Anatomy of an Innovative Team: Empathy
Note: This is the first in a series of posts about what is needed on an innovative team. Teams should have different types of thinkers with different skills sets but these competency areas are critical.
I had the privilege of doing a pro-bono strategy workshop for St. Jude this month as was able to tour the hospital. It’s an amazing place. When a patient arrives at St. Jude they are transported in a red wagon instead of a wheelchair, at registration the desks are low enough patients can see and interact with the staff, every space is a colorful one and in one hallway are pictures of former patients one of whom is a PhD researcher at St. Jude.
You can say this is a story in getting the details right but I think it’s a story about how empathy helps us understand what details matter. Empathy helps them see the hospital experience through the eyes of patients, parents and siblings. The team understands pain, needs, behaviors, constraints, goals and values of the people they serve. Because of this they can create meaningful and impactful experiences.
Innovative teams solve business and customer problems. These problems have an emotional and experiential component that must be understood to get the right solution. That solution needs to provide the right solution for the customer and business.
When your building your team, make sure there are a few people who
- Actively seek understanding of the customer, business and stakeholders
- Watch facial expressions
- Put themselves in the shoes of others
- Advocate for the little details that make an experience better
- Make decisions based not on their own preferences but on how they think that decision will affect someone else
- Care not just about the customer but the business and how staff will be affected by the product
- When something is missed or wrong (and something always is) they are quick to spot the problem and fix it
Image: I created this in an abstract multimedia painting class. It was a great class and this is one of my favorite sketches of all time.