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The Driving Force of Free Markets Is Empathy, Not Greed

Both capitalists and anti-capitalists frequently accuse capitalism of being a system driven by selfishness and greed. Capitalism’s defenders sometimes say: “By nature, man is selfish, which is why socialism will never work. Capitalism better reflects the fundamental characteristics of human nature.” Anti-capitalists claim that capitalism promotes the worst characteristics in man, especially greed.

But are greed and unbridled selfishness really the driving forces of capitalism? Human self-interest is one—not the only—driving force of all human action. But this has nothing to do with a particular economic system. Rather, it is an anthropological constant. In capitalism, however, this self-interest is curbed by the fact that only the entrepreneur who prioritizes other people’s needs can be successful.

There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that empathy, rather than greed, is the true driving force of capitalism. Empathy is the ability to recognize and understand another person’s feelings and motives, and this is the most important characteristic of successful entrepreneurs.

Take Steve Jobs as an example. He came up with the iPhone and other products because he understood modern consumers’ needs and desires better than anyone else. Under capitalism, consumers can (and do) punish companies that behave selfishly and lose sight of the needs of their customers.

The same applies to Mark Zuckerberg, today one of the world’s richest people. He created Facebook because he knew better than other entrepreneurs what people wanted. Like all successful entrepreneurs, it was consumers who made Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg so rich.For many years, the Albrecht brothers were the richest people in Germany. They earned their fortunes from the food discounter Aldi, which was founded on the principle of offering good quality products at very reasonable prices. This was the same recipe for success followed by Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, who was consistently one of the richest people in the United States.

Consumers’ purchasing decisions confirm that Jobs, Zuckerberg, the Albrecht brothers, and Sam Walton had correctly understood their customers’ desires, needs, and emotions.

Of course, under the capitalist system, there are also examples of companies that have acted selfishly and lost sight of the wants and needs of consumers.

One example is Deutsche Bank, which has faced thousands of lawsuits. Such companies are punished under capitalism, not only by the law but far more so by the market. Deutsche Bank lost its position as one of the world’s leading banks because it put the interests of its investment bankers above those of its customers and shareholders.

Even companies that appear omnipotent today, such as Google or Facebook, will not retain their power forever.

A company’s most important asset is its image, and companies that behave like Deutsche Bank end up incurring massive damage to their images and reputations; their customers lose confidence and flock to their competitors.

In socialist systems, on the other hand, consumers are powerless and at the mercy of state-owned companies. If a state enterprise acts with no regard for the needs of consumers, they have no alternative under socialism because there is no competition.

Under capitalism, consumers can (and do) punish companies that behave selfishly and lose sight of the needs of their customers. Every day, customers vote on the company with their wallets—by buying its products or not.

Monopolies under capitalism are a temporary phenomenon. Even companies that appear omnipotent will eventually be ousted by new competitors as soon as they overreach their power and lose sight of their customers’ needs.

Ever since capitalism has existed, anti-capitalists have criticized the system’s inherent tendency to create monopolies. Lenin wrote over 100 years ago that imperialism and monopoly capitalism are the last stages of capitalism. But the monopolies he criticized at the time no longer exist. Even companies that appear omnipotent today, such as Google or Facebook, will not retain their power forever. Other companies and ambitious young entrepreneurs will seize the opportunity as soon as Google or Facebook starts to act too selfishly.

What is strange is that socialists who criticize capitalism for its tendency to form monopolies are in favor of state-owned companies. After all, the state is the most powerful monopolist of all, with the ability to brutally trample on the needs and wishes of its citizens through its means of coercion and because there are no alternatives for the customer.

The fact that people and companies pursue their own interests is the same in every society. This is not a specific feature of capitalism.

Under capitalism, though, only those entrepreneurs and companies who prioritize their customers’ interests rather than their own self-interest will achieve success in the long-term. Companies that fail to understand and respect what consumers want will lose market share and may even disappear entirely as they are driven out by other companies that better meet their customers’ needs.

Empathy, the ability to recognize the desires and needs of others, is the true basis of capitalism—not unbridled greed and selfishness.

Source: The Driving Force of Free Markets Is Empathy, Not Greed

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Workplace diversity creates a business better suited to meet its goals. Through Eudaimonia and acceptance of differences, empathy is a path to business success. Matthew Gonnering is the CEO of Widen, a marketing technology company founded in 1948. Blessed to work with highly intelligent, playful, self-starting Wideneers, Matthew has reshaped his role into “Chief Eudaimonia Officer.” His mission is to create happiness, health and prosperity for his colleagues, customers and community. Matthew joined Widen in 2000 and became CEO in 2009. His team solves marketing and creative problems with digital asset management (DAM) software. Under Matthew’s leadership, Widen has become a WorldBlu Freedom-Centered Workplace™ and a Madison Magazine Best Place to Work. His ongoing commitment to faith, family, education, and nonprofit work shape his desire to ground organizational culture in humanity. Matthew and his beautiful wife Sarah have five energetic children and reside in the Madison area. He lives a eudaimonious life and encourages others to do the same. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx

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The Power of Empathy in the Workplace

We’ve all had those moments of pure attention, when it seems everyone in the room is attracted to your energy. Yet for many of us, that place is difficult to tap into. Your mind races with nervousness about something previously said and you worry about what to say next, each distraction lessening the power of your interaction.

The key to success in these moments is empathy. This ability to understand and relate to others is a powerful skill that takes work, but in mastering it, you can better both your personal and professional interactions.

Related: Use these five elements of psychology to improve your writing.

The Power of Empathy

Empathy is about establishing trust by outwardly recognizing what someone else is experiencing. It’s difficult for people to fully engage in any interaction if they don’t feel that they are being heard and understood.

Think about how free and open your interactions are with close friends and family. Your conversations are super productive because you have each freed yourself to fully engage.

However, at work or in our other day-to-day interactions, we are naturally cautious. We withhold information, we don’t ask the tough questions, and it’s much harder to make decisions or resolve issues. That generally leads to subpar outcomes.

Four Steps for Practicing Empathy

1. Observe: Pay attention to voice, tone, body language, and the situation.
2. Listen: What feelings and emotions are being conveyed?
3. Interpret: What needs are behind those feelings and emotions?
4. Share: Openly state what you think you understand about the other person and ask for feedback to make sure you’re right.

Straightforward, right? Not exactly.

Why Listening is Scientifically a Struggle

Being a good empathizer is largely connected with being a good listener.

Chris Voss, former FBI negotiator and author of Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, explains that it’s a struggle to focus in attentive moments because listening is far from a passive activity. It is the most active thing you can do, and empathetic listening can power some of the most fundamental functions of your workplace.

If you struggle with listening, you are not alone. Renowned author and journalist Michael Pollan examined this difficulty in his recent book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence.

Pollan found that a major area of the brain known as the default mode network (DMN), which acts as an overseer keeping brain operations in check, is most likely the very operator that makes active listening so difficult.

How the DMN Works

The DMN is what kicks in when you have nothing to do. And it seems to be responsible for the construction of what we call the self or ego. It’s all that noise that comes pouring in when you’re in idle; the flood of thoughts about the past and future and myriad distractions that we often feel powerless to overcome. It can become who we are. It also leads to rumination and self-referential thinking, which is not conducive to empathy.

The DMN is powerful, but you are not powerless to resist it. Attention, focus, and active listening help quiet the ego, allowing you more effective listening.

Try this: Consistent meditation, even just 10 minutes a day, has been shown to decrease activity in the DMN, which then leads to better empathy.

Practicing Empathy in the Workplace

Empathy in the workplace is something I encourage the team at D Custom to actively practice. Here are some of the things it can power.

Empathy and Negotiating

While Voss’ FBI negotiations might not be the first place your mind goes in wondering where and how empathy might be better understood and applied, it is paramount in their field. As he notes, when preparing for a negotiation, it’s more important to concentrate on demeanor and state of mind rather than what you will say or do. This is empathy in all its glory.

Empathy and Trust

Empathy establishes trust, and establishing trust enables more productive working relationships. By practicing empathy in the workplace, you will expose goals and concerns more readily. And you cannot resolve issues until that comes from both sides.

Implementing empathy to build trust starts with recognizing people’s fears and validating them without passing judgment or offering a solution. If you do that in a consistent way as a team member or leader, you will get all manner of engagement from your team.

Empathy and Creativity

Empathy is about a genuine connection, and active listening is a gateway to thoughtful collaboration. Ideas come to light in a creative environment, and an attentive approach helps increase input so much that possibilities expand in a way they would not have otherwise.

Empathy can be a force for powerful relationships. From persuading groups to negotiating with terrorists to growing a fruitful community of coworkers, empathy emerges as an imminent provider of success. It’s wired into our psychology to the point that we can’t resist it. So be present and empathy will follow. From that, the possibilities are boundless.

By Paul Buckley

Source: The Power of Empathy in the Workplace | D Custom

 

Empathy and Emotional Intelligence at Work | GGSC | Empathy Magazine

One of the key insights from the science of happiness is that our own personal happiness depends heavily on our relationships with others. By tuning into the needs of other people, we actually enhance our own emotional well-being. The same is true within organizations: those that foster trusting, cooperative relationships are more likely to have a more satisfied, engaged—and more productive and innovative—workforce, with greater employee loyalty and retention.

Source: Empathy and Emotional Intelligence at Work | GGSC | Empathy Magazine

What Blocks Our Empathy In The Design Thinking Process?

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Empathy is the foundation of the whole Design Thinking process. Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes enhances our ability to receive and process information, which helps us understand how other people experience the world.

As a product designer, I know that empathy helps me to recognise the difficulties that people face, alongside their needs and desires, and that I can then use that knowledge to design the best solution for their challenges.

Being a product designer is exciting. I get to solve important problems and make people’s lives easier but, unfortunately, sometimes I get distracted – and so do most of us.

How many times do we find ourselves distracted in a project, and losing perspective on why and who we’re designing for? We all know that even the most successful projects have their high and low moments. How can we improve focus and create space for designers to challenge themselves and come up with their best work?

Why do we get Distracted?

I felt uncomfortable with my lack of empathy in some situations and decided to look into what’s blocking me and how I could solve it. Here are some common reasons I uncovered:

1.Solving a Different Problem

Are we solving the right problem? As a project progresses, it is not unusual for team or client problems to emerge: projects lack focus, expectations become difficult to manage, tasks duplicate… And it all creates inefficiency and frustration in the team, making the purpose of the work not as central as it should be.

2. The Test of Time

The longest project I’ve worked on lasted 12 months. That experience made me realize it’s not easy to make lengthy projects continuously interesting. Designer teams might get lost in the middle of endless files, tweaks and twists. That’s when they lose empathy and stop pushing the thinking.

3. Complex Problems

Designers are being asked to design for increasingly diverse users, cultures, and environments. These design challenges can be so wickedly complex that is difficult to develop or maintain empathy for the problem.

What can we do to Maintain Empathy?

There is no easy (or perhaps even “right”) solution for this problem, but I can share some of my conclusions and practical methods to help you through the tricky moments.

1. Engage With Your Team

When you’re… solving a different problem

In my experience, to build great products, we need to nurture a healthy and positive culture within the team. If you are not solving the right problem, and that’s getting you frustrated, stop and ask for help from your team. If we don’t empathize with our colleagues, how can we empathize with people we’re designing for?

Activity: Swap roles – Get someone from your team to swap roles or tasks with you.  The goal here is to understand and even gain compassion for each other, which can lead to useful behavioral changes.

2. Keep the Momentum Going

When you’re… facing the test of time

Empathy serves to inspire decisions in the early stages of a design process: it helps designers to develop the reasoning and feelings behind human behaviours. We gain insights into people’s needs, wants, feelings and thoughts, and why they demonstrate such behaviors.

Activity: Empathy is not a stage: you should extend the empathy activities whenever needed during the process. Product teams that consistently keep customer needs in mind are able to maintain and evolve their products. For me, design process should be summarised as: Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test – and Empathise above all these stages.

3. Try it Yourself

When you’re… solving truly complex problems

If a problem is too complex, try gaining personal insights into others’ experiences. Resonating with the user may be easiest when you’ve got a personal example at hand. For example, I worked on a project to improve customer experience during a fraud journey. There was an immediate connection between me and our target customer, as I had also gone through the experience of being defrauded. I could remember how it felt when I experienced the same problem and how painful it was. Designers empathise more when they hear or see customers in action. So, why not invite a customer to sit and work with the team?

Activity: Extra chair – Invite customers to sit with the team and participate not only in the definition stage of the project. For example, invite them to participate in a ideation session with the team.

What About Your Empathic Thinking?

As humans we’ve evolved to have a powerful sense of empathy, but we get preoccupied with other things all too often. If we find ways to guarantee that empathy is always present, we will think deeper, care more, and create better products and services for humans everywhere.

Time and money are barriers to applying these activities but, as designers, we have the power to explore and educate others in new ways of thinking. We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them – these are Albert Einstein’s words, not mine.

We can all agree Design Thinking without empathy doesn’t work. It’s a mindset that all designers should have and try to maintain and cultivate.

Have you faced similar problems in your work? I’d love to hear from you. If you’re working through a similar situation at the moment, feel free to try and include my suggested experiments to your design process and let me know how it goes. Let’s start a conversation.

By: INES OLIVEIRA  MAY 18, 2018

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