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Author's profile photo Jansi Rani Murugesan

New Year, New Hope, New Innovations using Design Thinking with Empathy!!!

Hope all are celebrated the New Year. Most of them filled with new hopes and also created some new plans for this New Year.

I celebrated New Year at Peace retreat on Mount Abu in Silence.  It was calm and cool environment. It brings more clarity in my mind. I looked lot of things deep. One of them is SAP’s new development strategy using Design Thinking. 

Most of my carrier, I never heard the words about human values like “Empathy” , “Compassion”, “Acceptance “  in business environments specially inside the office, In 2011 SAP TechEd, first time I heard the word “Empathy” very loudly, clearly with more meaning. I was so happy that finally every one realized the importance of human values on business, especially on product development.

Followed by 2012 TechEd, I was one of the fortunate invited to attend the design thinking workshop and got opportunity to listen directly from the slim and Lakshman Pachineela Seshadri. Later I had personal meeting with Marilyn Pratt discussing about practical way of bringing the value of empathy in design thinking. After all, during the retreat, I had good time to go deep and analyse more on these areas.

Through this blog I would like to share my perspective and hope on this new SAP’s development strategy as developer and also as key user.

Understanding clearly

Last month, I read the blog “Debunking Empathy” and read some of the comments too. I felt that there are still more clarification needed about Empathy and difference between empathy and sympathy, let me explain these with small example which I got in one of my workshops.

Sympathy: I feed the beggar, because I understood and accept them. It weakens me, but saves our relationship.

Apathy: I don’t even turn to look at the beggar, because not accept them, hence not ready to understand them. This not weakens me but destroys our relationship.

Empathy: I seek to understand the other and make an independent choice on whether I want to agree with them or not. I can feel with the hunger of the beggar, but I don’t agree that begging is the solution. He could always take up work; I offer him other chance, than feeding him. Empathy makes both of the relationships stronger.

Realizing Purpose

I can get easily the role of empathy in design thinking from the blog The Role of Empathy in Design Thinking , but I realized it only in the workshop through wallet exercise. When Lakshman asked to develop one good wallet model, I not even thought of whether it is for male or female. I spent 10 min and created wonderful, colorful stylish designed wallet for my female friend as below,


But later I come to know that he asked to create wallet for the partner who is next to me. I can sense my lack of understanding.

After the guidance from the design thinking team, I started to listen carefully to my partner, about his wallet’s requirement. some of his requirement are, he want wallet, but don’t want to carry cash, don’t want carry cards. It should be secure, should be stylish, should be slim, should increase his personality.

I listened to him 1 min, and understood that my 10 min work is waste of time. And next I spent only 5 min developed wonderful solution for him. Its ultra slim Iphone 9S as below,


I listened, understand him and lean my thoughts and discovered a perfect and innovative solution for him. Moreover I saved energy, time, resources. Since then, I am always willing to listen; I could say I trained to listen carefully. It is increases the trust and gained new friendships. 🙂

If this is in the big picture, should help to increase the customer’s trust and also helps to gain new customers.

Some obstacles

It is my logical brain always bring such questions, why should I listen to him? What a funny requirement? Etc…  Nothing is wrong in making these kinds of questions. It is the human tendency. But make sure these questions are not leading you to negative direction. We need tremendous courage to stick on/

Sometimes we may feel the difficulty in empathize the people in different situations.  I could say, based on our Role, Responsibility, and Relationship the level of empathy differs.  These are sometime supports great and sometime become great obstacles. For example,

Role: I am consultant, not into the depth of developer. (Other typical example: Most of the manager faces difficult to empathize team members during appraisal, though he might good other time 🙂 ).

Responsibility:  I am not responsible for identify the root cause; let someone find that, later I develop.

Relationship: Cold war; don’t want to listen any more.

Every one crossed all these areas. We can check our self and our feelings on those timings. It is all lack of other human values, virtues related to Empathy. We can overcome these obstacles by regular practice and keep on cultivating our self as genuine person.  Attending some of the design thinking workshops, courses, realizing your own insights by Meditation also help.

New year, New Hope

I feel that healthy and struggle free mind is needed to listen and understand others. Human values like Empathy can’t be learn by reading books. We can attain them only with the regular practice.

This is not mathematical formula like add this, subtract that for getting result. It is all by experience, genuine understanding of the need and constant practice to bring in reality. Design thinking workshops, books, courses are the best tools. Now SAP comes forward, creating awareness, providing training and building trust.

As I heard from 2012 SAP TechEd Keynote, SAP following this new development strategy and delivering product based on end user experience. There are lots of products already on line developed by design thinking capabilities.

Now it is time for all of us.  Lets realize it, practice it and develop smart product for the healthy and happy world.

Wishing all for the most prosperous successful New year 2013. 🙂

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      Author's profile photo Kiran Kumar Valluru
      Kiran Kumar Valluru

      Hi Jansi,

      Very nice blog. I heard about 'Empathy' earlier but got the meaning now..! Nice example on design thinking.

      Wish you also a prosperous and successful New Year 2013. 🙂



      Author's profile photo Tammy Powlas
      Tammy Powlas

      Very nice and thoughtful blog explaining empathy.  I have a better understanding now.


      Author's profile photo Tom Cenens
      Tom Cenens

      Hello Jansi

      Thx for sharing. I like the examples you give on sympathy, empathy and apathy. The topics are very interesting for sure. I've spent the last week of the year in a rented house near the woods (no cell phone reach, no internet). It was great to disconnect for some time and think about things.

      Best regards