Tag Archives: Empathy

Design Thinking – Observe (Phase 2)

“There Are No Facts Inside Your Building, So Get Outside.” –Steve Blank

If we have completed the first iteration of phase 1 and we now have a better understanding and higher empathy for our customers situation, our own situation, we now need to move to Observation. Practitioners become keen people watchers in the observation phase of the design thinking process. They watch how people behave and interact and they observe physical spaces and places. They talk to people about what they are doing, ask questions and reflect on what they see. The understanding and observation phases of design thinking help Practitioners develop a sense of empathy.

Ask and Listen: In order to observe and develop and complete and rounded understanding, we need to be able to hear what the customers are saying and see what they are doing. Some high level points to think about are below:

  • Ask open ended questions
  • Ask 5 times -WHY?
  • Be aware of body language
  • Try to listen (80%-20%)
  • Be curious and show real-interest
  • Take Photos -Make Notes
  • Collect artifacts
  • Write Down your impressions
  • Pair up for interviews
  • Say Thank You in the end

Watch and Observe: Certainly you can, and should, combine observation and engagement. Ask someone to show you how they complete a task. Have them physically go through the steps, and talk you through why they are doing what they do. Ask them to vocalize what’s going through their mind as they perform a task or interact with an object. Have a conversation in the context of someone’s home or workplace – so many stories are embodied in artifacts. Use the environment to prompt deeper questions.

  • Look for details
  • Try to capture the atmosphere
  • Be curious, talk to people
  • Take photos, make notes
  • Speculate, WHAT IF…..??
  • Buy things, Do things
  • Collect artifacts
  • Write down your impressions
  • Be polite all the time, do not disturb
  • Act as a GUEST.

Try and Do: Unpack: When you move from empathy work to drawing conclusions from that work, you need to process all the things you heard and saw in order to understand the big picture and grasp the takeaways of it all. Unpacking is a chance to start that process – sharing what you found with fellow designers and capturing the important parts in a visual form. Get all the information out of your head and onto a wall where you can start to make connections—post pictures of your user, post-its with quotes, maps of journeys or experiences—anything that captures impressions and information about your user. This is the beginning of the synthesis process, which leads into a ‘Define’ mode.

  • Try to be empathic
  • Try to see through the eyes of the user
  • Define your task and work on it -realistically
  • State you impressions
  • Mention all the enablers and the constraints
  • Let somebody else take photos and notes
  • Take it serious and do not slapstick

We do not always want the view of the 90%, sometimes having the view of the 1-5% of the people will really give you an insight into the customer issues, pains, needs, and wants. But you need to LOOK ALSO FOR EXTREME USER………AND FOR WORKAROUNDS!

Goal is to build up Empathy. Do not ask features or Yes/No questions.

“If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” – Henry Ford. Now even if Ford didn’t verbalize his thoughts on customers’ ostensible inability to communicate their unmet needs for innovative products — history indicates that Henry Ford most certainly did think along those lines. OBSERVE is about…:…developing empathy for the users and
discovering needs and insights.

Next up: Define. Define your point of view.

Design Thinking – Empathize (Phase 1)


Steve Jobs on Design:
” Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, its really how it works. the design of Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked. To design something really well, you have to get it. You have to grok (live up) with it. Its a kind of passionate commitment.”

We first have to find the right questions, before we start creating solution. This is why the first phase is to understand or have empathy for our consumer or user. Understanding the problem space, context and constraints is the perfect place to begin the discovery. We like to try to find a starting point by (re-)framing the challenge maybe shifting the project focus if necessary. Like we said in the Design Thinking introduction, the key is perspective.

A developer needs to be curious and also develop empathy for end users. However, it’s not just the developer who is defining and creating the solution, it is everyone at all stages of the life-cycle. No matter if you are in sales, pre-sales, solutioning, Implementation, support, or  services setting a strong foundation is key to you entire Digital Transformation.

Understanding and Empathizing with the customers is strongly placed in the Problem Space.

We first have to find the right question, before we start to create solutions. Step back and look for the total picture otherwise you can be too close and you will end up only focusing on 1 dimension. Understanding the problem space, context and contains will give us the holistic picture we need to understand and er-define the project scope. For example, if we asked how can we Innovate the Toothbrush? We asked this in a Design Thinking session recently and we got a lot of very interesting ideas on how to Innovate the brush – people were thinking about the 10% improvement. Not many had the initial foresight to step back and think that this is a bigger question. Innovate Dental Care. This is the holistic view. As you use this process with the right people in the right space you will develop the skills to feel secure in our ability to go towards the holistic view.

During the Understand / Empathy phase, a very useful tool to help you to to find the right question we can use “Charetting”.

The process of Charetting is simple. It involves the following steps :

1 .On a whiteboard, write your current design challenge or problem statement
2. Brainstorm a set of relevant users or contexts
3. Pick the most important user or context
4. Brainstorm potential issues or insights that are relevant to that user
5. Pick the most important/interesting insight
6. Brainstorm potential solutions for the chosen issue or insight
7. Repeat 4-6 for another 1-3 users
8. Ask yourself : what have we discovered ? Which aspects are most interesting
9. Rephrase the design challenge or problem statement, based on these discoveries.

Once the team have explored the problem statements and worked through the process of charetting, you will then be able to create your game plan. I encourage you to try Charetting. It is typically applied at the beginning of the project, but in my experience, it can add clarity at any stage. I am usually pleasantly surprised at how effective a technique it really is.

UNDERSTAND is about…:
…exploring the problem space and re-framing the question / challenge to ensure we have empathy for the users.

5 Steps to keep in mind when thinking about Empathy and Understanding:

(Maybe even in life not just in business)

  • Adopt a customer first culture
  • Simplify the interaction structure
  • Use your user community more
  • Avoid confusion
  • Walk in the shoes of your customer.

Next up: Observe (Phase 2)