People discover unseen opportunities when they have a personal and empathic connection with the world around them.
For individuals, that means developing the ability to walk in other people’s shoes. For companies and other large institutions, that means finding a way to bring the rest of the world inside their walls When people in an organization develop a shared and intuitive vibe for what’s going on in the world, they’re able to see new opportunities faster than their competitors
Over time, that implicit connection to the outside world helps blur the line between producers and consumers. Between inside the building and out. Between us and them. Harley likes to call the folks who buy its motorcycles riders, not customers, if only because so many Harley employees are riders themselves
Having an intuitive understanding of other people can help overcome these challenges. Empathy for the people you serve can make the abstract more grounded and immediate because that information is now connected to a real person you know. It can provide context for the data we receive by incorporating factors left off the map
What these practices have in common is that they go to great lengths to make commerce more immediate, in contrast to the rest of the business world. They step outside themselves to directly gain experience of their customers’ lives. To them, people are much more than a collection of facts. Companies benefit when they find ways to make the invisible facts of life more concrete, by getting outside and meeting the people that they might otherwise only read about in the newspaper or in a market research report
You see, on some level, a great product has to function like a great gift. It’s a physical manifestation of a relationship. It’s both an embodiment of who the giver is and what they think of the receiver
While having empathy for other people is a good thing for us to do as individuals, it’s far more powerful when you can create widespread empathy throughout a large organization
But the first steps toward an Open Empathy Organization are simple: Take the way that you already work today and add in easy, everyday, and experiential activities that put you in the shoes of the people you serve