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Wired to Care

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Wired to Care

How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy

FT Press,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Why empathetic companies do well…or why act like you have a reptilian should be reptilian brain when your customers are all heart?

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable
  • Concrete Examples
  • For Beginners


Executives often know little about the people who buy their companies’ products and services. This is not surprising. To study people, you must care about them. However, most companies eliminate empathy from their operations. In essence, they proceed as if they have calculating, survival-bent reptile brains. Profits drive everything. This is an odd disconnect because corporate livelihoods depend on people – not lizards – and people’s brains are hardwired to be empathetic. Dev Patnaik (writing with Peter Mortensen) shows why firms that connect empathetically with their customers do better financially. He insists today’s cold-hearted, bottom-line business world has room for caring companies, and he points to IBM, Nike and Harley-Davidson as examples. The fact that empathy is also a strong business strategy is icing on the cake. getAbstract suggests this fine book to CEOs, marketing officers and other executives who want to build their business by acting on their respect for their customers. As Patnaik explains on his blog, “Empathy isn’t about having a visionary leader. It’s about making customer information an easy, everyday and experiential part of working at your company.”


Humans Are Hardwired for Empathy

When he played linebacker for the New York Giants in the 1980s and early 1990s, Lawrence Taylor was a fearsome competitor and an awesome physical presence on the field. He played like a man among boys, smashing quarterbacks with gusto. Taylor enjoyed knocking down other players. On November 18, 1985, the Giants played the Washington Redskins, their division rivals, in a high-profile, televised Monday night football game. As usual, Taylor was all over the opposing players. They could not stop him.

In the second quarter, Taylor landed a particularly vicious hit on Redskins’ quarterback Joe Theismann, who crumpled to the ground like a rag doll, his right leg splayed out at a sickeningly unnatural angle; his leg had shattered in 12 places. He would never play football again. Normally after a big hit, Taylor would taunt the player lying on the grass, his finger in the man’s face. Not this time. Instead, Taylor beckoned wildly to the Redskins’ bench for help. Agitated, he “grabbed his helmet’s facemask in anguish,” pacing in circles, and constantly checking on Theismann, staying by him until the medics carted him away. Taylor had always exalted...

About the Author

Dev Patnaik is the founder and head of a San Francisco growth strategy firm. He teaches “Needfinding” at Stanford University. Peter Mortensen is in charge of communications activities at Patnaik’s firm. He is a Wired blog contributor.

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    D. P. 2 years ago
    I have believe in empathy....raised that grandfather always said you get more bees with honey.

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