Yes, the title is a bit dramatic. But, I’m trying to make a point as well as liberally applying some creativity to my copywriting. So, what is the one skill you need to solve any problem but aren’t using?
Let me explain.
After dealing with taxes for hours and then receiving a message that tells me that my tax returns looks great and there’s nothing else I need to do – that’s empathy.
Empathy is at the heart of what it means to be a human. And, since we’re solving problems – problems that humans have in the context of their lives – it’s important that we exercise empathy in the act of problem solving.
In the context of lean and process excellence, Empathy can be understood as Genchi Genbutsu, which means “Go and See”. Specifically, here are the actionable steps as we apply empathy in the act of problem solving.
Without judgment, we want to observe customers in the context of their lives. We want to see them interacting with the service, product, or process for which they are experiencing problems. Here are some questions we want to have top of mind as we observe.
- What is the customer’s behavior in the problem context?
- What do they do?
- What do they say?
- What gestures do they perform when they are frustrated or upset?
- How often does the problem occur and what typical reactions does the customer have when it happens?
Now that we have a sense of what the user goes through, it’s important we actually ask them. When we interact with our customers and users, we can learn the following:
- Who are our users and what is important to them?
- What do they need?
- How do they want to feel as they interact with the process, product, or service?
Go to the Gemba
Taiichi Ohno taught that we should experience things for ourselves and not rely on excel spreadsheets or reports from others. Experiencing first hand is the epitome of empathy and without doing that, our solutions may not be solving the problem. In simple terms, we must experience what our customers and users experience. This context gives us a deeper sense of what the problem really is, how it makes us feel (and our customers feel) and also allows us to brainstorm effective and innovative solutions that actually solve the problem.