Empathy … we talk about it, think about it, feel it, maybe even train for it, and yet, it is a hard thing to pin down, to make tangible, to get right, to sell internally, to make actionable. In fact, only 62% of senior executives say that they can put themselves in the shoes of their customers.

“Empathy is the art of stepping imaginatively into the shoes of another person, understanding their feelings and perspectives, and using that understanding to guide your actions.” — Roman Krznaric

Real empathy starts from a place of radical humility. It’s not what you know; it’s what you’re willing to learn and how you “use that understanding to guide your actions” that provide space for empathy. This isn’t easy.

We recently conducted some new research about empathy. We wanted to understand how you spark it, nurture it, and fire it up in order to change the discourse within an organization and drive innovation (incremental and transformational). Why? Because empathy makes you a better problem-solver and a better innovator. Empathy is a muscle we need to build within our organizations.

Here Is A Sneak Preview Of What We Have Learned

  • Empathy is not without its perils … it can be speculative, selective, incapacitating, dehumanizing, and (situationally) inappropriate.
  • Empathy is multilayered. To spark empathy, we first need to align on whom we are empathizing with and layer empathy (for customers, employees, partners).
  • If we listen to customers one-dimensionally, we undermine innovation and risk “functional fixedness” and “me too” products and services. Connecting with the human being requires immersive, observational, collaborative, and quantitative (empathy-building) tools.
  • We need to use provocations and be bold to spark empathic epiphanies and innovation.
  • It is not enough to spark empathy — empathy needs to be right-sized (quantified empathy), and we need to use “audience empathy” (turning empathy inward) to bring people along.
  • To scale empathy, we need to enable employees to act on empathy and keep kindling the fire so that it regenerates instead of burning out.

Want To Know More And Join The Conversation About Empathy?

Register now for Forrester’s CX EMEA Forum!

Those attending Forrester’s CX EMEA Forum in London on May 10–11 will have a chance to see and hear this research in person. I’ll personally deliver a keynote presentation on this topic. I’ll also be available for one-to-one meetings throughout the event to answer your questions.

Register here. I look forward to seeing you in London in May!

What You Will Learn In The Keynote

  • How to spark empathy within your organization by doing the work to connect with the human(s) and avoid some of the “perils of empathy”
  • How to nurture the “empathy ember” to reach the right point of empathy through quantification and by bringing people in your organization along
  • How to activate and scale empathy and turn it into an “empathic fire” that drives innovation