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Fostering Empathy in Collaborative Development


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Your team is a slick machine that has no problem shipping, but how do you create a team with shared empathetic vision? From brainstorming to scenarios, sketching, and personas; we’ll take a look at ways to help your team become more aligned in how they think about participant-centered design.

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Fostering Empathy in Collaborative Development

  1. 1. Fostering Empathy in Collaborative Development Lauren Johnson
  2. 2. What is empathetic design? empathic? word fight!
  3. 3. Empathetic Design challenges assumptions thinks about context understands motivation considers emotions checks privilege
  4. 4. Why does empathy matter?
  5. 5. Empathy helps you identify with your audience provides a common touch point for collaboration creates participant-centered designs
  7. 7. How do you introduce empathy to create a shared vision?
  8. 8. You need to understand
  9. 9. You need to understand
  10. 10. You need to understand
  11. 11. You need to understand
  12. 12. Understanding yourself
  13. 13. Start with You who are you in relation to your audience? who are you in relation to your team?
  14. 14. MBTI activities MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) can provide some insight into your inherent behaviors and personality. Complete your own MBTI profile (www. is a good tool) Write an analysis of your MBTI in relation to how you think about your audience, and how you position yourself within a creative team. What strengths do you see reflected? What are your weaknesses? I’m INFJ-A (The Advocate) This makes it easy for me to understand different perspectives, but it makes it hard for me to accept criticism and be resilient. Knowing this helps me keep it in check.
  15. 15. Understanding your team
  16. 16. Next: Your Team how does your MBTI impact the way you collaborate? how can you negotiate personality differences?
  17. 17. MBTI activities Have your team complete their MBTI profiles, and then create teams based on their profiles. Have them do rapid prototyping / collaboration activities. Do two iterations, one with teams made of similar/complementary profiles, and another with teams made of competing / conflicting profiles. Sample Activities: The Marshmallow Challenge Monuments Newspaper Tower
  18. 18. MBTI activities Complementary Personality Types: ● Analysts: INTJ, INTP, ENTJ, ENTP ● Diplomats: INFJ, INFP, ENFJ, ENFP ● Sentinels: ISTJ, ISFJ, ESTJ, ESFJ ● Explorers: ISTP, ISFP, ESTP, ESFP Opposing Personality Types: ● FP (feeling-perceiving) vs. TJ (thinking-judging) ● Introverts vs. Extroverts ● Thinking vs. Feeling ● Perceiving vs. Judging ● Sensing vs. Intuition
  19. 19. Strangest & Most Unusual Empathy starts in house. Get an understanding about the people you work with, beyond the basics. Play “Strangest & Most Unusual.” 1. Split into teams of two. 2. Teams have 10 minutes to take turns finding out the strangest and most unusual thing about their partner. 3. Partners cannot offer up facts - they can only answer questions. 4. It’s up to you to decide what questions to ask, and when you are satisfied that you have the strangest and most unusual fact about your partner. 5. Each person will present the fact about their partner. At the end, use an “applause meter” to gauge what is the strangest & most unusual fact.
  20. 20. Understanding your audience
  21. 21. Next: Your User who are they? who are they REALLY? what do they care about? what do they want to accomplish? what is their context?
  22. 22. User Stories User Stories allow you to focus on tasks by chaining them together as a narrative of functionality. They follow the same basic formula: As a ____________________, I want to ______________________________. or As a _______________, I want to ________________ because __________.
  23. 23. User Stories User Stories allow you to focus on tasks by chaining them together as a narrative of functionality. They follow the same basic formula: As a customer, I want to change my shipping address. or As a customer, I want to change my password because I can’t remember it.
  24. 24. User Stories User Stories have levels of granularity. They can be “epics”: As a student, I want to register for classes online. Which are then broken down into smaller component user stories: ● As a student, I want to see course offerings. ● As a student, I want to sort courses by day. ● As a student, I want to sort courses by time. ● As a student, I want to sort courses by availability. ● As a student, I want to view course prerequisites. ● etc.
  25. 25. Empathy Mapping Empathy mapping helps you think about the context of your user. They are broken down into four components: thinking, hearing, seeing, feeling. A moderator can help, but is not necessary. They can provide cues to help your own thought process, such as: ● what does this person do in a typical day? ● what frustrates them? ● when engages them? ● where are they when they use your product / service? ● what are they trying to accomplish?
  26. 26. Paula White,
  27. 27. Exquisite Corpse Personas “Exquisite corpse, also known as exquisite cadaver (from the original French term cadavre exquis) or rotating corpse, is a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled. Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence… The technique was invented by surrealists and is similar to an old parlour game called Consequences in which players write in turn on a sheet of paper, fold it to conceal part of the writing, and then pass it to the next player for a further contribution.” [thx, Wikipedia!]
  28. 28. Le Cadavre Exquis Yves Tanguy Man Ray Max Morise Joan Miro 1926
  29. 29. Exquisite Corpse Personas Start with a basic persona template on a sheet of paper. This typically includes name, occupation, location, short biography, motivations, needs, and a scenario. With your basic audience defined, pass the paper around the room between team members. Each member gets 90 seconds to add / edit / remove any content they would like before passing it on. The final member finds an image to represent the persona. Variation: have multiple sheets of paper in circulation for different audience segments.
  30. 30. Persona Role Playing Using the persona generated by Exquisite Corpse, or existing personas, split into small teams of 2-3 people. One team member assumes the role of the persona, answering questions in the manner they believe to be true to that persona. Focus mainly on investigatory, interview style questions. Stay away from user testing & prototyping testing. This exercise isn’t meant to identify design flaws, but to get you to think more about your audience and what motivates them.
  31. 31. Understanding your project
  32. 32. Next: Your Project what is it? what can it be? why is it useful? why is it needed? how is it perceived?
  33. 33. Value Treasure Hunt ● Everyone assumes a different identity of their audience (bonus: wear nametags with your assumed name and role). ○ Why? This brings everyone’s opinions to the same value - departments, titles, and personal intention are subtracted. ● Use a whiteboard, or large rolls of paper. Give each person a marker. ● Start with boxes and headings - why is it useful? or not? why is it necessary? or not? how does it add value? or not? You can create your own headings, or use these as a starting point. The focus should be exploring / defining the value. ● Fill out these areas assuming the role of audience member ● Add additional columns / areas as ANYONE sees fit.
  34. 34. Affinity Diagram An affinity diagram helps you organize content generated from a brainstorming activity (like Value Treasure Hunt). ● Organize ideas under headings, into clusters ● Show connections between concepts ● Order priorities or create hierarchies to show importance ● Summarize into an actionable plan
  35. 35. Product Persona Flip persona methods onto your product or service. If it was a person, what would it be like? Personality Profile: a few (5-7) adjectives to describe the personality of your product / service Origin Story: why does your product / service exist? What would this look like as a comic origin story? Voice: Casual? Formal? Irreverent? Soothing? What is the tone and verbal style? Image: Manifest your product / service in a visual format. Don’t use your logo. Do use pictures of real people, illustrations, or emoji. Copy: Include text that reflects reactions, tweets, favorite sayings, statements. Heavily inspired by Aarron Walter’s A List Apart article, Personality in Design
  36. 36. Hey, thanks! Questions?