Dev Patnaik, the founder and principal of the Jump Associates visited Rotman DesignWorks. He discussed empathy and introduced his book, How Your Business Can Prosper When You Create Widespread Empathy.
According to him, empathy is giving up a self-centered world and walking in others’ shoes. It is related to the concept of mirror neurons or reciprocal altruism. He argues that empathy is an important ingredient for designers. Further, we will be able to find which firms are highly empathic or not.
We do not know (1) when empathy helps business and when it does not and (2) if it does not help, how we overcome the dark side of the empathy and maximize its impact on business. For instance, B&O’s designers do not listen to customers (no empathy) but focus on their own inner voices. Dev said that designers can empathize with multiple groups of people in order to overcome the dark side of the empathy. Interestingly, there is no research that suggests that having multiple targets eventually benefit the impact of empathy on business. Then, the next question is which targets should be considered more important than others?
We are still in the early stage of understanding the empathy in the business area.