The Peer-to-Peer Practice of Empathic Intervision

Empathy has gained a lot of traction over recent years in many professional sectors. The Businessolver State of Workplace Empathy Study (2019) demonstrates that leaders are in greater agreement than ever with their employees on the need for empathy in the workplace, yet crucial gaps remain between intentions and implementation. In order to bridge this gap, empathy practice needs to be understood, implemented, and studied. Walking the talk requires hands-on empathic skills.

This series of articles will introduce you to Empathic Intervision, a structured method of interaction for people working together, to identify opportunities and co-create solutions to challenges. We start off with a description of what is commonly known as intervision and we place the specific practice of empathic intervision within this organizational approach.

In the English language, intervision is not a term commonly used. As you get to know more about intervision, particularly in an organizational climate opening to co-creation, bridging of silos, human-centric practices, servant leadership and other strivings to dismantle traditional hierarchical power structures, you may wonder why not. The current series of articles will answer the questions: What is Intervision? How does it differ from supervision? Where and how is it applied? What are some of its characteristics? And why is it so relevant to our time? We will also address the issue of why empathy is particularly relevant as a capacity in intervision.

What Intervision is

Intervision is an organised conversation between people combining work with learning. It is a structured method according to which colleagues come together to handle situations, questions and problems with an intent to learn from each other, improve expertise and co-evolve new insights and outcomes, with regard to the issue at hand.

It is structured in that it provides a process within which colleagues are organized to address a predefined issue. It is not a free for all. A well-designed routine, managed according to time and content, offers valuable support for peers to address issues.

Another defining characteristic of intervision is that it is peer-to-peer. A group of colleagues embrace a combined diversity of knowledge, experience and skill. It serves to facilitate a range of colleagues to work and learn together. Intervision is frequently applied in a setting where a group of professionals, such as doctors, with either an individual, or a common professional challenge, come together to analyse work related issues. In business a group of managers or a team may establish a routine to analyse work related issues and to look for possible technical or interpersonal solutions or alternatives to behaviour.

Intervision has a dual purpose: improving work situations through common understanding and professional development, as well as learning through work related issues. Colleagues meet to explore and handle situations, questions or problems in a work context. Through a methodical exploration, colleagues learn from each other and rely upon their combined experience and knowledge to understand a situation from multiple perspectives.

While intervision is little known in English-speaking institutions, it is extensively applied in professional, business and learning institutions in the Netherlands and to a lesser degree in Belgium and France.

Empathic Intervision

Empathic Intervision supplements the advantages of intervision with layered empathic capacities that serve to strengthen engagement and encourage diversity amongst members of a group. This is always an advantage, and particularly useful where there are cultural differences or differences of opinion. Empathic capacities enable members to listen and hear each other’s deeper experiences, thoughts and feelings about a topic and to identify and consider the perspectives of the others in the group.

Empathic Intervision is guided by and aligned with the setting of collective intentions. An environment conducive to innovation and learning is cultivated to embrace confidentiality and the suspension of judgment by considering and contracting ethical responsibility. Participants useself-empathy to bring awareness to their own conscious, and hidden agendas, helping them to identify how they show up to meetings. A moment is taken to allow everyone to set a consciously chosenpersonal intentionthat aligns to the previously set collective intention. Reflective conversation ensures that the issues raised are fully heard and understood by each member of the group. Clarifying the experience of the speaker for both speaker and listeners. Imaginative empathyapplies imagination and acting to gain perspective on the multiple and diverse views in the meeting, to enable participants to renew their outlook on the issue at hand with a composite understanding of the multiple perspectives represented by the group.

In the following articles in this series we will look at the process of intervision itself. We will discuss how intervision differs from supervision and what the typical components of intervision are. We will discuss the benefits and shortfalls of the general intervision process and we will show how the benefits are enhanced and the shortfalls addressed with Empathic Intervision.