A Few of our Favourite Things: April 2023

April is a time of year for growing, so we've chosen a few articles that got us thinking about how we can challenge ourselves as learners and leaders this month!

Two people are seated at a large table and a third person stands behind them. All three look at the screen of a laptop on the table. One of the seated people looks thoughtful while the other two are smiling.
Photo by WOCinTechChat

Authentic Empathy: The Key to your Organization's Business Success

We're not surprised that 87% of US workers say that empathy leads to better leadership. This study from EY did get us thinking about the specific role that empathy can play in leadership during transformations and major changes in a business. These moments can be wonderful opportunities for people to connect with their teams, think about their needs, and think of ways to better support their teams. That said, it's very important that these moments of empathy are also followed by action; leaders who appear to be all talk and no action when it comes to empathy aren't setting themselves or their teams up for success.

“Recent years taught us that leading with empathy is a soft and powerful trait that helps empower employers and employees to collaborate better, and ultimately create a culture of accountability and transformation."

- Raj Sharma, EY Americas Consulting Chair
A photo taken over the shoulder of a person. Their hands are visible, with a cell phone in their right hand and their left hand on the keyboard of a laptop.
Photo by Maxim Ilyahov via Unsplash

Failure to Focus: Distractions are Killing Our Ability to Focus at Work and at Home

At any given time, there are a lot of things competing for our attention. Even when we can focus on one thing, it doesn't take long for us to get distracted; nearly a third of people who responded to a survey by Crucial Learning said they can only focus on a task for ten minutes or less before getting distracted. If you're feeling overwhelmed, like you're working more slowly, or like you're not staying present in conversations, you're not alone. Fortunately, this article has a few helpful tips to try!

“With long to-do lists and numberless notifications and interruptions, it’s harder than ever to stay focused on our priorities. If we—and our teams—don’t learn a few key strategies to manage workload, we’ll continue to see high levels of burnout and tanking productivity.”

- Justin Hale, Master Trainer, VitalSmarts
Scrabble tiles have been laid out on a white surface to read fail your way to success.
Photo by Brett Jordan via Unsplash

Why Floundering is Good

This article may be an older one, but we've been thinking a lot about how people learn lately, especially when it comes to failure. Sometimes failure is uncontroversially a bad outcome; the stakes are too high and the risk isn't worth the reward of learning. But sometimes failure can be productive, actually helping us to learn more deeply and helping us to apply what we've learned to other problems in the future. We liked that this article acknowledged that this way of learning can also be uncomfortable and suggested some ways to make sure the learners aren't too frustrated in the process.

“In the real world, problems rarely come neatly packaged, so being able to discern their deep structure is key. But [...] none of us like to fail, no matter how often Silicon Valley entrepreneurs praise the salutary effects of an idea that flops or a start-up that crashes and burns.”

- Annie Murphy Paul, science writer
An older Asian women wearing a wide brimmed hat and an apron stands in a small greenhouse filled with plants. She holds a small potted plant in the hand closest to the camera and is to be watering it with a white jug.
Photo by Oppo Find x5 via Unsplash

Taking Care of Plants is a Lesson in Empathy

If you became a "plant parent" in the last few years, you're not alone. More time at home led many folks to start indoor or outdoor gardens, and found themselves learning about more than the right amount of water to give an orchid. Taking care of plants can provide time for reflection, the opportunity to care for another living thing, and a way to connect with nature on a daily basis. If you haven't given gardening a try yet, this article might convince you to take the step; you never know what you might learn about how you practice empathy from a little cactus on your desk!

“Every morning when we get up, we go to the garden and see how the plants are doing [...] You’ll see my little daughter — who can’t even talk — waving at the plants to tell them good morning just like how my grandmother used to do.”

- Zahira Garden, mom and gardener
A laptop with a refreshable braille display sits on a table.
Photo by Elizabeth Woolner via Unsplash

Accessible Design vs Inclusive Design

We often wonder who the mythical "typical user" is when we're looking at the way things are designed. After all, even people with a lot in common see and experience the world differently. That's why we like the concept of inclusive design; it recognizes that a "typical user" doesn't really exist, and that if we want to make things work for as many people as possible, we have to think about all of the different things that different people might need. Improved accessibility is one of the primary outcomes of inclusive design, but it goes a step further by challenging designers to think about all kinds of people who are different from themselves. It's not easy but it leads to the creation of tools and spaces that work better for everyone!

“Accessible design and inclusive design work hand in hand to lower barriers that exclude people from using digital products effectively. These barriers are often created inadvertently during the design process when designers create products for people like themselves.”

- Cameron Chapman, designer and author