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Wired to Care, by Dev Patnaik April 18, 2010

Posted by basikthings in Wired to Care, [Books] Leadership & Change.

Photo of a big bunny rabbit!

Dev Patnaik’s, Wired to Care, is a reminder that businesses are built to operate with the efficient mechanisms of a machine, but in the end they exist to serve the dynamic sentiments of human beings. We are all human, and all humans have certain dispositions that do not adhere strictly to a logical foundation. Instead we couple logic with a carnal need to perpetually feel out our world. Patnaik maps out an innovative strategy that hinges on the empathic ability of the human mind to feel for others as a means of driving smarter business decisions.

Wired to Care is a manifestation of all the experiences that Patnaik has had during his work as a consultant at Jump Associates, a firm that he started. By walking us through a plethora of anecdotal evidence from his work, he illustrates how a company that makes use of empathy practices can positively affect the bottom line. This book is valuable because he was able to leverage all the experience that he has gathered to provide meaningful actions to effect a business. He provides a number of ways that a company can really reach outside the organization and connect with the people that they serve.

Patnaik’s ideas seem to be the marriage between business and design. He echoes the customer orientation that is taught in many marketing classes and injects it with this concept of need finding. By looking harder at how companies can truly find the needs of their customers, he unveils a layer that goes way beyond just simple personas and decision mapping. His ideas have the potential to empower business managers with “gut-level certitude” in their decision process. With this frame of mind, companies are not just going through random tools to try to understand their customers; they know their customers and they are their customers.

What worries me about his frame of mind is that it seems too ideal. It would have been nice if he could talk about areas where taking the time to go through his methods would ultimately not affect the bottom line in a positive way. I’m sure there are a number of examples where churning out product with machine like efficiency could have a better impact on the business as a whole. In either case, his points are well taken, just possibly too good to be true.

Although Patnaik has a very personal direct voice in his writing, the book lacked a structure that I feel could have better emphasized the key lessons from this book. What I would have liked to see was a short succinct exposition on the more theoretical backgrounds to why such a management style is important in business, followed by the anecdotes mixed in that was organized by company. When the author speaks about each company he should re-reference the points that he has made earlier. Instead Patnaik chose to intersperse his key lessons with anecdotes that jumped the gamut of possible companies from page to page—producing a disorienting read. The sections about mirror neurons, the limbic system, and the human connection to business would be particularly suited for the theory section.

This book lends itself well to either a business or a design student. It would appeal to the business student who wishes to include design practices to better affect their pursued businesses and appeal to the design students who want to see the business impact that need finding can have. Overall I think that it is a great read if you can forgive the author for his sporadic structure.