A.J. Paron-Wildes

'Design Empathy' Creates Well-Being In Workplaces

Q&A With A.J. Paron-Wildes

What attracted you to the BIF Summit?

I met Saul Kaplan (BIF Founder and Chief Catalyst) a couple of years. I met him when I and my son Devin spoke at the PeaceLove Storytellers event.

Tell us just a bit about the subject of your BIF Summit story.

I’ve learned a lot of lessons through this journey. People have our set predispositions and then something breaks the mold, like having an autistic child. What do we do with that? I’ve used what I’ve learned as the mother of an autistic son to help companies with their workplace design strategy, using empathy in design to help their employees be more productive and agile. I love it when people take a little shift after they’ve worked with me — when they come to me and say, I have to be a little more empathetic.

What, to you, is the value of sharing stories?

Storytelling is how people grow. They listen, absorb, and it changes how they think and act. My son Devin is a visual artist. We both told our stories at the PeaceLove event, as we’ll do at BIF. Frankly, the rehearsals we had before PeaceLove were horrific. But as Devin told his story on stage, the audience engaged and listened to his story. He hadn’t had that experience before. It transformed him into a storyteller, not just a young adult with autism who finds it almost impossible to communicate except through his art.

We judge so fast and we don’t see the value in people. Story helps people understand the struggles, how hard it is. When you walk on the street and see Devin doing something weird, you just say, what’s wrong with that person? The underlying story is important, not just the headlines or the pictures or the first impressions. What matters is the story of the journey and how someone impacts people.

Do you have a motto, or “words to live by”? If so, what is it?

Every human has creative value. Look for it in unexpected places.

What one thing (or more, if you like) would you like Summit attendees to know about you before they hear your story?

Storytellers Mark Brand and Philip Sheppard and I are also part of storyteller Yarrow Kraner’s Hatch event. Hatch is like a summer camp for creative people, who come together to try to make the world a better place. Like at BIF, the importance of Hatch is in the connections that are made, breaking through barriers personally, contributing to the greater good, and helping each other achieve a goal or project.



HATCH is a global network, movement, and a series of experiences designed to catalyze CREATIVITY to HATCH a better world. Yarrow Kraner, Mark Brand, Philip Sheppard, and A.J. Paron-Wildes all join BIF2017 as storytellers and members of the Hatch Network. 


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