Whether I’m doing hands on work or guiding a team, at the end of the day, I want to make something I’m proud of and that something is ultimately about what others think.
Quoting Jesus and Steve Jobs (Out of Context)
Jesus and Jobs both speak of other people not knowing what’s best for them. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Jesus, Luke 23:34). Jobs almost paraphrases by saying , “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them” (Businessweek 05/28/98). I don’t have ultimate control on what is considered good.
The truth is creative thinkers want to innovate, and sometimes these quotes are used as an excuse for people to create a “good idea” regardless of what others want or need.
What Jesus and Jobs show us here is you can understand people so well and deeply you are able make something people desire even though people don’t know they desire it. The insight is a rich understanding of other humans enables you to give people what they didn’t know was possible.
In a now famous address to Stanford Jobs says, “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there.” Yet, if we could see heaven first maybe we would be willing to die.
You may know better than the customer but, in a capitalist society (minus insurance products) the customer chooses what they like by spending money on products. The great part is you get to check if you are right about what people want. You can build products for other people in a powerful way when you know what they want. You know a product works if people say, “Please don’t take this away!”
The problem is that ambitious leaders like you and I will take the sage’s advice, to mean, we can build whatever we want.
What the sage’s advice means is that you can know people better than they know themselves (or at least you can if you are Jesus or Jobs) .
Trap of a Good Idea.
Generally creative leaders and critical thinker know that they can’t just, “build it and they will come.” When leaders have a deep love of creating it can become a trap.
If you’re doing art you can stay in the trap of an idea if you like. If your work or product has to turn a profit or engage other people then you, you have to escape the trap and create within limitations provided by others (customers, resources, companies or the market). The good news is that a great deal of innovation in both art and products comes not from total freedom but from restriction.
Constriction often force new ways of operating.
Damn, Empathy Again!
Empathy is not an excessively used word and, it’s not a buzzword. Empathy is a tool that leaders of all kinds leverage to connect with people. Connections are made to solve problems and change the world. Being empathetic means that you are looking to understand other people. Empathy is when you imagine and study how other people experience the world. If you are going to build products or companies you can do it without empathy but it’s like wearing a blindfold to throw darts, you’ll never know if you hit anything.
If you getting tired of hearing about empathy, I understand. It seems to be slowing breaking into the main steam and it will be here awhile. Just because empathy is popular doesn’t mean it’s bad! If Innovation is Nickel Back then Empathy is more like the Beatles.
The point is whether you’re leading products or a company of people, an idea, or revolutions, you have to understand others. Design for the other. Develop for the other. Speak to the other. Lead others. Listen to others. To give the people what they want you have to know the people.
We know others matter but we get distracted by the beauty of what we are making, the future vision of success and the simple joy of improving the process and the world around us. Take a breath and think about the others when you are in the middle of your next endeavor.
Photography Oscar Keys
Also published on Medium.