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What is Empathy Mapping - Improve your Journey Mapping

What is Empathy Mapping?

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Empathy Mapping is a human-centered design tool that enables an organization to collaboratively gain deeper insight into the emotions of customers or employees. I have used an Empathy Map as an effective tool to help teams analyze and interpret the needs and perceptions of groups or segments of customers or employees. What is Empathy Mapping for? If you have a situation where you want higher performance that involves human beings, an Empathy Map can be a great tool for you. Got humans?

An Empathy Map colorizes, enriches and dramatically furthers the findings generated by Personas and Journey Mapping. It brings process and insight development to life. Empathy Mapping can help you to identify the emotions of customers and employees in different stages of your relationship. Since we all know perceptions and emotions drive all of the customer and employee actions, Empathy Mapping is a vital component of Customer Experience Management and Employee Engagement.

Empathy Mapping was first used in the agile project management arena and I am so excited that it is gaining popularity among customer experience and human resource practitioners to increase customer and employee engagement. It is a great tool for these two functional areas (and others). Got people? Do Empathy Mapping!

Why you should use an Empathy Map

Results! Innovation, product design, customer experience and employee engagement all require a deep understanding of human behavior. And an Empathy Map is a simple to understand tool for anyone regardless of their level or skill in an organization. Unless of course they are avoid of emotion, so no Accountants please. Just kidding.

As an Emotional Intelligence (EQ) expert, I find when I facilitate an Empathy Mapping activity I am able to more easily guide teams to deeper levels of understanding by exploring the other Emotional Intelligence Competencies. And keep them on track. Empathy is only one of the 54 Emotional Intelligence Competencies. Combining Empathy Mapping and Emotional Intelligence helps to enrich your observations and ignite unexpected insights. One way I do this is by flipping at times to a self-awareness lens. Other Empathy Mapping practitioners do not use this method and I  personally have seen this tactic contribute greatly to change management momentum. And change is always the hardest part of any improvement or transformation process. so I highly recommend you doing it.

Who is involved with Empathy Mapping

I have seen participants vary widely in Empathy Mapping activities. Depending on your focus you may have cross-functional groups or you may concentrate your activities within specific functional areas. Some of the stakeholders that I have seen participating in session include:

  • Executives
  • Customers
  • Customer Service
  • Sales
  • Vendors
  • Product Developers
  • Human Resources
  • Organizational Development
  • Customer Experience
  • Strategic Planning
  • Marketing

What is the Ideal Empathy Mapping Workgroup Size

There is an optimal number of people to have within your sessions. And this is true no matter what topic you focus on. For empathy Mapping typically 5-7 people has been an ideal group size to enable effective interaction. But if you have larger group needs you can combine several small groups to take advantage of common discussion points and work as many 5-6 groups at a time. This gives you an opportunity to have as many as 42 people participate in Empathy Mapping sessions at one time. You just need to schedule the small group and large group activities more carefully.

Of course, there are pros and cons to everything. In small groups you might experience limited perspective taking but you may have more interactive discussions. which generates higher degrees of interpersonal connections. Larger groups do offer a greater opportunity to expand and deepen the insights but they can prevent many from participating and feeling a sense of inclusion. You current culture and needs play an important role in how you design your overall program.

What do Participants Say About Empathy Mapping

I used to have the comments be very mixed on the benefits of participating in Empathy Mapping, but not for the reasons you might think. They varied because of what I learned. One thing that I have learned by facilitating Empathy Mapping activities is that you can’t just jump into the activity. It’s just like any other thing that we do that requires a certain mindset and focus. That is why I now design my workshops to include other warm-up activities. These activities are chosen based on the make-up and context of the participants. Activities include areas of focus such as Self-awareness, Appreciation, Feeling Valued, Difference Management, Feedback, Conflict Management, and Purpose.

Once I found the right formula the positive comments exploded:

“This enabled us to think in an entirely different way. Customers are people too.”

“We needed this, we have been caught up to long in just completing tasks.”

“This is something everyone in the company should go through.”

“This was the best session of our 3-day event.”

It is not surprising that people come in to the Empathy Mapping sessions with a frown and leave with a smile and a more energy. It provides a connection and hope that exploring emotions can bring.

Get an example Empathy Map

If you want a copy and more information, I created a post and provided an example Empathy Map on the Beyond Morale blog.

Please share your Empathy Mapping story in the comment section below.

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