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Everything will eventually get commoditised...except empathy

· Jesse


Define empathy: “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”

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OK, I think you get the point.

The internet has completely changed the world.

Education and our understanding of how knowledge is transferred between humans has been democratized and “commoditised.” We literally have the capability to “learn things” and “get things done” at ridiculous speed from the devices in our pockets. The world is amazing. There’s a product called Thunkable which is a “drag and drop” iOS and Android app builder. Just like Wix and Strikingly, knowledge of coding is not required.

But what does this mean for us?

5 words

The commoditisation of hard skills.

If there’s anything you take away from this read. Please let it be this. Hard skills, quantifiable skills in a ‘white collar’ job you can gain through education, training programs, certifications, and on-the-job training such as how to type, how to read a P&L, how to write code etc. These are typically quantifiable skills that can be easily defined and evaluated. These skills will become less valuable as technology continues to proliferate our world.

Soft skills, on the other hand (interpersonal “people” skills) these are much harder to define and evaluate. While hard skills are job-specific, most employers are looking for similar soft skills in their job candidates. Soft skills include: the ability to communicate, listen, and among others demonstrate empathy. These skills will become more valuable as technology continues to proliferate our world.

Why is this? Let me explain. If I can visualise something tangible I want to make and clearly define its features, then I have 2 options:

  1. Get someone to do it for me. Also known as the fast way. But it costs money. Not as much as it used to though. The internet and the rise of the gig worker has changed that paradigm. Leveraging online platforms which are democratising not only skills, but how we access them; think Airtasker, Appster, Freelancer, UpWork or something similar is becoming the new norm.
  2. Do it yourself. Also known as the slower way. It might not cost you any cash, but it will take away valuable time. You can learn the skills that the people in (1) already have. However. These skills are becoming increasingly democratised through the Internet, many of which are learnable in “cheap” or free online courses. However, this approach will take time and as tech “speeds things up” more and more, these “skills” will continue to become less valuable.

So what am I getting at? Well, if you just take a step back and play this out in your head then you might start to get a glimpse of the world we’re heading towards. The only thing that will matter are the ideas we human beings come up with to solve society’s problems and the soft skills like empathy necessary to execute them. Invest in this last sentence. Really understand what this means for you.

Why? Well, everything else in our quest to solve the world’s problems and make new ideas a reality (execution), will become increasingly commoditized through technology, so you’ll need to figure out how your unique way of adding value to the people around you and the world, makes you different.

One thing you can do to help you out is to become more empathetic! In my opinion, empathy is possibly the most important soft skill in the world. It allows you to listen and see the world from the eyes of another human and in some cases, feel a problem they may be facing. It is this ability and skill that can be a catalyst for problem solving and the creativity necessary to come up with an idea that may just solve that problem. Some of the best ideas come from understanding consumer behaviour before people are even aware of it and developing a solution to meet that untapped demand. The secret sauce is empathy.

The fact that knowledge is now democratized means you can learn anything, at anytime, for a fraction of the cost. Whether it’s science or entrepreneurship, the information is out there and most probably free.

With that in mind, consider being more empathetic towards the people around you, use this to help you understand consumer behaviour and the everyday problems around us. This will begin to help you naturally come up with ideas. Most importantly, combine the lot of it to start executing and doing!

Some things that might help you do this:

  1. Do something totally different from your normal routine. Go try out a new yoga or an improv class, something new to trigger fresh learning sequences in your brain. 
  2. Try doing random tasks with your non dominant hand.
  3. Practice patience and gratitude. Even though the world’s at our fingertips doesn’t mean you need it now. Be happy with what you have and realise that there’s always someone worse off. You’re lucky to be alive. Be kind, show more empathy and watch how your view of the world changes.

Would love to know what you think of this crazy stream of consciousness?

Written By Jesse Wilson