As the Empathy Lab continues to grow and learn about it’s place in communities and businesses, we’ve been privileged to hear many amazing stories from a diverse population of story tellers. People have shared stories about their toxic work environments, stories about the spectacular growth of their non-profit foundation, and simple stories about who makes the best fried chicken in Atlanta, and why. These represent a very small swath of what has been shared with the Lab so far and is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to expanding the Lab’s world view. The beauty and wealth of these stories, even if they are hard to listen to, is that a safe environment was created in order to allow them to share, to listen, and to ask questions. This safe environment is where communities of people will grow and thrive together over time.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a talk at TEDGlobal in 2009, The Danger of a Single Story, about what happens when we allow a single story to create our view of people. Much like the social network echo chambers that many are within, Adichie explores the impact of how how a single story, referred to and built upon over time, can negatively effect true understanding of people, culture, and a continent of countries. She gave an example about how being educated from a single story, the narrow description of Africa in textbooks and in the media, can lead individuals to believe that this single story is fact. She also admits to having a small set of American life examples, on from “The Cosby Show” and the other from “Dallas”.
So my roommates, for example, just didn’t know what to do with me because in their imagination, an African was only one thing, and then I turn out not to be that thing. And so they would actually often say to me, you’re not really African. I started to think about it quite a bit and I realized, you know what, this is how powerful storytelling can be. So when I came to the U.S., because I had read a lot of American books and I had watched American films and I listened to American music, I didn’t really know America really, but at least I did know that there were different Americas. At least I had two examples, I mean, America could either be Bill Cosby, or it could be “Dallas.” So at least there were two options, right?
If all that we know about a culture or a population of people is represented through the stories of their loudest or most popular citizens, that which is known will be misleading when applied to a population. The stories from the loudest people, are the stories about the loudest people, that is it. If we are to better understand a population of people, an environment must be created in order to allow these stories and understandings to come to the surface so that they can be heard.
Full circle to the continued growth of the Empathy Lab and the amazing stories that have been shared with us. Our goal is to help steer individuals and communities of people away from concentrating their understandings on a single story or single resource. By creating an environment where many stories can be shared, talked about, and understood, wealth in the form of collaboration, opportunity, and broader safety, security, and prosperity can be more easily obtained.
Share a story with us or better yet, let’s do a workshop (see below)! Yes, that is too broad of an ask so here are a few story topics to think about.
- When is the last time you felt like an outsider?
- What are you most recently proud of?
- When is the last time you cried?
Tell us your story and let us know if it is something you would like to share with others.
A Workshop with the Empathy Lab
Empathy Lab workshops are all about getting stories out into the open so that the group can get a better understand of each other. How can we help you bring together a diverse set of stories, intense conversations, and innovative ideas?
For those looking to improve their workplace environment and potentially decrease things like employee turnover / customer churn while increasing customer relationships and revenue, here are some topics to think about.
- Do you work for a company that seems to be struggling with cultural or philosophical alignment?
- Do you work for a company that has one dominant mindset, and doesn’t seem to be diverse or inclusive?
- Do you work for a company that doesn’t seem to have a good, empathetic relationship with their users but really wants to?
For those individuals looking to create social – community change here are some topics to chew on that we are currently exploring.
- Are you part of a social justice group that is having a hard time being heard?
- Do you have a civil political view that you would like to share?
- Are you a part of an organization that aligns on a common cause (for example PTA, a charity, a sports team) but the individual members don’t always see eye to eye?
- Are you a part of a religious organization or do you know any we should connect with?
- Are you elated / concerned about the current political environment in the United States?