Empathy at scale

August 24, 2008

One of the principles of design thinking is that it requires empathy for users to inspire ideas. Normally we think about getting that from ethnographic style research. Diving deep into the lives of a relatively small number of people, understanding the environment they live in, their social networks, seeing things first hand. We have lots of evidence that this works but I sometimes wonder if we aren't also missing something. The problem with looking deeply at a few people is that you miss the opportunity for insights that might come connecting more broadly across cultures.

Yann Arthus Bertrand is the creator of Earth From Above and he has a great new project called 6 billion others. He sent six directors out into the world to interview dozens of people about all kinds of topics. The results are powerful. He has brought comments from many different folks together around issues like love, what did your parents tell you, the meaning of life, poverty and many more. I have found myself hypnotized by the comments of people from every culture. The video is cleverly shot and the translation makes it really easy to experience.