“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”
In the preface, I urged you to empathize with the people you serve. The advice is clear: view your offering from the outside-in rather than the inside-out.
But it’s important to first develop empathy before conceiving new solutions. Distinguish gaining empathy from applying empathy, a point Indi Young makes in her book Practical Empathy (Rosenfeld Media, 2015). She writes:
You can’t apply empathy until you’ve developed it by listening deeply to a person...People try to act empathetic—to take someone’s perspective, to walk in his shoes—without first taking time to develop empathy.
I’ve experienced this trap in the past. At a prior company I worked for, for example, a small team spent two months behind closed doors developing a new concept that helped people plan events. They had virtually no contact with potential customers.
To anyone who had already gained empathy for the target users it was clear this solution had serious flaws. It didn’t address actual user needs, and it didn‘t match their mental model. Despite the team’s passion, the concept was doomed from the outset. They would have better spent their time developing empathy first.
Note that I am not ...