Monday, March 11, 2013


IDEO is known for its innovation. The noted Silicon Valley company is responsible for such game-changing inventions as the computer mouse, the laptop, and the "Lavatory Occupied" sign on airplanes (among others).  David Kelley, the founder, was asked the secret of innovation.  His one-word answer sounded spiritual:  "Empathy."  By empathy he meant genuine concern for the customer's needs.  Kelley said the key is to watch the customer closely and see at what point they encounter difficulty, and cringe.  Then fix it so that never happens again.

As an example, Kelley noted the frustration airline passengers had when trying to use the restroom.  They would get up out of their seat, only to find that someone was already using the restroom.  Kelley asked himself, "Isn't there a way that we can send a signal to everyone when the restroom is available?"  The question led to a solution - a lighted sign that ties into the bathroom door lock.  Frustration solved.

One of the "arrows out" expressions of CTK is empathy for the unchurched.  We try hard to eliminate obstacles, remove confusion and squelch insecurity.  We try to make it as easy as possible for a non-churched person to feel at home with us.

Why do we...

Have greeters and ushers stationed at key entry points to welcome attenders?  Empathy...a person may not know whether they are wanted.
Dress in everyday clothes, instead of "dressing up"?  Empathy...a person may not have special clothes to wear.
Try to speak in plain language, instead of theological jargon?  Empathy...a person may not have the training to understand.
Hand everyone a program with upcoming events and a teaching outline?  Empathy...a person may not know what is going on.
Picks songs that are both understandable and enjoyable for all?  Empathy...a person may not relate to sacred music or insider phrases.
Have clear signage that leads to the bathrooms or kids rooms?  Empathy...a person may not know where they need to go.
Conduct a one-hour service?  Empathy...a person may not be used to sitting for an extended period of time.
Provide free coffee for everyone to enjoy?  Empathy...a person may need to have a cup of coffee to feel at ease...or to stay awake!

Empathy is why we go to great lengths to make things easier and solve problems.  Empathy is why we have staff meetings.  Empathy is why we organize.  Empathy is why we try to keep improving.  If we are lagging in our execution, it may be because we are lagging in our empathy.  Do we really care about these people?  Are we willing to do the work necessary to answer questions and eliminate obstacles?

Another word for empathy is love.

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