This is empathy: The best innovators live in their customers shoes

What is the most important innovation technique available to an innovation practitioner?

In my opinion, of all the innovation techniques available to an innovation practitioner, entrepreneur, marketer or business leader none is more important than getting out on the field and observing people in their domains.

That is what I wrote a few months back. Well guess what? I’m writing about it again, because it is that important. And it is not common to see someone take this principle to the extreme.

A day in the life of the customer? How about a whole year living the life of my customer?

That’s exactly what a fitness junkie (of all people!) Drew Manning did. Instead of criticizing people who are fat for not exercising, he became one to understand why they prefer to remain obese. From CNN:

The fitness trainer’s journey had come to an end after successfully losing more than 70 pounds — six months after he purposely gained the same amount. “Like it never happened,” host George Stephanopoulos said.

“Kind of,” Manning said. Both Manning and his wife, Lynn, can attest that a lot actually has changed in the past year. While Manning’s body may have returned to its six-pack heydays, his mind, in many ways, has not.

Manning says he didn’t realize the effects of his weight gain would be more than physical. It altered his relationships and his self-confidence. Returning to the gym after the Fit2Fat portion of his journey made him nervous. The fact that he had to do push-ups on his knees was almost humiliating.

“The biggest thing [I learned] is that it’s not just about the physical. It’s not just about the meal plan and the workouts and those things. The key is the mental and the emotional issues. I realized those issues are real.”

drew manning fit2fat2fit

The best innovators live in their customers shoes

On that last point, that is what you want to experience. This may seem extreme to you, but to me. this is exactly the type of attitude you need to have to empathize with people. To understand what going on behind the scenes, you have to make them feel confident that you have their best interest in mind.

The point: The best innovators live in their customers shoes. They do everything in their power to understand their challenges, frustrations and needs. Never lose sight of of your customer. We assume to understand our clients/customers/users. But we should be constantly keeping an eye on them.

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