How many times have you stared at a competitor’s new product and said, “We had that idea two years ago, but we just didn’t act on it.” Well, why not? Did you think the market research wasn’t quite right? Did you become convinced that it wasn’t a good idea when you couldn’t rally other people around it? Did people get in your way with stupid or irrelevant questions that tied the team up in a state of analysis paralysis? The difference between good companies and great companies is not the quality of their ideas. It’s their ability to anticipate and act on the needs of their customers. Companies with a widespread sense of empathy prosper over the long term.
Imagine a place where every person has the same intuitive connection to the world of their customers. Not just the folks in marketing, but the people in R&D, too…and finance, and HR, and legal. Imagine a place where some guy who works in Accounts Payable has a gut level intuition for how his customers think. And then, when it comes time to revise the company billing policies, that guy realizes that there’s one way to change the system that might really help customers out and another that might totally enrage them. At a company infused with widespread empathy, that person in accounts will do the right thing, as will thousands of others across the organization, which adds up to a huge amount of value to customers.
So how do you get Widespread Empathy? There are really three principles:
1. Make it easy: Provide lightweight methods for people in your company to connect with the outside world.
2. Make it everyday: Surround your work environment with information about the lives of your customers.
3. Make it experiential: Ditch the customer insight PowerPoint and go feel what other people are feeling.
Dev Patnaik is the CEO and founder of
Jump Associates, a firm that helps companies create new businesses and
reinvent existing ones. A trusted advisor to senior executives at some
of America’s most admired companies, including GE, Nike, Target and
Hewlett-Packard, Dev is also an adjunct professor at Stanford
University, teaching design-research methods.
His book Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy,
making the audacious argument that the human power of empathy is the
source of all innovation, was published in spring of 2009 by the
Financial Times Press. A frequent speaker at marketing, design and
innovation forums, Dev was recently featured as a guest on “The
Business of Innovation,” a series on CNBC. His articles on innovation
and strategy have appeared in several publications including BusinessWeek, Brandweek and the Design Management Review.