Why is it impossible to work with Design Thinking without empathy??

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“We spend a lot of time designing a bridge and little time thinking about the people who go through it,” Dr. Prabhjot Singh, Director of Systems Design at the Earth Institute.

The above sentence exemplifies how important it is for a company to be concerned, not only with producing something but to think in advance and in depth about who this is being produced for. Knowing the needs and desires of your audience is essential to reap good results.

However, the methods of traditional marketing alone can no longer reveal the profile of your consumers in order to reach them. On the other hand, by using the notions of Design Thinking, it is possible to reach these conclusions efficiently from the first stage of this process, which uses empathy as a tool.


Empathy is defined as the ability to understand a person from his or her perspective and not our own; In other words, it is the ability to step into one’s shoes, it is seeing what others see, thinking what others think, and feeling what others feel. Unlike sympathy – which leads you to think and feel in a similar way – empathy takes you through a process of identification, and it requires time and consideration.

In a talk at TEDxHouston 2010, while commenting on a study done by Theresa Weiseman, researcher Brené Brown mentioned four pillars to support the relevance of empathy in the world:

1. The ability to take or recognize a person’s perspective as true;

2. The absence of judgment, no matter how difficult it is;

3. Being able to recognize emotions in other people;

4. Communicating these emotions


Lack of empathy in the development of a project can be a determining factor in its failure

When carrying out a project, we need to put our knowledge, opinions, points of view and culture aside in order to understand the experiences of others in a profound and meaningful way. This requires the team to have a sense of creativity to see through the eyes of others – in this case, the stakeholders and customers who will be affected by the project, humility to abandon prejudices, and a greater awareness of the needs, desires, motivations and goals of others.

Thus, empathy is a part of the Immersion stage because it aims to understand the Business’ Buyer Persona and the problems he or she is trying to overcome. This takes observation and engagement, as well as an analysis of the environment in which people are inserted. The goal is to understand the experiences, motivations, problems, needs and challenges in order to develop ideas in a targeted way.


7 Steps to become an empathic observer


1. Let go of your Ego

Oftentimes, we are encouraged to have an isolated view of things and to be firm in our opinions and thoughts in our work environment. However, it is only possible to understand and experience the feelings of others when we do not allow our ego to interfere in this process.

2. Be humble

When we are humble, we elevate the value of others over our own and, of course, improve our ability to be empathic.

3. Be a good listener

In order to be empathic, we must listen and be attentive to what is being communicated. We need to have discipline and not let our natural tendency to formulate our own opinions speak louder before others are done speaking (This principle can be further explored in interviews!).

4. Enhance your observation skills

In addition to the previous item, we need to go beyond simply listening to others. We need to observe their behaviors, nonverbal expressions, body language and the environment in which they are inserted. Often, a person only says a small fraction of something larger.

5. Care

However, it is pointless to hear and observe if you are not genuinely bothered to get to know others, and everything that lies behind what is being said or expressed. We need to create a sense of concern and desire to help and provide.

6. Be curious

Being genuinely curious makes the process of empathy easier and rewarding as soon as we discover what motivates people. Also, when we are curious, we tend to get out of the ordinary and look for creative ways to find out the reasons behind a problem.

7. Be honest

You can be successful in all these steps, but if you lack honesty, the empathy that took so much effort to be forged, can easily be broken. Rather than approaching others by showing that they need our help, we need to approach them by showing them how we are willing to understand the kind of help they need. After all, solutions exist to serve the needs of people, and a job will not be complete until such needs are properly understood.


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