Method actors completely “become” another person and live that life until the film or play comes to an end. All the observations and decisions they make, are of the character whose life they’ve immersed themselves in.
Empathy is a conscious effort to keep aside preconceived notions and uncover the real needs and feelings of the users. Immersive Empathy takes it a step further by enabling the researcher to understand the user’s experience through a ‘first hand’ approach. It enables one to live in another’s shoes and perhaps walk in them for a mile! Immersive empathy allows us to experience what we would not understand by just listening and recording needs and insights.
How does Immersive Empathy enable Design Thinkers to gather insights?
Practicing immersive empathy enables Design Thinkers to enhance their ‘awareness’ of the users’ experiences. This is how:
– It enables Design Thinkers to sharpen their insights by becoming more attuned to their feelings
– Overcome blind spots as a Design Thinker, which would not be possible through just research, surveys, or interviews
– It provides a holistic view of the users’ experiences – physical, cognitive, emotional, and social.
How can you learn to practise Immersive Empathy? Take a look at this exercise that we tried with fellow learners on our course.
‘No Big Deal’
In our course on ‘Foundations of Design Thinking’, we asked learners to identify a task that someone else did and which according to them, seemed like a ‘No Big Deal’!
Here’s what they had to do:
– Observe the task or understand how it’s done
– Do it by themselves
– Share their experience with fellow learners in the group and also highlight their insights from the experience
Learners were encouraged to pick up from a wide range of activities, from trying out different household activities, drawing up a huge excel sheet or PowerPoint for the team, or simply being a caregiver.
Here are a few of the experiences** that our learners shared:
– Tamara took on the role of her gardener Shyamal and found that it was very challenging. Especially the weeding, tending, and watering of the plants was far tougher than it looked. It required skill, patience, and a keen eye for detail.
– Jerry’s father is partially deaf, he chose to use earplugs for a few days to understand the problems associated with hearing impairment. The experience left him feeling rather helpless, disconnected, and depressed as it restricted his ability to listen and communicate.
– One of the participants took up the task of leading a senior leadership team meeting. He had a hard time coordinating, moderating, managing the time, avoiding digressions, and keeping the conversation focused.
– Maya’s grandmother waters the plants every morning. Maya decided to run this simple errand for a few days. Filling buckets of water and carrying it across the room. In the bargain, she spilled water everywhere which added to her woes. She also realized that not all her plants were receiving a fair share of water and sunshine.
– When Raul decided to take on his mother’s household responsibilities for a few days he realized it was highly demanding. From waking up at the stroke of dawn to tending to everyone’s needs be it tea, or choice-able breakfast. Everything had to be done seamlessly and on time. He understood the importance of efficiency and punctuality for any task. Time management was a deep insight for him.