I helped lead and facilitate an Empathy Mapping workshop for the Phoenix Design Thinking & Innovative Collective meetup group.
We helped attendees understand what empathy mapping is and how to use it with their teams.
Presenting to groups, facilitating group discussions, persona creation, empathy mapping, qualitative user analysis
I collaborated with Customer Experience Strategist Tony Quiroz to plan out our Empathy Mapping workshop. We really wanted to provide attendees with a real-world example of empathy mapping, so we established a realistic goal for the empathy mapping activity. This goal was to answer the following question:
How do we get more people, communities, and spaces engaged in the Phoenix Design Thinking Meetup?
Step 1: Create The Personas
Tony and I had several meetings to create lightweight personas based on actual archetypes of our meetup attendees. We prepped these ahead of time so that we could immediately start creating empathy maps for each persona during the workshop.
Step 2: Create the Presentation
Once we finished creating the personas, Tony created a presentation for the workshop. The purpose of the presentation was to explain empathy mapping concepts, tips and examples before starting the workshop. This way, all of our attendees would have a clear understanding of what empathy mapping was and how it works before we started creating them. I reviewed and edited the presentation for grammar, flow and comprehension once the first draft was complete.
Step 3: Build the Empathy Maps
Once all of our attendees arrived, we kicked off the meetup with our presentation. We shared empathy mapping concepts, tips and examples until everyone had a clear understanding of what we would be applying in the workshop.
Next, I kicked off the workshop portion of the meetup. I explained that we were going to create empathy maps to find out how we can best attract more attendees, communities and spaces to our design thinking meetup. By creating an empathy map for each of our meetup’s main personas, we could easily discover effective ways to accomplish this goal.
I presented the lightweight personas that Tony and I created, and then we broke everyone up into groups of 4-5 and assigned a persona to each group. We also provided each group with the tools they needed to create an empathy map for their assigned persona.
Next, we gave each group about 20 minutes to fill out each section of the empathy map for their assigned persona. During this time, Tony and I walked around the room to answer any questions the groups had and asked questions to facilitate valuable discussions.
At the end of the brainstorming session, all 6 empathy maps were completed:
Step 4: Identify Key Themes
Once the brainstorming time ended, each group took turns presenting their persona’s empathy map. As they presented, Tony and I took notes to identify key themes among the personas. Every time we identified a trait, hobby, emotion, etc. that at least two personas shared, we wrote it down on a sticky note. We also put stars on the sticky notes to notate how many personas related to that theme. At the end, the sticky notes with the most stars were our key insights from the empathy mapping activity.
I presented these key themes to all of our attendees, and then we discussed the following question as a group:
How can these newfound insights help us accomplish our goal?
During this discussion, most attendees realized that these insights made it easier to brainstorm marketing strategies for the Phoenix Design Thinking meetup that were likely to succeed. For example, the empathy maps revealed that the meetup’s personas really cared about staying relevant and up-to-date. Knowing this, we could fairly hypothesize that if we offered more meetups about trending topics or innovations, we could engage more people.
Step 5: Q & A
After we brainstormed a few more marketing ideas, we ended the workshop and opened the floor to questions. Some questions we received included:
- How long should you spend on developing your personas?
- How do you eliminate bias during empathy mapping?
- How do you get stakeholder buy-in for empathy mapping?
Together, Tony and I were able to answer these questions effectively and provide attendees with actionable tips for success. If you would like to know how we answered them, ask me!
My Key Observations
During the workshop, I found it really interesting that some groups devised unique strategies to complete their empathy map. For example, one group realized that their persona played a few distinct roles such as teacher, mother, and entrepreneur. To ensure that they were considering all of these different roles during the activity, they made each team member a spokesperson for a particular role.
I was also pleasantly surprised at how hesitant our attendees were to make assumptions about their personas. They felt that it wasn’t fair to assume anything because it could be biased or inaccurate. Tony and I agreed that this was a valid concern, but because this was a mock workshop to practice the empathy mapping process, we told our attendees it is okay to assume things. But we also emphasized that in a real empathy mapping exercise, we would recommend conducting more primary research and secondary research to minimize assumptions and bias.