I declare 2015 the Year of Empathy (for substantive Craftsmanship)

Tomorrow the first regular working week of the New Year starts. Even though I didn’t take time off (the fate of an independent entrepreneur 😉 ), I slightly resent to go back to work. My schedule is loaded for the coming six weeks (okay, one week of skiing included), and in spite of most projects being fun, it means there’s a busy and stressful period ahead of me. Tomorrow morning at the office we start with a New Year’s breakfast and a New Year’s talk to go with it, on which I’m pondering right now.

At Christmas I talked briefly about “time” and “cooperation”. Emotionally time moves faster and the older you get, the more precious the time ahead of you becomes, per time unit. The word “cooperation” gives me mixed feelings. I think the word in itself belongs to the category ‘sweet talk’ with which nothing is said. On the other hand, in a complex world ‘cooperation’ is indeed a key word. Especially cooperation between ‘craftsmen’. I emphasize this because of my dwindling respect for people who only ‘analyze’ and ‘communicate’ without adding substantive new worth. This can be noticed especially in newspapers (yes, also the high quality ones) and on different blogs. But even the ones who aim at new innovation, the level of conversation remains ‘vague’. At the end of the day I think it’s all about creativity, realization and substance. #Do! I call it. For this you need teams of professionals who are substantively strong (hence Craftsmen) AND have sufficient knowledge diversity AND can cooperate as a team.

Back to the New Year’s talk. I think tomorrow I will talk about Empathy and about Craftsmenship. In 2013-2014 at TOP we did an improvement project directed by my Management Team, in which we declared the skill ‘designing’ as central basic skill for all our projects. Designing of processes virtually always moves along the following steps:

(1) package of requirements; (2) concept design; (3) detail design; (4) realization of the design.
Also four core values are important in design processes:
(a) client sensitivity; (b) focused towards your aim; (c) usable and unique content; (d) (the will to deliver) outstanding quality. I think at the moment the emphasis is too much on analysis and communication, but those are no more than useful tools. Synthesis (developing, designing) and forming new interrelations are in my opinion more important in these modern times. That’s why #Do! Is my motto.

Especially the word client sensitivity seems to be a difficult concept for many TOPpers. To me it’s not only to do what the client says, but foremost do what is in the client’s interest. Most of our clients don’t realize what they should want. “What would you do if you walked your client’s shoes?” To be able to answer that question is crucial for a company like TOP. Client sensitivity can be developed if you go through a personal development in two fields: your empathic ability, and your substantive qualities. I use the word ‘client’ on purpose, in the broadest sense of the word. A MT-member, a Director or Project Leader can be seen as client by a project team member or employee.

In my experience, just having good empathic skills, or just being substantively strong does not guarantee a strong client sensitivity. You only get to be substantively strong after many ‘flight-hours’. In short, if you regard your job as a craftsmanship and become a professional.

Empathy – being sensitive to an others’ needs – maybe is a skill that you can develop. At least I would very much like all my own people to become consciously incompetent.

This morning I watched an inspiring RSA video about Empathy. Not personal development (up until the crisis in 2008 it was all about ‘me’), but the development of the individual and collective empathic abilities are relevant to the next cycle of Kondratieff. And if we can connect that to a strong substantive knowledge (in short substantive Craftsmanship) than I’m on top of the world.

Now idea what my talk in the morning will be like, but I’m sure going to use the words ‘Empathy’ and “Craftsmanship’. I summarize these two words into ‘client sensitivity’. Therefor I hereby declare 2015 the Year of Empathy (for substantive Craftsmanship).

This is a translation of a Dutch article.

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