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Do The Hard Work

I’m not a very good photographer. I love the idea of being a good photographer, but, sadly, I’m not one.

The main reason is that when it comes right down to it, I’m not willing to do the hard work. You need to know about shutter speeds, and apertures, and framing, and all kinds of arcane stuff. And it takes a lot of practice.

Sometimes, I’m tempted to try to skip the work and just try to get better by buying a really nice camera. But that never works.

Me, shot by my friend Ben, who actually has put in the work to be a good photographer.

There are a lot of things like this – where we love the outcome of a process, but hate the process itself. Being fit versus working out, being an author versus writing a book, being innovative versus managing ideas to create value.

I ran across a great example of this in Indi Young’s fantastic book Practical Empathy. Here’s what she says:

Empathy is a noun—a thing. Empathy is an understanding you develop about another person. Empathizing is the use of that under-standing—an action. Empathy is built through the willingness to take time to discover the deep-down thoughts and reactions that make another person tick. It is purposely setting out to comprehend another person’s cognitive and emotional states. Empathy then gives you the ability to try on that person’s perspective—to think and react as she might in a given scenario.

This use of empathy is what most people confuse with empathy itself. People try to act empathetic—to take someone’s perspective, to walk in his shoes—without first taking time to develop empathy. This leap is problematic when it comes to your work. You end up with business decisions based on expectations about how others are reasoning, not based on knowledge.

Empathy is another thing on our list – people often want to act empathetically, but they don’t want to put in the hard work needed to actually build empathy.

This is one of the reasons that most new ideas fail to have impact – we skip the empathy building, and just assume we know what people need. Most of the time, we don’t. And we can’t outsource this – we can’t let someone else build the empathy for us. As Charles Eames said: “Never delegate understanding.”

This is one of the things that bothers me about a lot of the business advice we get – everyone wants efficiency, to reduce friction. But friction can be good! The only way I’ll become a good photographer is to seek out some friction while learning all the stuff I have to learn.

In fact, the only way to build a capability that makes you different is to embrace friction, and do the hard work. There are no secrets to this – we just have to dig in. We need to do the hard work.

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Empathy and Why It’s Important from Tim Kastelle on Vimeo.

The video also addresses this idea – it’s part of a Micro-masters that we have made on Corporate Innovation. There are four units in, all four are open for enrolments right now, and you can do it for fun, or for credit. Please check it out.

Of course, if you want to really get the most out of it, you’ll have to do some hard work.

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