At our core, we are emotional beings and fulfilling our needs through innovation often requires a large dose of empathy!
While innovations focussed on knowledge development are a valuable source of innovation, taking a human-centred approach to innovation is often more useful for business owners. If you are impacted by COVID-19 or the trade dispute with China, taking an empathetic user-driven approach to innovation is an excellent opportunity to level the innovation playing field.
Typically, the most valuable innovations come from superior insights into human behaviour, an approach to innovation that is based on empathy and focusses on:
Uncovering user/customer desires and needs (which the user may or may not be aware of)
Discovering the emotions that drive user/customer behaviour
How users/customers interact with solutions
That is, the most valuable innovations arise from empathy – not from a cursory examination or misguided projection of your own beliefs!
What is Empathy?
Empathy is the ability to walk in the shoes of another to truly understand where they are coming from – their feelings, thoughts, attitudes, opinions and hopes.
Being able to empathise with users is critical to discovering their explicit and implicit desires and needs so that your innovation efforts can satisfy those desires and needs. It takes a keen and holistic interest in people.
It requires an understanding of the customer journey and experience, including pre-purchase, purchase, use, after-sales service, disposal, etc.
Where Does Innovation Start?
By embracing an empathic approach to innovation, you can find significant scope for innovation. It’s a great place to start. By building a deeper understanding of your users, you learn about their:
This allows you to solve problems that are important to the user or customer.
Too often, the temptation is to assume that everyone views and experiences problems in the same way we do. Therefore, we solve the problem from our perspective, rather than for the intended end user’s perspective.
How to Build Empathy
Building empathy involves developing the skills needed to uncover user needs that lurk below the surface. Those needs that are otherwise hidden from traditional problem-solving approaches!
There are several ways to build empathy, including through:
Observation – How users/customers interact with their environment and the problems they face
Engagement – Interacting with users/customers to explore their point of view on the problems they face
Immersion – Immersing yourself in the users’/customers experience to gain first-hand insight and perspective into the intricacies of the problem(s) they face