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Toys belong in schools and boardrooms

Our founder, Ilana Ben-Ari brought the Empathy Toy to Global News Morning this week to chat with host Adriana Zhang about the importance of empathy in the future of work and learning.

When questioned about where the idea of teaching empathy came from, Ilana points out that initially, it was easy to think of empathy as “just something we naturally should be doing more of.” But as global industries move towards technology and automation with the new world of work on the horizon, Ilana realized that “empathy is actually considered now one of the #1 job skills and while it’s really important, teaching it is a whole other thing.”

Toys are the New Textbooks

“Empathy in action is really challenging,” Ilana is quick to address. Our mantra at Twenty One Toys is that “toys are the new textbooks,” meaning that toys and play can be used to teach skills in an interactive, immersive, and experiential manner that textbooks just aren’t capable of.

It’s a sentiment that’s echoed back to us when we garner feedback from businesses – how using the Empathy Toy makes it easy to, “very quickly in 15 minutes,” conjure shrewd insight into how coworkers and team members “deal with patience and frustration.” Play is a safe place to practice flexing that empathy muscle so that team members can “get into those deeper conversations really quickly.” As Ilana puts it, “it’s a testament to the value of play, and toys, that you can get very deep [with the Empathy Toy] really quickly.”

Of course, the long term vision for the company, and for the world, is that we need an entire toy curriculum to develop the skills needed for the future of work. Because it’s clear to see, as Ilana puts it, “if we’re going to be teaching creativity and innovation and social and emotional skills, we can’t be doing that with textbooks.”

The Empathy Toy in Winnipeg for DisruptED

The Empathy Toy is making waves all around the world, but there’s definitely a soft-spot in our hearts for Winnipeg. While we’re immensely proud of the “3 different MBA programs” the toy is being used in, and the knowledge that banks are now using the toy “to talk about empathy in customer service”, there are always new Empathy Toy success stories coming out of Winnipeg.

Just this week, CTV news profiled Winnipeg company Protegra, that’s using the toy “not just for team-building and collaboration, but to talk about empathy in software development.” And one of the most touching stories from Winnipeg is of St John’s High School, that’s been using the Empathy Toy for a number of years. Ilana relays how St John’s High School “took the toys and developed a leadership program where…a cohort of students became the teachers and started teaching with toys.” Over the last few years they’ve been working with the Empathy Toy, the school has identified an 85% reduction in office-referrals due to conflict between students. That turnaround was enough to put Twenty One Toys and the Empathy Toy on the radar of Winnipeg mayor, Brian Bowman, who honoured us the last time we were in Winnipeg.

The Empathy Toy

is a blindfolded puzzle game that can only be solved when players learn to understand each other…

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