The Gift of Listening

Listening Skills

Listening skills require us to first set aside our own agendas. Most people admit to thinking about what they’re going to say next in a conversation when the other party is talking. If you are busy thinking about your next statement, how can you hear and digest what that other person is saying?

Listening to Customers

Listening is a key skill for successful leadership and continued success in innovation. We must listen carefully to our customers to understand their needs and wants. It is futile to try to design and develop new products without customer feedback. New product development (NPD) practitioners need to carefully listen to customers at the front end of projects. This is called qualitative market research and involves gathering thoughts and feelings of potential customers. You’ll want to investigate what their problems are and how they are currently solving these issues. Ask about the shortcomings of current product solutions and also ask customers to describe their perfect solution. And while you might feel that a perfect solution is impossible to engineer or manufacture, it will give you insights into the most important features and attributes necessary for a successful new product deployment.

Listen with Empathy

One of the most crucial skills for listening to customers is to listen with empathy. Empathy means we have put ourselves into their shoes. Instead of viewing innovation from the development standpoint, we view products from the user’s perspective. Admittedly, this is sometimes difficult for complex products and in B2B situations. However, Design Thinking offers tools and methodology is to help build customer empathy.

Listening for Leaders

Leaders are tasked with listening not only to customers but also team members. Once you’ve framed the innovation problem with Design Thinking tools, the NPD team must execute the development, manufacture, and marketing of the new product. Team leaders need to listen to their teams to continue to build creativity, and also to monitor conflicts and changing market conditions. To manage these objectives, we again turn to Design Thinking.

The Gift of Listening

Listening is a skill and active listening is a gift. Leaders and innovation professionals can give the gift of listening to team members and customers by asking for feedback, building empathy, and being fully present in a conversation. Deep listening not only shows respect for the person with whom you are talking but will enlighten you with their needs, joys, and drivers. When you give the gift of listening, you are truly demonstrating love and leadership.



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Teresa Kowal

Teresa Kowal


I tackle life with an infusion of rigor, zeal, and faith. My passion is innovation and helping others improve their new product development ecosystems.