Trying on Another Pair of Shoes: Empathy Building in Strategic Planning

empathy design thinking for social good

Have you ever been in a meeting where one conversation completely changed the feel of the room? Almost as if you could physically feel the change? I had one of those experiences the other day - and it was pretty amazing.  

This particular shift had to do with changing shoes. (No, not real shoes - that would be gross.) We asked retreat participants to spend a few minutes considering what it would be like to be in their clients’ shoes.  

Prior to this exercise all conversation had lived in what I would call the idea realm. Now don’t get me wrong, I love ideas and learning about new concepts. What I love more though, is when ideas move from the realm of theory and become tangible. Like in that room the other day, as we asked our clients to do their best to step outside of their experience and into the experiences of the people with whom they work. 

As each group reported on their conversations, the whole feel of the room shifted. It was palpable. The depth and the quality of the work we were doing shifted too. We were no longer simply capturing ideas to put on paper; we were employing empathy as a tool to help change lives. All because we “changed shoes.” 

Where might "changing shoes" with someone change the tone of a conversation, meeting, or project for you? Click here to read more about the idea of empathy and see some tangible ways to make it part of your process or organization.