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Is low empathy killing our creativity? – by Mimi Nicklin

By Mimi Nicklin, author and regional managing director for RAPP Middle East & Africa. Her debut book, Softening The Edge, is out on  15 September and is available for pre-order now


A study by Steelcase and Microsoft reports that 77 percent of people believe creativity is a key skill for any twenty-first-century role, yet according to Forrester, 61 percent of leaders say they don’t currently believe their company is creative enough.[i] Beyond this, recent data from Orlando Wood’s book, Lemon, states that we have a “crisis in creativity” and that we have seen an ongoing and drastic decline in creative effectiveness in the years between 2008 and 2018.[ii] Is it possible that our empathy deficit is killing our creativity?

Creativity is a differentiator, a change maker, a pace driver, and is so often at the core of all valuable transformation. It is the magic that takes good ideas to truly resonant and connected movements—movements of mindsets, movements of behaviour, and movements of goods and sales. It is the kinesiology of the corporate world, stirring us and shifting our opinions and it is a shared currency for connectivity. At its core, the best of creativity and innovation is born from empathetic understanding. How else would we be able to impact humanity so profoundly?

Those who create stories, poetry, art, music, and yes, advertising, understand something about you that perhaps even you didn’t even know. They see you, they hear you, they watch you in the most observant of ways. They paint a picture for you to dive into, a belief that you want to be part of or a feeling you want to keep forever. They tap into society, into humanity, and into reality. They may sell stories but empathy is their currency.

To empathise is to imagine, to empathise is to understand, and to empathise is to share and yet so often we have our empathy skills turned off. Any marketer or strategist who has ever set success principles early in a project knows that understanding your audience is foundational for business results. Whether we are innovating a product, creating a new pricing strategy, or launching a new marketing campaign, it is insight into our audience that assures us the work will work. Empathy is the secret path to deeply resonant and powerful campaigns, and it is a skill that the best communicators and content creators around the world instinctively deliver in every project. Turn up your empathy and you might just turn up your creative output at the same time.




[i] Bower, Tracy. Bring on the Brilliance: The Making of Great Ideas. [Online] January 5, 2018. https://www.steelcase.com/research/articles/topics/workplace/bring-brilliance-making-great-ideas/.

[ii] Wood, Orlando. Lemon. How the advertising brain turned sour. s.l. : Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, 2019