Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

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Culture of Empathy Builder: Indi Young

 Practical Empathy: For Collaboration and Creativity in Your Work
Indi Young and Edwin Rutsch

"Indi Young is an expert consultant in user experience, offering her services in empathy research, strategy, and redesign to organizations around the world. She has helped with digital applications, services, process design, and content strategy. She focuses on helping engineers, designers, and stakeholders tackle the hardest problems by understanding the people they're trying to support. Indi offers workshops for any size group and provides consulting on an affordable basis. She offers her services directly and also through the Rosenfeld Media Experts group."    Indi is author of, Practical Empathy: For Collaboration and Creativity in Your Work(Put in the promotion code "CULTURE" for a book discount on the Rosenfeld publisher website)


"Conventional product development focuses on the solution.
Empathy is a mindset that focuses on people, helping
you to understand their thinking patterns
and perspectives.

Detroit Industry, Diego Rivera (Wikipedia)

From the book forward. "Indi Young's book is a practical manual for practicing empathy, which is a skill, not an innate talent. Empathy is a mindset that can be learned and improved with practice. There are best practices, techniques, and tools that help you get your own ego out of the picture and focus on what things are like from another person's perspective. It is not easy to do really well, but it is worth doing really well! And Indi's book shows you how to do it. Practical Empathy offers advice on how to practice an empathetic mindset toward other people involved in the conception, design, or implementation of a product."

Sub Conference: Human-Centered-Design and Business and Work


Practical Empathy: For Collaboration and Creativity in Your Work

 The book is available online at  

They give you a 10 day trial of the service, so if you sign up now, you can read the book for free for 10 days.

Conventional product development focuses on the solution. Empathy is a mindset that focuses on people, helping you to understand their thinking patterns and perspectives.

Practical Empathy will show you how to gather and compare these patterns to make better decisions, improve your strategy, and collaborate successfully.

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Business Is Out of Balance
Chapter 2: Empathy Brings Balance
Chapter 3: Put Empathy to Work
Chapter 4: A New Way to Listen
Chapter 5: Make Sense of What You Heard
Chapter 6: Apply Empathy to What You Create
Chapter 7: Apply Empathy with People at Work
Chapter 8: Apply Empathy Within Your Organization
Chapter 9: Where Do You Go from Here?

About the Author




for empathy, not against

for empathy, not against

for empathy, not against

Wisconsin Public Radio’s To the Best of Our Knowledge: for empathy, not against

A book called Against Empathy came out in late 2016. Author Paul Bloom, a professor of psychology and cognitive science, has consequently gotten a lot of exposure for such an eye-catching title. I’ve found contradictions in what he says. (e.g. empathy means many things vs. empathy is feeling what the other person is feeling)  I got a chance to speak with Steve Paulson of Wisconsin Public Radio’s To the Best of Our Knowledge about using cognitive empathy in product design. Podcast: Does empathy have a design flaw?(21 minutes) Transcript below.




Practical Empathy: For Collaboration and Creativity in Your Work (Webinar with Indi Young)
"We recently hosted a webinar with Indi Young, author, UX consultant, and founding partner at Adaptive Path. Check out the video to hear what Indi had to say about empathy, or read the full transcript of the session below!"


"Indi: Great! Thank you, Martha. That was a great intro. Hi everybody, presumably you’ve already found the little door in your brain that lets new things in, and you’ve opened it, because we’re going to talk about empathy. Yeah, empathy. That word means a lot of things to a lot of people, and quite frequently it gets associated with little hearts, hearts everywhere. I even see them when other people try to talk about empathy in relationship to the book that I just finished writing."



Indi Young: Enabling Empathy

Through her talk, Indi Young explains how we must ask and listen more as a means to get past our assumptions. Absorbing eclectic ideas, understanding varied work patterns and incorporating different ways of thinking will help broader ideas sprout. She categorizes Empathy into Emotional and Cognitive Empathy, giving us examples of both.






Practical Empathy: For Collaboration and Creativity in Your Work - Indi Young & Edwin Rutsch


This is a sample chapter from Indi Young’s new book Practical Empathy.

Chapter 2: Empathy Brings Balance
"Going deeper than assumptions and opinions in your understanding of people is powerful. If your organization is captivated by metrics, empathy will balance out the numbers. Being honest about what you don’t know, being interested in the simpler underlying philosophies that make people tick—these characteristics are what can catalyze your creativity and your collaboration.



Practical Empathy: For Collaboration and Creativity in Your Work
Free On-Demand Webinar


"The best product managers, designers, product teams, and leaders are experts at practicing empathy. But empathy is not what you think. Ask anyone what empathy is, and they'll say it means to walk in someone else's shoes. And that is part of it. But walking in someone's shoes is how you apply empathy. First, you need to develop empathy. In this on-demand webinar, Indi Young shows you practical ways your team can develop and practice empathy to help understand your users and make better decisions. This webinar is for anyone who is working to deliver useful products, content, and experiences that delight their customers."


Practical Empathy [On-Demand Webinar]
by Jennifer Winter on April 27, 2015

In our recent webinar, Indi Young, UX consultant and author of “Practical Empathy: For Collaboration and Creativity in Your Work”, shares some helpful insights on using empathy when soliciting feedback. Here are our top 4 takeaways:

  • 1. Collaborative and creative empathy doesn’t equal sympathy...

  • 2. Schedule time to listen, not interview....

  • 3. Ask ‘why’ not ‘how’....

  • 4. Be present....



Panel at uxpa 2016

Empathy at Work: Explaining the Who, What, Why and How

  • Dawn Nidy

  • Bernadette Irizarry

  • Indi Young

  • Dr. Joseph Lee

  • Andrea Gallagher

"Empathy is a hot topic in business lately. Teams who go outside their organization to develop empathy for their customers are crafting winning products that deliver on the wants, needs, and desires of their audiences. But empathy not only plays a critical role with those we serve; it also has a vital role inside the team–collaboration is enhanced and individuals are empowered when their own needs and goals are understood."




IxDA 2015: Make the Case for Empathy - empathy, person-focused research, product strategy
(A video of my presentation at IxDA 2015 will be available shortly.)
"If you listen to many people, you'll start to see patterns in how they reason, react, and guide their decisions. These patterns are what you use to balance big data. It's pretty simple, but mention to your boss that you want to go listen to how people think, and he'll assign you three new projects just to avoid that fuzzy qualitative data you might bring back. In an atmosphere where "hard numbers" and "scientific approaches" are held in greatest esteem, you have your work cut out for you to demonstrate that words are not useless fuzzy concepts. Your best weapon in this struggle? Understand how your bosses think. Understand the reasons numbers are held so dear. Develop empathy with your bosses, then address the underlying goals confidently with your qualitative data."


2015-02-18 - A New Way to Listen

"A note from the editors: In Practical Empathy, Indi Young underscores the importance of developing empathy—and helps us improve our listening, gain perspective, and balance our business practices in the process. We're pleased to bring you this excerpt from Chapter 4 of Practical Empathy."


"To develop empathy, you need to understand a person’s mind at a deeper level than is usual in your work. Since there are no telepathy servers yet, the only way to explore a person’s mind is to hear about it. Words are required. A person’s inner thoughts must be communicated, either spoken aloud or written down. You can achieve this in a number of formats and scenarios."


2015-02-18 - Apply Empathy Within Your Organization:

 An excerpt from Practical Empathy explains how to make change on the inside | UX Magazine

"Each organization exists for a purpose: to bring something to the world, make it available to people, and enable those people to capitalize upon it. Many organizations exist to also make
 a profit. Whether for profit or not, all organizations seek to sustain themselves, so they can continue bringing their things to the world. Within each organization, there is usually a healthy awareness of the purpose, as well as a focus on being sustainably successful."



2015-02-18 - Webinars: Practical Empathy: For Collaboration and Creativity in Your Work, Indi Young
"The best product managers, designers, product teams, and leaders are experts at practicing empathy. In this webinar, Indi Young will show you practical ways your team can develop and practice empathy to help understand your users and to make better decisions. ... This webinar is for anyone who is working to deliver useful products, content, and experiences that delight their customers."


Practical Empathy & Human-Centered Design: Indi Young & Edwin Rutsch


How to Use Empathy to Build Software Products

"There’s one skill that every wildly successful product manager, UX designer, businessperson, and leader has in common. It helps them unite teams and ship products that customers love time and time again. What could possibly unite all these technologists? It’s conscious and deliberate empathy. "

Indi Young at IIT Design Research Conference 2008
"In her presentation, author Indi Young will discuss how to make sure mental models truly represents the root of what is driving your user's natural behavior. It is easy to make assumptions; research often stops at this preference level. However, there is so much more to find out about people. If you learn to listen and notice where you make assumptions about what people are saying or doing, you can learn to dig deeper. Using what she calls the hallway test, Indi will discuss how to stop yourself and ask what is really behind something."





Indi Young – Practical Empathy
2014 - from UX Lausanne

There are many kinds of empathy: emotional empathy, mirror neurons, empathic concern, personal distress, self empathy, and cognitive empathy. There are also many uses for empathy: to help/relieve, to persuade, to change someone's mind, to better support a person, etc.


When you say you are using empathy in your work, you probably mean something different than another person does. So. If you have a better understanding of all these definitions, you'll be better able to reach for the right tool at the right moment. Moreover, you'll be able to understand the differences between what decision-makers need in order to face risk. You'll be able to articulate the role empathy plays in the post-industrial creative age.


  • Empathy - a lot of concepts around this

  • Definitions

    • Empathy, Sympathy, Compassion

    • Mirrored empathy - mirror neurons

    • Personal Distress

    • Empathic concern

    • Self-empathy - understand our brain

    • Cognitive - purposeful understanding with reasoning

    • Emotional - reflexive

  • Indy is interested in cognitive empathy

    • create cognitive empathy with listening

    • also called perspective taking -

    • understanding them - take time to let it simmer

  • finding patterns in what you hear - applied empathy

    • empathy for persuasion

    • for growth

  • Wants to use empathy for supporting people better

    • empathy applies to anything you make

    • gives examples

  • 17:00  Why is empathy important?

    • old model: organizations have been designed for manufacturing era

    • measurements - sounds scientific and safe - false - science persuades

    • versus digital age

    • looking at the the various relationships and connections.

    • empathy trying to hear the real story

    • measuring: natural science verses people

  • 27:00 Cycle around Ideas v. people

    • Ideas: think - make - check

    • People: listen - deepen - apply

    • bring other peoples voices into your head.

    • This is how empathy is practical?   How?

    • Empathy helps us pull in more of the human reasoning

    • Your job is about supporting the customer

    • People want proof - data driven about new ideas

  • 34:00  quantitative and qualitative are two different measurements

    • with empathy we are investigating qualitative

    • philosophy is why are we building this. 

  • 38:00 Q and A

    • Talk about listening to the customer?

      • 1. stop analyzing - listen and absorb what people are saying

      • 2. help people open up

      • 3. dive under the surface - 

    • Can we learn empathy?

      • yes,

      • curiosity is key

      • growing up, I was scared of other people

    • Education, Knowing versus Learning mind?

      • like cotton absorb what people are saying

    • What about listening to yourself, Internal empathy in an organization, listening within the organization?

      • more empathy in teams - hard in large organizations because of silos

      • try to understand your organization and it's intent, and organize around that.

      • be the empathic example

      • bring the voices from people you heard to meetings



Sep 24, 2013 - Practical Empathy from Indi Young


Empathy is alive and and well in UX design. Many people apply empathy in their work. The slight problem is that the word “empathy” means different things to different people. And applying empathy doesn’t exactly bring a clear scenario to everyone’s mind. This presentation hopes to remedy this deficiency by providing a practice and vocabulary to develop and apply empathy in your work."


Episode 5: I Drew In A Book - (Book Review)


UX Poland 2014 - Indi Young - Interview



Indi Young Workshop: Purposeful & Practical Empathy, A Crucial Skill for Designing Products and Services People Love

"Puget Sound SIGCHI hosts Indi Young for a full day workshop focusing on empathy. The workshop will cover two types of empathy, intentional and constructed. You will learn how to develop listening skills for empathy, how to interpret and analyze what people have said, identify patterns and incorporate these skills into your practice."


Indi Young Workshop: Purposeful & Practical Empathy, A Crucial Skill for Designing Products and Services People Love
"The skill you need is a purposeful, practical form of empathy. Used at organizations, internally or externally, it is a more powerful way to exceed your mission statement than traditional programs for decreasing costs and inefficiency. "


Search for Empathy
"Bringing empathy to design is very important if you want to add meaning to the products and services we create. In this series Indi Young (author of Mental Models and founding partner of Adaptive Path) shares her thoughts about this subject.

Finding Empathy Through Generative Research by INDI YOUNG on March 20, 2012"


Interviewing for Empathy
"Empathizing with people's underlying motivations opens up different avenues for supporting their behavior. A correctly collected set of interviews illuminates the users' world and allows you to generate better ideas and tell a more compelling story to product developers and business executives. So many organizations use internal justifications for creating stuff, and so often this stuff fails because it only meets the intentions of people internal to the organization....

Listening deeply, not tracking a script, is the key to non-directed interviews. Essentially, you want the person to tell you what's important to her, not find out how she responds to what you think is important. When conducting generative interviews it is important to relax and let the conversation flow, exploring sub-topics that your participant brings up and seems to emphasize or hesitate about."

Finding Empathy Through Generative Research
"These days, most people have an idea what user research means. Even outside the usual circles of people we work with, the concept at least correlates to surveys or product testing. For the most part, however, people I run across have a strictly evaluative understanding of user research."

How to Wield Empathy
"At at recent workshop, I conducted a spontaneous interview as a demonstration of what I mean by "create a scope perimeter within which any conversation can happen." I asked for a volunteer and for a topic. The volunteer was Daren...."


Sparking Creativity Through Empathy


Mental Models, Empathy, and Design
"Wish you had more time to deeply understand customer reasoning before making communication and design decisions? Mental models diagrams represent the underlying philosophies and emotions that drive people's "

Digging Beyond User Preferences


Indi Young at IIT Design Research Conference 2008 

"Mental Models: Sparking Creativity Through Empathy
Mental models are diagrams that represent the underlying philosophies and emotions that drive people's behavior, matched up with the ways you support them with your product. Rather than knowing "I like to go to movies alone," you'll dig down to the myriad reasons why. (E.g. "I like to give the director the attention and respect he deserves, because when I wrote a play in college, people didn't pay attention very well, they didn't get the point, and I felt frustrated.")

Knowing the motivating philosophy opens up different avenues for supporting the behavior. You could, for example, offer additional means for this type of moviegoer to "get the point" of the movie. Mental models are useful as structures for attaching these ideas to sets of philosophies and for generating new ideas in places where there are gaps."