How Data Is Helping To Resolve Supply And Demand Challenges

Perhaps one of the most sweeping outcomes of the 2020 pandemic has been its effect on the global ... [+]getty

Perhaps one of the most sweeping outcomes of the 2020 pandemic has been its effect on the global supply chain. From consumer goods to raw materials, products are either unavailable for purchase or take excessively long to reach their destinations. Even common grocery items like baby formula are becoming hard to find, as reported by CBS in an April 2022 report.

Analysts predict that the major supply and demand crunches will have less impact in the future, per CNBC. However, businesses and buyers aren’t content to wait until early 2023 to feel less of a pinch. They want answers now, and they’re getting them in the form of innovative uses of data and technology.

As it turns out, data—when utilized thoughtfully—has value in smoothing out supply chain hiccups. Below are several examples of how data is being tapped to tackle post-pandemic procurement and delivery issues.

1. Data is revealing where companies should focus their resources to satisfy customers.

Nothing is as frustrating for shoppers as being unable to get what they want. To better allocate resources and anticipate needs, some brands are leveraging real-time data analytics. Understanding in-the-moment demands enables teams to pivot and respond.

An example of this type of process is Chipotle’s use of Semarchy’s data management tool. After “The Great Carnitas Shortage of 2015,” the company realized that it needed to make adjustments to its supply chain. By aligning operations, communications channels, and ordering platforms, Chipotle found it could more easily stay ahead of supply chain issues. This has helped the company meet customer experience assumptions and avoid snags.

2. Data is reducing friction from delays in service industries.

Many services that followed more traditional in-person models were forced to embrace digitization during Covid. Many found that their internal processes weren’t ready for the challenges or consumer expectations of online transactions, though. For instance, some small to mid-sized financial lenders realized that they didn’t have the workflows or tools to streamline application processing. As a result, they risked falling behind their bigger competitors.

Data-driven software solutions from entities like publicly traded MeridianLink have helped fill this gap. MeridianLink, valued at over $2 billion, designed a data-rich platform to gather and process loans rapidly. Their platform has enabled nearly 2,000 financial institutions to swiftly turn around consumer loan applications without causing friction. Due to the improvement in efficiency backed by data, banks, credit unions, and mortgage lending houses can keep pace. In today’s strong real estate market, that’s a huge supply and demand advantage.

3. Data is freeing employees to concentrate more fully on supply chain management.

Overcoming major supply chain hurdles can only happen when thought leaders have the bandwidth to brainstorm. Regrettably, far too many of them are bogged down by repetitive tasks. If those tasks can be automated, they can take up far less time. The result is teams who can concentrate on solving high-level concerns.

For instance, consider digital pioneering company IBML and its Cloud Capture software. The software captures, identifies, and classifies information from any source such as a complex invoice or a standard customer return form. Once appropriately logged, the information becomes available to authorized users. This type of consistent data capture facilitates a less clunky document processing. It also frees executives, managers, and supervisors to divert attention toward pressing supply chain concerns.

The supply chain conundrum won’t be fixed overnight or even in a few months. Yet fresh, data-driven solutions can help companies undergo fewer stressors as a result of supply and demand interruptions.

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Source: How Data Is Helping To Resolve Supply And Demand Challenges

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How To Avoid Common Thinking Traps

The mind is a tricky thing. It can lead us to believe that we can confidently sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” at karaoke even though we haven’t heard the song in years, or that one terrible review on Yelp is reason enough not to go to a 4-star rated restaurant.

These thinking errors are what people in the psychology community call cognitive biases. And that’s the focus of a new book out this month, Thinking 101: How to Reason Better to Live Better, by Yale psychology professor Woo-kyoung Ahn. In the book, Ahn highlights some of the most pernicious cognitive slip-ups we make — and how biases can cloud our judgment and affect the people around us.

Researchers suspect that many of these biases are evolutionary, says Ahn. During times of scarcity, our ancestors had to make quick judgments in order to survive among predators or thrive in a difficult environment. But in a time of abundance, she adds, these quick judgments don’t always do us good.

However, we can do our best to try to correct these thinking traps, says Ahn, which she teaches her students how to do in her popular undergraduate course at Yale. In general, she says, the key is to pause before making assumptions — and be aware of our tendencies for different kinds of bias.

Ahn talks to Life Kit about three common cognitive biases and how to counteract them.

This is known in the field of psychology as an “illusion of fluency,” which describes our tendency to be overconfident in our abilities without sufficient evidence. This can lead us, for example, to bungle career-altering presentations because of inadequate preparation, or dramatically underestimate the time it takes to complete projects.

In her class at Yale, Ahn uses an experiment to illustrate this phenomenon with her students. She shows them a dance clip from the song “Boy with Luv” by the K-pop group BTS. After watching six seconds of the easiest choreography moves over and over again, she invites the students who believe they have the dance down to do it themselves. One after another stumbles.

“People can have overconfidence about what they can accomplish by watching other people do it so fluently,” Ahn says. When the pros dance in a way that looks effortless, they think they can do it effortlessly too.

How to counteract it: You can correct this bias, she says, by doing what the Yale students did: Try it out yourself. It will quickly put any feelings of overconfidence to rest.

You can also fight this tendency by over-preparing and considering potential obstacles beforehand, says Ahn. For example, if you’re working on a home remodeling project for the first time and have no idea how long it will take, don’t try to guess. Talk to friends who went through a recent remodel or consult with a few contractors to understand how long the project might take and what problems may arise. The more information you have, the better and more accurately you can assess a situation.

The bias: We tend to fixate on the negative

The concept of “negativity bias” illustrates our propensity to weigh negative events a lot more heavily than an equal amount of positive events. It explains why a friend’s unenthusiastic review of an Oscar-nominated movie, for example, might spur you to watch something else. Or why you might be less inclined to hire a potential employee after hearing one negative thing about them, despite positive referrals.

Negativity bias can be dangerous because it can lead us to make the wrong choices. It can hold us back from making a decision about something, say a big purchase like a house, or even a political candidate, out of fear there was once a negative event associated with an otherwise good choice.

How to counteract it: When making a choice, play up the positive attributes of your options, says Ahn. Marketers use this tactic all the time. For example, instead of saying that ground beef contains 11% fat, they label it is as 89% lean. These are both true and accurate descriptions of the same product, but flipping the framing of it can make it a more attractive choice for buyers concerned with fat intake.

The bias: We cherry-pick data to fit our worldview

Ahn considers “confirmation bias” — the tendency to seek out or interpret information to support what we already believe — the worst bias of all. That’s because of its potential to lead us to miss an entire range of possibilities for ourselves and others.

Ahn and Matthew Lebowitz, a psychology professor at Columbia University, conducted an experiment in 2017 to illustrate the pitfalls of this bias. They gathered a group of participants and told some of them they had a genetic predisposition to depression – even though they did not. The results of that group’s depression self-assessments showed much higher levels of depression than people in a control group who were told they did not have the predisposition.

Because of confirmation bias, the participants who were told they had a genetic risk of depression retrieved “only the evidence that fit with that hypothesis,” says Ahn. And in doing so, they managed to convince themselves that they were actually depressed. The study shows that if we believe something is a fact, even if it isn’t, our mind can find information to support those views.

Now imagine this bias at work on a societal level. Ahn says it can lead to under- or over-representation in say, leadership in politics, business and other industries, which can feed gender or racial inequality.

She shares an example. Let’s say you’re a male scientist and you’re looking to hire other scientists to join your company. Because you see that the most prominent scientists in your field are currently men, you’ve convinced yourself that the next generation of great scientists will also be men. This colors your decision-making in hiring — and so you fill the positions with men.

That choice will continue to have a ripple effect, says Ahn. For others looking at the new hires, it might perpetuate the idea that “only men can be great scientists — and that’s exactly how prejudice and stereotypes get formed in society.”

How to counteract it: Allow yourself to examine all possible explanations before you make a judgment. For example, if an actor landed a part but her parents were also in the entertainment business, many of us might attribute her employment to nepotism. Since we’ve seen many examples of parents giving their kids a leg up in business or politics, another example of a child benefiting from their parents’ success would fit that theory.

But could it also be true that she gave the best audition? By looking at the issue from many different viewpoints – not just your own – it challenges your confirmation bias. And you might realize that perhaps there is another side to the story.

By:

Source: A Yale psychologist explains how to avoid common thinking traps : Life Kit : NPR

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Critics by The Chelsea Psychology Clinic

Thinking traps are patterns of thought – usually with a negative swing – which prevent us from seeing things as they really are. Otherwise known as cognitive distortions, thinking traps are often deeply ingrained in our psyche. 

By twisting our thoughts, they can make us easily jump to conclusions and make bad decisions – preventing us from seeing the bigger picture. Like this, we can wind up trapped in a vicious cycle with the potential to alter both our mood and the way in which we experience the world around us.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy which holds that our moods and the way we feel day-to-day is impacted by our thoughts and behaviours. In other words, if we can change the way we think, we’re going to change our behaviour which has the power to alter our mood and the way we navigate the world.

Mastering our thoughts, then, is one of the most powerful things we can do if we want to take ownership over our lives. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common thinking traps. Understanding what a thinking trap looks like is going to help you get better at identifying them.

Common thinking traps – examples of thinking errors 

1.All-or-nothing thinking – seeing everything as black and white. An example might be, “I got fired. I’m rubbish at everything”. In other words, if a situation doesn’t go exactly to plan, you immediately deem it a failure. The problem is, life isn’t black and white – it’s important to be able to see the shades of grey in between.

Replace this with: “Nothing in life is perfect. Even though I didn’t get the job, it doesn’t mean I’m a failure. There are better things to come”.

2. Emotional reasoning – believing emotions to be evidence of the truth. As we explained before, how you feel is normally closely tied to the way you think. So just because you’re feeling rubbish doesn’t mean life is rubbish. An example might be, “I feel useless, therefore I am useless”.

Replace this with: “My feelings are not objective evidence for reality. I can accept all of my feelings but still move forward”.

3. Mind-reading – immediately assuming that someone is thinking something negative about you without having any evidence for it. i.e. you’re jumping to conclusions. 

Replace this with: “I can’t read minds”.

4. Fortune-telling – predicting situations with only negative outcomes. An example might be, “I’m definitely going to fail the exam today”.

Replace this with: “No one can possibly predict the future”.

5. Labelling – wrongly attributing a negative label to either yourself or someone else. An example might be, “I’m a failure” instead of saying “I failed the exam”.

Replace this with: “No one deserves to be judged”.

6. Overgeneralisation – whenever something difficult happens you think it’s going to happen over and over again. An example might be saying, “why does this always happen to me?” This thinking trap particularly likes words like ‘never’, ‘every’ and always’ so look out for them.

Replace this with: “I’m overgeneralising here. It’s very possible that something different will happen next time”.

7. Personalisation – wrongfully assuming responsibility for something. An example might be, “It’s all my fault we didn’t have pudding because I forgot the ice cream”.

Replace this with: “It’s nobody’s fault”.

What if thinking and anxiety

Anxiety is very closely tied to a thinking trap known as catastrophising. Most people will catastrophise from time to time but this kind of thinking is going to be much more prominent in someone suffering from an anxiety disorder. Triggers often centre around ambiguity – perhaps receiving a vague text from a partner, getting ill and suspecting it’s something much worse etc.

This kind of thinking can often be traced back to childhood – for example, growing up with a lot of unpredictability and instability. CBT can be helpful in learning how to manage these thoughts but digging a bit deeper in longer-term therapy can also be beneficial in these cases.

Thinking traps psychology tools – steps to take

Acknowledge that difficult things happen in life – sometimes this acknowledgement alone can be liberating. We simply can’t control everything – ups and downs are an inevitable part of life – but what we can do is change the way we respond.

Identify your thinking traps – get really clear on the specific thinking traps you have a tendency to fall prey to. It can help to keep a mood diary to keep track of moments when you’ve been feeling happy/sad and what immediately preceded those feelings. 

Play devil’s advocate with yourself – ask as many questions as possible before jumping to conclusions. Ask yourself, “is this thought I’m having a fact or is it an opinion?” Most thoughts are actually opinions rather than fact. Not all thoughts need to be taken seriously.

Talk to yourself as you would a friend – most of us would never dream of speaking to a friend the way we speak to ourselves. Be kind to yourself, and try rooting for yourself in the same way you would do a friend. Try using a mantra like, “I believe in you” when self-doubt kicks in.

Say ‘stop’ when worry-ridden thoughts take over – when you notice yourself getting lost in anxious thoughts try saying ‘stop’ out loud as a cue to consciously interrupt your thoughts.

Practice self-care as much as possible – thinking traps tend to get worse the more rundown and tired we are. Make sure you’re doing things that top up your “energy bank” and fill you with a sense of enjoyment and wellbeing.

If left unchecked, thinking traps can spiral and play tricks on us – and leave us feeling trapped. If you’re feeling down or like you’ve fallen into a pattern of habitual negative thinking, it’s really important to seek help. A therapist can help you challenge and overturn thinking patterns that are holding you back so you can begin to realise your full potential.

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Thinking Strategically Will Help You Get Ahead and Stay Ahead

Strategic thinking is a critical skill in life. Interestingly, a lot of us hear about it for the first time in our lives through our managers “You are great at execution, but you need to start thinking strategically.” Previously considered a blatant corporate mumbo jumbo term, strategic thinking wasn’t a popular concept in the early years of my career. I kind of assumed that strategic thinking was reserved for corporates and people higher up in the company who needed to make crucial decisions around the future of an organization. It never occurred to me that thinking strategically isn’t a skill you acquire when you reach a certain position, it’s a skill you build to get to a certain position.

Strategic thinking is a critical skill in life.

Interestingly, a lot of us hear about it for the first time in our lives through our managers “You are great at execution, but you need to start thinking strategically.” Previously considered a blatant corporate mumbo jumbo term,strategic thinking wasn’t a popular concept in the early years of my career. I kind of assumed that strategic thinking was reserved for corporates and people higher up in the company who needed to make crucial decisions around the future of an organization.It never occurred to me that thinking strategically isn’t a skill you acquire when you reach a certain position, it’s a skill you build to get to a certain position.

I also believed that when I was ready to climb the corporate ladder, my manager would give me the training to help me build my strategic thinking skills and the opportunities to practice those skills. Call me naive, but that was the corporate world I lived in back then. Much has changed since, but one thing has remained constant: Strategic thinking is as important now (and may be even more) as it was many years ago.While universally, everyone is expected to have strategic thinking skills at some point in their career, no one is taught to think strategically at work, in college, or at school. Much of our education system is structured around a curriculum and how to fit our minds within a box.At school, we are praised for sticking to conventional wisdom and not asking too many questions. The trend continues in college.

In the early years of our career, we are rewarded so much for our speed of execution that we fail to realize that our journey ahead is less about doing things and more about deciding the right thing to do.When a large part of our life is spent executing someone else’s idea, it isn’t easy to break out of that mold and rewire our brain to think above and beyond. But strategic thinking is not a skill you can develop without practice.

Strategic thinking is a muscle that we all need to build because using it right at work can be a strategic advantage in your career growth as an individual. Much like a rubber band, you need to stretch and exercise your thinking. It requires crossing the boundary of the comfort zone to think about an idea to its extreme without mental guardrails to put it down. It requires uncovering new insights that moderate thinking would never surface.

Getting started on the strategic thinking mindset

Before we jump to the strategies to embrace a strategic thinking mindset, here are a few questions to kick-off your thinking. You need to ask yourself these questions from time to time. Write them down if you want them to be more effective:

  • Where do you stand right now?
  • Where do you want to be next year and the year after that?
  • What skills do you need to get there?
  • How can you practice those skills?
  • How can you increase your chances of success?
  • How can you use your time effectively and maximize it for impact?
  • Who can help you validate your ideas and give you feedback to expand your thinking?

Once you are able to spend some time thinking deep and hard about these questions, you are ready to embrace a strategic thinking mindset. Follow these 4 key strategies:

  1. Challenge and Question Assumptions

Many parents and even teachers are annoyed with kids who ask too many questions: “Why do I have to go to school?” “Why do I have to sleep early when you can be awake till late?” “Why can’t I play video games?” “Why do I have to finish my homework?” You may have not gotten all these answers as a kid. None of us did. But not getting these answers as a child shouldn’t stop you from asking questions as an adult. Curiosity and the ability to express that curiosity constructively is a great skill to have at work.

One of the biggest problems I see in organizations is how people do certain things because they have always been done that way. Emailing a report every morning to hundreds of employees that no one cares to open. Spending hours and hours of meeting time in planning discussions when no one cares about those plans a few months down the line. Far too many inefficiencies creep into the corporate system over a long period of time.

One big component of building a strategic thinking mindset is to challenge how certain things are done in your organization – not with the intent to put someone down or establish your superiority, but to identify ways to do them better. Ask targeted questions on specific problems within your organization or your line of work. Learn from how others respond or think about these problems. Different points of view on these problems will not only expand your own thinking, they will give you a direction on the areas that are worth investing your time in.

  1. Observe, Interact and Draw Connections

The hustle and bustle of getting things done, moving faster, quicker and making things happen can prevent you from noticing and investing in activities, ideas and projects that are more important in the long-term, but need your attention right now. We have all fallen for the lure of attending to the urgent while pushing the important stuff to the side. The instant gratification from solving the problem in the short-term is always more alluring than the prudent decision. We may optimize for a small gain in the moment without analyzing the potential impacts of our decision in the future. Building a strategic thinking mindset requires delaying that gratification. It requires living with a small, unimportant problem and putting all your energy and focus on other important ideas and activities that require long-term planning and execution.

Create mental space for new ideas to kick-in. Without the quiet time to sit with your thoughts, facing the uncomfortable silence, and letting your mind wander away, you cannot draw useful connections. It will not happen the first time around and probably not even the second time. But if you are persistent in your efforts, without digital and other distractions of daily life, you will start to notice new patterns of thinking. New ideas that you never thought about before will start to surface.Another great strategy is to not restrict yourself to knowledge within your current scope of work.

Spend time learning about your business and industry. Meet with other functions within your organization to understand how they operate, what their challenges are and how they make decisions. All of this knowledge will enable you to apply different mental models to connect ideas from different domains thereby expanding your circle of competence and building your strategic thinking skills.Remember, building strategic thinking skills involves looking beyond the obvious and now to prodding and shaping the uncertain future. You can’t do that without the willingness to face a little discomfort in the present to build the skills you need in the future.

  1. Put it Into Action

Now, to the most important part. I have discussed this before. In any organization, both big picture thinking and nitty-gritty details are important. Strategic thinking requires the right balance of thinking ahead while actioning in the now. It’s the perfect amalgamation of what the future holds to what must be done now in the present to make that future possible. Strategic thinking not only involves the long-term view into the future, it also involves the choices you need to make to make that future possible. It requires determining which path to take and which to abandon. It requires evaluating the cost and making the trade-offs. Doing something will always come at the cost of not doing something else.While a good strategy is important to get started, a strategy by itself won’t get you anywhere.

You need both strategy “the intent” and tactics “putting that intent to action.” Break down your strategy into the specific things you need to do.Plan what day of the week, and what specific time of the day you are actually going to give life to your strategy. To make sure you don’t let things slip by, or fail to grab the right opportunities, plan these activities on your calendar. Don’t let lack of time or other excuses be the reason for inaction. Plan your time to make things happen.

  1. Craft and Communicate

Finally, to embrace a strategic thinking mindset, don’t work in silos. Find people around you that you can trust, respect or admire. Exchange your ideas with them, request them to challenge your thinking, enable them to ask you tough and uncomfortable questions.By answering these questions, you will not only expand your thinking, you will open your mind to consider new possibilities. Instead of sticking with your original conclusions, you will be willing to challenge your assumptions.

Strategic Thinking is an Ongoing Process

You can’t build a strategic thinking muscle unless you audit your outcomes, inquire about other opinions and adapt to the changes around you. The world is changing very fast and you need to adapt your thinking to the demands of the tomorrow and not the expectations from the past.

To adapt your thinking, follow these 3 practices:

  1. Audit:

Make it a habit to review how you are doing against your goals. Typically a brief review every month and a quarterly deep dive should be sufficient to get a handle on your state of affairs. Examine your strategy from time to time and audit it to ensure you are still leaning against the right wall.When things are going well, put your strategic thinking hat to determine how you can do better:

  • Does an area seem more promising than you originally envisioned?
  • Does it make sense to invest more resources in that area?
  • What kind of changes can you foresee based on market shifts or other industry trends?
  • How can you make sure you aren’t biased in your thinking by relying only on confirming pieces of evidence while rejecting data that contradicts it.

When things aren’t working out as expected, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it a specific tactic that’s causing your strategy to not work. Should you reconsider another tactic?
  • If the tactic is not a problem, do you need to reconsider the strategy itself?
  • Is it possible that external circumstances beyond your control are causing your strategy to not work?
  • Has something changed since you implemented this strategy that you have not considered yet? Is it possible that change is making your strategy ineffective?
  • Is your ego getting in the way and making you invest in a failed cause? Can you look past the sunk costs into other better opportunities?
  1. Inquire

It’s easy to get muddled up in our own thinking and assume we are making the right decision even when we are not. Others can clearly see what we are sometimes not able to see ourselves.Seeking an outside opinion and encouraging different perspectives that challenge our viewpoint is a great way to uncover our blind spots. Strategy for your personal life? Seek feedback from close family and friends. Strategy for an organization? Seek inputs from colleagues and other coworkers.Don’t stay with your opinion unless you have solid data and people to back up your thinking. Ask others these questions:

  • What’s the one thing wrong with my strategy?
  • What’s the one thing I can do better with my strategy?
  • What would you do if you were in my place?
  • What would you not do if you were in my place?
  • What circumstances or events would cause you to evaluate other options?
  1. Adapt

Finally, use the inputs from your audit and inquiry to adjust your strategy. Adapt your future strategy based on the learning from your past. What worked? What didn’t work? What mistakes did you make? Strategic thinking is as much about the future as it’s about learning from your past. Visualize your future. Look at your past. Adjust the gap with the changes you need to make to build that future for yourself and others. You don’t need a breakthrough idea, just the simple choices that will move you forward one step at a time in the direction of your goals.

Many people make the mistake and assume they aren’t thinking strategically if they don’t come up with an innovative idea. Strategic thinking is less about innovation and more about the ability to make the right connections.

Summary

  1. Strategic thinking: The ability to visualize the long-term while planning the short-term to align with the long-term is a critical skill in life.
  2. Much like other things in life, strategic thinking is a muscle that gets better with repetition and practice.
  3. To get started on your strategic thinking journey, start with challenging and questioning assumptions. Identify new ways to do small things at work.
  4. Make time and space to allow your brain to form new connections. Learn about your industry, business and other functions in the organization to expand your thinking beyond your current scope of work.
  5. Give life to your strategy by putting it into action. Break down your strategy into tactics, the specific things you need to do to implement your strategy.
  6. Don’t be rigid in your thinking. Open your brain to new possibilities by seeking others’ opinions and encouraging them to challenge your assumptions.
  7. Finally, strategic thinking is an on-going process. You need to audit, inquire and adjust your strategy based on your learning from the past and the demands of tomorrow.

By Vinita Bansal

Source: Thinking Strategically Will Help You Get Ahead and Stay Ahead | HackerNoon

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Why Designers Need To Show Empathy as They Rethink Work Spaces

As the world comes out of the pandemic and designers figure out how to adapt workplaces to the new reality still being determined, experts warn companies not to underestimate what workers have gone through in the last two years and to factor that into their plans.

The years of upheaval, sickness, and for many, isolation, have taken a toll on many Americans, leaving them battered and yes, traumatized. And that is causing new problems designers need to be aware of.

“The volume of grief of trauma that we’re all always swimming in, the longer that we suppress that and don’t acknowledge that, the longer this is going to continue,” Rachael Dietkus, founder of Social Workers Who Design, told the Fortune Brainstorm Design conference on Monday. “It’ll be a different kind of a pandemic.”

She called on companies to hire social workers to help employees navigating all the trauma they might be feeling from upheaval and anxiety caused by the pandemic.

And empathy will need to be a big part of the equation, particularly because of how differently people may have experienced the trauma of the pandemic. “When we’re talking about building humility and empathy, we’re talking about how we unpack our biases, our unseen areas, our power, our privilege, and the spaces that we navigate in the spaces that we work,” said Antionette Carroll, founder, president and CEO of Creative Reaction Lab.

She acknowledged it’s a skill people learn from experience rather than in school, alas. “I didn’t study empathy in design school.”That informed how Ford Motor Co redesigned its campus in Dearborn, Michigan, seeking to offer a restful workplace that invokes the peacefulness of nature, particularly to promote healthfulness.

“We’re going to keep the elements that promote healthy living, like a great facade with glazing that allows natural light to penetrate the depth of the floor plate, or like our interior courtyards, and the landscape,” said Jennifer Kolstad, global design director at Ford.

But being empathetic doesn’t have to mean being slow and overly deliberate, especially given the urgency of re-inventing work spaces now that the pandemic is receding.

“You can be high performing and empathetic with your people,” said Paul Papas, managing partner at IBM Consulting Americas. Choosing between those two imperatives is a “false choice,” he added.

By :Phil Wahba

Source: Why designers need to show empathy as they rethink work spaces | Fortune

Applying Empathy In Design Thinking By Darren Evans

As designers, we break down problems, understand the ‘why’, and put them back together, better. Empathy should therefore be the starting point of the process – the source of the inspiration – from which we apply, test, and iterate new concepts, to validate our empathic thinking. We need to understand what a user says, does, thinks, and feels.

To do this effectively, we need to remain neutral ourselves, which is not easy. We must be congruent, and reflect and design without judgment or assumptions. Only then can the power of empathic design come to the fore – and not just because it is in vogue.

Authentic empathy could be a genuine cornerstone of a brand proposition, for example, and many technology businesses are renowned for empathy featuring heavily within the principles that guide their behavior. Tech is not the only industry to demonstrate empathy, of course, but its forward-thinking stance and the youth of many organizations within it, perhaps explains why empathy is a core cultural trait, rather than something that more traditional brands could only aspire to achieve.

However, designers can apply empathy mapping across all disciplines, from product design to systems thinking, and more established businesses can ooze empathy too.

Authentic empathy in practice

A 100-year-old client of ours, for example, has just re-written its strategic plan for the next 10 years. This is a 90-page transformative document, and the company’s principles lie at the heart of it all. Because these principles have been defined as a collective, they are truly shared by everyone throughout the organization and act almost as a marker – the barometer – guiding how and why things are done in a certain way.

Empathy is one such principle, which means that if someone sees a colleague going against what the brand stands for, they take time to consider what could be causing that and whether they can understand it, before calling it out.

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Why Brands are Failing To Listen To Customers and How To Fix That

As terabytes of consumer data are collected every day, companies have more information than ever about their customers. But that doesn’t mean they understand what those customers need—or how best to serve them.

Without a clear understanding of what customers are experiencing, executives put their brands at risk, according to Andy MacMillan, CEO of UserTesting, which helps companies collect video feedback from their customers. As the COVID-19 pandemic illustrates, a company’s survival in challenging times often requires a strong, meaningful audience connection and swift action to meet customer needs.

So, what can companies do to more effectively tap into customer experiences and build lasting relationships? Here, MacMillan and Rick Reuter, a principal in the financial services industry practice for consultant Deloitte, discuss what’s preventing companies from listening to their customers, the importance of human connections, and how companies should be thinking about the customer experience post-COVID-19.

Companies have access to tons of customer information. So what are companies missing? Why isn’t that data enough?

Andy MacMillan: We’ve become really algorithm dependent. Data and algorithms are useful. But they also mean we aim for the average: What does the average buyer want? We don’t ever learn about the exceptions. It’s become very sterile, and I think we all sense and feel that. The challenge for companies is how to get real feedback from people outside the company, and how to use that feedback to put the team in the shoes of the customer.

How do companies get that real feedback from their customers?

MacMillan: I think you have to be deliberate about the idea that you can’t just stand entirely behind the technology. You have to decide it’s important for people in your company to talk to customers.

If you’re a bank, go out and get 10 or 15 people without deep technology backgrounds to walk you through what it’s like for them to bank online. Then we pull that video in-house and let the teams watch and see what it’s like to be that customer. Or for an airline, it means asking a premium flyer who is not very tech-savvy what it’s like to book travel for his or her family. How do you get your tech team to understand how to alleviate some of those flyer’s concerns, when your team is not the demographic we’re talking about? That’s the personal aspect I’m talking about that’s missing.

Rick Reuter: And sometimes it’s just having a real person pick up the phone. So, it’s not 15 menus of connecting through a call-center app. It’s “Hello, Mr. Reuter, how can we help you? We saw that you did this today. Is that what you’re calling about?”

How is COVID-19 changing the landscape for how companies are expected to interact with customers?

Reuter: I think companies now are getting more and more connected with the human experience than they have in the past decade, and I think it’s refreshing that we have this technology infrastructure to adapt quickly. We just need to continue to make that a priority.

MacMillan: The question, even six months ago, was “How do I squeeze out more margin for myself as a company?” Now for the first time in a while, we’re seeing companies actually thinking about customers and taking measures to keep us safe. This situation has caused us to go back to a time before we relied on the algorithms. We’re saying, “Hey, let’s go talk to some customers. Let’s find out what their needs are and figure out how to service those needs.” It’s a remarkably simple formula, but I would say that hasn’t been the heart of what we’ve been doing for the past decade.

When the COVID-19 crisis ends, what’s going to happen to these customer-centric changes? Will they continue? 

MacMillan: It’s going to be difficult for businesses to just snap back to the assumptions we had six months ago about how everything works.

One of the changes companies should keep is how they’ve empowered employees on the front lines. A coffee chain I go to, each [outlet] had different ways of implementing carryout-only procedures to keep people safe. It was very smart. It was like all the rules had been thrown out the window—instead of a uniform corporate policy, the company trusted employees to make some rational decisions on how to keep themselves safe, how to keep our customers safe, how to adapt to this unprecedented situation.

Reuter: That’s a culture where employees feel empowered and they feel ownership of the problem, which creates opportunity. I think that’s a great example of a large enterprise creating some local angles to be successful.

How can companies empower individual employees in a smart way?

MacMillan: It’s about culture and values. You hear front-line retail workers say, “I wish I could do the right thing more often for people.” And often it isn’t really about the money. It’s just trying to treat people the right way, trying to solve a problem in a restaurant, in a store, whatever that might be.

There’s also something to be said for hiring good people, conveying your shared values as a company and empowering those people to make good decisions in line with your values.

As companies rise to the challenges posed by COVID-19 and try to meet customer needs, what’s the biggest thing they can do to improve their listening?

MacMillan: I think the issue isn’t for or against technology. I think it’s how do we layer in perspective and actually care about the customer in an authentic way? We talk about an empathy gap, and what we mean by that is, it’s not like people go to work every day and don’t care about the customers; it’s that they don’t have the perspective. They don’t actually get to see these customers and talk to them to know that they’re not hitting the mark.

The lesson companies can take away from this crisis is the way it’s caused us to go, “Hey, wait. I need to find out what the customers really need, and then go figure it out.” And as customers, we’re delighted that they seem to care.

By:Taylor Smith for FastCo Works

Source: Why brands are failing to listen to customers—and how to fix that

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