Try an empathy experiment
If you’re not sure what someone else is feeling or thinking, you might want to take a more radical approach and literally put yourself in their position. Here’s a real example of an empathy experiment in action:
In the mid-1970s Patricia Moore, then 26, was working as an industrial designer at the top New York firm Raymond Loewy. She wanted to create a refrigerator door for someone with arthritic hands, so she decided to conduct an empathy experiment and discover the realities of life as an eighty-year-old woman. She put on make-up so she looked old and wrinkly, wore glasses that blurred her vision, clipped on a brace and wrapped bandages around her torso so she was hunched over, plugged up her ears so she couldn’t hear well, and put on awkward, uneven shoes so she was forced to walk with a stick. For three years she navigated different American cities in her new persona. Based on her experiences and insights, she was able to design a whole series of innovative products that were suitable for use by elderly people. She is credited as one of the founders of Universal Design, an approach in which products are designed non-exclusively, for use by the widest range of consumers possible, including the disabled and elderly, which has now become standard in the industry.
Empathy experiments are useful for understanding both customers and colleagues. For example we could spend time trying to buy products as if we were the consumer, or trying our hand at some of the gruntwork on a project to better understand how it feels to be a more junior member of the team.