Empathy in entrepreneurship

January 9, 2018 | Business

School of Business faculty member talks at MacEwan’s first TEDx event

Launa Linaker, Experiential Learning Educator, School of Business, is one of the featured speakers at “Laying New Tracks,” MacEwan’s first TEDx event on January 19.

On July 14, 2016, I was in Nice at an innovation program with five MacEwan University students. It was a national holiday in France, but still a busy day for us—my students were working on their entrepreneurship projects and creating their video blogs. Later that evening, we made our way to the promenade to enjoy the fireworks over the water. The light was beautiful.

And then everything went dark. In an unthinkable act of terror, 458 people were injured and 86 people were killed. Misha Bazelevskyy, an incredible young man who was also one of my students, was among those who died. That night, I saw the very worst of humanity. But in the minutes, hours and days after, I also saw humanity at its very best. The citizens, volunteers, first responders and health care providers that led us through such sadness and turmoil were amazing and open-hearted.

When I came home from Nice, I couldn’t stop thinking about the way we come together as humans in times of crisis. And I wondered why we don’t find that kind of solidarity far more often.

How might we harness the light that guides us in terrible times? How could we tap into our humanity more often? How could I help my students do that?

In the months that followed, those questions gave me purpose. I started looking for ways that we could humanize business education.

I found my answers in entrepreneurship—but not in the way you might think. To me, entrepreneurship is less about maximizing profit, and more about doing the right thing. It’s about using entrepreneurial thinking to see beyond the negativity in the world and create positive change. It’s about identifying a problem, starting with what you have, galvanizing resources and doing something about it. It’s about being a moral citizen. And it’s about humanity.

When we returned to the same innovation program in the summer of 2017, this time in Italy, I asked the students participants from 26 different countries a question: What does it mean to be human? Their number one answer was empathy.

It’s something I think both business and business education need more of.

—Launa Linaker, Experiential Learning Educator, School of Business

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