How is Empathy Good for Business?

by Chokdee Rutirasiri

At this year’s annual MIT CIO Symposium, Chief Design Officer Shaun Gummere and I lead a discussion titled: “An Empathetic Approach to Processes and Systems to Improve End User Satisfaction.”

At first, this seemed like an unusual theme for a gathering that usually talks platforms, systems, data, and technology but earlier sessions during the day also centered around delivering great customer experiences.

What stops companies from being more empathetic?

Here is some of what we heard:

  1. Employee performance does not reward you for taking the most care of a customer but rather for selling to the greatest number of customers. For example, a doctor’s performance might be based on how many people he/she sees in one day versus the amount of care given to helping a patient.
  2. Natural resistance to change even if the evidence is there. Pure and simple, this is about inertia. It takes a lot to turn the Titanic.
  3. Gender roles: many folks in technology are men and men are simply not taught to show vulnerability—which by the way is a key pathway to empathy.
  4. Big companies are simply out of touch with what matters “on the ground.”
  5. While many companies might see the value in leading with empathy, they simply will not take a chance for fear of failure.