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July 21, 2008

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These are great questions.

I'm not sure we can ever be untouchable, but certainly if you follow this advice then it puts you above the norm.

Kia ora Michele!

With such a broad topic, and the way you have swept the scene, it is difficult to reply in general terms. So I will home in on one or two particular aspects - 'empathy'/'symphony'.

Truly "understanding where another person is coming from" is a gift that can be honed in the way that one who has a talent at sprinting can improve that, or one who has a gift of music can become an accomplished musician.

Empathy is like a sixth sense. It cannot be simply learnt, though it can be improved. Most people who exhibit homophily are able to improve the skills that optimise this quality. To assume that anyone can rise to the level of the 'empath' is denying that this quality is a gift and cannot be learnt.

As with Asperger syndrome and other autisms, improving symptom and function for someone who has little empathetic qualities can be done through training up to a certain level. But it consists of a set of learned responses rather than a true empathy.

Similarly with Symphony. This is a gift that may be improvable, though not a skill that's can be easily acquired if it does not exist already in some substantial way. Much of symphony which appears to be acquired by those who do not have this quality is done through learning defined patterns and connections. But training of this description does not impart the ability to see connections where none has been seen or recognised before - the penetration and insight that is so much the gift of true insight cannot be learnt.

In short, many of the competencies in this 3rd category are like those. I'm afraid my baloney detector starts to kick in when I listen to advice on how people can improve these gift qualities. 'Meaning' is another - I won't elaborate.

Ka kite

Hi Ken--I really encourage you to read Pink's book. I think he makes a pretty good case for suggesting that it's possible to develop greater skill in empathy and symphony, although certainly attaining those skills is easier if you have some talent in those areas.

As for "meaning," the point there is that if we are doing work that helps us help others to create meaning, then we are adding value. It's the skill that many of us exhibit in writing our blogs--we're helping people to see meaning in things and to get a sense of fulfillment. That's not something that can be done by a machine or easily outsourced.

I agree with Tony in that I'm not sure anyone can ever be untouchable, (though it's a nice goal to strive toward!) but I think these are great questions to remind ourselves of so that we can continuously grow and enhance our skills as employees. I especially think #4 is important. It's quite easy to get comfortable in your role and overlook changes taking place, but with the rate of innovation in technology and change today continuous upgrading of skills is imperative.

Tēnā koe Michele,

I reiterate, empathy, as is symphony, is "a gift that may be improvable, though not a skill that's can be easily acquired if it does not exist already in some substantial way".

You say "certainly attaining those skills is easier if you have some talent in those areas".

At the risk of entering into further discussion, I think we are saying the same thing here.

Ka kite

I am not sure about using the word "untouchable". To me it refers to the indian lowest cast: people the brahmins don't want to touch...but the advices are great.
Thank you

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