Eric Levkovsky on the Question of Empathy


Eric Lefkosky is a man with a history of making things happen. Yet beyond his accomplishments in founding a series of successful startup companies, from Lightbank (the disruptive technology venture fund) to Tempus (the tech company that created an operating system that aids doctors in the fight against cancer) to Mediaoccean, Interworkings and more, he is also a man who uses his creativity to find solutions. Finding solutions, as Lefkosky would be the first to say, also involves asking questions, and letting the mind wander. Recently, Lefkofsky let his mind wander on the question of empathy, and why it’s such a needed quality these days, in business and in our personal relationships.

Empathy in the Day to Day Business World

In his work with Tempus, Lefkovsky deals frequently with doctors and with patients who are being treated for cancer. Tempus is the healthcare tech startup that is working hard to modernize and streamline the information infrastructure systems used to treat patients with cancer. In recent years, Levkofsky has dedicated a great deal of his time to working with Tempus, as he feels that the tech aspect of medical treatment has been lagging behind the times, to the detriment of healthcare patients and professionals. His work with Tempus has also heightened his awareness of the need for more empathy in all aspects of life, not just in treatment areas but also in businesses of all kinds.

Medical professionals must balance their feelings of empathy with their need to keep some distance from the emotions surrounding their patients, of course, in order to treat them with a degree of clinical rationality. Yet it’s Levkofsky’s feeling that working around people who are being treated for illnesses has heightened his awareness of the deep need in society for more empathy.

Imagine a Truly Empathetic World

In the song, “Hurt,” by Christine Aguilera, a girl sings of her pain over losing her father, and also for the way she hurt him. What she finally realizes is that she hurt herself deeply by hurting him. The heartache of the song speaks to the need for real empathy in relationships, as ultimately, hurting others does just hurt ourselves in incalcuable ways. The bullies of the world seem to miss this bit of teaching, but the more we look around, the more we see the truth in this bit of wisdom.

Healing By Listening and Caring

Levkovsky has spent a lot of time wondering about how more empathy in the world could really change things. Real empathy means really feeling another person’s pain, and seeing things through their eyes, rather than just from one’s own vantage point. With real empathy at work in more of our society, there would be fewer controversies and less lawsuits, fewer divorces and no agony over child abuse, sexual harassment, and assault. With more empathy, our funding of wars would stop, because by working together, rather than at odds with others, there would be no need to fight.

Sure, imagining a world with more empathy might seem like an impossible dream, but to a big dreamer like Levkovsky, the question is, “why not dream even bigger?”


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