You probably already know when your partner is in a bad mood. Or when the kids are absolutely not going to do anything you ask them. Or that the client you’ve just spoken to will be ending the contract soon, or that the member of staff who keeps booking a couple of hours off after lunch is clearly going to job interviews.
This fundamental, almost subconscious understanding of the world around us is a huge part of being human. You could argue it’s almost evolutionary. The person who somehow knew that the leaves on the bush were moving strangely because there was a predator in it survives; the person who didn’t notice left the gene-pool.
But it’s time to take it a step further: to embrace a considered, mindful approach to observing our world around us. If you want to improve your business, and life, you need to understand the value of a full understanding of the relationships in your world, which you can only do by truly being a part of it.
Patterns & details
Every fingerprint follows a pattern, and yet each is unique. So too with your business. You have a product or service which you sell to people. The people will be in a range of states from having never heard of you through to handing over money. You might have premises and staff. You have to pay for things in order to sell things. These are all patterns, familiar to every business in the world.
But we have details too, which may be unique to you. These details might come in the form of problems, successes, loopholes, niches. Every client will offer a slightly different request, every day brings a slightly different challenge. Just as the spider knows what the web she will weave will look like, yet needs to decide which twig to start from each morning.
Knowledge and understanding creates an opportunity for good design, and good design relies upon empathy to be successful. It makes people’s lives easier.
A simple example, but have you ever stayed in a hotel where it’s not immediately obvious which is the hot tap and which is the the cold? Any product designer with even a hint of empathy and a willingness to observe would understand the need for hot and cold to be clearly marked, especially in a steamy room where those of us who wear glasses are further inconvenienced.
If you take time to truly understand your customers, you will be rewarded with a better response, and better results. This applies not just to product design but every aspect of your marketing, advertising, copywriting, design, sales, customer service: in short, every detail you learn about your customers can positively affect every detail of your business.
It’s a two-way street
Observing something doesn’t automatically mean you understand it. We all have our prejudices and preconceptions, however much we fight them, however much we may believe we’ve conquered them.
Don’t fight against the tide
Understand all the elements of your business before you make decisions:-
- What’s your
- What do you sell?
- Who do you sell to?
Take time to engage with people inside and outside your target market and areas of expertise and interest. What are they doing well? Where (and why) are they failing? What do they need, what do they believe they need?