David Doss
Notes from Design for Empathy and Retention
David Doss, March 19, 2015

David Doss was kind enough to share his notes from Skye Lee & Blaise Bertrand's talk Design for Empathy and Retention.


  • “We are all agents of change. We need to find the way that we can do this.”
  • IDEO: Human-Centered Innovation
  • Blaise Bertrand (Partner and Industrial Director)
    • Design can make people happy or sad
    • Improve or hinder human connection
  • Skye Lee (UX + Product)
    • Adviosry
  • “When you are working in industry, friendship doesn’t really develop naturally.”


  • understand the non-obvious needs that people have
  • human truths – getting to core of issue by understanding and empathisizing for what people need
  • making sense of cutting through the noise, getting to the essentials, making it a beautiful experience
  • building to learn: using tools to express ideas as tangible
  • what will delight people, find technology / business model for that to happen

Hospital redesign

  • Christian got into emergency room, and filmed the entire experience
    • Video of the ceiling
  • Faked an injury in order to get into the hospital
  • EMPATHY – note people:
    • What they SAY
    • What they DO
    • What they THINK
    • What they FEEL
    • Reconciling all of the above

Tech PUSH versus tech PULL. IDEO aims for push.


  • Moto
    • speeds
    • iteration
    • feedback loops
    • second-best-selling accessory for Motorola
  • Emotiv Epoc:
    • controlling robot with thoughts
    • being able to drive car with device
  • Steelcase Node Chair
    • mobile chair
    • redesigning chair can change dynamics and way that people learn
  • Joie De Vivre Hotel
    • mixing art and tech to create emotional interactions

Designing for massive transitions

  • transportation industry
    • shifting / complementing hardware and software
  • Ford Hybrid:
    • Have to start thinking about new behaviors and life changes
    • How to recognize driving efficiently?
    • Image of leaves growing
    • Using analogies to create meaning

Reconnecting with sense of purpose and communicating it

  • Findus
    • Understanding people internally
    • What is their passion? learn how to communicate it better


  • post challenges
  • collect ideas (crowd research inspiration)
    • the more visual the posts, the better
    • stories will help people get going
  • refinement
    • encourage people to build ideas
    • create opportunity
    • everyone can take various ideas that work and move them more fully forward
  • analysis
  • the more ideas you build, and the more fully you do so, the better
  • design quotient
    • inspiration
    • conceptualization
    • evaluation
    • collaboration

Provoking new conversation vs. stealing ideas

  • inherent generosity in design innovation
  • avoid fear of sharing
  • anyone can come up with ideas
  • bringing ideas to market is a completely different thing
    • productization
    • paranoia will prevent you from moving forward
    • dialogue
    • no need to be afraid
    • exchange – even if people take something from your idea, you will also take something from their ideas
  • by the time you get a patent, the moment can be gone
    • (certainly depends on individual situation, and the specific industry)
    • if you have nothing, what do you have to lose?
  • Examples:
    • IDEO’s Start up in residence program
    • Financial view: ROI (return on investment) vs. ROL (return on learning). Looking at cues – understanding the surrounding


    • get assumptions out early
    • Understand the differences in cultures and processes between the two different groups
  • Brand; offer / experience; organization; business
    • Dive deep, but check against the whole
  • System for embracing failure
    • Failing is hard
    • Need system where it is ok to recuperate from failure
    • Answer: build a network
    • Seek mentorship
    • Build network
    • Creative collisions: broad and radical collaboration
    • Exercising hybrid rigor
    • Quantitative and quantitative methods to get results
    • Compare and contrast results
    • Learn through building:
    • Real scale
    • Measure behaviors
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously – most importantly, have fun

Takeaways from Q&A

  • Creativity in software:
    • Careful: risk impoverishing our senses
  • How to develop radical ideas:
    • Not necessary
    • Why do you need a “house on fire” problem?
    • Just start listening to the problems around you
  • T-shaped career profile
    • Master one thing, and then extend
    • Start with sense of purpose
    • (generalizing specialist / versatilist / technical craftsperson / renaissance developer / master generalist)
  • how to go about redesigning meetups?
    • Participation, collaborative
    • Break in and ask participants what they want.
  • How to manage a startup with physicians who are very resistant to change and immersed in bureacracy?
    • Bring several people on board
    • Movement
    • Talk to them about what they will gain
    • Learn their communication culture
    • How to work with it
    • How to think beyond it
    • Example: Develop a written superpowers exercise: Get them into an orientation: I need to get you to solve a problem
  • How should I “make it big” in tech?
    • There is nothing richer than the interactions that I have right in front of me

Filmed March 19, 2015 at Zendesk