Do you feel what I feel?

Design – be it a product, service or business strategy – works when it’s human-centred. When the designers – graphic, product, marketers or managers – take the time to really understand not only the problem or issue from the customers’ perspectives, but also the solutions.

In an article posted to LinkedIn in the spring, Kate Mills highlights empathy as marketing’s latest buzz word. We push that one step further and argue that empathy is not only a buzzword but a best practice for business in general.

So what is empathy? Mills does an excellent time explaining what empathy isn’t. “All too often [empathy] is defined the wrong way. You might think that you are practicing empathy by imagining how you would feel in someone else’s shoes. However, this approach is self-centred and assumes that others feel think, and behave as you do. This is not empathy.”

For example, if you called BarnRaising Associates in to help you with an issue or to capitalize on an opportunity, and we assumed we knew you and your clients and how you felt and what you needed, we wouldn’t be acting from a customer-centric perspective. We wouldn’t be employing empathy.

Mills continues, explaining that “true empathy is realizing that you can’t understand someone else by seeing them through your own colored lenses. Instead, you must find ways to understand them by removing your own lenses and trying on theirs.” In other words, you need to observe your customers using the product/service and record what you see – without making any assumptions about why they are behaving as they are. Next, you need to immerse yourself into your customers’ culture and experience in order to see things from their perspective.

A man dons an empathy belly to immerse himself into the pregnancy experience.

This is always the first stage of a BarnRaising Associates project. Observing and immersing – both our clients and their customers. We do this to avoid solving problems that don’t exist, to understand the problem from all perspectives, to understand all the people involved and to really understand how to move forward. By being open-minded and curious, we’re able to get a better picture of the existing situation and culture, and then enter into the creative process to innovate the necessary solution.


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