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Love the Problem, Not the Solution | Jonathon Hensley (Emerge Interactive) | DH067

Podcast Cover Image for episode DH067 Jonathon Hensley Emerge Interactive

As you’d expect for a Tech CEO, Jonathan Hensley is a busy man.

Day to day, Jonathan Hensley serves as both the CEO of Emerge Interactive and as the technology advisor for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

DH067 EMERGE INTERACTIVE Interview screenshot dog exitThe tech titan who was raised in The Bay has seen his industry explode before his eyes dating back to his boyhood, well aware of both the game-changing innovation and the high-priced fluff that’s come and gone over the years.

Because of all this, Jonathan knows exactly what it takes to have staying power and growth.

The secret? Technology isn’t about computers, it’s about people. More importantly, it’s about their problems.

“Technology is the moment someone decides they’re hungry,” says Jonathan Hensley on this episode of the Digital Hospitality podcast.


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Emerge Interactive: 

Emerge Interactive is a Digital Product Agency based in Portland, Oregon. 

“A great idea is just the beginning. Through every stage of the product life cycle, Emerge is a brain-trust dedicated to forward thinking, creating value for our clients and the customers they serve, building digital products people love and use.”

Schedule a Call with Emerge at





Team Emerge Interactive is Inspired by Innovators:

Emerge Interactive solves complex digital product challenges.

As they state on their website: “When you can’t afford to get it wrong we’re here to help. We create smart products, web and mobile solutions.”


Learn more online at


Inspired by the likes of Steve Jobs and the Apple innovator’s keen sense of using tech as functional, problem solving tools, Jonathan Hensley and his team at Emerge Interactive are all about adding value to all involved.

DH067 EMERGE INTERACTIVE Website Infographics“The most successful companies are shifting from command and control to servant leadership,” Jonathan Hensley said in our rich and entertaining conversation.

“A company can enter a market with a million options and completely dominate the market because they understand the customer. They understand that the customer is looking for something different and they’re willing to serve their needs and really listen and engage with them. You can’t ever stop doing that.”

When Jonathan says you can never stop listening and engaging, he means it.

DH067 EMERGE INTERACTIVE Website Home“The companies that stop growing and stop scaling are the ones that stop listening to customers,” emphasizes Jonathan. “You go to customers to understand their needs and problems. The companies that do really well fall in love with the problem, not their idea of the solution.”

Falling in love with the problem, not their idea of the solution, is the real key here.

The only way to fall in love with the problem is to listen to the customer and deliver care, concern and solutions in a very human way even if it’s done digitally.

DH067 EMERGE INTERACTIVE Interview screenshot 1“How do you think about engaging people’s emotions and needs through technology?” Jonathan Hensley asked. “You’ve got to start with the fundamentals. Technology comes with this promise that it will solve all these problems, but it usually doesn’t come with fair expectations after that. Technology is only half the equation, and it’s only as good as the people that are using it. So, how do you actually empower the people? You have to understand that.”

Empowering the people for leaders like Jonathan is a two-way street. As a CEO of a digital product agency, Jonathan has to be in touch with the needs of his client and the morale of his staff.

“Happy employees mean happier customers and we have to look at how technology serves both sides of the business,” explains Jonathan. “A lot of people just need to be acknowledged and engaged. That can be more powerful than any kind of monetary benefit.”

That statement says a lot coming from a CEO: many people – both customers and employees – are not just motivated or validated by financial wins but by being appreciated. This very human approach to service and leadership is what’s helping Jonathan win in a tech space that can often be very cold.

Being caring and human is a major differentiator for Jonathan on both sides of his business. While a good heart helps his connections, it’s alignment that makes everything run.

DH067 EMERGE INTERACTIVE Website Graphic“I think alignment is the number one thing that businesses need to be focused on to be successful,” Jonathan states. “How do you align an individual in your business so that they know how they’re making a difference and how important they are? Then you have to bring all those individuals into a team so that they all know how they are aligned and important, so they have a shared vision. Then you have organizational alignment so that all the resources and capabilities are focused around those individuals to serve customers. And then lastly you have alignment with the market so that you are connected to the needs of customers.”


Leading By Example:

At Emerge Interactive, Jonathan is leading by example by engaging actively with his staff and his clients. By listening to those he helps and those that help him, he’s walking his talk as a modern CEO that’s practicing servant leadership.

So, if you’re in the digital business – which we all are (or should be) – take notes and follow the ways of this tech titan. The boy born in The Bay is now the man in charge of a leading digital product agency and he only sees the online space getting bigger.

“We’re just at the tip of the iceberg,” smiles Jonathan Hensley while he talked with us on Zoom for Digital Hospitality.

“In the next ten to fifteen years you’re going to see the momentum of businesses embracing digital experience and it’s going to skyrocket and keep growing exponentially. We have not hit even close to the threshold.”

We sure haven’t. In the meantime, listen, engage, win.

– Article by Cali BBQ Media Content Producer Ian Stonebrook. Get in touch with Ian at or on social media @ianstonebrook



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