The Business Case for Empathy

“The problem with business today isn’t a lack of innovation; it’s a lack of empathy.” ~ Stanford Professor Dev Patnaik, author of Wired to Care

In an uncertain economy, empathy may seem like a soft business skill. It can, however, serve as a catalyst for new growth, innovation and employee engagement, all of which drive profits and long-term results.

“Companies prosper when they tap into a power that every one of us already has—the ability to reach outside of ourselves and connect with other people,” writes Stanford University Adjunct Professor Dev Patnaik in Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy. (photo courtesy freedigitalphotos.net)

Most organizations over-rely on data, to the exclusion of face-to-face customer contact. Yet we are intrinsically social animals, with an innate ability to sense what others are thinking and feeling.

If you stay in touch with colleagues and customers, you’ll have a better sense of what’s going on in the world. You’ll also surpass competitors at spotting new opportunities.

In Your Customers’ Shoes

Modern technological improvements in data-mining provide strategic plans, sales forecasts and manufacturing reports. Companies become so dependent on these models that they can lose touch with reality.

Firms use information to create maps—market segmentations, research reports—of how customers use their products. But these maps are poor substitutes for actual human contact. Many managers make critical decisions based on numbers, without any personal feeling for the people they serve. They fail to spot new opportunities and innovative solutions for customers.

For thousands of years, craftsmen made things for people they knew. Tailors, cobblers and other tradesmen understood what their customers wanted. That ended with the Industrial Revolution. It’s much harder to succeed when you create products for people you don’t know—individuals who are halfway around the world.

Information technology is reshaping the company/consumer relationship, often bringing benefits to both. The misuse of technology, however, can erode customer care. Despite living in an age where technology has made always-on data connections ubiquitous, we are more disconnected from the people we impact than at any other time in history.

This article summarizes the importance of empathy as a strategic business tactic in an organization that helps business people connect with what’s going on in the world, anticipate new opportunities, and keep employees and customers engaged and enthusiastic.

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The complete 1600-word article includes these important concepts:

  • Real People in the Information Age
  • In Your Customers’ Shoes
  • When a Company Lacks Empathy
  • The Way Things Used to Be
  • Connecting through Social Media
  • Inside the Empathic Organization

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