You are probably already diving headfirst into your New Year's resolutions, but consider making empathy a top priority in 2021 and set aside time throughout the year to grow in this area. Perhaps this sounds clichè to some, but it could be just the ticket you need to spark creativity. Let’s face it, 2020 has left us all a little weary. By fine-tuning your empathic skills (your ability to see, hear and feel through the lens of your consumers) you can generate fresh new ideas—and put 2020 behind you.
With the increased presence of social media, it has become all too easy to surround ourselves with people who think just like us. We can self-select the information we receive— news, music, and movies. Even advertisements can be customized to match our interests. With all of these wonderful advances, we inadvertently enclose ourselves in an echo chamber.
Is this a bad thing? What happens when we see and hear the same things over and over and block out everything we don’t want to see or hear? What happens when we eat the same foods over and over? What happens when we are confined to our homes and stop doing the things that once made us feel fresh and alive? I can't be certain, but I am willing to bet that this past year has caused some confinement for you. Being locked in can create a life that is not only drab and mundane but one where our senses are dulled and our creative juices are drained.
Think about the difference between a glorious exotic get-away vacation and a quiet staycation at home. I’m guessing you can easily relate, thanks to Covid. Your heart sure knows the difference. One makes you feel alive and exhilarated. All of the sudden your senses are reawakened and you see the world differently. You have renewed energy and passion which fuels the creative thought process. While some have been able to use their time at home this past year to follow their passions (woodworking, painting, cooking, etc), many have struggled just to survive and may be feeling a bit numb and stuck in a never ending brain fog. If we don’t do something to actively awaken our senses, our listening skills can become dull and our ability to feel for others can start to diminish. When this happens, our ability to innovate becomes stifled.
The good news is that we don’t have to hop on a cruise ship or sign up for a safari in order to reignite our senses and get our creative juices flowing. We just need to make an intentional shift in how we interact with the world around us, especially with other people. The fuel behind true innovation comes from developing a sixth sense about others, knowing the true heart of the person or audience we wish to attract and serve. This isn’t always easy to do but those who are truly committed will get there.
We can start by making a conscious decision to spend time with people outside of our bubble who think and feel differently than we do. Spend time with them. Listen to their stories. Hear their thoughts. Get to a place where we can feel their emotions. We can ask a lot of questions and refrain from injecting our thoughts and opinions. Put judgement aside. Our goal should be to feel what they feel. And when we allow ourselves to resonate with another, it often creates a desire to act. This process takes time and requires practice and ongoing development.
If this seems challenging, start small, maybe with your own family members. If they look at you funny, that’s usually a good sign. When you are ready, expand to other relatives, friends and acquaintances. With Covid, you may need to do this virtually or over the phone. The important thing is that you do it. Commit to once a week, twice a month, or whatever feels right to you. Create a list of people you know who look at the world differently than you and commit to reaching out to them and spending time with them.
This commitment may make you feel a little uncomfortable. That’s ok. It’s all about training yourself to be a more empathetic person. As with any type of training, it feels awkward at first. Give yourself grace and keep working at it. Stretch those empathy muscles! Then take this new skill and put it to work to really hear what your consumers have to say. Listen to them at a deeper level than you ever thought possible and brace yourself for an exciting adventure as you use it to take your innovation to new and profitable places.
At SEEK, we offer empathy training and tools to assist you and your team in this process. If you are interested in learning more, let’s keep the conversation going. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.