From 6 lessons on innovation from Bill and Melinda Gates:
You can’t conceptualize and find the solution for a problem you have never experienced or witnessed. The couple reckon that in order to truly be innovative you have to look at the problem and witness the suffering the problem causes.
Bingo! Innovation always starts with empathy.
As I stated a few days ago, to find the truth you have to look within, in context. The best innovator’s live in their customer’s shoes. They do everything in their power to understand their challenges, frustrations and needs. We can never lose sight of our customer.
Yes, we can come up with imaginative solutions to challenges without having experienced or witnessed an existing problem, but we still need to go experience firsthand what it is that our proposed solution will replace. It is common for us to assume that we understand our clients/customers/users. We can’t just assume that it will work!
Bottom line: Empathy for the user/customer is a powerful trigger for innovation. It gives you insight into the problem, but even more important, it makes you care about the outcome.