The pure technical side of empathy (in your company)

If you’re running a company you’re having a problem. If you’re running a company of a certain size you’re having much the same problem – potentiated.

Of course there are many many problems you’ve got if you’re part of a company. But among them is one central problem I want to point at in this article.  It’s „central“ because if you care about solutions for this special problem you solve many other company-problems  at the same time. You could call this problem „systematical disconnection“.

People in companies tend to operate very disconnected from each other. Misunderstanding and misinterpretation of actions of our co-workers (which I prefer to call „co-entrepreneurs“ or „companions“) are the rule, not the exception. As we’re speaking about business here this misunderstanding means costs. And nothing is as expensive from my perspective as the „usual level of misunderstanding“ in our companies. Misunderstanding that we often don’t recognize at all, because we have no ways of instant feedback that makes us recognize that there was a misunderstanding at all. The formal ways in which we give each other feedback in most of our companies don’t work. Often they tend more to be „ways to successfully avoid any feeback that impacts us“.

But there is an even more technical way to speak about this problem. If we put it this way it’s a fundamental lack of information everybody in our company suffers from day by day: our companions as much as ourselves. This lack of information is a systematical problem because it can’t be avoided by just „talking more“ or „using smarter information-sharing-tools“. Human beings can be very different especially when there in different situations. And especially if we have a very good organization with a very good division of work indeed everybody is in a very different situation in our company although working for the same goals (if it’s really a good company).

So we are very different, experience very different things, get to know very different things, see the same things very different because we’re doing different things of our common company. – This dissimilarity and variety is of cause a good thing for our business.

But god or nature or how you want to put it is a very kind thing: It created our hardware as human beings in a way that makes us able to deal with this problem and even get additional value out of this problem. The wonder about this is that we got the natural resources to overcome this problem from a time when there was no such thing as a „company“. Or only „company“ in a very wide sense of this word not in the sense how we use the word nowadays. Companies in our nowaday sense exist no longer than about 200 or 300 years. Nevertheless our biological hardware allows us to create sustainable solutions for the one central problem our companies suffer from today.

The cure to disconnection – in companies and elsewhere – is our ability to perform „empathy“ with each other (no surprise if you took notice of the title of this article… 😉 ). Our ability to perform empathy comes from our biological hardware as mirror neurons, hormonal responses and other stuff from ancient times when we were living in a stone age tribe and had to find „cooperative solutions“ not to make big business but to survive. Because of our ability to empathize with each other we succeeded and the sabertooth didn’t.

There are socio-economical modells in existence that show in a very convincing way that many cooperative individuals must necessarily succeed over a few very powerful and egoistic individuals of which we would expect that they cannibalize the other ones in the population. – If we are willing to put the sabertooth and us as a part of „the same population“ to keep this article short. If this is true our widespread concurrence orientation is a suicidal strategy if „the Cro-magnon“ is rising in our market and empathy cultivating companies show us the way.

To be honest: Stone age times are long gone. These days we can just experiment and use our given ability to empathize systematically to connect with the very different companions of our company. But to stay technical: what do we get out from this empathic connection with our co-entrepreneurs? My answer is: Informations!

Informations not only about the state of our company and our common business. But informations about the present state of our co-entrepreneurs. – And the state of our co-entrepreneurs is in sum the state of our company. If you know what needs your companions really have and what they really need at the moment, you’re knowing what you can do to make your company better from your side. If you don’t know nothing about this „dimension“ of your co-entrepreneurs you don’t really know what you can do to run your business better. If you’re only caring about numbers and only connect with the numbers of your company you don’t know what it takes from you’re side to be successful (this is why pure controllers should never be the CEOs of a company; in the best case controllers are intern service providers).

The good news is: You’re already using „empathy“ in your daily business. For if my analysis is correct, your company would have stopped to exist months or years ago, because no company can exist in a state of perfect disconnection.

The „bad“ news is: Learning to use empathy much more systematically in your company is something different from just learning to handle a new technique. This is so if „technique“ just means: „Learn to push the button over there so you get more of the desired outcome XYZ“. Technique in this sense is driven by the imagination of staying much the same person before and after pushing such a button.

In short: Using empathy systematically in your company changes who you are. Or to put it less pathetic: It’s not possible to use empathy as natural information sharing tool in companies without being changed yourself by doing this. Because to connect with the need-dimension of your co-entrepreneurs you have also to connect with the need-dimension of yourself.

Although there’s indeed a kind of technique in existence to use empathy systematically in companies, practicing this „technique“ results more in a new attitude in the end and therefore changes „who you are“ in your company. – From a scientific point of view this is „state of the art“ because modern science tells us that it is impossible to change something without being changed by this change ourselves. We’re always part of the system we want to influence. And „being part of“ does also mean „being influenced“. Always. So no entrepreneur is „like a god standing above the matter and creating it“.

Therefore the influence of a CEO acting like such a disconnected god is ZERO. And the relevant information he or she gets from the system is ZERO too. This kind of CEO might nevertheless develop strategies on this ZERO information. Strategies that sound powerful but remain without effect because of his or her disconnect to the company. A company the CEO is no part of in truth.

Because real „company“ means a connection that goes beyond deals like „I give you this and get that from you“. For all too long we tried to manage our companies by just dealing. Which meant we were struggling with each other to get the best out for ourselves instead of working together for a goal we really share.

I think it’s time to start connecting systematically with each other to drive the business together and to enjoy the incomparable power of a „WE“. A WE we’re not only talking about in some wishful thinking. But a WE we really feel and experience in our daily business.

Some people even say: „It’s not the job of a CEO to develop strategies at all. His or her job is to higher the level of connection among the other co-entrepreneurs in the company. And by doing this enabling THEM to find better strategies with each other.“ „Better“ means in this context: More successful strategies for the common company of course.


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