Infusing Humanity Into CX, Discussion With Barry Schwartz

It’s CX Day in New Zealand, so that’s reason enough to kick off Temkin Group’s CX Day celebration. I can’t think of a better way to start CX Day in The Year of Emotion, then to share my Q&A with Barry Schwartz.

During this one hour video focused on Infusing Humanity into CX, we discuss some of Barry’s key findings about people and happiness, and explore what it means for customers, employees, and leaders. Sit back and enjoy the discussion, and then follow the links below for more information.

In case you don’t know Barry (and you should!), he’s the Emeritus professor of psychology at Swarthmore College, and has spent forty years thinking and writing about the interaction between economics and morality. 

This Q&A was a real pleasure for me, because Barry has heavily influenced my thinking over the years. He’s one of the key thought leaders of our time, and I believe that all CX professionals (and all leaders) can learn from him.

Here’s some of Barry’s work that we discuss:

Here’s some of our research that we discuss:

The bottom line: Thank you Barry Schwartz!

Three Ideas to Re-Humanize Patient Experience

I was recently interviewed for an article that discusses a post where Fox News journalist John Stossel describes his experience as a lung cancer patient at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

First of all, I hope that Stossel’s treatment is successful. And although I don’t fully agree with his analysis of the industry, I do agree with his observation “…I have to say, the hospital’s customer service stinks.” Yes, there is a problem with patient experience.

I’m reminded of this picture from a post that I wrote in 2009, which comes from Cleveland Clinic’s 2008 Annual Report.


With all of the focus on costs and liabilities, the medical system has forgotten about the soul of the patient. It’s become dehumanized.

The wellbeing of a patient often takes a back seat to rigid processes and procedures, and there’s little understanding of how to help patients make increasingly important financial/medical trade-offs. It’s not that doctors, nurses, and hospital staffs don’t care. It’s just that the entire system has conspired to de-emphasize humanity.

This problem is not unique to healthcare. In research that we did in 2013, we found that only 30% of employees have what Aristotle called “practical wisdom,” the combination of moral will and moral skill. This is the capability that Barry Schwartz explains is critical for infusing humanity within organizations.

While there are many structural issues in U.S. healthcare (which I won’t go into here), there are still many things that can be done to re-humanize the patient experience. Here are some ideas:

  • Apply better experience design. Health care leaders should learn and apply the the principles of People-Centric Experience Design: align with purpose, guide with empathy, and design for memories.
  • Develop a value mindset. As patients take on more of the direct financial burden for healthcare, doctors must do more than recommend treatments and procedures. They must help patients understand the value of those activities, so that they can make smart financial/medical trade-offs.
  • Build decision-support technology. Patients should be able to understand the efficacy and full costs of the treatments and procedures that they are being asked to “purchase.” Health plans need to take the lead in providing tools for making this information transparent, and empowering patients to make better decisions.

The bottom line: It’s time to re-humanize healthcare


30% of U.S. Workers Have Practical Wisdom

In a previous post, I discussed a wonderful TED talk by Barry Schwartz called Our Loss of Wisdom. Schwartz references what Aristotle called “practical wisdom,” the combination of moral will and moral skill.

As an analyst at heart, I decided to quantify practical wisdom. How? By creating two statements that are indicative of moral will and another two that reflect moral skill.

  • Moral will statements:
    • I have an obligation to help other people when I’m doing my job, even if it’s not part of my job description
    • I am willing to work harder or longer if my efforts will help other people
  • Moral skill statements:
    • I regularly do things that aren’t on my job description because they will help other people
    • I understand when it’s appropriate to break my company’s rules in order to help customers and other people

In the recent Temkin Group consumer benchmark study, we asked more than 5,000 U.S. employees if they agreed with those four statements. As you can see in the chart below:

  • More people agree with the moral will questions than the moral skill questions
  • We classified people as having moral will or skill if they agreed with both of the related statements. Sixty-nine percent have moral will, but only 36% have moral skill
  • When we looked at the combination of these skills, we found that 30% have practical wisdom—the combination of moral will and moral skill


I will continue to dig deeper into our dataset to understand the demographics and attitudes that go along with practical wisdom. So stay tuned.

The bottom line: When it comes to morality, there’s more will than skill

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