Empathy as the building block for Organization Architecture

Empathy, as the fundamental building block of Innovation, is a well-known fact. However, Can this core principle of Design Thinking be used to create unique Organisational Architecture?

Absolutely yes, here’s how:

Last month, Dr. Kaustubh Dhargalkar (KD) led an exercise to make this happen in a large Indian MNC with a diverse portfolio. This particular engagement was for a new addition to their stable. It is an Asset Management Company, operating pan-India. The objective of this exercise was to create a common sense of purpose across the entire organization.

KD, began by asking the senior management team, a straightforward question:

KD: “What Business Are You In?”
Response: “We sell financial products.”
KD: “Ok, but what business are you in?”
Response: “We are in the Mutual Funds business.”
KD: “Alright, but why do people come to you?”
Response: “Because we offer the best deals.”
KD: “What fundamental need of users do you satisfy?”
Response: “The ability to fulfil a part of their dreams.”
KD: “How do people attempt to make their dreams come true?”
Response: “By trying to set aside some money from their earnings.”
KD: “So, are we not in the business of ‘Helping people maximize their savings’?”
Response: “Yes, but ummm.. but we are a mutual fund…..”
KD: “But why do people invest in a mutual fund? Is it not to safeguard and maximize their savings? Let us attempt to find why people save money. Research tells me that, in India, there are around nineteen reasons why people save money, e.g., A new house, a car, a holiday, childbirth, child’s education, etc.
Response: “Yes, son/daughter’s higher education, their marriage, possible illnesses……”
KD: “Does the organization have a mechanism to recommend/ suggest the best fit for these aspirations? Are our sales people trained to unearth these needs? Or do they just pass on their targets to the distributors across the country? The distributors have similar targets from our competitors too. So, the distributors only farm out business between all the players in the market. How does that make us unique? Should we not create an organization that is built around understanding, ‘why people save money?’ And create products that fit those needs? Finding these requirements has to be the first KRA for the sales force, marketing, and product teams. So, if the purpose of the organization is to ‘Help people maximize their savings,’ then what capabilities do we need to build?”
Response1: “We need to be a Listening organization.”
Response2: “We need to have an extensive reach.”
KD: “We need to be a Responsive Team. By responsive, I mean that your product teams have to be able to create products that best fit the needs of the users.”

A list of 11 capabilities that the organization must have emerged over the next few hours. Following this exercise, we attempted to determine the actions necessary to achieve these capabilities we listed. After we identified the actions, we also defined the milestones for various sub-activities and put in place sub-tasks using the following framework.

framework for capacity activity

*‘Cap’ stands for ‘Capacity’
*‘Ac’ stands for ‘Activity’

Point to Ponder
A human with her/his subjective judgment can become more empathetic and enhance her/his ability to innovate.

If we build organizations in this manner, would they not be able to ‘Enhance their Innovation Quotient’ and remain relevant almost forever (since they constantly define themselves based on their consumers’ needs)

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