Now available: Design for Impact by Erin Weigel

A Short Interview With Dirk Knemeyer


Dirk Knemeyer is the founder and CEO of Facio, Inc., a software start-up dedicated to dramatically improving understanding of the self and one another. He offers courses on Applied Empathy Frameworks, Starting Up Software and the Catalyst Method.

We got to sit down and talk with Dirk about Applied Empathy and product development. Here’s what he had to say:

Rosenfeld Media: How does the Applied Empathy Framework help in product development?

Dirk Knemeyer: The reason why Apple, in digital products, and precious few companies overall, bring such wonderfully designed products to market is that they have a largely instinctive understanding of the sweet spot between what the market needs from a features perspective, what people want from an aesthetic perspective, and what the proper style is to stand up and above the rest of the market.

For those few companies, that’s fantastic. But for the rest of us, we can either trail in their wake or try and do something about it.

The reason that Apple’s products are so popular and their customers so loyal is because they connect with users on a deeper level. Rather than being devices to complete a task, or objects of style, the truly exceptional products intertwine with key aspects of an individual’s identity. They make a meaningful difference in one or more of our physical, emotional and intellectual selves.

The Applied Empathy Framework provides a road map so the rest of us mere mortals can intentionally plan and execute to create breakthrough products that succeed on the most powerful levels of connecting with passionate customers.

RM: As you’ve investigated the Catalyst method, which increases employee engagement, what’s one thing that’s really surprised you?

DK: Gosh, it’s so many little things. I’ll tell you the one thing that I think is most important: being considerate of each person and treating them uniquely based on who they authentically are. That might sound simple or common sense on the surface, but it most certainly isn’t. As just one example—some people like to meet formally in a private space; other people like to meet casually in a more open space. Most managers engage their employees in the way that is most comfortable for them, the manager. This creates real cultural issues where people who are more “alike” to the manager in this way are most successful, while those who are the most different are statistically far more likely to struggle. And again, this is only one example.

We’ve identified more than a dozen key markers between co-workers and/or managers and employees that have a huge impact on job satisfaction and productivity, just based on the intersection of different personality traits.

With Catalyst we help people understand their own and others’ personality specifics and begin to more intentionally engage with one another. It’s a fantastic thing to see in action. Only 31 percent of employees in the U.S. today are engaged with their jobs, and—based on a $60,000 annual salary—engaged workers create about $28,000 bottom line impact for their employers each year. It is not rocket science to realize the remarkable importance of addressing this in a long-term and organization-wide way. That’s what we’re doing.