About the Killer Ops series:
How can creative teams increase their Value Proposition? How can they become better strategic partners in the organization? Following the entrepreneurial model of Product Development, creative teams – and organizations – can learn to think and act like a startup, to develop a framework for continuous innovation, improved operations, and greater success.
What This Is Empathy Maps glean the juicy parts from your interviews and research to help you visualize the things that challenge your team — what they see, think, feel, and hear.
Why it Matters Brings home the pain and aspirations of the people you work with and shines a light on issues that your Future Creative Ops might be able to resolve.
I’ve previously written about interviews and persona development — uncovering numerous pain points within your team. Product Managers put a lot of effort into learning more about their customers to glean insights about their pains, needs and problems. This brings focus to the development of their product or app.
In Their Shoes
Your team has shared their experiences with your “tech stack”, as well as what it’s like being part of the “human stack”. (Both these stacks support – and sometimes interfere with – getting the work done.) Yet, it’s totally possibly that your team members may not have a clear idea of what “better” might even look like. But you’re taking notes, identifying trends, and finding common goals and themes. Putting yourself in their shoes.
Empathy Maps distill and organize this qualitative data by charting it out. Like user personas, empathy maps can represent a group of users. You can help make your point by exaggerating a little (without becoming ridiculous).
Product Managers Use empathy maps to focus on their customers’ problems in order to create a product that solves it. The empathy map helps the app team zoom out from focusing on behaviors to consider the users’ emotions and experience. Typically, research notes are categorized based on what the research interviewees were thinking, feeling, doing, seeing, and hearing as they engaged with your product.
Creative Ops uses empathy maps to identify specific pain points within your process, team structure, and technology. By necessity, your empathy maps will cut across a broader swath of types — staffers, managers, and constituents — roughly aligned to the main role groups in your team.
At its most basic, we are taking messy information, and organizing it in a way that yields insights and helps us uncover actionable ideas.
Empathy Maps Work for Me
Empathy maps have been a game changer for me, in my Creative Operations role in the digital marketing team at AT&T — not just how I regard the challenges facing our team, but also in product management. I’ve been working on a digital strategy for bringing our review and approval processes out of the dark ages of email chains, attachments and drive-by feedback. At this moment, this my most important project. It has the potential to make a bigger difference than anything else I could possibly do.
So, thinking about the tech. Will I choose an existing system to roll out in our group? Or will I go my own way and build-from-scratch? (Stay tuned!)
As I’ve looked out across the vendor landscape, I’m aware of several commercial solutions competing in this space. However, my basic beef with off-the-shelf systems for creative review, or project and task management, is that they fundamentally assume that our workflow and needs are like the rest of their customers. Maybe it’s true. Maybe (probably!) not.
But whether I buy or build, my best hope for delivering a solution that might meet our basic needs (and potentially revolutionizing how we work) starts with researching the living daylights out of our process and flows and pain points and personas. If I make a wrong assumption about something critical… well, the risks are too great.
So yes, I’ve done interviews. Yes, I’ve built out a set of personas. Yes, I’ve created informal empathy maps. And I’ve found a lot of interesting things that affect both the human and tech stacks.
I’ve learned a lot about what a better workflow looks like here… and I’ll be writing more about what I’ve discovered — and what I’m be doing about it — as time goes by.
Understanding the “Pain Points” across my group has proven to be the most powerful tool for helping me find my focus in improving our Creative Ops — whether rejiggering meetings, adjusting team structures, addressing our technology challenges, and even conflict resolution.
Let’s take a closer look.
Creative Ops use of the Empathy Map will focus on:
Think and Feel: What’s important to your staffers? What are they sensitive for? Do they have work-related hopes and dreams?
Hear: What influences the person? Who is talking to them and swaying their opinions (Yay office gossip!)
Say and Do: Who do they interact with during their work day? How do they spend their time?
See: When they are exhibiting the pain, what do they say? What does their work environment look like? What could be a distraction?
Pain and Gain: What obstacles or challenges do they face? What are they hoping to achieve — and what’s their measure of success?
Then, you draw the map following a neatly structured template.
Here’s an example
Do Your Own Empathy map worksheet
Empathy maps lead directly into identifying the pain points in your human stack, and your tech stack, that you can start fixing.
Resources & Inspiration