I wasn't planning to write about Wired to Care until I was done reading, but this bit on page 45 made me stop for a think.
"For thousands of years, people made things for other people they knew. Cobblers made shoes for people who lived down the street. That intimacy helped a cobbler know whether you had flat feet, liked to walk, or sprained your ankle last summer. All of that ended when something transformative happened to human society; a rift grew between producers and consumers that we've been struggling to repair ever since."
The empathy thing, the thinking-like-the-consumer thing, isn't a new philosophy. It's old. Crazy old, in fact. Patnaik goes on to credit the explosion of commerce the Industrial Revolution brought for separating the producer from the consumer. Fantastic for productivity, but perhaps distracted from a focus on the relationship with the consumer. Prior to the explosion of industry, empathy wasn't a business initiative; it just was. Now, businesses like Harley-Davidson and Microsoft are living and dying by their ability to be the ball. And businesses who aren't never seem to be quite right. Is it possible to have a smash hit product when you can't think what your consumer is thinking? Is it possible to fit a need you aren't 100% sure exists?
This video shows the author, Dev Patnaik, discussing some of the issues that inspired the book. Here. Watch. I'm sorry that I can't embed it. Kind of ruins my flow, I know.
But seriously, watch it. And then come back. I'll wait.
Interesting, right? I particularly like the bit about Microsoft and the X-Box; for nerds, by nerds being a recipe for success. That, and this excerpt from page 45 got me thinking.
"It's much harder to succeed when you create things for people you don't know and whose lives seem alien to your own."
I have some friends who are entrenched in the development of a consumer-facing product, a content-creation platform called Writeminds. It's promised to be a quiet place for writing, and a simple, clean environment for editing, collaborating, and publishing. You can sign up now to be a beta tester, which I recommend very strongly to my writer friends (I'm talking to you, Paige). I'm pretty excited to give it a whirl, as the Blogger interface is less than ideal.
A month or so ago, I was attempting to explain the Writeminds idea to my mother, perhaps not very eloquently. She asked why I was so sure it would be a hit. And, I didn't know. It just felt right to me. I was reminded of this conversation when I started reading Wired to Care, and suddenly it made such perfect sense as to why Writeminds feels right.
Patnaik's empathy is why this product will work, if they do it right (and I am confident that they will). These gents are digital natives, curious people, and most importantly, creators of web content. They are their consumer. They know the need exists, because it's their need. And they know what issues to address, because they are their issues. They are experts on their consumer, and as such are very well-poised to solve the problem at hand.
I'm looking forward to seeing what comes from the gentlemen of Writeminds. Also, I'm looking forward to finishing Wired to Care. I'm 48 pages in, and already two blog-worthy quotes. That's how you know it's good.
Source: Wired to Care, Dev Patnaik, 2009