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Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy by Dev Patnaik with Peter Mortensen, FT Press, 251 pages, $24.99, Hardcover, January 2009, ISBN 9780137142347
It is a challenging time in business, no doubt. So what can companies do now to create change and be ready to take advantage of the coming (hopefully) economic recovery? In Wired to Care, veteran business strategist and adjunct faculty member at Stanford University, Dev Patnaik, shows you how organizations of all kinds can dial into a quality most associate with individuals--empathy--and begin to connect with people, both within the company and without. Patnaik takes readers on a journey inside some of the largest companies in the world and shows you true corporate empathy in action, why empathy can make good leaders into great ones, and how empathy can help companies envision new opportunities faster than their competitors.
In the chapter "Open All Windows," Patnaik shares the story of how Jack Stack used empathy to turn around the struggling remanufacturing company, SRC, by recognizing that in order to make the necessary changes quickly, the company would need the help of every employee. The best way to elicit this help? Enable each employee to walk in another's shoes. He opened the company's books, taught everyone in the company how to read the financial statements, and with this process, was able to help a line worker, for example, see his direct impact on the bottom line. The outcome of using companywide empathy as a strategy was 40% annual growth in the first 3 years.
The lessons we can take away from the story of SRC and other stories Patnaik tells about such heavyweights as Intel, IBM and Target, is that caring contributes more to the future success of an organization than simply cutting costs and employees. Referring to the pre-Industrial age, when makers crafted items for their neighbors and family, Patnaik explains: "Empathy isn't a new phenomenon. There was a time not so long ago when there was a broad and deep connection between producers and consumers that allowed everyone to prosper."
At a time when the state of business is in flux and we are seeing jobs disappear every day, Wired to Care tells of the unexpected solutions that come when people see the world through another's eyes. This book shows that if leaders remove the disconnect that exists within their organizations and engage in an empathetic approach to their companies, as well as the world around them, the future is limitless.
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