What if every business had a Chief Empathy Officer?

Guest blog post by Anne Burt, Chief Communications Officer at Facing History and Ourselves.

There’s a small but significant groundswell happening during game play around the idea of empathy as a subject – or even a major – in a Learning is Earning 2026 future.

Positive imagination card from Jane McGonigal that reads: "If you had 1 hour to teach anyone 1 skill, what would you teach them? #LearnPositive (please use the hashtag in your reply!)"

Positive imagination card from player brenmcelf that reads: " One hour, one thing: empathy #IWouldTeach #SXSWedu @nasthe3rd"Without question, empathy is a key life skill in a shrinking world where, every day, we interact with those whose points of view and experiences are so different from our own. Research is growing that demonstrates empathy might even be the quality that could save us from the potential breakdown of public civil discourse. In my organization, Facing History and Ourselves, we ask: If you can see the world through someone else’s eyes, would you make decisions differently?

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) must be taught, but can it be measured? Right now, a controversy is playing itself out in schools that have developed standardized tests to try to measure whether students are learning empathy and other social skills. How can we open our minds about 2026 and reimagine the teaching and the assessment of empathy outside traditional testing methods? The world is overflowing with real-life opportunities to try out empathic skills. What are some truly innovative ideas that would bring empathy to life and give life to empathy? What if every business had a Chief Empathy Officer, and bonuses were based on employees’ empathic course completion rate? Let’s build a positive future by learning to listen to each other.