Unpacking Design Thinking: Empathy (the fMRI Pirate Ship story)

When is the last time your principal, executive director or boss asked you to redesign a curriculum, program or product launch by empathizing with students, grant recipients or consumers? Probably not recently.

But in a world saturated with the memes of creativity and innovation, empathy can be the basis of success.

Design thinking consists of five spaces: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test.  And the very foundation of design thinking is empathy. Sometimes referred to as “discovery” or “understanding” in various explanations of design thinking, empathy requires understanding the needs and challenges of the people, or users, of a product, experience or system.


While empathy is the foundation of design thinking, there are other “spaces” to explore.


These subsequent exploration reveal the creative zigzagging process leading to innovative products, experiences and systems.