6 min learn
“What’s one thing you faux to learn about, and why?”
The query seems on a light-weight blue card adorned with 4 gender-neutral faces, their eyes shut. As you progress by means of the deck, the cardboard colours change — to inexperienced to yellow to pink — and the eyes progressively open. The designs replicate the character of the questions; these printed on blue playing cards are the least probing, maybe probably the most approachable, whereas these on pink pose deeper, extra controversial queries: “Can violence ever be justified? In what circumstances?”
The sport is named Actually Curious, and the target isn’t to win or lose, however to “get actual” with the opposite gamers, strengthening an empathy-driven motion of human connection. Curiosity Lab, a bunch of idealistic entrepreneurs who goal to harness the facility of consumerism and leisure to change the way in which folks behave, created the sport in 2018.
Michael Tennant is the person behind the marketing group, and the sport. Since its inception, Really Curious has change into a viral hit, one endorsed by Beyoncé and main media shops. Tennant has even been dubbed an “empathy expert” by The New York Times. Final yr, within the span of six months, Curiosity Lab generated greater than $400,000 in income, and the corporate has grown 500% yr over yr. However the street to Tennant’s enormously in style empathy motion was a troublesome one.
Picture Credit score: Courtesy of Curiosity Lab
“I went to spend time with my household, and it was not met very empathetically”
In 2016, Tennant was working as an advertising government, bringing in main purchasers like Google, Delta Airways, Mailchimp and HBO for his firm, when he discovered that his older brother Chris had suffered from a stroke. “At that time, I used to be the top of my division,” Tennant says. “We had this actually necessary factor the subsequent week in LA. ‘Actually necessary.’ I went to spend time with my household, and it was not met very empathetically, although I didn’t have the language for it then.”
Tennant won’t have had the language for it then, but it surely was an expertise that will stick with him. Later that yr, when the election of Donald Trump deepened division throughout the U.S., Tennant started to reevaluate the trajectory of his profession. He began to contemplate how he may use his abilities to create optimistic change.
The need to make an influence led Tennant to discovered Curiosity Lab in 2017, and by the next summer season, the advertising group had grown right into a workforce of six. With the looming midterm elections exacerbating the nation’s division, Tennant and the remainder of the workforce brainstormed methods to convey folks collectively.
“We thought of what our values have been and got here up with group, connection and compassion,” Tennant says. “We introduced within the mannequin of SMART targets — good, measurable, actionable, related and time-based.” They got here up with a 360 advertising marketing campaign, which included Really Curious.
“We did this guerrilla advertising marketing campaign,” Tennant says. “I did stencils in a single day in entrance of The New York Occasions and Vice, our personal wheat pastings that acquired pulled down instantly. But it surely was efficient. [The Actually Curious cards] bought out in 5 days.”
Associated: Why Empathy Is Important in Leaders Right Now
“I wakened in the midst of the evening and was like, ‘I’ve to take this recreation across the nation'”
Tennant’s idealistic advertising firm was off to an thrilling begin, but it surely was additionally going through debt, and in 2019, the group needed to briefly fold. Afterwards, Tennant was employed because the CMO of a public-health nonprofit. Tennant’s new title gave him again some sense of safety, however the aid didn’t final lengthy.
That yr, Tennant’s brother Chris handed away, and he additionally misplaced his different brother Darren. Tennant hit an emotional all-time low, and the poisonous considering he acknowledged from his early days in promoting resurfaced. He knew he needed to make a radical change.
“I wakened in the midst of the evening and was like, ‘I’ve to take this recreation across the nation,’” Tennant remembers. “I’d taken out a $50,000 mortgage to verify I had sufficient money movement, and we simply went out and pitched the playing cards to totally different locations.”
Really Curious‘s industrial technique concerned stopping in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities on the way in which to see Tennant’s dad and mom in Southwest Florida, however the journey supplied greater than publicity for Curiosity Lab’s card recreation; it gave Tennant an opportunity to empathize along with his youthful self and work by means of a few of his previous trauma.
“I went on Fb and regarded up folks from my previous,” Tennant says. “So like, my highschool bully, from my first yr of boarding college. I used to be 12 years outdated, making an attempt to acclimate to financial, racial and cultural variations.” In the end, Tennant met up with the boy he’d recognized at school, and the expertise helped Tennant unpack his personal defensive nature.
“Ardour, objective and occupation align, and that’s an exquisite, uncommon factor”
At the moment, Tennant continues to unfold the empathy motion. “We began doing these client workshops to lean into our objective,” he explains. “And at that time, the industrial articulation of this objective was to unfold empathy. It’s nice. Ardour, objective and occupation align. And that’s an exquisite, uncommon factor.”
“We began doing workshops in October to assist the members of our group strengthen their empathy muscle tissues, going into the election month,” Tennant continues. “It was additionally a great way for us to place out observe mini-modules, targeted on instructing actually particular abilities that will assist folks be extra proactive, assured and have extra company round making a secure house. After which lastly having the ability to use these three abilities to acknowledge our personal biases.”
The deceptively easy card recreation that began all of it continues to play an necessary position in Tennant’s empathy motion. Now, the unique Curiosity pack is joined by Completely satisfied Hour, Tradition and Human Rights editions, every with a singular space of specificity, because the names counsel. The playing cards will be performed alone or collectively, however all of them share a typical purpose, the one which’s been on Tennant’s radar from the start: to start out the conversations which have the potential to foster connection and alter lives.