July 25, 2014

Agile Coaching Blog

Agile Coaching Tip: What Is an Empathy Map?

An empathy map is a collaborative tool teams can use to gain a deeper insight into their customers. Much like a user persona, an empathy map can represent a group of users, such as a customer segment. The empathy map was originally created by Dave Gray and has been gaining popularity with the agile community.

What Does an Empathy Map Look Like?

An empathy map consists of a simple face surrounded by six sections:

1. Think & Feel
2. Hear
3. See
4. Say & Do
5. Pain
6. Gain

How Would I Use an Empathy Map?

A sample empathy mapping session may be as follows:

Assemble your team and have them bring any personas, data, or insights about the target of your empathy map.

Print out, or sketch, the empathy map template on a large piece of paper or whiteboard.

Hand each team member sticky notes and a marker.

Each person should add at least one sticky to every section.

Ask questions, such as what would this user be:

- thinking & feeling about their worries or aspirations?
- hearing while using our product, from their friends or boss?
- seeing while using our product in their environment?
- saying & doing while using our product in public or in private?
- experiencing as a pain point or fear when using our product?
- experiencing as a positive or gain when using our product?

Have the team members speak about the sticky notes as they place them on the empathy map. Ask questions about deeper insights so that they can be elaborated for the rest of the team.

To help bring the user to life, sketch out the characteristics this person may have on the center of the face.

At the end of the session, ask the team members what insights they’ve learned. More importantly, ask them what hypotheses they now have about the users that they’d like to validate.

When Would I Use an Empathy Map?

Empathy maps can be used whenever you find a need to immerse yourself in a user’s environment.

They can be helpful when, but are not limited to:

- diving into the customer segments of a business model canvas
- elaborating on user personas
- capturing the behaviors when pair interviewing a customer
- building out the “user” in your user story

What If My Team Is Distributed?

While empathy mapping sessions are ideally conducted in a collocated scenario, online tools are emerging that allow you to host a session virtually. I’ve created a simple Google Docs Template that is simple to use. Innovation Games has also recently added the empathy map to its collection of online experiences.

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About David Bland David Bland

David has enjoyed success using lean and agile techniques at several companies in San Francisco and Washington DC. He joined his first dot com startup in 1999 and helped lead it to a 13 million dollar acquisition in 2006. Currently David brings startup thinking into large organizations to foster corporate entrepreneurship. He can usually be found writing, speaking and coaching around lean startup, business model generation and kanban.


  1. You can now build your Empathy Maps on the iPad as well. Check out Personas for IPAD http://bit.ly/RjFWrp


  1. [...] Empathy Mapping – Establishing personas is a key activity at helping to understand our customers or the users of the systems we are building. This technique is a fast-and-easy way to do understand our users as a team. Even if you already understand your personas, let the team do this exercise and see what they discover. [...]

  2. [...] Alliade, ‘s middags één van het Rode Kruis. Hierbij gebruikten we de methodes van empathy mapping en het business model canvas om de situaties helder te krijgen en oplossingen aan te dragen. [...]

  3. [...] and listening. It is not about hearing what we want to hear. Tools here are sensing journey, empathy map, interviews etc. Co-imagine: brainstorming, 6 thinking hats, Art of hosting. Don’t judge ideas [...]

  4. [...] article was written with reference to Agile Coaching Tip: What Is an Empathy Map? and Empathy map from the book “Business Model Generation” by Alexander [...]

  5. [...] talk about a method we’ve been using a lot lately. There are a view versions out there. Visit this link to find sth out about the basics of the Customer Empathy [...]

  6. [...] One place to start to gain a deeper understanding of your potential clients is using a collaborative tool- an Empathy Map. [...]