Grow empathy and curiousity for users

The Challenge

You need to get into the hearts and minds of people from the top-down and bottom-up.
Empathy is defined as the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another person. When we experience empathy for other people, we're more likely to build rapport, form bonds and care about their wellbeing. Naturally this is easier to do with people we live with, study with and work with. Not so easy if a client is a brand or an ID on a performance tracker.

The challenge here is to engage people with people that they likely have never met and may never met! You need to humanise them, bring their characters alive and introduce stories that others can relate to.

My Role

Story Teller | Facilitator | Coach

The Process

Humanise users and their experience through character development and stories that people can relate to.

Start by collating findings so you can spot common themes that will inform insights.

Produce early or *proto artefacts including:

  • Themes
  • User stories - epics and needs
  • Personas
  • Empathy maps
  • Draft journeys

*Proto personas are largely based on assumption with little or no insight. They are helpful as it begins to paint a picture of the humans you want form trust-based relationships with.

Engage stakeholders to develop meaning. Here are some of the approaches that have worked for me in the past:

  • Introduce characters and themes
  • Tell their stories from their perspective using their tone and narrative
  • Introduce methodologies and frameworks that are easy to understand and work together to finalise user journeys

If you're working with a group with Design Thinking or UX is new then make sure they know what a journey map is and is not (not a process map for example - so there may be unlearning here).

I sometimes introduce everyday activities to warm people up. This takes about 20 minutes.

  • Ask teams to map out their commute to work, step-by-step.
  • Then ask them to reflect on what they were thinking and feeling at key steps. E.g. did they miss a train? What impact did this have on their emotions? (frustration? Anxiety about being late?)
  • What did they do next? (Buy a coffee to alleviate the anxiety or maybe they missed breakfast?)

The point here is that you want people thinking about the whole experience - doing, thinking and feeling, rather than just robotic steps.

Now introduce your findings with the teams to explore:

  • User profiles - their skills, needs and motivations
  • User journeys
  • High vs low impact experiences
  • Nuisances and pain
  • Idealised experiences

Enhance your findings with data - pictures, audios and even videos - anything to bring the story alive. Help teams uncover the high impact user experiences and elicit insight.

Are team members able to identify and / or validate user problems? Do these align with original assumptions? if not, now is the time to reframe problems from the users' perspective.

Growing empathy is continuous. Hook people in early will help drive ongoing engagement.

The Impact

  • Problem statements from the user perspective
  • Artefacts and tools which help to align teams with users - personas, empathy maps, journeys
  • Starting to build new capability - eliciting insights from research findings and enhanced appetite to learn