What do you get when you bring together over 300 design-oriented people who have a passion for changing the healthcare landscape? You get the 2018 HXD Conference that the Nason Group helped sponsor last week in Boston. It was two days of bold presentations, stimulating conversations, and high-powered networking around the theme of improving health through design and innovation.
For me, one of the most significant moments during the conference happened when four college students shifted the event from a professional gathering to a group of people with connected hearts. The students were from the Berklee School of Music and each performed a song they had written about a social issue that was personal to them. As we listened to songs about tough topics such as eating disorders, tough neighborhoods, and rape, I gained yet another perspective on empathy: Empathy brings people together in a way that’s almost impossible to describe.
As I sat mesmerized by the power of the songs we were hearing, I looked around at the rest of the people in the audience. They, too, were completely enthralled. There was a different feeling in the room when the singers were finished. These four brave college students moved us from talking about empathy to experiencing empathy and, in experiencing empathy, our relationships changed. We were no longer just people sitting in a room. We were people with connected hearts.
There’s a saying in musical theater that I just love: When the emotion is more than words can handle, it’s time write a song. In sharing their songs—their personal stories—with us, they were showing us the depths of their hearts.
That’s really the point of empathy, right? Connecting with other people’s hearts. Understanding the feelings that drive the other person’s thoughts and behaviors. Immersing yourself in the other person’s world so much that you can actually feel what the other person is feeling.
After experiencing this mini-concert, we were excited to debut the prototype for our new Empathy Workout during a lunch and learn (well, we actually called it a “Lunch and Disrupt”) on the second day of the conference. It was a great way to continue the theme of embracing empathy as we challenged the participants to approach empathy like a muscle that needs to be exercised to be useful. The Workout is a 14-day program where you select a card each day that gives you an exercise to complete that will help you develop your empathy muscles. And, yes, some of the exercises will push you out of your comfort zone.
Look forward to hearing more about the Empathy Workout in the weeks ahead, but for now, go find a way to connect with someone else’s heart. We’ll never be able to truly change the healthcare landscape without developing the skills, confidence, and vulnerability for engaging each other’s hearts!