Empathic Innovation

tom kelley david kelleyViewing the world through customer eyes can lead to unexpected ideas. By Tom Kelley and David Kelley. In organizations with millions of customers, or in industries serving the broad public, there is a temptation to stereotype or de-personalize the customer. They become a number, a transaction, a data point on a bell curve, or part of a composite character built on market segmentation data. That type of shortcut might seem useful for understanding the data, but we’ve found that it doesn’t work well when designing for real people.

The notion of empathy and human-centeredness is still not widely practiced in many corporations. Business people rarely navigate their own websites or watch how people use their products in a real-world setting. And if you do a word association with ‘business person,’ the word ‘empathy’ doesn’t come up much.

What do we mean by empathy in terms of creativity and innovation? For us, it’s the ability to see an experience through another person’s eyes, to recognize why people do what they do. It’s when you go into the field and watch people interact with products and services in real time — what we sometimes refer to as ‘design research.’ continue

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