Why Empathy Wins for Building Products That Matter

We possess a drive to make change.

As entrepreneurs and makers, it fuels us. It’s a passion.

It can also blind us.

In industries like music that can be slow to change, it’s even more tempting to yield to passion. I’ve been guilty of seeing what I wish were true, rather than what’s needed, more often than I care to admit. Expensive lessons follow close behind.

Empathy is the antidote.

Empathy reminds us to come back to what we learn from customers. Again and again. To listen to discover what their needs are. Passion, on the other hand, can steer us off course – convince us that we know better than our customers.

I don’t. Odds are you don’t either.

Sure, there are people who shape the world around their creations – “strong technologies,” as Chris Dixon calls them. They will remarkable things into being that meet needs we didn’t know we had.

But that’s not most of us. And it’s a high stakes game, either way.

In This is Marketing, Seth Godin explains it this way:

When pressed, we assume that everyone is just like us, but uninformed.

If only we educate them, then they will see the light.

Not to say that there’s no place for a gentle nudge. To create change, we must create tension.

The trick, according to Seth, is to act in service of the right kind of change:

It doesn’t make sense to make a key and then run around looking for a lock to open.

The only productive solution is to find a lock and then fashion a key.