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    Michael Ventura is the founder and CEO of award-winning strategy and design practice Sub Rosa. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most important brands such as GE, TED and the White House; and has served as a board member and advisor to a variety of organizations. He is a visiting lecturer at Princeton University and West Point, where he teaches design thinking and how to integrate empathy into the creative process. He joins Marcel Schwantes on this week’s show to discuss his book, Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership; in particular, how empathy can spark innovation and solve tough challenges that we face as leaders.

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    Show Notes

    • Sub Rosa is a multi-disciplinary team that provides upstream strategic consulting for its clients, and also helps them bring the recommended strategies to life. [3:50]
    • Michael realized that when they were exercising empathy, their work was always more successful and more effective. They decided to make empathy their differentiator. [5:00]
    • Empathy is the act of perspective-taking. Michael describes several subsets of empathy:
      • Affective empathy – you treat others how you would want to be treated. 
      • Somatic empathy – physically embodying the feelings of others.
      • Cognitive empathy – applied empathy or perspective-taking. It is doing unto others as they would have you do unto them. [6:50]
    • Marcel wants to know why empathy is such a valuable skill for leaders to have. Michael answers that the only way to build resilient and collaborative teams is by practicing empathy. [9:20]
    • Michael shares how putting empathy into practice transformed GE’s health care business. [11:45]
    • We all have the capacity to operate across all seven empathetic archetypes. Good empaths shift from one archetype to another depending on which is best suited to the context. [19:00]
    • Michael says that you can use their diagnostic tool to assess your strengths across the seven empathetic archetypes. He points out that the test is important individually, but more so across the organization to see where your company’s strengths and deficits are. [20:00]
    • Marcel asks how top-down organizations can apply empathy. Michael shares two strategies these types of organizations can implement. [22:25]
    • Marcel says, “…empathy is a muscle that you train and anybody can learn, but it takes practice and dedication.” [24:35]
    • Michael gives listeners some practical tips on how to apply empathy in their daily interactions. Be generous and selfless, he advises; be curious and open-minded; and stick with it even when it’s hard. [24:50]
    • Ruinous empathy is when empathy takes over how you operate and homogenizes too much of your decision making and leadership. Empathy should be done in a measured way when running a business. [26:30]
    • While you can’t measure empathy, you can measure its effects: high-functioning teams emerge, they work well together and produce better, faster work. Companies are more resilient and responsive in the market. Decision making becomes more collaborative. [27:30]
    • When you operate with positivity and encouragement and you build on one another’s strengths, you build resilience and profitability and long term value into your organization. [33:15]
    • Start by asking questions and being a good listener, Michael advises. That’s the gateway to deeper empathy. [38:05]


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    Marcel Schwantes is the founder and chief human officer of Leadership from the Core, a global leadership training and executive coaching boutique aimed at developing great leaders and great cultures through Servant Leadership.

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