Posted in Relationships, Therapy

Empathy Map


Sometimes great innovations come as a result of solving a problem that is really bothering us in our daily life.  However, at other times ground-breaking innovation occurs when we stop believing that everyone is like us and begin to understand the lives of other people.  Naturally, this is not just useful for those pursuing innovation, but is also essential for leaders who are unlikely to have a team of people just like them.

The ability to enter into the thoughts, feelings and emotions of someone else is often referred to as empathy.  As ever, a tool can be useful to prompt us and get us started in trying to do what is a surprisingly hard task.  XPlane’s ‘Empathy Map’,  is essentially a set of questions that hopefully start us on a journey of discovery, challenging us to consider how well we really know the people we serve.

There is a lot of talk about empathy these days, specifically empathy maps.  On the one hand it is a necessary trait for a leader, on the other hand it is important in person-centred design.  But we can still be left wondering what it really is.

In this short video Brené Brown uses a light-hearted approach to answer the question.

It is tempting and easy at times to believe that everything is all about us.  More than that we can begin to believe that our happiness and fulfilment are our ultimate purpose.  In many ways the messages of our world confirm this with marketing slogans such as ‘You’re worth it’.


However, eventually we come to the realisation that it all feels rather empty and in fact completely unfulfilling.  Something calls us to begin to look outside ourselves and desire to make a difference in the world in which we live.  We seek to understand the lives and worlds of other people and have our own perspective shifted.

In his RSA talk on The Power of Outrospection, Roman Krznaric explains the power of being willing to step outside ourselves.  If we are willing to be empathetic we can actually understand ourselves better and see change in the world around us.

What Does an Empathy Map Look Like?

Few of us enjoy the services of a full team of social scientists, but anybody examining a business model can sketch profiles of the Customer Segments addressed therein.


A good way to start is by using the Empathy Map, a tool developed by visual thinking company XPLANE. This tool, which we also like to call the “really simple customer profiler,” helps you go beyond a customer’s demographic characteristics and develop a better understanding of environment, behavior, concerns, and aspirations. Doing so allows you to devise a stronger business model, because a customer profile guides the design of better Value Propositions, more convenient ways to reach customers, and more appropriate Customer Relationships. Ultimately it allows you to better understand what a customer is truly willing to pay for.

An empathy map consists of a simple face surrounded by six sections:

1. Think & Feel
2. Hear
3. See
4. Say & Do
5. Pain
6. Gain


How Would I Use an Empathy Map?

How to Use the (Customer) Empathy Map ~ Here’s how it works. First, brainstorm to come up with all the possible Customer Segments that you might want to serve using your business model. Choose three promising candidates, and select one for your first profiling exercise.

Start by giving this customer a name and some demographic characteristics, such as income, marital status, and so forth. Then, referring to the diagram on the opposite page, use a flip-chart or whiteboard to build a profile for your newly-named customer by asking and answering the following six questions:

1- what does she see?

describe what the customer sees in her environment:

  • What does it look like?
  • Who surrounds her?
  • Who are her friends?
  • What types of offers is she exposed to daily (as opposed to all market offers)?
  • What problems does she encounter?

2- what does she hear?

describe how the environment influences the customer:

  • What do her friends say?Her spouse?
  • Who really influences her, and how?
  • Which media Channels are influential?

3- what does she really think and feel?

try to sketch out what goes on in your customer’s mind:

  • What is really important to her (which she might not say publicly)?
  • Imagine her emotions. What moves her?
  • What might keep her up at night?
  • Try describing her dreams and aspirations.

4- what does she say and do?

imagine what the customer might say, or how she might behave in public:

  • What is her attitude?
  •  What could she be telling others?
  • Pay particular attention to potential conflicts between what a customer might say and what she may truly think or feel.

5- what is the customer’s pain?

  • What are her biggest frustrations?
  • What obstacles stand between her and what she wants or needs to achieve?
  • Which risks might she fear taking?

6- what does the customer gain?

  • What does she truly want or need to achieve?
  • How does she measure success?
  • Think of some strategies she might use to achieve her goals.

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 when, but are not limited to:

– diving into the customer segments of a business model canvas
– elaborating on user personas
– capturing the 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.


Understanding a B2B customer using the Empathy Map
In October 2008, Microsoft announced plans to provide its entire suite of office applications online. According to the announcement, customers will eventually be able to use Word, Excel, and all other OΩice applications through browsers. This will require Microsoft to significantly re-engineer its business model. One starting point for this business model renovation could be to create a customer profile for a key buying segment: chief information officers (CIO), who define IT strategy and make overarching purchasing decisions. What might a CIO customer profile look like?
The goal is to create a customer viewpoint for continuously questioning your business model assumptions.

Customer profiling enables you to generate better answers to questions such as: Does this Value Proposition solve real customer problems? Would she really be willing to pay for this? How would she like to be reached?

Here is An Example from A China Student:


Here Are Some Empathy Map Worksheets:

empathy-map TheEmpathyMap_2

Spanish Version of the Empathy Map:


An Empathy Map that a Sister Did of her Brother



Mother, Pediatric Nurse and a Trail Blazer for Positive Change.

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