Do Not Assume: Experience & Empathy

A deep understanding of the lived problem

Do Not Assume…

that you know what the problem is.

We often just assume that we know what the problem is  but from the outside the problem can look different from how it is experienced by those living it. We gather data, numbers and other information from reports and systems and lose touch with the reality behind this information.

How do you get an intimate understanding for what the problem is? The link with my work on experiences is obvious: in this phase we try to get in touch with the experience of the individual(s) having the problem and try to arrive at a deep and empathic understanding of their experience.

There are many different techniques to do this. You can discuss the problem with different stakeholders, make and/or use photos or videos, put yourself in the stakeholders’ shoes by participating; there are various options to obtain insight into how the problem is experienced in all its complexity. Often you will need to enter ‘the field’ to meet the individuals ‘behind’ the problem. Knowledge that can be useful to get a grip on this phase comes from the fields of phenomenology, ethnography, experience research, contextual inquiry and grounded theory.

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