What more empathy in business and artificial intelligence (AI) will look like – Interview with Minter Dial


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Today’s interview is with Minter Dial, keynote speaker and consultant on branding, new tech and digital transformation for blue chip companies, conferences and events around the world. Minter joins me today to talk about his new book: Heartificial Empathy, Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence, why the development of empathy is becoming so important, how we can develop it not only within ourselves but also the machines that we develop and what to watch out for when we do so.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Building your positivity muscle and the impact it can have on customer experience – Interview with Matt Prowse of IAG – and is number 293 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Here’s the highlights of my chat with Minter:

  • The book reads like a personal journey of discovery into empathy.
  • Minter tells a story of how he got signed up for an experiment that was run by Feld Studio in Berlin where for 5 days he interacted with an empathic chatbot that was installed on his phone. He also goes into the sort of feelings that it conjured up in him.
  • The world is becoming more complicated and we are seeing less and less empathy in the world.
  • Minter cites a couple of research studies that were conducted involving university students in the USA that found that the students considered themselves 40% less empathic than their forebears 30 years ago and 40% more narcissistic.
  • We seem to have a situation in the world where people are being very strongly distracted and there is a lot of divisiveness. Therefore, we need to bridge the gap and empathy is one of the key ways to bridge that gap.
  • Empathy is an abstract term and at some level for some people it’s a really foreign concept.
  • Empathy is having the ability to understand and feel what the other person is going through….to be able to put yourself in the shoes of the other person.
  • That is comprised of two components:
    • One, being able to detect emotion and what that emotion is; and
    • Two, can I understand the things that have provoked that emotion.
  • Empathy makes good business sense.
  • When it comes to empathy and machines. A machine can’t feel. However, it can present an understanding of feelings.
  • Before we start coding empathy into machines we have to tackle the ethical dimension.
  • There’s an extraordinarily strong bond and link between empathy and ethics.
  • In order to write your ethical construct/your framework of ethics for your business that’s appropriate for you, your history and what you’re trying to achieve having empathy in the very beginning is absolutely necessary.
  • So, it turns out that you need to be ethical about the way you’re going to use empathy within your business. But, it also turns out that you need empathy upstream of that in order to figure out that you need ethics or an ethical framework in the first place.
  • The challenge is that, in a business context, there’s a sort of a dictum that says there’s no place for emotions in work and there’s no place for your personal feelings at work……..We’re here to do a job and we’re here to get results.
  • However, we talk about passion and the importance of culture which is all about emotions so that doesn’t make any sense.
  • Minter’s research shows that the female brain tends to be more empathic. He stresses the ‘female’ part as important because it’s not necessarily about being a woman.
  • Given the huge variety of experiences that are out there it makes it difficult for an individual to be broadly empathic. However, computers are not limited by memory capacity and if we were able to log into a computer all manner of different experiences, including different cultural and linguistic variations, and you combine this with, for example, all the novels ever written then it is conceivable that, by proxy, a machine would start to empathically understand more and more these different types of situations. And, rather than saying ‘I know how you feel’ they’re going to be able to process what types of feeling you are having and then come up with some possibilities depending on the scenario and context.
  • Machines are already better able to detect depression in people than human doctors are.
  • We also need to start thinking about building more empathic organizations.
  • But, don’t try to delegate empathy to a machine if you’re not willing or capable of doing it yourself. For example, imagine the organization that says let’s be empathic to our customers but treat each other like crap.
  • Empathy doesn’t necessarily mean being nice. It’s about understanding.
  • Key question(s): Why do you want to become more empathic? Why is it important to you and your business?
  • The higher the income and social status a person has the less empathic they become. So, the higher you are in an organization the less empathic you are or, at least, the opportunities that you have to become more empathic decrease the higher you go in an organization.
  • If you have more of a win win or an abundant view of the world then you’re likely to be more empathic to others.
  • The ethical dimension to empathy is of particular import. We are right now defining ways of doing things without laws because the technologies and the opportunities are preceding our ability to write laws fast enough. That means that ethics has a huge role to play.
  • Check out the Empathy Museum.
  • Check out the book: Heartificial Empathy, Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence

About Minter

Minter DialAfter a long and successful international career at L’Oréal, Minter Dial returned to his entrepreneurial roots to become a thought-leader, author, consultant and professional speaker. Working in partnership with a select group of associates, Minter has spent ten years helping senior management teams and Boards to adapt to the new exigencies of the digitally enhanced marketplace. Minter has worked with world-class organisations to help activate their brand strategies, and to integrate new technologies and digital tools, devices and platforms. Above all, Minter works to catalyse a change in mindset and dialling up transformation.

Check out Minter’s newest book Heartificial Empathy, Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence, his previous book, co-written with Caleb Storkey: Futureproof, How to get your business ready for the next disruption and his award-winning book and documentary, The Last Ring Home.

While you are at it take a look at Minter’s website (www.minterdial.com), connect with him on LinkedIn here and say Hi to him on Twitter @mdial.



Thanks to Pixabay for the image.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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