top of page

The Value of Empathy

In design thinking terms, Empathy is a key stage in the interactive process of developing new products and solutions that solve problems for businesses and consumers alike.

The empathy stage refers to building an internalized understanding of the issues - from the perspective of the users. It involves observation and conversation - seeing people in action and learning first hand about the how’s and why’s of the situation - so that you can take a customer rather than brand perspective.

It is summed up in my favourite quote from design thinking guru, Tom Kelley (The Art of Innovation) as,

"Innovation begins with an eye."

This is because empathy leads to insight - and insight is the precursor to ideas - whether product and service solutions or communication ones.

Insight. Innovation. Ideas. They all start with an eye.

Key to building empathy then is the practice of listening, looking and learning from the people you seek to serve or “sell to” before you develop solutions / ideas that you “put into research”. It is the process of building understanding, so that you work from a place of knowledge, rather than assumptions.

So often, research comes toward the end of a process of development - whether it is communication, innovation or design. Unfortunately, research in commercial contexts seems to be quite strongly associated with testing and tracking, rather than discovering.

But if you engage in a properly structured empathy building research programme at the start of the process, and use co-design techniques to check in and iterate as you go, you’re far more likely to pass those final “research” hurdles at the back end - and more importantly - achieve the desired outcomes.

Embedding a practice of empathy first (that is to say, the practice of starting with customer understanding) into an organisation or marketing team need not be hard or expensive. Although it is perhaps a cultural shift for many. These can be ongoing programmes that orientate a business towards a customer mindset, or project specific ones that form the foundation of innovation or creative development.

We help businesses build customer empathy and understanding. Talk to us to find out how we can help your business take the leap from a place of consumer truth to unlocked opportunity.


bottom of page