Ilana Ben-Ari: How the Empathy Toy is Changing the World

At what age did we lose our sense of play?  What role does play have in boosting trust, collaboration, and creativity? A big role, it turns out.  My guest today, Ilana Ben-Ari, says research shows we gain tremendous amounts of communication, collaboration, and empathy skills in kindergarten, but they then drastically decline as the education system demands more metrics and less play from us. Science shows us that the act of play fosters innovation, collaboration, and empathy – AT ANY AGE. Today, we talk about her path from empathetic design to running a company dedicated to boosting empathy and collaboration in schools and organizations through her ground-breaking empathy toy. We also talk about the importance of play for adults, and how the empathy toy works, as well as her future vision to ensure that emotional intelligence skills are valued and celebrated just as much as STEM skills.

Key Takeaways:

  • Design starts with empathy. You’re getting at the root of what someone’s day to day challenges are, and you look for opportunities where you can more positively impact their life and their experiences. 
  • We are living through a time of unprecedented change. Whenever there is such rapid change, the only way to effectively and successfully navigate it is through interpersonal relationships; you cannot get through that rate of change by doing everything yourself.
  • Whether we are a team of two or 200, at 6 or at C-Suite, the empathy toy acts as a metaphor for a real life scenario.


“We’ve lost this idea that learning should be fun and we can take risks. We should be thinking about emotions as part of our creative processes, and, outside of that, we should be talking about emotions and behaviors.” —  Ilana Ben-Ari


About Ilana Ben-Ari:

Ilana Ben-Ari, CEO, and Founder, Twenty One Toys

Ilana Ben-Ari is a toy designer turned social entrepreneur. She is the founder of Twenty One Toys and the inventor of the Failure Toy and Empathy Toy – the award-winning facilitation tools used in 1000s of boardrooms and classrooms in over 50 countries. Featured in Inc. Magazine as one of the Top 100 Female Founders of 2020, her inventions have been praised in TIME magazine as a technology that is reshaping the future of learning.


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