Design Thinking

The Power of Empathy

May 3, 2019

When we talk design thinking, we talk empathy. But it seems that empathy is struggling to keep its place in society. In the article “The End of Empathy,” a study was shared that showed a serious decline in empathy starting in 2000. Per the article:

More students say it’s not their problem to help people in trouble, not their job to see the world from someone else’s perspective. By 2009, on all the standard measures, Konrath found, young people on average measure 40 percent less empathetic than my own generation — 40 percent!

The End of Empathy

I’m hopeful that this data has shifted since the study was completed, but regardless, it is a reminder to teachers that empathy is not a given. We need to intentionally bring it in to our classroom.

Selfish Empathy?

In the book The Dark Sides of Empathy the author Breithaupt suggests we give up on the idea that empathy is about helping others. Instead, we should use empathy to expand our own imaginations and help ourselves. By seeing the world through the eyes of a migrant child we can make our own minds richer. He calls it selfish empathy.

Not sure that selfish empathy is the answer.

But I think we can all agree that empathy is needed. And it’s needed beyond the design thinking framework. So with that in mind, here’s some more resources to think about empathy and its role in our lives and our classrooms.

More Thoughts on Empathy

Low & Slow (vs. fear) – Seth Godin’s blog post cautions us to consider the time it takes to make change. 
Status Roles – Another Seth Godin entry, but this one is a blog and podcast. When working with others, perceived status roles can impact the message being delivered and received. 
Teaching Empathy Through Design Thinking – Although Empathy is the first element of a Design Thinking approach, empathy plays a role in every part of a Design Thinking challenge.
Empathy Mapping – Consider what people say, think, do, and feel to truly empathize with their perspective. 

Empathy is not always about people – we also build empathy for the world around us. 

Roundme – These 360 degree virtual tours provide an immersive experience. Some have sound, or links to learn more about the location. Being able to experience a location without being there helps builds empathy. 


And while you’re checking out Roundme, consider the world that is right outside your door. Out of Eden Walk is all about slowing down, sharing stories, and making connections. 

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