Last year we started with Dave Gray’s Empathy Map. Students drew one of themselves in the middle, then each teammate had five minutes to try to fill in all of it with post-its.
This year I modified it a bit. I combined hear & see, moved pains and gains to make room for keeps and changes. So it was empathy AND feedback.
Adding Keeps and Changes meant you weren’t just empathizing, you were offering feedback. This raised the stakes.
1. Incorporated goals (Usually an output of a WHODO exercise) into the map, to help teams clarify the context and purpose of the activity.
2. Numbered the sections to make the intended sequence of activities in the exercise more explicit. There’s a reason for the sequence. More on that below.
3. Made the “Think and Feel” element central and put it inside the head, to emphasize the difference between observable phenomena (outside the head) thoughts and feelings (inside the head), which can be guessed or inferred but never observed. Moved “Pains and Gains” from a box at the bottom to the inside of the head.
4. Added some thought-starter questions, to make it easier for teams to facilitate the exercise.
1. Start with the GOAL section, by defining WHO will be the subject of the Empathy Map and what you want them to DO. This should be framed in terms of a new and observable behavior.
2. Once you have clarified the goal, work your way clockwise around the canvas, until you have covered Seeing, Saying, Doing, and Hearing. The reason for this is that the process of focusing on observable phenomena (Things that they see, say, do and hear) is like walking a mile in their shoes. It gives us a chance to imagine what their experience might be like, to give us a sense of what it “feels like to be them.”
3. Only AFTER you have made the circuit of outside elements do you focus on what’s going on inside their head. I’ve noticed many Empathy Map templates do not leave space inside the head at the center of the Empathy Map and put the “Think and Feel” categories on the periphery of the map. The large head in the center is one of the most important aspects of the map’s design. In fact we used to call this exercise “The Big Head” when we first started doing it, because the whole idea was to imagine what it’s like to be inside someone else’s head. That was and is the primary power of the exercise.
4. If you are designing products, services, or customer experiences, a completed Empathy Map is a great input for a value proposition design exercise, which you can facilitate using another of Alex’s tools, the Value Proposition Canvas.
I’m very interested to hear about what happens when you use this new Empathy Map template. Tools like this can only improve when people use them and share their feedback, so I hope you will experiment with it and tell me how it’s working for you, and how it might be improved. Please share your thoughts or feedback by leaving a comment.
Teplizza is about people, not about tools or process.
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