It’s become fashionable in the last decade to prescribe innovation as the cure for every ill facing business. If companies could only start creating compelling products and services on a regular basis, they would never need to worry about next year’s growth figures. While that might be true, such talk tends to focus on design or even flashy marketing. In the process, a critical factor gets left out of the conversation: empathy, the ability to see the world through the eyes of another person. Unless new products or services connect with the lives of real people, design or marketing can’t do much to make them succeed.
When organizations 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, and long before the rest of us read about them on the Internet. They have the courage of their convictions to take a risk on something new. And they have the passion to stick with it even if it doesn’t turn out right the first time. Despite years of hype, the problem with business today isn’t a lack of innovation; it’s a lack of empathy.
Dev Patnaik, founder and chief executive of Jump Associates, argues in Business Week that knowing the wants of your customers is more important than out-innovating your competitors.