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The power of empathy and creativity for innovation


Bill Burnett, executive director of the design programme of d. school, Stanford Universityexplains for how entrepreneurs can innovate by applying methods specific to the design field.

What is special in the way a designer approaches a problem is the empathy and creativity it brings into the process. these are two very valuable assets. Empathy helps you have a better understanding of the world around you, helps you observe, feel and get valuable insight from everything around. Creativity gives you freedom, help you escape the patterns of the rigid thinking, encourages you to explore and develop ideas that are new and ground-breaking.

Use your empathy and intuition to observe your clients and find the right problem to solve

To innovate you need to forget about market research. This is because they are relevant to the present times. And acting based on market research makes you fall to the same thinking based on models and patterns. Be one step ahead, use your intuition and empathy, take the time to really know your clients, understand their needs and predict their expectations.

After you find the need to address, you need to find the true problem to solve in order to fulfill that need. Step back, analyze and explore in order to find the “right question” that needs to be answered. Reframe the problem!

If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.

Albert Einstein

To illustrate this, Burnett gives this example: when working with an NGO in Nepal, everyone though they needed more incubators for premature newborns. The students working on the project discovered the problem was a different one : transporting babies from remote areas safely to the hospital. So they invented Embrace, a low cost infant warmer.

See below a short video with the process of defining the problem to be solved for Embrace project.


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Use your creativity to generate as many ideas as possible and create fast prototypes

If you want to innovate you have to free-up your imagination. You must explore as many ideas as possible, to adventure yourself far from the obvious results that pop-up instantly into your mind. You have to consider ideas that are challenging. Consider everything without questioning (at this time) how will you do it or how will it work. Pursuing an innovative idea takes courage and sometimes you might need to develop your business capabilities into new directions.

After you select the idea/ideas you want to work on get to action and create some rapid prototypes. You’ll have the chance to make observations on your ideas and you can present them to a group of users for feedback. The user becomes an active part in the creative process. Take notes on everything and use the feedback to further develop your prototypes and ideas.

Article written by Concept Machine for Design Driven


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