Empathise! If you don’t someone else will.

Do you ever have trouble finding non-obvious whizz bang solutions to problems? If so you may have skipped the empathy piece – an essential part of your problem solving toolkit.

Empathising with the people involved in your problem helps you to gain a deep understanding of their needs and desires as well as helping to stomp on any preconceived views you may hold. It’s a vital step because the people who are experiencing the problem also hold the key to its solution. If you can develop insight into their unmet needs, then you’ve found your aha moment! Which can lead you to those whizz bang solutions.

Uber is a good example of how unmet needs not only provide exciting opportunities for innovation but how when they are not addressed they provide exciting opportunities for your competitors!

When developing its revolutionary app, Uber – as part of its design thinking process – began empathising with the people it wanted to serve to uncover any unmet needs. And they found a heap! Taxi passengers needed to know:

  • Is there a taxi nearby?
  • How long will it take to get here?
  • How much will it cost?
  • Where’s my taxi got to?
  • Can I contact the taxi directly to give it instructions?
  • Can we split the cost of the ride using credit cards?

The taxi industry – having had little competition in the past and general disregard for its customers – failed to address these needs. Uber created ‘wow factor’ solutions to each of them and was able to provide an experience and outcome for its users that taxis still remain unable to match.


Unearthing your users’ unmet needs is not just to create innovative solutions and experiences. It’s because if you don’t, someone else will. Empathy is a survival AND growth strategy and an essential tool of design thinkers.





Carol Harding

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