Ignite Compassion and Ignite Change

Ignite Compassion and Ignite Change

Monica Worline and Jane Dutton believe that compassion is a powerful and necessary tool for every organization. Their new book, Awakening Compassion at Work, available now on Amazon, reveals why opening our eyes to the power of compassion is smart business. In today’s post, they explain one reason it can make a vital difference.

Every organization must have the capacity to perform with excellence at the same time that it adapts to fluctuating markets, changing competitive landscapes, advancing technologies, shifting regulatory environments, sweeping demographic swings, and emerging environmental conditions. These forms of adaptability are the heart of sustaining strategic competitive advantages over time.

Not many leaders recognize that these changes are also invitations to greater compassion in their organizations. The ones who do understand that, if they want to ignite change, they need to first ignite compassion.

In one study of adaptability, compassion researcher Donde Ashmos Plowman and her colleagues showed how an urban church that was in severe decline enlisted creative ideas from its members in hopes of shifting the downward trend. The leaders of the church ignited compassion by asking members to think about new ways that the church could be of service to its community. This works in for-profit organizations as well—people who are given missions that orient them toward creating products and services that alleviate human pain are more motivated, more engaged, and more creative.

In the church case, compassion for the organization’s broader community of stakeholders sparked ideas about new services the church could offer, including breakfast for homeless urban residents in the neighborhood. This launched the church on new activities and began to spark some change.

As these sparks caught fire in the organization, change accelerated. This often happens in cycles of compassionate change across all kinds of organizations. New people are drawn to the mission and they bring new ideas and energy. The new pattern of compassion and change continued.

A doctor volunteered medical services to be offered during the breakfasts. Others saw this and thought about what they could offer. More ideas caught on. Soon the church offered meal services, a full clinic, showers, employment services, and more.

As these new services ramped up, the church reversed its decline. It raised more money and added new members. Some old members dropped away, but passion for this new mission continued to generate sparks of compassion that ignited passion for change.

Do you have a story of compassion that ignited change?

We share more of these examples in our book Awakening Compassion at Work. And we’d love to hear from you, too!


Monica Worline
Monica Worline
, PhD, is CEO of EnlivenWork. She is a research scientist at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and Executive Director of CompassionLab, the world’s leading research collaboratory focused on compassion at work.

Jane DuttonJane Dutton, PhD, is the Robert L. Kahn Distinguished University Professor of Business Administration and Psychology and cofounder of the Center for Positive Organizations at the Ross School of Business. She has written over 100 articles and published 13 books, including Energize Your Workplace and How to Be a Positive Leader. She is also a founding member of the CompassionLab.


Image credit: skeeze


Enter A Comment

Chris Kenber Business Coach   |   17 April 2017   |   Reply

I love the image used in this post.
Working as a business mentor I strive to ignite change every day for all my individual clients who come from all walks of life