There is one phrase in the business world that knots my stomach and makes me feel awful.
My logical head tells me that everyone experiences challenges or struggles or discomfort. Pain is part of life.
Business is solving problems. Knowing what the pain is, tells you how to solve it. Pain points are a natural part of creating a responsive business.
But every other part of me struggles with the phrase. Because the principle and the practice diverge.
Pain points have become divorced from the human experiencing them and moulded into a way of breaking through to offer a solution. There is a bigger picture at play where every human becomes reduced to a number or a series of attributes. This is big data.
Big data is the natural bedfellow of big business. When you are so big that you cannot speak to the individuals you serve, data becomes your only way of interpreting and making sense of the picture.
As we rely more and more on data, we see each other less and less as individuals; wonderfully complex, non-rule following, unique beings who are seeking human connection.
The problem is that the big data approach becomes the industry standard. It gets filtered down to smaller businesses as the only way to operate, even though they have the ability to connect directly to the individuals they serve.
The loss of the human touch spreads with ferocious speed as expert after expert announces the latest trend or insight into business growth.
And that pain, well we become numb to it and deaf to the person experiencing it.
The problem is not the people, but the systems that are universally touted as non-negotiable benchmarks of business success.
For a long time now, I have talked to my clients of how their potential and existing clients are thinking, feeling and acting. We paint a picture of their reality and what they are experiencing to understand how to respond.
You could say we are addressing pain points. But I cannot bring myself to use the phrase. I prefer to think of their human experience and see the choices and decisions they make through their lens.
For me, the phrase “pain points” has become bound to some of the worst excesses of the big data approach. Re-instilling human connection into business can’t be done using the existing system. A new language is needed to shift the energy and the dynamic behind business.
Simply shifting to a different language and perspective has a profound impact on how your whole business is framed.
Pain points consider how pain can be capitalised upon to provide a product or service to resolve the pain. Considering the human experience, on the other hand, positions you to be seeking the solution that is most right for your clients. Exploring the choices clients need to make and the impacts of those choices gives you direct understanding of their unique experience.
On paper, it’s a subtle distinction. Energetically speaking, the difference is incalculable.