The opening keynote speaker, Indi Young, Co-Founder, Adaptive Path, and author, Mental Models and Practical Empathy, titled her address “The Impact of Deep Understanding”.
She began with this photo of her bookshelf which has a copy of My Trip to Europe, 1937, by Betty May Hale, a 13 year old girl who wrote home to her grandparents every day so that they could see the trip through her eyes.
The thinking process is still the same today, despite widespread and rapid access to technology and knowledge. The photos illustrate what is going through the author’s mind so that thoughts can be shared with others. Along with their albums, they also let others understand the photographer and what they were thinking. We can do this through deep understanding when we try to understand our ancestors through a variety of different kinds of research such as usability testing, contextual research, needs analyses, etc. We must understand problem spaces which will let us understand the person. We measure quality by seeing whether the solution we have is working and by purpose and whether it is working. There are many applications of empathy:
Be able to support the intents and purposes of people to understand their needs and support their tasks and goals. Look at your purpose and see how to achieve it. A “mental model diagram” will help reach the goals and compare them to the purposes that people have.
Using empathy, you think the thoughts of your customer, not your thoughts. There are different types of empathy, including
- Emotional empathy: Joy, sadness, etc. Understanding and supporting another person’s emotion and what they are feeling.
- Cognitive empathy: Understanding what went through a person’s mind and the way they are thinking supporting them when they are trying to achieve an intent or purpose.
Applying empathy is acting like another character (walking in their shoes). You must listen to develop empathy. A listening session is like going on a tour and asking the guide questions about the tour, but not about something unmentioned. You must break through the surface and understand the depth: reasoning, reactions, how the decision was made, guiding principles, sources of the opinions, etc. “Why” is very powerful question. Start a listening session to determine its scope: “What went through your mind as you tried to accomplish your purpose?” Then use an event that happened: “What about the last time (first time, memorable time) you were doing it?” Avoid judging or contempt, even if you don’t agree. Put yourself in their situation as the speaker, not yourself. Support a person’s emotions so you can build rapport.
Active listening is when you completely tuned in to the other person. Don’t take notes; you want your brain to be understanding. We to this to attempt to banish assumptions about why people do things. We must find out the customer’s needs so that we’re not operating on intuition but on real data. Frame your thinking by people, not by solutions. Here are some examples:
The amount needed to do these studies is minimal compared to other types of research. It is not a part of the production cycle because it cannot be inserted into it. You are not doing this kind of research to build a service but to figure out which service to build. How a study like this works:
- Decide which subset of your audience to explore and which of their purposes to examine
- Conduct a one-on-one listening session.
- Transform transcripts of sessions to a mental model diagram. Don’t use sticky notes; they don’t convey the depth of nuance of data.
- Combine and summarize: Identify and untangle the concepts a person mentions then restate each one in a clear way so you won’t have to re-understand them later on. Write a clear summary.
- Group patterns: Find affinities between the summaries and across participants. Let labels develop themselves.
- Support the thinking and philosophies of the person, employ the language the ways they are using them.
Each listening session is about an hour; analyzing the data and getting the richness of the human aspects can take up to 10 hours.