. Using empathy well can also create happier customers. That’s something that the user experience and content strategy community really gets: studying users, and making changes accordingly. 1. Perform better 2. Find more diverse ideas 3. Create better workplaces 4. Create happier customers Empathy helps organizations:
  24. 24. For Imperial College London, one of the world’s top science schools, we saw this happen. Tracey Falk of Domain7 took this photograph
  25. 25. Over a 2-year process of strategy, design, and QA—with a big focus on accessibility, in which our team would listen to the website as it was coded—it was a Webby honoree, and shot up 250 points in the UK higher ed accessibility rankings.
  26. 26. This was a card-sorting exercise we ran, and this is Angus in the vest, who runs the library. Angus at one point is going to de-prioritize the library, understanding that it is valuable to him but not to the majority of users. This self-selection is brave, and could only happen in a context like this. Tracey Falk of Domain7 took this photograph also
  27. 27. This is one of the best ways to help people change their minds. Workshops create involvement. ! Involvement creates change.
  28. 28. I didn’t always appreciate the value of workshops; it wasn’t until the THNK School of Creative Leadership brought me through a session. I was frustrated about being thrown together with new people, and didn’t agree with the process. I was told, “you might need to work on your explorative mindset,” and I realize the facilitator was right. I had viewed me self and my process as the sole source of creative ideas, and was blocked to the views of others. This photograph is from THNK FUEL Vancouver
  29. 29. “Tell me and I’ll forget. Teach me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.” ! - Benjamin Franklin
  30. 30. Moving out of the traditional Mad Men style, into an approach that invites involvement. “Pitch me and I’ll fight you. Persuade me and I’ll begrudgingly believe. Involve me and I’ll champion the idea like it was my own.”
  31. 31. If you want to get the best ideas, and shepherd them through to reality, and you don’t know how that happens…it happens like babies happen. It starts with consent. It needs more than one person. There’s a long gestation period. A painful delivery. And a lifetime of love and care. And if you ask a romantic coach or an ideas coach on how to make either happen, I hope the answer would be, start by being a good listener. Ideas happen like babies happen.
  32. 32. There are a few different types of listening you can develop. Self-awareness, one-to-one listening, and group listening (workshops and facilitation). Self 1-1 Group
  33. 33. We’ve put together some resources for you that are our favourites for these activities, to help you learn our favourite workshops. Adaptive Path’s Experience Mapping, IDEO’s Human- Centered Design, Google Ventures Design Sprints, Hyper Island’s Toolbox, Six Thinking Hats, the Birkman, and more.
  34. 34. But maybe you don’t want to learn that. Maybe you just want to do your job. Empathy is not my job.
  35. 35. Where does organization culture sit in an org chart?
  36. 36. Set by the CEO? By the director of HR? (triangle/square fight) Culture?
  37. 37. Culture is the network behind the scenes. It’s the lines that connect us. Your influence shapes the culture. Every email you send, every interaction you have, that’s shaping the culture. You have as much influence over the culture as anybody else.
  38. 38. There are two paths you can take to making your ideas a reality. Two roads:
  39. 39. The route of persuasion, which we’re all set up to do in our organizations: - Start your “your idea first” - Experience frustration, people saying no, with only the possibility of success - Arrive at a sense of personal triumph - And possibly some burned bridges Two roads: Persuasion
  40. 40. Or, start by valuing the connections first. Prize the idea, yes, but the collective vision, and pursue that together. It will still be frustrating, people will say no, and there is still only the possibility of success. But when you triumph, it’s collective triumph. Everybody wins. And the roads you build are permanent. You can travel them again, for the next project. Two roads: Empathy Persuasion
  41. 41. But empathy is not magic. When you commit to using the empathy route, the culture does not magically change.
  42. 42. The future is too good for us to hold on to our egos. ! It will be awkward at first. Like that tentative first clap in a quiet auditorium, when you’re thinking you might be the only one making noise. It’s a vulnerable first step, to step aside from your vision, and start being a listener. But like Brene Brown says, vulnerability is courage. And courage is contagious.
  43. 43. And after that first clap, the entire room joins in, until the atmosphere is unrecognizable. It changes around you. !
  44. 44. Thank you.

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