Want More Innovative Ideas? Start With Empathy

Yvonne Chua, Co-Founder
1 Apr 2021 • 3 min read

Using empathy to solve problems

In most cases when you brainstorm ideas to solve real problems, you are not the target users, and the problems you are trying to solve are not your own. How do you understand the problems well enough such that you can come up with solutions that effectively address these pain points? That's why it is critical that you develop an empathetic view of the target users who experienced these challenges. Putting empathy into action requires you to cast aside all assumptions, existing biases and begin with a fresh mindset. Listen and fully grasp the users' needs, motivations and barriers from their perspectives. It goes beyond doing primary research, more than listening to their complaints, you need to walk the same walk in their shoes.

Without empathy, it is impossible to design and develop solutions that are both innovative and responsive to actual user needs and desires. A lack of shared understanding of the challenges that the users face will cause the project leader, business consultants, etc to perceive the problems differently, resulting an undesired end product.

Image from SlideToDoc

Empathy is a skill of the future

Empathy is not only the key to unlocking problem-focused ideas, but also an innovation skill to develop in the 21th century. According to Google Chief Innovation Evangelist Frederik G. Pferdt, "empathy is a skill of the future, and practicing empathy every day as a business leader, for example, helps you understand what your employees need and what your immediate team actually needs right now".

While there is a strong demand for it, in reality, there is a short supply of talents with empathy developed in the workforce. Education institutions, corporations and organizations of all industries have always focused on building hard skills in human capital. Hence, limited emphasis is placed on nurturing empathy as a soft skill, which is necessary to grow and cultivate an innovation mindset.

The good thing is that it's possible to learn it, and it can be honed with more practice – by drawing upon users' real-world experiences to address modern challenges with a deep emotional understanding. Here are a few ways how you can develop empathetic techniques:

Image from Interaction Design

Truly understanding users' challenges goes beyond seeing, hearing and understanding, to deeply grasping a certain psychological or emotional aspect. On an more advanced level, you will learn to be sensitive to their thoughts and feelings, build closeness and respect with them, and sift out valuable insights across the majority so that you narrow down to tackle the biggest challenge in common.

Get started on Thinkspace Innovation Program to solve real world problems with greater empathy today.