At the time AirBNB was so small, Joe Gebbia personally went to listers to photograph homes for the listings. In taking these photos…
“We got so close that we go to step into their shoes for a moment and see the world through their eyes, and really see the pain points that they were feeling,” says Gebbia. That’s the basis of innovation — you take an enlightened and empathetic point of view and combine it with your own unique point of view to create something new. In a short period of time, the quality of listings improved and number of options increased.
In the How I Built This with Guy Raz podcast, Gebbia calls this Enlightened Empathy.
While doing web design, we talked to the administrators for the department who wanted a site. In doing support for the sites, I would get to talk to users to understand what they were trying to accomplish and make tweaks or major re-designs to make that experience better.
There is a whole profession, User Experience Designer, built around the idea of engaging representative users to understand how they use technology to ensure the design reflects how people will use it.