The power of empathy in product development | 3/22/2019 | Staff
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What kind of potato chip would you create, and what would you name it, if you wanted to sell the product exclusively to pregnant women?

This was the task that marketing professors Kelly Herd (University of Connecticut) and Ravi Mehta (University of Illinois) presented to more than 200 adults, in a study of how emotion impacts creativity. Half of the group was simply given the assignment in an objective way. The other participants were told to take a few minutes, before beginning the task, to envision how the customer would feel while eating the snack.

'product - Designers - Potato - Chip - Ideas

The amateur 'product designers' came up with vastly different potato chip ideas and descriptions, but the most creative (as judged by a panel of mothers-to-be) were: Pickles-and-Ice Cream chips; Sushi chips; and 'Margarita-for-Mom' chips. The most creative ideas came from the group that had thought about how the consumer would feel before starting the task."I think it is fascinating to see that eliciting empathy has inherent value in maximizing creativity," Herd says. "This is one of those areas of psychology that hasn't been clearly disentangled yet for marketers: how does explicitly thinking of others' feelings affect those who are creating new work?"

"We've shown that empathy can change the way in which you think," she says. "We've looked at it in a somewhat narrow context of product design, but it appears that subtle things, such as imagining how someone else would feel, can have a huge impact on creativity in general."

Research - Head - Heart - Effect - Objective

The research, titled, "Head vs. Heart: the Effect of Objective versus Feelings-Based Mental Imagery on New Product Creativity," appeared in the June 2018 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research. Herd and Mehta conducted five separate experiments, including asking participants to design a child's toy, select ingredients for a new kids' cereal, and redesign a grocery cart for...
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