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Simple Chief

Nice Post, thank you. I think it's generally true that we can't consider everybody's feelings and perspectives all the time -- it's a coping mechanism to make sure we get our own stuff done. Because of this it is always a powerful eye-opener to walk in someone else's shoes for a while...

David W.

So simple and so true. I agree with Kenneth, "the only way to get feedback is to walk a mile in their shoes. Thanks for the article.



Your blog rings true. How is one going to get documented feedback or comments from an undocumented or non-english speaking customer. The only way to get feedback is to walk a mile in their shoes. I liked your PS about the airlines. It is so easy for senior management to become insulated from what their customers experience.

Glenn Friesen


With so many "remote observation" and "crowd analytics" tools available nowadays, it seems like there's more noise between the CEO and the customer than ever before.

As an advocate for anthropological observation of "the customer in the field", I've unfortunately never been able to actually make it happen. I assume this is because I have worked with small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) who are convinced they don't have the budget for observation, longitudinal or otherwise.

How would once convince an SMB executive of the value of in-field anthropological observation of their customer?

Further, I believe that no anthropological observation of a customer is of much explicit value. The study would have to include several, if not several dozen, individual observations to be valid. Though, as your example demonstrates, there is the implicit value of the subject opening their mind, or changing their mindset.

Thanks. Your post was definitely thought-provoking!


I love this post- it makes me think of my immediate supervisor at work, who I can say without hesitation is the best boss I have ever had. He used to do a job very similar to mine at the same company, so he knows exactly what it's like. I've had a few different positions at this company, but this manager is the first one who has made me feel like he is really looking out for the team, trying to shield us from the bureaucratic crap that flows from upstream, has been forthcoming with information and completely trusts us to do our jobs without micromanaging. He may not be the best at replying to emails or scheduling meetings (nobody's perfect), but I think his personal understanding of the team's job helps him to do those truly important things and be one of the most desirable managers at the company.

Keith McDonnell

I couldn't agree more. In starting a company with my wife my only "condition" was that we have THE best customer service. So far that has been non stop engagement and listening to the customer.


great blog Bob, If more bosses knew how it felt to be an employee and a customer, they could decrease turnover and market to thing that customers actually need. This should never be overlooked

Dana Searcy

Great blog Bob! I agree that too many people do not realize that they do not know how it feels to be in someone else's shoes...or even worse, they are convinced they do know, when they don't. I think we are all guilty of this in some aspects of our lives. It is the concept of things are always greener on the other side. In business especially, this can be costly.


Your airline executive example is a sad truth. You can see the same thing with GM cars (executives had theirs serviced almost daily) and with commuter rail-lines (the one that the majority of executives road on got the most attention). It's almost as if they're admitting that the organization doesn't exist for the customer...but for them.


Great piece, Bob. Personally, I think most people completely underestimate the importance of empathy. We constantly hear people nattering on about the importance of being "authentic" these days and yet they behave as if they have no empathy for their customers or for those they work with.

The great thing about empathy is that, unless a person has some type of emotional or personality disorder or a diagnosed mental illness which precludes its development, it is a learned behaviour and your description of the results of the shadowing proves this in spades - thanks!

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