Wired to Care

Watch out for corporate iguanas! Their brains are focused solely on survival. They do not think or feel; they only react quickly to basic stimuli.

As the Director of Operations for Prime Performance, I spend a lot of time thinking about capturing, manipulating and interpreting data. “Wired to Care” was a great reminder that improving empathy within your organization leads to better intuition and business decision-making.

“Wired to Care” combines real-life stories about many well-known companies, like Target, Nike, Virgin Airline and Harley Davidson. Author Dev Patnaik gives many examples of products and companies that succeeded because they were their own customers. Or, they were able to walk a mile in their customers’ shoes. That made it easier for the companies to deliver what customers wanted and needed.

Certainly, your frontline employees are connected with their clients. They spend time talking to them about their financial needs and concerns. But, how about the managers within your retail structure or your IT group? Are they plugged into the needs, wants and desires of your clients? It’s not just the job of the marketing research team to understand client needs. Every individual in the organization should deeply understand the client.

About the Book:

The author promotes three principles to create widespread empathy within your company:

1. Make it easy: At Target corporate headquarters, there is a entire Target store next door so that any staff person can easily immerse themselves in the customers’ environment. Are your staff people required to spend anytime in your branches interacting with the customer? Perhaps they should.

2. Make it everyday: Patnaik shares that the basketball manufacturer Spaulding has installed a basketball court at the corporate headquarters in Springfield, Massachusetts. By encouraging employees to use their products, they have seen innovation take place, like a basketball with a built-in pump that allows inflation without a pump and needle. Are your employees actively using your products so that they can explain them to customers and look for ways to improve the offering?

3. Make it experiential: Find ways to keep your team connected to the outside world. Gardening tools retailer Smith & Hawken has a large garden at its headquarters. Everyone in the company is required to take turns tending it. Nike has rooms that simulate the environment of Japanese teenagers. It uses these rooms to “connect” with their audience. How can you keep your team engaged in experimental ways? Perhaps, one way is by reading customer survey comments to connect to the voice the client.

Key Takeaway:

All business is based on people, and people have real concerns, fears and tastes. When organizations treat customers and employees with respect, the business will benefit. Banks and credit unions with widespread empathy will stay relevant, anticipate changing needs and survive.

Here is a great way to spend 10 minutes – listen to author Dev Patnaik addressing TEDxSoMa (an independently organized TED event in San Francisco) as he reminds us not to be “corporate iguanas”.