One of the reasons that I love reading is observing the power that language has. Choosing one word over another can make a tremendous difference in how we respond to a story, whether fiction or non-fiction.
Since my job requires such deep listening, I’m also tuned in to the words I’m hearing repeatedly in meetings and brainstorming sessions across all sectors.
Words like: Innovation, Transformation, Collaboration, Customer Centric, Empathy, Relevance, Diversity.
When I read that list, each word has value in navigating our rapidly changing world. And while overuse has risks in diminishing that value, there’s one word that has particular power in our evolution.
That word is empathy.
With technology driving so much change, we have to design new systems, products and services to keep up. The only way to do this effectively is to first truly get to know who we are designing for.
The best example I’ve heard of using empathy in design recently is the pirate themed CT scanner at Children’s Hospital in NYC. A CT scan only lasts for a minute, but the 10-15 minutes of prep time can be quite stressful for a child who’s likely in pain. Kids enter the room and walk a plank to a boat-shaped table where there are pictures of pirate monkeys looking on from the walls. The fun distraction helps them relax so they can hold completely still while in the scanner.
I think what impresses me the most about this is that it’s not about profit. The child will have the test regardless of how they feel about it. This design required truly putting oneself in the place of that child and creating a better experience for them.
That’s empathy and it’s a game changer.