Start with Empathy
Designers imagine things that don’t yet exist, and then they build them, and then the world changes
I am reading Designing Your Life after listening to an interview with Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. I love their proposition to approach growing a career as if designing a product.
Above all, I love how the book reinforces ideas around product design that are very close to me. One of these ideas that resonate with me, is the concept of empathy.
Designers love questions, but what they really love is reframing questions. Reframing is one of the most important mindsets of a designer. Many great innovations get started in a reframe. In design thinking, we always say, “Don’t start with the problem, start with the people, and start with empathy.” Once we have empathy for the people who will be using our products, we define our point of view, brainstorm, and start prototyping to discover what we don’t yet know about the problem.
It’s been my experience that good design starts with the user first. Who are they? What do they need?
My best experience working with designers has been to experience that reframing from the quote above. Whenever we find ourselves at a dead-end, we recenter the conversation around what is best for the user. How are they going to experience what we are designing? That is where we should start.
Empathy is such a great starting point for much more than design. Management and leadership should also be centered around empathy. Our lives as well should focus much more on others. I’m willing to bet this would be a much better world if that were the case.
To treat life like a product. What an idea!