Empathy Maps

Last week, I had the pleasure of co-hosting Incite’s first virtual event on human-centricity. We identified three qualities that define human-centric organisations – the most important in our opinion is empathy (if you want to know the other two – you’ll need to keep reading!)

What is empathy? My preferred definition is “the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions”. 

The two parts are important. Seeing the world from other people’s point of view alone is not enough; if our actions aren’t guided by the deeper understanding then you’re just playing lip-service to empathy and in turn, human-centricity.

At Incite, one of the main tools we use for building empathy is the Empathy Map.

About half of our guests at our virtual event hadn’t used them before – so we wanted to share our love for them. As we discussed on the day, a major benefit of this type of tool is that it starts with a concrete description of what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. What do they hear/see? What do they say/do? What do they think/feel? All laddering up to an understanding of what it means to them and why it matters. Following this step-by-step process lets us build up a holistic view of someone else and helps us avoid short-cutting to assumptions and defaulting to seeing things from our own perspective. 

In addition to using them ourselves, we use these with our clients in two ways: 

  • As an active listening tool to help stakeholders engage more deeply with research findings. Empathy requires active engagement – it’s not something that can be outsourced or transmitted by PowerPoint slides. Encouraging stakeholders to use tools like this helps deliver that engagement
  • As a stakeholder management tool to better empathise with their needs. This helps us design better workshops, better outputs and better engagement throughout projects by grounding us in what the end-users of the work need.

If you think a tool like this would be helpful for you and your stakeholders, please take it and use it! And if you’d like to know more about how we use it, please get in touch.

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