The Optimalist
The Optimalist Podcast
Podcast Ep 19: Empathy, Innovation, & Designing for a Future Out of Focus w/ Sabba Quidwai

Podcast Ep 19: Empathy, Innovation, & Designing for a Future Out of Focus w/ Sabba Quidwai

This week, Sara talks with Sabba Quidwai, the CEO of Designing Schools. Sabba believes that fostering a culture of empathy is crucial for innovation. This conversation explores topics such as the importance of questioning as a skill, the misconceptions about collaboration, and what it means to be human in the age of AI. Through her work, Sabba aims to design schools that equip young people with the mindset and skills necessary for success in a rapidly changing world.

Sara and Sabba discuss the tendency for people to offer their opinions and solutions without understanding the reasons behind someone's decisions. They identify a lack of curiosity and empathy as a deep-rooted issue. They also discuss the concept of ‘atomic habits’ and how small actions can lead to significant change. What is the impact of rigid systems in education, and how do they hinder individuality and creativity? Right now, the fear of automation taking over underscores the importance of cultivating empathy and creativity. But we need to observe and ask "why" in order to develop technologies effectively. Perhaps connection and communities will be the key to fostering curiosity and empathy, building essential skills for the future.


(0:01:37) Curiosity and the value of asking questions

(0:04:13) Taking control of learning experience in community college

(0:09:12) The Power of Social Justice in the Social Sciences

(0:12:02) Curiosity and Mindfulness in the Digital Age

(0:14:37) The Impact of Rigid Education Systems on Creativity and Empathy

(0:17:19) Unpacking Thinking with the Spark Framework

(0:23:40) Top Performers' Focus and Choices for Success

(0:31:28) The Power of Empathy and Inner Desires

(0:34:05) Prioritizing Work, Projects, and Daily Routines

(0:39:16) Designing a Life of Control and Independence

(0:41:08) Morning Practices for Mental Clarity and Organization

Links Mentioned

Sabba on Twitter: @askMsQ

Find Sabba on the web: Designing Schools

Sabba’s Attention Method - Reading The Daily Stoic and using the Full Focus Planner. These practices help with mental preparation and organizing the day around key ideas. 


Find us & join us:

  • Follow Sara Candela on Twitter at @Scandela9

  • Subscribe to The Optimalist Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, your favorite podcast player - or right here, on Substack - to get each episode as soon as it’s released.

  • Join our Community Discord server at

The Optimalist Podcast is brought to you by Engageable, the only app that gives you the mindful pulse for doing better. Sign up for free today at or by downloading on any iOs or Android device.


  • Music: “Goodnight, Shapeshifter” by MusicForNothing, used under Creative Commons BY-ND 3.0.

Audio Editing & Production: Tim Belmont (@tbelmontedu)