5 Talks on Empathy

Empathy, the essential element of good design.

To understand someone’s worldview that is foreign to yours is the hard work of being human. We need space to critically think and also have the support of people who possess a compassionate understanding so that our assessments aren’t entirely self-serving.

…five talks … that teach the beauty of empathy in multiple contexts: leadership, product design, social change, technology, and for the people you work with (including yourself).

5 Talks on Empathy That Will Change How You Connect and Create

It was shallow thinking to maintain that numbers and charts were the cold compression of unruly human energies, every sort of yearning and midnight sweat reduced to lucid units in the financial markets. In fact data itself was soulful and glowing, a dynamic aspect of the life process. This was the eloquence of alphabets and numeric systems, now fully realized in electronic form, in the zero-oneness of the world, the digital imperative that defined every breath of the planet’s living billions. Here was the heave of the biosphere. Our bodies and oceans were here, knowable and whole.
Don Delillo, Cosmopolis: A Novel (Scribner, 2003).



基於Todd Lubart的研究。

Design Creates Meaning (中文版)

摘自Richard Saul Wurman所著的《信息焦慮症2》





From “The case for designing offices more like bars“:

Face-to-face interactions increase empathy, which is a cornerstone of trusting relationships. “Patterns of face-to-face engagement and exploration within corporations were often the largest factors in both productivity and creative output,” says Sandy Pentland of MIT’s Media Lab in his book Social Physics. Neuroscience also backs up these ideas. In her book Conversational Intelligence, Judith Glasser states that when you are connecting face-to-face, “Mirror neurons are firing off, forming a bridge of insight and empathy with others.” Glasser explains that these “exchanges within our trust networks make us feel more positive, open, and closer to others…Strong bonds of trust serve up a cocktail of the brain’s feel-good natural chemicals like oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin.”
Therefore, to make workers happier in both social and professional structures at work, we need to understand how to manufacture more eye-to-eye happenstances.

Click bait article title aside, nothing beats face-to-face interactions, especially in multi-cultural, multi-lingual teams. Our dependence on chat software for communication is not a strength nor an advantage, it’s a weakness.

Get Out Of Your World Of Expertise

The most inspirational people, not just inspirational, but the best people period, that I have had to good fortune to work with or know have all been experts in more than one discipline. An engineer who was an expert in classical music, a designer who could play the violin, a doctor who could play the drums; all were multi-dimension and great at what they did. These kind of people are a joy to be around too.

Throughout school, I was laser-focused on learning everything I could about design. When I came to IDEO, this passion for design was no longer something that made me unique. It’s what you know beyond design that allows you to come up with a solution that your peers haven’t considered. Good design skills are most powerful when they are applied with another discipline or two, or three. I found the designers I most admired were experts in some other area—neuroscience, climbing, magic, baking.
From 3 Ways to Fight Impostor Syndrome





Translated from :

Differences between Information Architecture and Information Design

Between the two names we have different concerns. Information architecture (IA) is primarily about cognition, how people process information and construe relationships between different pieces of information. Information design is primarily about perception, how people translate what they see and hear into knowledge.

Both require different skills. Information architects come from a variety of backgrounds, but I sense that a majority of them display an orientation toward language. Information designers, on the other hand, tend to be oriented toward the visual arts. As a result, the majority of information designers come from exactly one discipline: graphic design.

Information architecture belongs to the realm of the abstract, concerning itself more with the structures in the mind than the structures on the page or screen. Information design, however, couldn’t be more concrete, with considerations such as color and shape fundamental to the information designer’s process.

Which I picked up many years ago from Jesse James Garrett.

Culture Influences the Amount of Creativity

Work related to creativity has centered on individualism–collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, and power distance (Hofstede, 2001; Rank, Pace, & Frese, 2004). Individualism–collectivism characterizes the strength and cohesion of bonds between people, with people looking after themselves in individualist societies and looking after the larger societal unit to which they belong in collectivist societies. Power distance refers to the extent to which power and authority are expected and accepted to be distributed unequally in a society. Uncertainty avoidance concerns the extent to which people feel uncomfortable or threat- ened by unknown, uncertain situations.

In general, collectivism, high levels of uncertainty avoidance and high power dis- tance (hierarchical structure) are negatively related to national levels of inventiveness (Hofstede, 2001). Shane (1992, 1993) exam- ined national rates of innovation in 33 countries, based on per-capita number of patents, and found an advantage for soci- eties with low uncertainty acceptance, low power distance, and high individualism. An acceptance of uncertainty (low uncer- tainty avoidance) may foster tolerance for risk and change. Individualism is associ- ated with autonomy, independence (defin- ing one’s self as unique from the group), and freedom. Ng (2003) provides empiri- cal evidence for a model in which cultural individualism–collectivism influences self- construal as independent or interdependent on others, and this self-concept in turn influ- ences creativity and conformity tendencies. Lack of power, characteristic of nonhier- archical societies, fosters enhanced interac- tions and communication between people at different status levels, such as superiors and subordinates. Finally, hierarchical soci- eties do not tend to embrace change because of the potential redistribution of power that might go against vested interests.

Thus, the classic argument is that cultures showing the creativity-compatible profile on certain dimensions (individualism, etc.) will favor the development and expression of creativity. People from these cultures should show higher performance on laboratory creativity tasks, more creative productions (e.g., more patents for inventions), and greater levels of creativity (e.g., Nobel Prize winners). It is worth noting, however, the simple effects of cultural dimensions. Phases of creative and innovative processes may relate differentially to these cultural dimensions. For example, low power distance, individualism, and low uncertainty avoidance may foster creativity, but hinder idea implementation. Hofstede (2001) sug- gested collecting ideas in certain cultural contexts (e.g., weak uncertainty avoidance, with tolerance for deviant ideas and unpredictable situations) and refining them in oth- ers (strong uncertainty avoidance, senses of detail and precision). In a similar vein, Rank et al. (2004) noted that Schwartz’s value dimension of conservatism versus intellectual autonomy is relevant to creativity. Valuing intellectual autonomy is positive for generating ideas but may hinder implemen- tation and acceptance of creative ideas.
Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Creativity – Todd Lubart

Or you can think of this another way, all the little details add up to create a great experience.

In an interview for the New York Times, the actor Kevin Bacon was asked about his work as a director. He said:
“To me, directing is telling a story. All day long, that’s all I do—in every single detail. Is she using a pencil, or is she using a pen? And what story do you want to tell with that? You see, you tell all these little stories in the course of a film, and then hopefully it all wraps up into one big story.”
Kevin Bacon, quoted in “As for Directing, It’s Telling a Story” by Dave Kehr, New York Times, December 30, 2003