Better Brainstorming Using Empathy Maps and Mind mapping

brainstorming Dec 21, 2017

Empathy is one of the most significant traits to possess in your personal and professional life – after all, it’s what’s inside that counts.

Being able to relate to the thoughts and feelings of those around you is a pretty good way to live your life and build relationships – the same can be said when trying to understand your customers’ intentions and wellbeing.

So, empathy maps are a really effective way to generate customer profiles and create campaigns that connect with users on a deeper level.

Mind mapping has its place in the creative process too and hey, some of the best ideas out there have started life on a napkin or in a notebook. Learning how to utilize mind mapping and get your creative juices flowing will help to provoke and carve out ideas.

Empathy Maps for Beginners

Empathy comes naturally to some people more than others, but the good news is that it’s something that can be developed and practiced with some simple mapping exercises.

Mapping encourages everyone to think about feelings, emotions and behaviors. It allows your team to delve into what a user’s considering when they engage with your product or service. They can then visualize their needs in a more detailed, informed way.

It’s useful to use empathy maps before you launch marketing campaigns and finalize product requirements. The most useful point is when you’re conducting your user research. Ideally you want to be using real data from qualitative interviews, customer feedback and your existing insights.

Empathy Map Format

A basic empathy map format should always contain ‘thoughts’, ‘feelings’ and ‘actions’ and you can play around with the language that you use. Pop the ‘situation’ you’re shining a light on somewhere on your map too.

  • Thoughts cover the ideas/concerns/ponderings that occur when your user is navigating around your ‘situation’.
  • Feelings are all about the emotions that are guiding your user to take certain action – what is their emotional state?
  • Actions look at the behaviors your user is engaging in and what actionable steps they’re taking.

Depending on how complex and detailed you want your user profiles to be, there are a few other sections you can include to generate more info.

  • Influences can involve what a user has heard about your product or service before and if they had any pre-conceptions before testing out the ‘situation’.
  • Standouts give your users the chance to highlight what features/design jumps out at them.
  • Goals cover what the user wants to gain and intend to do.
  • Pain Points gives you an idea of the user’s problems that they want to solve.

It’s completely up to you and the context of your project as to what you ask users. And you can use empathy maps for general understanding of users or drill down for more detailed specific tasks.

Several of task-based maps can lead to a much more detailed user persona, whereas a more general single user scenario gives you a quick persona to work from if you’re short on time.

Empathy maps are really useful documents to keep and work from. Share the results with your team and create some actionable takeaways if you’ve found patterns.

Better Ideation with Mind Mapping

Mind mapping lets you visualize your ideas and organize your thoughts around a project. You can then draw connections between themes and expand on certain ideas. We all need space to play around with ideas and tease out new ones and mind mapping facilitates a free-thinking philosophy.

You can do some individual introspection and mind map or you can get your team involved – it’s a great way to bounce ideas off each other and create some energy. If any of your team are remote working then mind mapping can enhance the process too - you can easily communicate ideas and thoughts and ask remote workers to add ideas.

And mind maps can be used for loads of different reasons too. They can be used to generate ideas, learn content, organize plans and work out processes. They’re especially good when recording info in meetings and when you’re prioritizing tasks too for your team to work on.

The actual process of mapping helps to boost your idea creation, memory and thinking. And then you have the added benefit of being able to use a completed map as a reference tool for your projects. Tumbling through ideas as you mind thinks of them and grouping themes can lead to more content.

The best way to map is to start off with a central item and then break it down into smaller sub-sections and themes. It depends how detailed you want a topic to be as to how much you break down a concept.

Then you can sort through and organize your information – making it easier to read and reference back to using:

  • Formatting
  • Font
  • Color
  • Line styles
  • Images
  • Labels
  • Icons
  • Comments

Being able to organize your information in this way can be much more useful than compiling a linear list or summary. A mind-map helps you to find connections and let your mind work in a different way than it’s used to. You can streamline your work and make sense of the information in front of you too.

Final Thoughts

So whether you’re planning a new project, working on a presentation or perhaps, just sorting out your holiday plans – thinking of your audiences with empathy maps and organizing your ideas in a mind map can really help you to generate creative ideas and think in new ways.

Make it easier for you and your team to reference back to information you’ve collected and use user personas you’ve created to inform your campaigns.


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