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Empathy map: An excellent tool for planning change or any other initiative

I recently read through IDEO’s Tom & David Kelley’s book Creative Confidenceand I found a great deal of inspiration for helping build buy in for my designs and proposals. I also was able to add to my collaboration tool kit, as the book also presents stories and collaborative processes that can help kick start creativity on any team.

We have all worked on initiatives where we were so rushed that it felt if we built out our case logically and spelled out the benefits to our audience, they would naturally accept the change… or so we thought. But as we’ve found time and time again, “If you build it, they will come” often proves to be one of the most ineffective product launching strategies.

IDEO’s approach to design and change initiatives is a human-centered one that examines potential reactions to any sort of new product, object, service or change. The Empathy Map tool presents a simple start at mapping and envisioning how people will react to what you’re putting in front of them whether it is a user interface to a purchasing tool or an ice-cream scoop.

The Empathy Map asks four questions in regard to your change, product, or initiative:

  1. What will people say?
  2. What will people think?
  3. What will people do?
  4. What will people feel?
Empathy Map Questions

Ask these questions to think out how your audience will receive or react to your initiative or change.

Normally, you would put these questions up on a white board or pieces of chart paper and have your team write their answers to these questions on Post-It notes, but I work in virtual teams, so I created a PowerPoint version (see Resources below). These questions can help you sort through possible reactions and prioritize the ones that you should address. Then start making a plan for how you will address those.

In my example PowerPoint, I included the simple example of sending out a survey. Everyone loves taking surveys right? After listing a few audience reactions, thoughts, and feelings, I made an initial attempt at addressing those that I’ve seen in the past.  What I appreciate about this approach is that is a little more thorough. It allows you to separate and methodically map these reactions vs. coming up with the most ‘scary’ ones and reacting solely to those.


Part 2 on herding cats: diving into using Six Hat thinking


Six Hats Thinking agenda for feedback

Six Hats Thinking agenda for feedback

Most brainstorming sessions I have participated in frustrate me because it seems that people are so inclined to jump into the part where you solve the problem before you have enough data or information. In an earlier post, I mentioned how useful Edward deBono’s Six Hat Thinking is for herding those proverbial cats in the workplace.  What I really appreciate about the deBono model of facilitation is that it helps bring thoughtful order to collaborative work without forcing participants to use a highly constrictive process. If facilitated smoothly, it allows the group to separate their egos from objective sharing while still giving a voice to intuition and feelings.

Also, most importantly, Six Hat Thinking allows other voices to come into play in discussions other than just those four to five loud ones that typically are most heard the most vocal in many larger group discussions.

Recently, I held a project wrap-up and feedback session built around deBono’s Six Hats. We had a very limited amount of time and we were all pressed to providing meaningful contributions to a discussion after a heavy lunch.   I did find four things most helpful for the discussion’s success.

  • Allow people to gather their thoughts in accordance to the Six Hats thinking model prior to the meeting. I provided an optional worksheet or prompts for the discussion. At least people could frame their thoughts prior to the session rather than feeling as if they had to respond on the spot.
  • Keep the explanation about deBono’s theories and the Six Hats to a minimum while restating the main objective of the feedback session which is to gather information to improve the project management process going forward.
  • Gather the information ahead of time about the project charter (Blue hat thinking) and an initial set of project facts and stats (White hat thinking).
  • Take the colored hats reference out of the agenda but share it later or as part of a handout.

The last piece of advice, I applied last minute to my presentation because I didn’t want to focus primarily on the process of using the hats but on our main objective to gather information to improve our process for future initiatives. The discussion was rushed, however being able to shift between the positive (Yellow hat) and negative aspects (Black hat) of the project before diving into the solution space (Green hat) allowed us come up with a more exhaustive list of areas for improvement.  I was also careful to make sure to include time for the Red hat at the end to express our intuition and emotions about the project because it gave us an opportunity not to achieve some closure, but to express the emotions or thinking that are often pent up during a project as well as to celebrate our feelings of accomplishment and even relief as an end note.

I actually, wished that we had done this more regularly, but upon reflection, if the context and some guidelines (rules) aren’t provided around sharing of emotion and assumptions, discussions might not be as productive as you’d like. This is the part of meeting facilitation that I want to improve at going forward.

You can view the templates and slides I used for my feedback session here:

Slides used (pptx format)


Pre-work template


Slideshare: Being an excellent but quirky boss means you need to get opinions from the “straight men” on your team

It’s hard for one not to like a show that demonstrates spot on storytelling and character development despite its 30 minute format. It’s hard not to like a show that not only makes you excited about music but inspires you to see connections between art and the realities we live in. This show was just plain fun to watch and it re-affirmed to me the importance of passion and commitment as leadership qualities I admire. Maestro Rodrigo embodied these characteristics, and I spent time examining how and why.

Continue reading ‘Slideshare: Being an excellent but quirky boss means you need to get opinions from the “straight men” on your team’

Why I’d love to have Rodrigo De Souza as my boss

Sometimes it takes a character on TV to show us what a good boss looks like…

Yes, I love this character so much I made an infographic about him

Yes, I love this character so much I made an infographic about him

Continue reading ‘Why I’d love to have Rodrigo De Souza as my boss’

Using QR codes & your CMS to create media enabled learning workstations

I’ve been playing with this idea of using QR codes at workstations to help link employees to training content and media. The idea is that the learners easily access any learning media associated with the workstation equipment from a phone or tablet that they access using a QR Code tied to this content. If multiple process instructions are needed at the workstation, multiple QR codes, labeled appropriately can be listed on a laminated card present at the workstation.

This would provide a great opportunity to leverage tagged learning content housed in a Content Management System (CMS) built in Drupal or possibly SharePoint (with some jerry-rigging). The proper administrators could monitor and update content as needed and editors or approvers could be notified when new content needed to be reviewed before publication. You can leverage some of the content administrative tools to log dates from last updates and who was involved.

I am still working out the details around this plan. I will update as I flesh out more.

A few additional considerations:

  • Always make sure closed captioning is available or employees have access to headphones to avoid distracting co-workers with audio or video content
  • Decide if the content is not appropriate for viewing outside the firewall. If so, the phones or tablets used would have to be given access within the wall
  • If you’re providing video, audio content or demos, make sure to always include text content of scripts or step action tables. Enable users to forward or email links to this content to their email accounts or workstations. There are always a handful of people who want to read things on their own. As always, it’s best to accommodate as many learning styles as possible
  • Set up a scheduled update procedure for content. Even if content does not need to be updated it’s always good practice to coordinate a regular review with SME’s to check on if processes or software updates may impact the procedures documented
Click to view recipe card in full size

Click to view recipe card in full size

A deeper look at collaborative leadership

Previously I mentioned that I’d like to delve into what leaders can do to develop a more collaborative and innovative culture, but before I do that I thought I should better define “Collaborative Leadership.” I did previously write a brief post on this earlier inspired by a blog post on the topic.

In an effort to rapid prototype my work I’m putting a rough-cut of a presentation here as a start. This is based off of the infographic from Innocentive. This was my effort to paint a picture of what collaborative leadership looks like vs. the traditional leadership many of us are used to. You can view the draft slides by clicking the image or link below.

As I mentioned previously here, collaborative leaders are more likely to focus on leveraging the collective strengths of their teams (engaging all members). I suspect leaders in cultures that are hierarchical in the traditional sense will have to learn or un-learn a few things when it comes to leading this way.

But there is a demand for building those collaborative leadership muscles that come from the need to flex and adapt to a market that requires change at a break-neck pace.

Slide set front page view

Click to view the a quick examination of what it means to be a collaborative leader


Hire more oddballs and learn how to herd cats with different colored headwear

In a previous post I posed three questions that one should ask before trying to make change happen in an organization:

“1) Who is successful or who thrives? Who fails?”

But beyond making change happens, what happens if a group’s make up becomes dominated by the same kinds of people? When a culture starts to dominate a group’s thinking, people in the group start to echo each other. Groups start hiring more people that think or behave just like they do. Whether they form a culture of doers and followers or a culture of collaboration, the impulse to regularly hire for fit can result in homogeneity or sameness. It’s been argued that highly uniform cultures can lead to stagnation. Diverse cultures on the other hand  potentially promote sharing of ideas, innovation, and change.

Has your workplaced hired itself into a "Stepford" culture?

Has your workplace hired itself into a “Stepford” culture?

According to Martin Davidson, companies need to break this habit of building cultures of sameness and hire more “weirdos.” His chief argument is that it’s the odd-duck who potentially contributes to finding the best innovative ideas or solutions. But it’s the manager’s role to ‘harness’ that weirdness and creativity to provide or bring value to the company’s goals.  As he notes:

The key for leaders is to figure out how to support weird people so that they create—not destroy—value for the company. Some of these people have stifled their offbeat creativity out of social fear, camouflaging their true selves because they think it’s not appropriate at work to be as they really are.

Hiring the right kind of weirdos is harder that it seems. Obviously, if managers/leaders have been so dialed into identifying and selecting ‘normals’, then how could they identify a helpful weirdo? As Davidson notes, it’s important for the leadership and hiring groups to understand where their own weaknesses lie. Taking an organizational self-assessment can provide a baseline. If you have more planners and doers in your group, perhaps you need to hire or grow more strategists. If you have more big idea people maybe you need more logistically minded individuals.

Also, ability to communicate effectively despite one’s weirdness is still a necessity in any eligible job candidate. Though if someone is challenged with communicating effectively, it is possible to learn as long as one demonstrates the willingness and capacity to do so. Also, as Davidson hints, communication style differences can also be mitigated by managers and project leads who are savvy at building collaborative bridges and trust within diverse teams. So hiring and promoting managers for their ability and potential to get various work styles to jive in harmony should be considered when reviewing candidates. For groups with highly proactive employees regardless of their talents, an introverted leader is an ideal manager because introverts often allow these highly proactive and talented individuals to contribute and share before diving in and solving problems for them like an extroverted manager might. Extroverted managers impulse to lead by throwing out solutions can stifle and frustrate employees or event prevent developing their capacity for independent proactive problem solving.

Extroverted managers are needed, but with employees or workforces that look solely to leadership for direction or cues for action. My father-in-law likes to refer to them as employees “with a strong back and weak mind.” This type of work culture might not be useful in situations where people need to think quickly and not require their boss for guidance on decisions. For example, teams that rapidly develop solutions or innovation for example, can do better with a leader who lets them solve problems on their own.

So now I have my diverse dream team? How do I get them to work with each other effectively?

Continue reading ‘Hire more oddballs and learn how to herd cats with different colored headwear’


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