How to relate to others in the virtual world

Ignite your creativity with empathy

What kind of potato chip would you create, and what would you name it, if you wanted to sell the product exclusively to pregnant women?

That was the question researchers from the University of Connecticut posed to participants to explore the impact empathy has on creativity. Researchers received a smorgasbord of responses including– Pickles-and-Ice Cream chips? Sign me up. But, the group of participants that came out on top, with the most creative suggestions according to a panel of soon-to-be mothers, were the ones that took a few extra moments to envision how the pregnant mothers would feel when they ate the chip.

This shows that when we activate our ability to empathize with others, we can produce more creative solutions. So how can we apply this to the virtual world?

Here’s how:

  • Carve out time. It’s easy to rush to solutions, but when you do, you may not consider the true needs of others. Be intentional about spending a few minutes to reflect on your customers’ wants and needs before generating solutions. Once you have compiled your ideas, test them with a few peers from a variety of levels, backgrounds, and tenure. Build their input into your approach.
  • Ask questions, the right way. Believe it or not, there is a right and a wrong way to get to know people. “Oh, you’re Indian, you must love cricket, right?” – wrong. This type of question is leading and holds assumptions. “What types of activities or hobbies do you enjoy?”– much better as it allows the individual to share without judgment. Using this type of questioning helps open the conversation, not close it. Oh, and pro tip: You need to actually listen to what they share with you.
  • Do your research. Look at trending posts on social media using hashtags to get to know your customer. Even better, if time permits, hold interviews, or focus groups with your target audience to test your assumptions. This way, you can identify what matters to them and what they care about.
  • Create a nudge. Rumor has it that Jeff Bezos leaves one seat open at a conference table to help his employees always consider the customer. Although we may not be in a boardroom at this time (thanks, COVID-19), the sentiment still stands. You can always put a calendar reminder saying “think of the customer” or keep a little figurine next to your desk to remind you of your customer.
  • Think like a cynic. Be your own devil’s advocate and try to debunk the idea you are selling. What types of questions might your customer have? Make a list of the most outrageous questions that your audience can ask. This approach will help test your ideas for the population you are targeting.
Related solutions:
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