April marks Autism Awareness month, an ongoing effort nationwide to pledge and support all of those living on the autism spectrum are able to achieve the highest quality of life possible. Normally, this would be a vibrant and important topic to discuss, however, we are not living in normal times. The coronavirus pandemic has dominated the headlines and every aspect of our daily lives. That being said, it is important that we take a moment to see why the very nature of autism can serve as an important channel for business once they emerge from this pandemic. Building a new approach is critical to define growth opportunities and create a philosophy that has been defined by crisis and sees the power of there business is not just in the products and services they sell or the brand they have developed, but something deeper, the need to add the ingredient of empathy into every facet of the business. To see human connection as essential to all growth and success moving forward.
For many on the autism spectrum, having routine and order is critical to functioning in their everyday lives. When that is disrupted, this can cause a certain amount of stress, anxiety, and even fear. In the time of this new pandemic, this is a collective mood we are all beginning to share, and this uneasiness is causing havoc across the business environment. In this moment of pause, it would be fitting for C-level executives and other high-level management to actually dig deeper into the nuances of autism and explore further how to deal with this type of behavior by appropriating it as a management strategy for crisis. By finding more effective solutions pertaining to a myriad of issues from the link between invisible disabilities such as stress, anxiety, and depression and its impact on remote work, companies will have greater capabilities to discover new approaches to expressing the significance of corporate health and wellness as a cornerstone for resetting the values of business in the post COVID-19 era.
Through initiating a reset, companies will need to understand that it is the obligation of their leadership to set the tone and espouse a new value system that represents the need to take the lessons learned from this crisis and apply them to the mechanics of their daily business operations. The lessons of autism and COVID-19 show the importance of human connection is fundamental to our lived experience and with that connection comes the need for empathy. Defining a Business of Empathy will need to become essential learning from business schools to Fortune 500 companies. As always, we must begin with a question. How does one first understand the ability to share the feelings of another as a central theme for business post COVID-19 and how can an organization implement the tools needed to succeed across the corporate landscape?
This leads us to another essential question, that is a question of culture. It is crucial that companies when they move beyond the pandemic are not short sighted and forget about the pain and suffering it caused both from a financial and human toll. As an organization, the Business of Empathy must see this question of how they take care of their employees during a crisis, any crisis, man made or otherwise as a cornerstone for survival and growth. Also, how does the role of innovation and creative thinking play into the Business of Empathy and offer solutions to potential problems that can impact the company in times of crisis? Finding answers to these questions should now be seen as a prerequisite of any leader and part of the ethos of any organization.
The award-winning acting coach Elaine Hall stated that “It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a child with autism to raise the consciousness of the village.” In this moment of collective unrest, business can draw from the fact that we are in this unique moment where we need those on the autism spectrum to help us all to make sense of how to live with this crisis and find a better way to navigate for the future. In the next Mindset Matters column, we will explore more deeply the importance of the Business of Empathy and its ability to increase productivity, expand cooperation, and the capability to establish a competitive advantage.