What Does the Empathy Differentiator Mean For Social Business?

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.

Thanks to Daniel Pink for introducing me to the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy and to Tower of Power for the image.

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  1. Stuart Lamb October 6, 2010 at 12:26 pm #

    Thanks for this, very interesting. I immediately saw some parallels with work that Harding & Yorke have undertaken based on outcomes based activity in the commercial sector.

    We have an academically proven method which correlates measurement of empathy to ROCE or profit. We have also found that certain characteristics of empathy a relevant for different outcomes.

    Check out the film made about our approach…


    Stuart Lamb
    Enterprise Consultant

  2. Olivia Khalili October 6, 2010 at 7:24 pm #

    Stuart, very interesting video. Thanks for sharing it. Would love to learn more about your work–characteristics of empathy? I’m intrigued. I was taken by the Jefferson example (which Daniel Pink talks about) and saw the parallels for (social) business.

    Thanks for the comment and for introducing me briefly to your work.