• Amazon’s empty chair idea has received a fair bit of coverage in the business press, including these stories from Forbes, Entrepreneur, Salesforce, and Huffington Post.
  • The Sears Roebuck origin story is harder to verify. So, instead, check out these images from Sears catalogs from 1897, 1902, the 1950s, and the 1970s.  Where else could an American buy both opium and veterinary castrating knives?

34 Responses to “Pinkcast 1.14: The power of an empty chair.”

  1. Lorilee Mallek says:

    Actually I think about the empty chair at the Passover dinner.
    I wonder what Eliyahu would think when we are inflicting
    Slaughter of first born,plagues and other horrors on Pharohs people?
    What would it feel like when the Red Sea saved the Jews but
    drowned their persecutors.
    Thank you for illuminating that my the empty chair is my conscience.

  2. David Koontz says:

    Hey, so that’s what that chair is for – ah-ha!
    I got a gift of that exact same pink chair with feet – tiny and all… never had any idea what to do with it… now I wish I had kept it.

  3. Rob C says:

    Great and simple idea to keep people focused on the people for whom they are working. I wonder if most businesses put a shareholder in that chair instead of a customer…

  4. Tom Hierck says:

    I’ve used a similar strategy when working with teachers as I have them consider the student not in the room. Powerful reminder when thinking about interventions and instructional design.

  5. Jamie says:

    cool… also speaks to integrity. We should really be the same people behind closed doors (or in a meeting) as when we are interacting with our customers. I suppose you could use the empty chair to represent your boss as well. What would my boss think about how I am handling this situation? …I suppose the importance of that might rest on who your boss is.

    thanks for the tip.

  6. Walter Akana says:

    Interesting idea! Still, I find that for most of what I do, I’m able to keep my audience in mind.

  7. Don Winfield says:

    Excellent idea. I’m going to start with a full sized chair until I can go to a toy store… Or I may try a photo of the chair.

    There are quite few marketers who share the idea of creating an avatar of your ideal customer by researching your market and especially your existing customers.

    I think the small chair is a good addition to remind me that my avatar probably has room for improvement and there are a lot of unknowns I need to think about as well.


  8. Norris Krueger says:

    Dan – SRI International tasks one meeting attendee to be The Voice of The Customer – they think it’s also an old technique. It does work – even if you assign a skeptic.

    p.s. IIRC, they also do meetings where someone is tasked to be relentlessly optimistic and another to be pessimistic. Great for ideation but even better for frame-breaking and also works well for designing execution. Anyway, as always… thanks!

  9. Sarah says:

    Excellent! Love it! Another brilliant idea. Perfect timing as I’m struggling to get back into writing my second book – this might help my motivation. 🙂

  10. Kristen says:

    Love this, Dan! I’m going to get one.

  11. Patty Garrison says:


    Brilliant! Instead of an empty chair I use a good ‘ol fashioned commode right in the middle of my desk! Yes, a chamber pot attunes me to the taste and feel of what my customer rejects. I’m serious. This really works to help produce maximum focus on the shit that matters.


  12. Barrie says:

    Will use this. Effective physical reminder of who you are accountable to although they are not in the room. It brought to mind how many times I have sat in a conference room of colleagues on a business call with the client and watched (in horror), everyone multitasking with their computers while on the call. Answering emails about other projects would have not happened had the client been there in person. Really good reminder, that empty chair.

  13. David Antol says:

    Thanks for the idea. I am going to print me one!

  14. Aitor says:


    I like a lot this activity. It works really good. We do it regularly with the entrepreneurs in Mondragon Team Academy and it works if you want to have the customers perspective in your meetings. Although the best startegy is to have the real customer physically present in the meeting 🙂

    I read some years ago, in a report about Nordic Business Forum, that Jack Welch did that “Empty Chair” activity in the management board regularly to have always the customer perspective in their meetings.

    Best regards

  15. Govinda Rajan P says:

    Wow – that is a simple grand idea – thanks.

  16. Yaniv says:

    Dan….super interesting!
    However, I think the technique (Empty Chair) came from a very different place…the Jewish Seder of Passover, when we leave a glass full of wine for Elijah The Prophet (Eliyahu Hanavi) and open the door as if to let him in:


    A fairly simple idea which , if correctly followed , as intended , has the potential to enhance outcomes ,exponential to the non-existent costs. That’s what is GREAT , and just what everybody is looking for !! Thank you DHP.

  18. Brendan G says:

    Great advice,
    I used this tactic when redefine a job description for a vacated position that we had to fill. We kept finding ourselves saying, “What would we tell this newly hired associate their workday will consist of?”
    This proved to be exactly what we needed to come up with a robust plan.
    Thanks for sharing.

  19. Valter says:

    That was the first pink cast where I just don’t get how this can be practically applied. Perhaps the engineer in me takes things too literally. How does one highlight the significant “empty chair” vs. the left over ones in the room? How do you keep the “empty chair” from becoming the art work on the hallways that everybody who works in the building no longer notices?

  20. Bryan says:

    Churches do this to remind small group members to invite someone to church.

  21. Sam says:

    I love this. I work in higher education and am often frustrated when people lose sight of what’s best for the student… our customer. This simple idea will help us to remember who we’re really working for.

  22. Susan says:

    These ideas are so helpful. Wish I had known them when I was younger!

  23. Peter Jady says:

    Another simple but well presented tip – Thank you! We have a small 6 seater meeting room and always fill the seats. Will get everyone to squeeze up next time for the empty chair…

  24. Lev Karasin says:

    That is great. We should always be aware of what the customer wants and thinks of the executive decisions we make. Rather than thinking about the self, always think of the other> This was probably one of the best or more useful pinkcast to date. Thank you Dan!

  25. Sebastian says:

    It hurts to see you think so little of me … just kidding ?. But seriously, get out of my chair!
    Sorry, doing my Archie Bunker impersonation again.
    Great stuff! Keep up the good work!

  26. Charles says:

    Thank you. This is wonderful. I’m in!

  27. Ettie zilber says:

    Valid, valuable concept for all industries including education.
    Clearly the U.S. airlines have never used it; they do not care about the customer

  28. Jason Robert Taylor says:


    I never reach out and thank you for the gifts you share. There is always an instant, meaningful application in my life. This PinkCast being delivered on my birthday was thought to be a special gift just for old me. I know everyone else is taken, but thank you… for being yourself!

  29. Thanks for the struggling you do for us! There’s a chair for you in my office anytime! Happy New Year, Dan!

  30. Marcia Banks says:

    Dan, I look forward to your podcasts. This one and the Post-Mortem one are my two favorites, for the moment.
    I have also used some of your ideas found in your books “Drive” and “A Whole New Mind” in working with teachers. Thank you!

  31. Jan says:

    Great Pinkcast and love the chair idea. Where can I get the toy chair? I want to give one to my communications team. Thanks!

  32. Maureen Diaz says:

    The power of an empty chair! This is the most effective idea for all businesses and great strategies
    for teachers all around the world! It is a really simple idea to put an empty chair whether in a busy room or in a solicited one. We should be the same person even behind closed doors.

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