Culture of High-Trust
The Era of Empathy
How we got here

A good starting point might be 70,000 years ago, The Cognitive Revolution - Emergence of fictive language. Moving swiftly on, The Agricultural Revolution (12,000 years ago) - Domestication of plants and animals. Permanent settlements (5,000 years ago) - the first kingdoms, scripts and money. First empire (4,250 years ago) - the Akkadian Empire of Sargon. Roman Empire (2,000 years ago). Islam (1,400 years ago). Scientific Revolution (500 years ago) - the rise of capitalism. The Industrial Revolution (200 years ago) - family and community replaced by state and market. (Harari, 2011).

Gray skies filled with the black noxious waves of smokestacks. Compact factory assembly lines of human and metal, of sweat and dust. The heartbeat and whistle of the steamboat. Textile machines whirring like hard rain on tin roofs." - the industrial revolution
(Conaway, 2015)

By the the late 19th century farmers were leaving their farms to head for cities, giving up their freedom outside to stand in line for up to 10 hours a day and have to ask when they wanted the toilet. This shift from agrarian to industrial built the societies we live in today. But it seemed to have broken certain habits of our empathy (Conaway, 2015).

What is Empathy?

Research Professor Dr Brene Brown describes empathy, and juxtaposes it with sympathy in a recent animated video:
"Empathy fuels connection"
fuels disconnection"
(Brown, 2016)

She mentions Theresa Wiseman (Wiseman, 1996), a nursing scholar, who describes empathy in the context of four main qualities:

(1) Perspective taking: a willingness and ability to try to see situations/experience as others may see them. "Stepping into another person's shoes."

(2) Bearing witness: to step into that situation/experience without judgement or otherwise dismissive behaviour.

(3) Understanding feelings: this of course means we've spent time feeling our own feelings so that, in the moment, we can put them aside while being guided by what they taught us.

(4) Communicate accordingly: based on our "read" of those feelings, we're able to go beyond recognition, and toward mindfully communicating our understanding.


So after the industrial revolution nearly everything was made by machine and coming out of a factory. People became 'hired hands' to assist the machines. Industrial factories disconnected us from and took away the empathy with our lands and neighbours. The environment was changing, our place in it, and our stories were changing too (Conaway, 2015).

A capitalist economy had taken hold of the world. A new way of working, a new system, that drove a new level of competition. The ideology was that competition drove for innovation and progress, in turn driving economic growth. This meant empathy with your fellow neighbour no longer had it's need, a dog-eat-dog mentality set in. Factories scaled and people poured into factories for work, business grew and formed huge industrial organisations.

Question was how to maintain and steer all this productivity? And then 'Management' was created (Conaway, 2015).


I think it's become much clearer in the twenty-first century what the industrial age is and was, where it started and how it is ending or transcending. I felt strongly from the moment I started working straight from art school in 2000 that there was something really 'wrong' with organisational management, and every year since 2000 something has radically changed, evolved or revolutionised our industry. I have been freelance for nearly twelve years but as I see this transformation happening I am drawn back to being a part of it, that is why I joined Hyper Island for the Digital Media Management course.

Eras of Management

Rita Mcgrath proposes three era's of management we've seen since the industrial revolution - Execution, expertise and empathy. She believes that 'Organisations as Machine' cast long shadows over how today's management are run. Managers still assume that 'stability' is the normal state of affairs and 'change' is the unusual state (McGrath, 2014).

With the rise of the industrial revolution, organisations gained scale, to coordinate owners needed to depend on employing 'managers'. Their focus was wholly on execution of mass production, and managerial solutions such as specialisation of labour, standardised processes, quality control, workflow planning, and rudimentary accounting (McGrath, 2014).

Thinker Adam Smith, born in 1723, ideas on the division of labour came into their own here, as he laid the foundations of the classical free market economy and wrote about how rational self-interest and competition can lead to economic prosperity (Smith, 1723).

Throughout the 1800s knowledge was being accumulated about what worked in organisational management. Business schools were being born on management, one of the most famous in the US was the Wharton School founded in 1881 by Joseph Wharton (Wharton, 1881). Later in 1922 another milestone, the Harvard Business Review was founded, these marked that management was a growing discipline and evolving theory.

By mid twentieth century, the next phase of management was expertise. This was a period of huge growth in theories of management as the industry's organisations grew more complex. Many theories were imported from from areas of sociology and psychology. Statistical and mathematical insights imported usually from military uses. Then later attempts to bring science into management, including theory of constraints, objectives, reengineering, Six Sigma, and the 'waterfall' method of software development (McGrath, 2014).

Peter Drucker, one of the first management specialists of this time, was invited to take a look inside General Motors by Chairman Alfred Sloan (Sloan, 2009), which resulted in Drucker writing his famous book 'Concept of the Corporation' in 1946 (Drucker, no date). Attempting to understand what managing huge complex organisations was all about.

Around this time was the rise of what Drucker dubbed 'knowledge work'. The value wasn't simply created by workers produce and execute tasks, but value was also created by worker's use of information. When organisations realised the value was not only held in the execution under the factory roof, but the workers that left each day have acquired valuable knowledge, new theories arose that put far more emphasis of motivation and engagement of workers (McGrath, 2014).

American social psychologist, Douglas McGregor, proposed his famous X-Y theory in his 1960 book 'The Human Side Of Enterprise'. This idea is that executives change from a concept of command and control to a more facilitating and coaching role. Although recent studies question the X-Y theory, it still remains a valid basic principle from which to develop positive management styles and techniques. X-Y theory remains central to organisational development, and to improving organisational culture (McGregor, 1960).

Theory X, Theory Y (Chapman, 2002)
As organisational theorists began to explore these new ideas crossing into fields of sociology and psychology, motivation and engagement, more emphasis and effort was placed looking into the field of 'emotional intelligence' and it's important role in management. Leading writers such as Daniel Goleman (Goleman, 1995) wrote a book that placed particular emphasis on the links between EQ (can also be referred to as EI) and important life criteria - 'Emotional Intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ' this book generated a considerable amount of interest in EQ, quickly becoming the most widely read social science book in the world (Gardner, 1999).

As author and speaker Rita McGrath says:

"Today, we are in the midst of another fundamental rethinking of what organisations are and for what purpose they exist. If organisations existed in the execution era to create scale and in the expertise era to provide advanced services, today many are looking to organisations to create complete and meaningful experiences. I would argue that management has entered a new era of empathy."
(McGrath, 2014).


There has much debate over a broad issue on what constitutes productivity in the modern workforce. Peter Drucker wrote about the difficulty of defining and measuring the productivity of knowledge workers. And many believe now that organisations have not truly come to grips with how to think about productivity in a knowledge economy, let alone how best to manage it (Cohen, 2013).

Quality is as important as Quantity, and the amount of time or output produced may have little to do with how productive an employee truly is. "The risk is that we focus more on quantity over quality, just because we can measure it" says Matthew Bidwell, a Wharton management professor (Cohen, 2013).

Bidwell adds "such measures rarely take into account behind the scenes work such as recruiting, mentoring and communicating across teams. Behaviours that are critical to knowledge organisations."

The answer lies in creating broader more nuanced measures of productivity that account for the quality, effectiveness and impact of an employee's work, as well as the quantity. Managers must be more rigorous in defining what behaviours and outcomes are most critical to enhancing productivity. And they must be equally diligent in determining how to measure those qualities over the medium to long term, not just immediately. (Cohen, 2013).

Era of Empathy
Emotional Intelligence

"Empathy in the modern workplace is not just being able to see things from another's perspective—it's the cornerstone of good teamwork, smart leadership and innovative design. With increasing automation, the real comparative advantage of the human worker will be their capacity to create relationships, both inside and outside firms—and that means empathy will count more than ever. Let's forget recruiting employees simply on the basis of their professional qualifications or their Myers-Briggs scores: give them an empathy test and fill your organisation with emotional intelligence."
- Roman Krznaric, author of Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It (Conaway, 2015).

In the past two decades Emotional Intelligence or EQ has emerged as one of the most high-powered modern psychological constructs. The EQ concept has prospered partly because of a cultural ''zeitgeist'' that emphasises the positive role of the emotions and the more empathic side of the human psyche. The challenge across various applied disciplines, covering the home, work, and school, is to develop reliable and valid tests to measure this quality and add clarity to the subject (Zeidner, 2009).

Emotional property (EP) the unique ways that an individual or company out cares the competition. These properties are creations of the unconscious mind. How we interact with others and how we allow others to interact with us. If the 20th Century put intellectual property rights in the public discourse, this century will be about emotional property: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.
(Johnson, 2014)
In reading 'What we know about Emotional Intelligence' (Zeidner, 2009) we can appreciate the efforts of science in recent times to understand the field of emotional intelligence, it is clearly stated in the book that 'Measurement is a necessary condition for establishing scientific theories of learning rate and intelligence level'. Efforts to establish sound measurement, test reliability and construct validity for EQ are all set within the field of psychological assessment. Although thousands of psychological tests exist from novel to complex, EQ is still seen as an important psychological phenomenon by scientists (Zeidner, 2009).

Left: EQ questionnaire (Zeidner, 2009), Right: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions (Plutchik, 1980)

Many scientific tests of 'emotional intelligence' seem to put this complex subject into a lens of 'black and white', that in my view attempts to simplify, operationalise, categorise a very complex social intelligence. Surveys and questionnaires, whether self-directed or performance based, are often cumbersome, clunky and self-judgemental or subjective. I personally would not trust or engage with them if offered, let alone rely on the result.

My thought is that if science seeks the black and white understanding or measurement, then maybe there is a more complex science, a collective consciousness, that we still need to understand better that will validate the measure of emotional intelligence from within rather than externally. Following the pattern of self-leadership, we measure our own emotional intelligence, through a system of collective learning and reflection promoting and supporting trust, transparency, accountability and responsibility. An approach that requires measurement over the medium to long term? That might prove hard for some to change behaviour from immediate judgement.
"Our emotions have their own kind of logic and intelligence, and these are based on universal principles of life (rather than on the limited reasoning of the human Intellect)."
- Veronika Bond (Bond, 2016).
Your Emotional Property

For some growing up in the twentieth century or earlier emotional sensitivity was regarded as a weakness. Negative emotions had to be controlled. Emotional intelligence had just been discovered but nobody knew about it then (Bond, 2016).

Another factor influencing our relationship with our emotions is Spirituality. The idea of positive thinking and how it affects our lives. The Dalai Lama wrote that "happiness is our life's purpose", and many people all over the world focus their lives teaching happiness.
"Socrates's injunction 'Know thyself' speaks to the keystone of emotional intelligence: awareness of one's own feelings as they occur."
- Daniel Goleman (Goleman, 1995)
Emotional Intelligence is becoming the new currency of work and is the key to embracing change in our organisations. Although it is far more difficult than physical or intellectual labour, and yet so easy to avoid. IQ and experience is no longer enough, companies are hiring on people upon their emotional labour and intelligence. This is the future direction for organisational development. It has never been more important for organisations to be doing and valuing emotional labour during a period a rapid evolutionary change (Johnson, 2014).

Psychological Safety
A key part of developing culture in organisations is understanding how we work together in teams, and also the environment surrounding us. In 2015, Google released a report "The five keys to a successful team" (RoZovsky, 2015) after two years of research with Googler's they made a string of insights or discoveries that might help team effectiveness.

They realised: Who is on a team matters less than how the team members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions.

Here are the five key dynamics that set successful teams by Google:
Psychological safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
Dependability: Can we count on each other to do high quality work on time?
Structure & clarity: Are goals, roles, and execution plans on our team clear?
Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we're doing matters?
With psychological safety being by far the most important dynamic underpinning the other four. We need to feel safe in order to take risk - it turns out, we are reluctant to engage in behaviours that could negatively influence how others perceive our competence, awareness, and positivity (RoZovsky, 2015).

Google also suggest teams talk about 'consciousness' personality trait, as author Paul Tough says "It's emerging as one of the primary dimensions of successful functioning across the lifespan" in his book in 'How Children Succeed' (Tough, 2013). Conscientious people tend to be super organised, responsible, and plan ahead (Baer, 2014).

Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, coined the term 'psychological safety' with her 2014 Ted Talk. She discusses the successful strategy highlighting the importance of speaking up, constant learning, and making mistakes (Edmondson, 2014).

Edmondson advises leadership to do three things:
Frame the work as a learning problem not as an executional problem, recognise there is huge uncertainty ahead
Acknowledge your own fallibility, encourage speaking up.
Model Curiosity, that creates a lot of questions.
(Edmondson, 2014)
Being Vulnerable

In 2010 research professor Dr. Brené Brown made a TED Talk called 'The Power of Vulnerability' (Brown, 2010) and is one of the most viewed TED talks in the world. Brown says, "Vulnerability is basically uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure." (Brown, 2013).

Brown talks about her inability growing up to lean into the discomfort of Vulnerability limiting the fullness of those experiences that are full of uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity. She says "learning how to be vulnerable has been a street fight but it's been worth it " (Brown, 2013).

In her book 'Daring Greatly' she talks about Gay Gaddis, the owner and founder of T3 (The Think Tank) in Austin, Texas. Gaddis says "When you shut down vulnerability, you shut down opportunity." (Brown, 2013)

It's so important to create places of psychological safety where teams and leaders can be vulnerable and trust each other strongly. People connect more with those who have weaknesses.
Every superhero has a weakness.
...Superman has kryptonite, for example.
Perfectionism is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis or missed opportunities. The fear of failing, making mistakes, not meeting people's expectations, and being criticised keeps us outside of the arena where healthy competition and striving unfolds. (Brown, 2013).

Importance of Play

People talk about the opposite of play being work, but as Dr. Stuart Brown makes clear, it is depression. Play is a survival drive that is necessary for adaptation, flexibility and social learning. Play helps us belong in the community, develop the ability to suppress unwanted urges, and regulate our emotions (Brown, S, 2015).

As humans we are designed to be juveniles until we die, it's part of our primate design as homo sapiens. Play is not confined to childhood, and when we understand this we tend to be non-violent, more communal and healthier.

We are designed to play. And it should be a fundamental part of our learning culture within organisations. The transformations that occur when people honour play are truly profound (Brown, S, 2015).


I believe safe spaces to be highly important, especially in creative industries where creative types can be extra sensitive to their environments. Play in my opinion should always be encouraged as an approach to problem solving, to explore with out fear of failing or being vulnerable in front of others. Something that I only see in the best agencies, but there is this constant struggle with management vs creativity.
I believe the next generation of organisations, that will emerge from today's start-up scene will develop radically different approaches to management.

Motivation and Engagement
Many companies know now that 'organisational structure and culture' are directly linked to 'organisational performance'. The theory of organisational culture assumes that if managers and employees are fully committed to collective principles, customs and morals this will result in positive outcomes in the organisation. Professor Daniel Denison states the point; "the 'strength' of 'corporate culture' is directly correlated with the level of profits in a company" (Denison, 1984).

A collective culture also has positive impact on motivation in an organisation. Existence of common culture encourages people to identify with the organisation and feel belongingness and responsibility for it, it is assumed (Brown A.D, 1998).

Organisational structure in companies mostly exists on two levels. First being the 'formal' structure that describes ranks of individuals, authority channels, and departments. Then the informal structure, the undocumented, that describes how employees interact within the organisation. The formal structure comments how participants are expected to relate to each other, the informal structure is how they actually do interact with each other (Nicholas J.M & Styne H, 2012).

Most business leaders believe a strong organisational culture is critical to success, yet many don't really understand as a science or how to measure it terms of adding value. In a recent study on 'How does culture drive performance?' by Lindsey McGregor, she states "…we came to one conclusion: Why we work determines how well we work." (McGregor, L. 2015).

The main six reasons why people work are: play, purpose, potential, emotional pressure, economic pressure, and inertia.

The work of many researchers has found that the first three motives tend to increase performance, while the latter three hurt it (McGregor, 2015). By maximising the play, purpose, and potential and minimising the emotional pressure, economic pressure, and inertia, team's can reach total motivation (ToMo). There's survey to measure ToMo here (ToMo, 2015).

Maslow's motivational theory in psychology comprising a five tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid (see below). Maslow (1943) stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs, and that some needs take precedence over others.
Maslow hierarchy of needs (Maslow, 1954)
On Purpose

"This little word is part of the industry lexicon, fast becoming an overused buzz word aimed at titillating the consumer, ticking a check box, point of differentiation… It's used as a euphemism for 'good company"
- Sherilyn Shackell, Founder CEO The Marketing Academy (Shackell, 2016)

Yes businesses exist to make money, but can a company be purpose-led if they don't care for the future of the planet, sustainability, impact on humankind, carbon footprint, pollution of the sea? I think not.

If we are going to look after the planet then we need to looking at why and how we do things a little better. Businesses are increasingly less defined by what they make or sell than by what they stand for and how they behave.

By having a core purpose brands can be built on the stories that come from their purpose, creating advocacy and loyalty with customers and employees, remembering they are made up increasingly of Millennials and Generation Z, that are motivated by inner purpose, values and beliefs.

Cultural Ethics and Diversity
New Research has shown that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially. Diversity is now a competitive differentiator that will shift market share to more diverse companies over time. Diversity in gender and ethically is clearly important to get representative of our culture regardless of financial gain.

It is starting to show that more diverse companies can improve customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making, leading to increasing returns. This suggests that other kinds of diversity will also follow such as - age, sexual orientation and experience. In a deeply connected global world, diverse leaderships are achieving better performance, but more work still needs to be done (Hunt, 2015).

Millennials and Generation Z

Millennials are treated well at work, but they live in a world of highly addictive technology, social media, and 'instant gratification'. Sinek recently stated "As they grow up, too many kids don't know how to form deep, meaningful relations" (Sinek, 2016). We need our organisations to help these Millennials by creating environments that nurture and support meaningful relationships, confidence and experience of working on something over a long time (Sinek, 2016).

There have been many studies by Facebook on the effects of device on teenagers, you can read more here (Blair, 2015).

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