Friday, July 29, 2016

Empathy Mapping

I ran an exercise at the beginning of a new project last week; Empathy Mapping. This is part of an overall approach of using Design Thinking along with agile development.

The idea to empathy mapping is to get to understand your users. Per the diagram below, you want to get an understanding of what your user thinks, says, feels, and does (though I have seen other examples that are slightly different than this). You would do this mapping for your main users for your product or the problem you're trying to solve.

To do this, you first want to identify the roles you are going to map. For each role, give them a name to personify it more. So don't call it Budget Approver, call her Laura. Draw out your map on a flipchart and draw a little sketch on Laura in the middle. Have the team talk a little about what Laura does, then have them start capturing these ideas on post-it notes and putting them on your flip chart. What you get is something like this:

Going through this exercise will help make some discoveries about what your users are going through. You can take this as a first step in identifying pain points; things you want to solve with your solution, but don't go into solutioning just yet. Take the observations and identify the themes that pop out. You can apply Affinity Diagraming for some structure if needed.

So now you are ready to get to insights. What does this really mean? Maybe it's time for the 5-Whys to help understand the situation. This is really the problem we're trying to solve. Now it's time to start discussing solutions.

As you get into development, don't throw out your maps. Keep them posted on the walls in your team room. As you are making decisions later in the project, they may help guide you.

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