Empathy and Human Values in Products

Recently, I did a quick talk at Real Fellowship, Real Ventures’ latest initiative to jump start the Montreal Startup scene. Pretty proud to be a part of it. Since SlideShare doesn’t allow for presenter notes to be shown with the slides (how is that not a core feature?) – I’ve posted the presentation here as a blog post.

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I’m going to speak about Empathy and what it has to do with designing and creating products that people will love.
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Quick background on me: I’m currently working on Mobile + Retail initiatives at Frank & Oak – a menswear retailer – as a Product Manager. I’m an ex-entrapreneur and started my career as an engineer and ended up in product.
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Why does empathy matter / why am I even talking about empathy? It’s the first step towards sympathizing with others’ problems and truly understanding them.
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It’s important to empathize with users. Of course, empathy goes beyond creation and innovation – It needs to be engraved in the fabric of our behaviour, in order for us to become better creators and communicators.
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Simply put, empathy is about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s about being subjective. It’s about becoming the subject. Becoming the customer. Truly understanding their problems.
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Empathy helps connect Objectivity with Subjectivity when it comes to product design. As product designers, it’s important for us to be both have an objective view of the product and yet be able to be subjective in order to understand the problem and your solution in respect to the problem.

Empathy helps you find the core problem that your product will solve, enabling you to create different hypothesis and come up with solutions.
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Great products are human-centric and are based on insights from human behaviour. Insights that have been generated using empathetic research.
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Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. Humans have been attempting to connect for ever – language was one of our first attempts. FB has found a core human value to provide (connecting people).
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Checkout51’s mission is to help consumers save money on their groceries. However, the core of their platform is to help companies gather data on their consumers (by taking pictures of their receipts, they give out lots of data around their purchasing behaviour which Checkout51 anonymizes and sends back to the brands). They’ve found a core problem within Consumer Packaged Goods companies and are solving it by giving value back to consumers.
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Empathizing helps us find the real human values and create products that are truly desirable. The next part is around figuring out if they’re feasible technologically and viable from a business stand point. Great businesses have figured out all these three areas
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Coming up with the technology and business model is the easy part. You can iterate on those because they’re part of the solution. The toughest part of products is find the right problem to solve that brings true human values to users.
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The point of empathy is to uncover the deeper meaning and problems people are facing in their lives and understand it. It comes down to observing, asking questions and going deeper.

Note: this is taken from d.School’s Introduction to Design Thinking.
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For existing products, you can learn a lot by observing behaviour 3 mins before and after the usage of a product. I recently read up on this one and instantly realized that I’ve been innately doing this for years – thinking about the states that users might be in when they open the app and what the desired state is afterwards.

Note: this is taken from this blog post.
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One last thing: Empathy is generally an important aspect of any leader’s life. In organizations, you have to empathize with multiple stakeholders when you’re attempting to get something done. True leaders empathize with the people they work with and use it to communicate better, in order to lead the team to collaborate and create the best solution.
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You can follow me @ngardideh or subscribe to my mailing list for more posts around mobile, experimentation and product management here.


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