Empathy is ideally considered as the core element in Design Thinking and Human-Centered Design. To understand exactly what empathy is and why empathy is such an integral part of Design thinking, read on. In this article, we’ll look at the basic idea of empathy along with how it helps design thinkers create solutions and how a lack of empathy results in product failure.
1. Identify a design challenge. A design challenge inspired by empathy is the starting point of every design project. You can discover such a challenge by carefully observing people and opening to new perspectives. The first step involves disrupting yourself and breaking the routine. Take a break from screens, offices, and venture into new spaces to kickstart imagination and your creativity. Look around you, wander and explore, listen to, and speak to people.
2. Conduct design research Another important viewpoint is to observe how your users interact with their environment. Capture behaviors, quotes, and other notes that reflect their experience. Watching the users closely gives you clues to what they want and need. You can learn a lot by just watching them, and observe how they live, online or offline.
When observing and engaging, you may want to pay attention to things such as:
>Personal details: who did you observe and/or speak with (profession, age, location, etc)?
>Interesting stories: what was the most memorable story you heard?
>Motivations: what did people care about the most? What’s their motivation?
>Frustrations: pain points, barriers, the confusion they face.
>Interactions: what was interesting about the way people interacted with the environment?
>Remaining Questions: what aspects would you like to explore in your next interview?
3. Immerse Yourself: Embrace a beginner’s mindset.
Try to immerse yourself in your users’ experience. Find ways to deploy yourself in specific environments to understand who you’re designing for. Immersion involves wandering around in the user’s world, capturing the experience and knowledge, without being judgmental.
4. While observing users, embrace a beginner’s mindset.
Approach any user or situation as a novice even if you have thoroughly researched them already. While meeting people, ask open-ended questions, even if you may already know the answers. Let yourself submerge to see the world from another person’s point of view.
5. Notice patterns.
As you progress with your observations, you may see and hear some of the same things. These patterns can help you identify issues and come up with combined ideas to solve the problem.
6. Document your findings.
When you perform an observation session, you might feel overwhelmed by the density of information you have absorbed. A wise practice is to jot down all the crucial points within half an hour to initiate your research. Take notes on what you witnessed and discuss it with someone if you feel like so that you can reflect on it on a deeper level. Drawings, photographs, and videos can also be helpful to document the research properly.
Empathy is Crucial to Business Success
For the stand view of a business, most of the leaders have emphasized within the innovation, learn, and entrepreneurship spaces over the three key parameters that define the success of a product or a service. They are viability, desirability, and feasibility.
This means that the mere existence of a technology (feasibility) and its business benefits(viability) are not enough. It is essential for the consumers to hold a sense of desirability towards it as well. To achieve that, we should gather all the required information and knowledge; taking into account people's needs, experiences, wants, and preferences.
From a pure business perspective, empathy is essential as if we neglect the users’ insights, we might end up designing a product or service that totally misses the mark and ends up being ignored by the consumers. For example, a new technologically advanced feature may get introduced in the market without grabbing much of the attention but if the same feature is launched by brands like Apple, people tend to listen and accept it more welcomingly. You know why? Well, it’s because they introduce it enveloping a problem users were facing before it and how they’re the ones solving it. Of course, marketing holds a huge impact but prior to that, they understand their users’ minds and plan their rollout taking all the time in the world, which results in Apple taking a market lead.
Empathy can be perfected by anyone
To categorize empathy in a phrase, it is “being deeply human-centric”. Different design schools and companies have referred to empathic research as "the Empathize stage", "the understand phase", and "the Hear phase".
If you think you might face difficulty in understanding the emotions of fellow human beings, it is totally understandable. The good news is that you’re not alone. To master the ability to be empathetic towards the people you are designing for, Neuroscientists have discovered that empathy is wired into our existence and is an integral part of our physiology. They discovered a pretty interesting theory which states that while humans observe other people performing certain actions, or experience certain states, the observer's brain activity resembles the activity of the latter. In other words, empathy is the innate quality that we can all harness with practice in order to design for the world.
One example of this innate quality is when you feel all the flurry of emotions or the adrenaline rush by merely observing someone else engaged in activities. We are empathic beings by our core, though, it is tamed to a large extent due to our social contexts and learning. The key to a successful Design Thinking process is to keep an open mind and be conscientious about developing empathy towards the people you’re designing for.