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).


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


“The deepest form of understanding another person is empathy…[which] involves a
shift from…observing how you seem on the outside, to…imagining what it feels like to be you on the inside.”
Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen of the Harvard Negotiation Project, Chapter 9, “Empathy is a Journey, Not a Destination,” p. 183.

Designing something requires that you completely understand what a person wants to get done. Empathy with a person is distinct from studying how a person uses something. Empathy extends to knowing what the person wants to accomplish regardless of whether she has or is aware of the thing you are designing. You need to know the person’s goals and what procedure and philosophy she follows to accomplish them.
from the book Mental Models


Products are realized only as necessary artifacts to address customer needs. What Flickr, Kodak, Apple, and Target all realize is that the experience is the product we deliver, and the only thing that our customers care about.
From book Mental Models


As we craft increasingly complex designs for a growing variety of digital devices, remember that interaction design is not about the behavior of the interface; it’s about the behavior of people.


Benchmarking definition

I was required to do this activity, albeit in a far more informal way, numerous times in the past. It often is used in conjunction with competitive analysis, but in my experience was often used alone.

Vorhies & Morgan (2005, 81) define benchmarking as “market-based learning process by which a firm seeks to identify best practices that produce superior results in other firms and to replicate these to enhance its own competitive advantage.” The purpose of benchmarking is to gather various types of business knowledge for the company doing the benchmarking. The objective of benchmarking is to apply the gained business knowledge in to business decision-making. By doing so the company can improve the business decision-making and thus improve the business performance of the company. Therefore, the competitive advantage of the company becomes stronger. (Prašnikar etc. 2005, 257-275.)

Vorhies & Morgan (2005, 81) also state that benchmarking has potential on becoming a vital learning tool for identifying, building and improving market abilities to deliver lasting competitive advantage for a company.


Melody Roberts: Modernizing Service With Style

It takes a leap of faith to think one can design – or redesign – a culture, with all it’s nuance and complexity. Melody Roberts shares culture design principles she and her colleagues are discovering as they innovate around the customer experience at McDonald’s restaurants.

Melody Roberts is the global senior director of experience innovation for McDonald’s Corporation. She and her team focus on the five- to ten-year horizon, envisioning and prototyping practical, scalable solutions to complex customer and employee experience challenges. In her nine years with the company she has helped to shape the long-term global service strategy, to implement modern retailing practices, and to define the potential of digital commerce. Prior to McDonald’s, she spent seven years in design consulting, including two years with IDEO, helping clients foster a culture of customer-centered innovation within their organizations. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in American studies from Yale University and a Master of Design in human-centered product design from Illinois Tech.