Today, the uncertainty around us is overwhelming. The world is saturated with Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA). However, we need to manage our daily lives, improve, create, and deliver. Design Thinking (DT) methods provide us with a chain of systematic approaches to tackle the novel beast head-on and conquer. The DT process takes us from identifying the customer problem, analyzing it, coming up with ideas, validating solutions via prototypes, introducing them to others to receiving customer feedback. Yet, under the disruptive global pandemic, customer empathy is the key. But why?
Customer empathy research creates a deep understanding of the issue at hand, especially when what we earlier knew is no longer valid in the VUCA environment. The new norm and related changes in customer’s pains and needs must be thoroughly understood. According to DT principles, emphasizing requires that the customers’ issues be approached both from the favourable and endorsing position and from the more constructive aspects – challenge the existing! There must be a dialogue and an interaction between the Service Designer and the customer. The empathic insights in design are derived from three types of knowledge, that of
- Customer needs. Deliver Design Thinking course remotely for the first time.
- Delivery language (culture, information media). English with international participants.
- Technological. Zoom and Miro. Which together provide a complete frame for knowledge construction and therefore enables empathy.
How did we manage in reality?
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Laurea Design Thinking Masterclass 2021 was organized fully online. Instead of chit-chatting with fellow students in the classroom with post-its and whiteboards, most of us sipped our coffees alone in front of the laptop screen – at home.
Although there is no one-size-fits-all methodology for bringing new ideas to life, empathy is a key feature in the human-centred design thinking processes. Several tools have been developed to support an empathic design process. We were able to grasp some of them during the two intensive sprint days.
Empathy in design means leaving the office and becoming immersed in the lives, environments, attitudes, experiences and dreams of the future users. According to Katja Schimmel, design students should become process experts with context-sensitivity and a human-centred systemic view.
Digital tools are not ideal for expressing emotions and for capturing various human traits such as empathy. In digital communications, empathy requires special attention.
We listed our key takeaways from the Masterclass, which can be useful when deepening empathy in remote Design Thinking processes.
- Design Thinking online requires excellent planning and preparations. For example, ready-made Miro templates can make the process smoother if there are many first-time users.
- Use creative tools to enhance empathy. For example, we practised our listening skills by introducing each other to the group and did most of the exercises in groups of five persons to build closer connections.
- Keep the team motivated with digestible content and “learning by doing”. When one has a passion to learn, small technological challenges cannot stop them.
- Patience, humour and mutual support – oh no, a gigantic photo of Leonardo DiCaprio just invaded our Miro board! A good laugh (and solid technological skills) help to overcome most of the challenges.
Written by Anna-Sofia Joro and Jukka Kuusela
SID MBA Students at Laurea University of Applied Sciences
Inspiration, sources and references
Baird, Nathan (2020): MarketingMag.com: Why ‘Design Thinking’ is as relevant during COVID-19 as ever
Cankurtaran, Pinar and Michael B. Beverland, Industrial Marketing Management: Using design thinking to respond to crises: B2B lessons from the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic
Kelley, D. & Kelley, T. (2013): Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. Crown Business.
Kouprie, M & Seeswijk Visser, F. (2009): A framework for empathy in design: stepping into and out of user’s life in Journal of Engineering Fesign, Vol. 20, No.5, October 2009, 437-448
Köppen, E., & Meinel, C. (2014): Empathy via Design Thinking: Creation of Sense and Knowledge. Design Thinking Research, 15–28. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-06823-7_2
Smith, Laura (2021): Tampere University of Applied Sciences: Empathy in remote work communication : a qualitative case study
Thakur, Anupam MD, MBBS; Soklaridis, Sophie PhD; Crawford, Allison MD, PhD; Mulsant, Benoit MD; Sockalingam, Sanjeev MD, MHPE (2021): Using Rapid Design Thinking to Overcome COVID-19 Challenges in Medical Education
Tschimmel, Katja (2022): Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – a human-centred ménage à trois
Tschimmel, Katja: Design Thinking (remote) Masterclass, September 3–4 2021. Laurea University of Applied Sciences, Finland