One thing the iQnite case competition on climate change has taught me is that there is a big difference between talking a problem up and the ability or desire to do anything about it.
While we often hear and see young people on the street protesting against climate sinners and calling for action NOW!, I look at the submissions we got for iQnite and the outreach I tried to do to create interest in participating and helping solve some of the real issues. And I see that there are none – ZERO – participants from this group of very activist young people.
Those who did signup were by and large a bit older, had some relevant experience in their belts and – for that reason – had some pretty specific ideas on where they could apply their experience to affect change. And I have come to think that maybe that is just how it is; that the foundation for creating the change and impact needed is that you actually know something and have identified areas, where impact could be created and not just have the ability to protest (eventhough those protests are certainly very valid).
One of the things I have found while working to create our case competition on climate change, iQnite, is that there is a big difference between outrage about something and passion for doing something about it. Just because you’re outraged about something doesn’t mean that you want to take real action towards doing something about it. Far from it.
While it is easy to find people who are outraged at climate change – just think about FridaysForFuture – it is super, super hard to find people, who are actually passionate about wanting to do anything about it. And it is understandable; protesting is easy, fixing things are hard. Yet the contrast couldn’t be starker.
The way to find the right people seems to be to get personal. Find the people that they talk to on an everyday basis and have them endorse what it is that you are trying to do. That increases the odds of getting people out and getting them committed. Just random trying to get people together and turn their outrage on social media into action won’t make a dent of a difference whatsoever.
The other day I met with a startup in need of some advice. They have been working on their offering for a couple of years, and they felt stuck in terms of getting it to market and choosing the right approach.
They showed me their product, and it prompted a conversation about who they have developed the product for, and what they actually, factually know about the customers, they are trying to get to buy into their offering. It was a classic example of solution looking for a problem.
We took a step back and talked about the value proposition based around the Value Proposition Canvas. And when it came to the problem solving real pains for real customers, it was painfully obvious that the biggest issue for them was that there is a disconnect between the customer pain points and how the product looks and welcomes you.
They left with new insights and ideas into how to progress from here. Sometimes it just pays to rewind the clock and look at whether there is a connection for real between needs, pains and gains and the actual product.
When you’re looking to solve a problem and improve something for someone, empathy matters. You need to be able to put yourself in the shoes of the customer, feel their pain and use the insight generated to fuel your product development efforts.
When we fail to employ empathy and other soft skills like it, we may get to fabulous solutions but we run short of understanding the problem. Solving a problem. And when we do that, the odds for success are very much stacked against us.
So treasure your soft skills. And if you don’t feel you have too many of them yourself, treasure the ones in your team who do. Because you need them in order to be successful in a truly outstanding way.