How does a physician with sufficient medical knowledge and analytic ability distinguish himself? He measures high on the empathy scale. Once a physician gets past a certain threshold of analytic ability, he’s proven himself to be an okay doctor on the functional front, so the point of differentiation becomes his empathic abilities.
When the Jefferson School of Medicine began measuring students in empathy (using the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy) it found positive correlations between a physician’s empathy score and his patients’ outcomes.
The same is true of social purpose companies. Once a company demonstrates proficient quality, selection and price, its differentiator becomes empathy for its stakeholders–whether that’s issue-X-aware consumers or beneficiaries, local or supply chain communities, the environment or employees.
Empathy is real and it’s powerful. Even within the most rational, scientific profession of medicine, there’s been a shift away from just a cerebral framework to a social approach that embodies listening, connecting and addressing the problem (health, or in our case, pockets of social need) more humanly and more holistically.