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Culture of Empathy Builder:  Jackie Acho

Pending - in development

Jackie Acho and Edwin Rutsch: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy


Jackie is President of The Acho Group, a strategy and leadership consulting firm. Prior to founding The Acho Group in 2005, she was a Partner in the Midwest Complex of McKinsey & Company. She has worked for technology, industrial, academic, nonprofit, and economic development clients on a variety of issues, with particular focus on growth and innovation, strategy, and leadership development for more than 18 years.






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Jackie Acho, Ashoka Future Forum 2013
 A Currency of Empathy and empathy and innovation,
Jackie Acho speaks at the Ashoka Future Forum about A Currency of Empathy and empathy and innovation
, May 31, 2013 in Washington, DC



Meanwhile, my work on empathy has evolved, so it might be interesting for you to see this talk I recently gave at the Ashoka Future Forum (it’s only ~10 min)  . It will give you a sense of what I can offer and how we might focus the interview.

Following that conference, some colleagues and I are starting to do some macroeconomic research and write an article (aimed at the McKinsey Quarterly or HBS) to correlate empathy in the workplace with innovation, as well as clarify what needs to change in organizations (jiu-jitzu rather than the laundry list). Toward that end, your table of empathy surveys was very helpful as we dug into empathy measurement tools, so thank you!

Let me know if an interview still makes sense and when you might have some openings. My schedule varies, but other than the 4th of July week, I should be able to make time.

May 15, 2013 - Empathy is a Contact Sport…Bleeding Hearts Need Not Apply
"Paul Bloom gives important and eloquent voice to the critics of “empathy” in his recent piece in the New Yorker. I read it with great interest, respect, and gratitude to him for shining a light on how the idea of empathy can be misperceived and misused, especially politically.
Much of the confusion lies in various interpretations of what “empathy” is and is not...

I agree with Bloom: “it is impossible to empathize with seven billion strangers, or to feel toward someone you’ve never met the degree of concern you feel for a child, a friend, or a lover. Our best hope for the future is not to get people to think of all humanity as family—that’s impossible. It lies, instead, in an appreciation of the fact that, even if we don’t empathize with distant strangers, their lives have the same value as the lives of those we love.” "


The Currency of Empathy — The Missing Link to Innovation and Inclusion from CEOs for Cities  

  • Innovation in large organization - not very good

  • Innovation drives growth

    • is it individual?

  • There's a lack of innovation in big orgs

    • why? Empathy deficit disorder

  • Empathy

    • do you need a bleeding heart?

    • it's understanding other people to help them grow

    • need practice

  • Change

    • empathy gives courage to move through fear, etc,

  • Her empathy starts with her children

  • Leaders who are empathic

  • Human needs - meaning, growth, be whole  - a currency of empathy

    • meaning - a higher purpose

    • growth

    • be whole

  • Psychopathy and if organizations sap our empathy - then what?



May 30-31, 2013 - Ahsoka Future Forum
Building Changemaker Teams: Activating Empathy at Work
"Innovative leaders increasingly see empathy as a critical skill, allowing people and teams to effectively spot and advance ideas that are invisible in traditional hierarchies. From janitor to CEO, empathy enables all to engage with the vision in fundamentally new ways and work across limiting silos to imagine and realize creative solutions. At a time when organizations form and dissolve more rapidly than ever, nimble, trust-enabled cultures - even in large companies and organizations – are critical to problemsolving, idea-generation, and continuous learning. Explore the link between empathy and leadership, innovation, and overall performance, and discover social entrepreneur-led solutions that can help you transform your team."



In terms of topics for us, I believe I have experience and fresh perspectives on these things in particular:
1) Why empathy helps drive innovation (and sharpens the whole picture of “healthy workplaces” “perform better”, a case McKinsey and others have made, but with long lists of what levers to pull). Empathy brings it all into focus. This is my experience in almost 20 years of client work and is the focus of research we’re designing now.

2) What the importance of empathy means for how our leadership development models should change, so people can lean into what builds empathy as opposed to leaning into what’s there now and away from their families/communities/etc. This also takes into account early childhood development. A personal story/antidote of work/family balance, starting with leaning in full throttle through the birth of 2 children. Focusing on empathy would thus drive long sought after but elusive inclusion (in the virtuous loop with innovation also).

3) Why empathy is vital and under emphasized in STEM education and STEM industries…and how this also stunts innovation. We need science, engineering, math, coding, etc WITH A HUMAN FACE if we are to build an abundant world (possible now, with the science and tech we know today – great book: )

4) Why all of this is on solid spiritual ground, whether we practice Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam….or yoga. We are build to do big things in collaboration with each other, but our reductionist organizations geared toward industrial efficiency sap our humanity.
These are the things I’m consistently compelled to communicate as I see missing pieces in what’s out there.
The org behavior people talk about their stuff and the innovation people (where I started) talk about how to be smarter and more creative, but the two camps don’t overlap. And the spiritual and business realms never really interact meaningfully in popular culture.
I’ll think more about how to focus our discussion as I read the links you sent. Basically, I’m leveraging some amount of practice/study/depth in business, science, parenting/early childhood development, spiritual studies, psychology to try and help solve what’s increasingly worried me as an unsustainable path for our country. So, these are my perspectives. I want to move CEO’s and support/encourage intrapraneurs so that things might shift for the better in time for today’s children.


Here are some questions we can explore during the interview.

(   )  How can we build a culture of empathy?
i.e. raise the level of empathy in society?


What's your most important personal value?

How did you develop it?

Do you have a story of when you learned an insight into it?

Defining empathy

(   ) What is your metaphor of what empathy is like? Explain?
(   ) What is a physical metaphor. (make a body movement)

(   ) What does that feel like in your body?


(   ) What is your metaphor of what the opposite of empathy is like? Explain?

(   ) What does that feel like in your body?


(   ) What would a culture of empathy look like?

(   ) What's the metaphor for  a culture of empathy?


Empathy Story

(   ) "When did you first discover the power of empathy?"

(   ) Create a dialog between the two.


(   )  How can we build a culture of empathy?



(   ) What are the obstacles to deepening empathy?

(   ) How to overcome the obstacle?

(   )  Are there questions that you would like me to ask you