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BigVisible Solutions :: An Agile Company: Agile Coaching Tip: What Is an Empathy Map?

An empathy map is a collaborative tool teams can use to gain a deeper insight into their customers. Much like a user persona, an empathy map can represent a group of users, such as a customer segment. The empathy map was originally created by Dave Gray and has been gaining popularity with the agile community.

Here’s a simple design of what it looks like:

BigVisible Solutions :: An Agile Company: Agile Coaching Tip: What Is an Empathy Map?

How Would I Use an Empathy Map?

A sample empathy mapping session may be as follows: Assemble your team and have them bring any personas, data, or insights about the target of your empathy map. Print out or sketch the empathy map template on a large piece of paper or whiteboard. Hand each team member sticky notes and a marker. Each person should write down their thoughts on stickies. Ideally everyone would add at least one sticky to every section. You might ask questions, such as:

  • What would the user be thinking & feeling? What are some of their worries and aspirations?
  • What would their friends, colleagues, and boss be likely to say while the user is using our product? What would the user hear in these scenarios?
  • What would the user see while using our product in their environment?
  • What might the user be saying and/or doing while using our product? How would that change in a public or private setting?
  • What are some of the user’s pain points or fears when using our product?
  • What gains might the user experience when using our product?

Have the team members speak about the sticky notes as they place them on the empathy map. Ask questions to reach deeper insights so that they can be elaborated for the rest of the team. To help bring the user to life, you may even wish to sketch out the characteristics this person may have on the center of the face. At the end of the session, ask the team members what insights they learned. More importantly, ask them what hypotheses they now have about the users that they’d like to validate.

When Would I Use an Empathy Map?

Empathy maps can be used whenever you find a need to immerse yourself in a user’s environment. They can be helpful, for example, when:

– diving into the customer segments of a business model canvas

– elaborating on user personas

– capturing behaviors when pair interviewing a customer

– building out the “user” in your user story

What If My Team Is Distributed?

While empathy mapping sessions are ideally conducted in a collocated scenario, online tools are emerging that allow you to host a session virtually. I’ve created a simple Google Docs Template that is simple to use. Innovation Games has also recently added the empathy map to its collection of online experiences.

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