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Step Outside the Box

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A few years ago, I was having a conversation with a friend who told me her daughter wanted to invent flying cars. While the idea of flying cars has been around for longer than I can remember, it was this little girl’s reasoning for it that captured my attention: she didn’t want animals to be killed as they crossed the road.

What comes to mind when I think of this child’s lofty aspiration is something called design thinking. An innovative approach to problem-solving, design thinking tackles a problem from a more human-centric angle in order to arrive at a solution that may not have otherwise been considered.

Design thinking is a concept that’s been around since the 1950s but has recently regained momentum due to updated business practices and its usefulness in driving innovation. This iterative process typically requires a good understanding of the users’ wants and desires and the ability to challenge current assumptions in order to redefine the problem and, ultimately, solve it.

In my opinion, it is the first step, “understanding the user,” that is the most important. Why? Because it requires the practice of empathy. In a business setting, when it comes to developing a product or service, or solving a particularly difficult problem, it’s critically important to take a step outside of oneself in order to identify and feel what the consumer is feeling.

In the example of the flying car, this seven-year-old wanted to save animals. Most people, myself included, may have only considered the obvious angles: shorter commutes, fewer accidents, the cost it would take to build, the federal regulations involved, how it could be monetized, etc. But she had a much more humanistic perspective—and one that fell well outside the box of traditional thinking.

In recounting this story, I am reminded of the importance of practicing empathy in problem-solving. At J2, we are committed to putting ourselves in the shoes of our customers and considering all perspectives as we solve problems for them—and this is an approach that has proven successful time and again.

Next time you have a problem to solve, take a step outside the box, look at it through a more human-centric lens and practice empathy in considering its solution.

“When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.” – Stephen Covey

Have a great weekend.