Empathy in Design: From Mindset to Practice

Image by Couleur from Pixabay

Empathy in Design: From Mindset to Practice

Design thinking offers hope, and holds promise, for designing significant change. In a world fraught with misunderstanding and habitual polarization, innovation leading in the direction of a more humane world is tempting.

Empathy is one of seven key mindsets described by Ideo to guide human-centred design. By putting yourself in the shoes of the person you are designing for and understanding their lives, you will be better equipped to design innovative solutions to their challenges. 

Yes indeed, empathy as a mindset is essential. But how do you ensure that it doesn’t just stay there in the back of your mind? How do you ensure that it guides your intentions and moves your actions? 

While much is written about empathy in design, people struggle to find actual instruction on how to do it in a meaningful way. In this blog we introduce Integrative Empathy as a science-informed practice with actionable and verifiable tools. When applied in design it deepens innovation and enables creative teamwork.

Integrative empathy is practised throughout the design process

The application of empathy is useful throughout the design process. When applied skilfully it provides universal capacities to guide all interpersonal interactions. 

Empathy is explicitly advocated for researching user needs in most design traditions, and is frequently used interchangeably to describe the research or inquiry phase of the design process. As a mindset and practice, it’s application is just as important to create and maintain a multidisciplinary design team, as well as to check-in while ideating and implementing prototypes.

Integrative empathy is a five-layered practice:


All empathy starts with self-empathy. In Integrative empathy we recognize that without first noticing, recognizing and working with self, you are likely to confuse what you notice in others with your own biases and preconceptions. 

In self-empathy the empathizer directs their attention to their own inner experience with the intention to gain awareness and understanding of their ongoing inner state. This brings self-awareness to thoughts and feelings as well as personal assumptions and opinions. It also aids the suspension of judgment. It helps to distinguish the experiences of self and other and to avoid common pitfalls of directing towards a preconceived outcome. 

Be comfortable with emotions

In Self-empathy you learn to be comfortable with the expression of emotions while maintaining neutral emotionality yourself.  

Notice, recognize and work with bias

Biases and assumptions will determine outcomes if not explicitly addressed. Designers readily bring awareness to common biases. But those involving personal anxieties are insidious and more likely to be overlooked. Doubt about one’s performance, confirmation bias, and anxiety about time constraints are commonly observed to cause a designer to direct outcomes. The practice of self-empathy, as an on-going habit, helps guard against 

Connecting with Kinesthetic empathy 

Kinesthetic empathy helps you to connect with others and brings awareness of how people influence each other. It is the capacity to participate in somebody’s movement, or sensory experience of thought or emotion, in the shape of movement.  

This is where empathy is so much more than a mindset or mental process. While thought about with the mind, it is experienced and expressed with the body, specifically in the muscles, heart and nervous system[1]. Kinesthetic empathy applies embodiment practice to connect to and embody previously unknown client experiences and sensations. It also  refines self-other differentiation, a sense of where the self stops, and the other starts.

Observe subtleties in immersions

In Kinesthetic empathy you learn observation skills. You become more aware of other’s movements or sensory experiences as they express them through their body language and movement. This is an essential skill when immersing yourselves in their world.

Create cohesive teams

We see so many projects flounder due to subtle undermining group dynamics. The early signs are often visible in subtle movements, but overlooked until they become overt and challenging. In kinesthetic empathy you learn how to create group cohesion using physicality rather than thought.

Building Understanding with Reflective empathy 

Reflective empathy is applied to clarify problems and create mutual understanding through literal and advanced empathic listening. Truly hearing what another person means through what they say is more than directing one’s ears toward them. 

Empathic listening requires attentively leaning in to the other, with a willingness to be changed by what one hears. It requires directing full attention toward all that the speaker is saying, gesturing and implying. Skilfully practising both literal and advanced empathic listening is applied in interviews and team sessions to help facilitate the speaker to connect to and articulate from deeper consciousness. 

Gain insights in interviews

We frequently hear instructions to ask open ended questions in interviews. However, we advise no questions! Any question is leading. Instead try inviting thoughts, feelings and experiences about a particular topic. Then reflect back what you hear. When your interviewee hears you reflect back what they said, they will notice and fill in the gaps themselves. They will also be encouraged to go deeper. 

Build multi-disciplinary teams

Habitual power dynamics and conflicts of interest form in interpersonal interaction, unless addressed. Compromised interpersonal dynamics are common in teams and also observed amongst stakeholders and between researchers and users.Team members tend to listen without actively hearing what others are saying.

In Reflective empathy you learn skills of empathic listening and how to help individuals or groups to create a container for self-expression of all its members.

Diversifying perspectives with Imaginative empathy

Imaginative empathy uses imagination and ‘as-if’ acting to gain an experience of the perspectives of others. It provides designers with an experience of the effects of exploring a problem from multiple perspectives. 

Design empathy is described as being ‘sensitive to another person’s feelings and thoughts without having had the same experience’.  When empathizing, one often asks the question: “How would I experience this person’s situation?” One needs to be cautious of this ‘imagine-self’ perspective. It does not necessarily provide valuable insights into the experiences of others. 

The real empathic question is “What is it like for the other to be in their situation?” This is an ‘imagine-other’ perspective and when fully embodied through guided ‘as-if’ acting, aids innovation in empathy maps and personas and provides a check to the limits of one’s empathic accuracy[2].

Learn to recognize, understand and embrace multiple perspectives

In Imaginative empathy you learn skills to understand, acknowledge the value of and encourage diversity. This includes skills to suspend judgment and encourage others free from your own projections, values, norms and opinions.

Gather insights with Empathic Creativity

Empathic creativity gathers insights into a guide-to-action. Empathic creativity is a direct result of the previous empathic practices. At any time during the design process, the designer can identify significant moments of insight. ‘Significant’ because they are particularly intense, meaningful and memorable. They signify the moment when one realizes something is important. They spur empathic action: they energize people to pick up on what is happening and follow through, enabling designers to identify important data for prototyping and keep everyone on board during the design process.

In Empathic creativity you learn to discern significant insights, learnings and moments to integrate into the design process.


We offer Online Integrative Empathy for Design Workshops. Online from anywhere in the world, we will guide you through 5 layers of empathy and coach you to apply the skills in your specific design challenge.


[1] Schmidsberger, F., & Löffler-Stastka, H. (2018). Empathy is proprioceptive: the bodily fundament of empathy – a philosophical contribution to medical education. BMC medical education, 18(1), 69. doi:10.1186/s12909-018-1161-y

[2] Ma-Kellams, C, & Lerner, J. (2016). Trust your gut or think carefully? Examining whether an intuitive, versus a systematic, mode of thought produces greater empathic accuracy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 111.5: 674.


Sensing Senseless in Online Meetings? This Will Help

Image by whoalice-moore from Pixabay

Sensing Senseless in Online Meetings?

This Will Help

How do you build rapport in online meetings? Your business requires you to interact, understand and connect with others. You’ve mastered reading their body language. You notice how they enter your space, or welcome you into theirs. To survive lockdown you had to transfer your business online. You downloaded Zoom, chose yet another password and took a tech crash course, yet still struggle to build rapport online.

The success of a meeting is not only measurable by its actionable outcomes. Many of us feel drained after online meetings. Something is missing. We believe that meaningful personal contact with your coworkers or clients is the key. This article describes how to connect with and understand others in online meetings.

Using your senses face-to-face

You spent a big part of your life learning to connect with and understand others. You apply and integrate multiple senses to pick up face-to-face cues about people’s attitudes, but most of this happens without you noticing it.

Sight and hearing are our dominant senses and the most obvious when building rapport. What you might not be aware of is how much you listen for cues about attitudes and scan faces and bodies for ‘body-language’. 

You also use your sense of smell. Some years ago, I connected with a teenager living in a care home after having lived on the street. I offered to take some friends to visit him when he was admitted to hospital. A group of teenagers arrived at my car, rowdy and aggressive. One friend asked why I was afraid – saying she could smell my fear. 

Research suggests that we give greater emphasis to non-verbal than verbal cues. Even more so when we sense a contradiction between the non-verbal and the verbal.

Rapport in online meetings is not the same

The online environment changes how you build rapport with others. As a result, you might come away from online meetings feeling exhausted, dissatisfied, lonely and misunderstood. 

Smell definitely becomes obsolete. Sight is fortunately in action, but depending on tech quality and screen size, is changed. In face-to-face interaction hands, arms and legs express magnitudes about attitudes. Picking up on those expressions leads to a subtle dance of coordinated bodily communication. But in online meetings you probably see only the face, neck and shoulders, providing less than half the usual visual cues. 

Picture clarity is also restricted. Even on a high def screen you may have limited access to facial expressions. Your sense of hearing might be challenged. For instance, time lag from poor internet reception will influence the flow of conversation.

At first we might consider ditching zoom meetings because of these limitations. But online interactions are not going away. The benefits of reduced long distance travel are great: the environment, families and time pressures, to name a few. And besides, this rush to online meetings is sudden, and unprepared. New skills take time and practice.

But all is not lost…

With the following tips, you can make sure to use the fullness of your senses to connect online. 

  • Recognise how your senses influence your ability to communicate. 
  • Don’t take connection for granted. 
  • Do something specific to connect and understand. 
  • Acknowledge that the mind and the body through which it is expressed are inseparable.
  • Remember understanding is a two-way thing.

How to send the message you want 

Attitude counts as much as, if not more than knowledge. The mind is present in and through the body. Hence, attitudes experienced in your mind are expressed through gesture, posture and tone of voice. 

In this way micro expressions flit across your face, giving hints of your inner experience to others. Therefore, to understand another, and they you, ensure that you set up your camera to show your face and a portion of your upper body. Ensure that the light source shows your face to best effect, and request that the people you meet with do the same. Don’t hide yourself by staying a meter and a half away from your camera, be willing to lean in by showing others your face. Also listen to how your voice comes across online. When you are too close to the microphone it distorts the voice, making it sharp to listen to.  

Facial expressions might communicate attitudes you would rather keep to yourself. To send the message you want requires you to be aware of how your attitude reflects in your gesture and tone of voice. Self-empathy is a useful practice to bring awareness to your experiences, thoughts and feelings. In self-empathy we sense into our own wellbeing, body position and movement to know our inner world.

How to build rapport in online meetings

Mutual understanding is something to cultivate. Here are a few of the techniques we apply in Empathic Intervision.

Active Sensing. Much of day-to-day sensing happens passively. An impression imprints itself on our sense organ, but we do not notice it. We can however sense actively, by acknowledging the importance of gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice.

Connecting with kinesthetic empathy. With self-empathy we become aware of our inner world through our bodily experiences and corresponding gesture or movement. To share the  gestures or movements with each other online and then move in synchrony, we share how we show up to a meeting and create a new connection.

Empathic listening. Empathic listening applies more than just your sense of hearing to understand another person. A sense of hearing picks up the vibrational quality of sound. Within that we also sense a thought or concept through the choice of words and intonation and a tone and meaning which might be sharp or harsh or soft and gentle. Furthermore, meaning is conveyed through emphasis, or lack thereof, placed on words. Being alert to tone and meaning, we gain an impression of the inner experience and attitude of someone.

We also sense the being of the other person. Are they present? Or distracted? Perhaps enthusiastic, bored or frustrated? What does this tell us about how connected we are or whether they feel understood?

You’ll be energized for the task…

When you come out of an online meeting feeling heard and having heard others, you will have actionable outcomes to work with. More important, you will have fed everyone’s need to connect, leaving you energized to continue with what is next. 

These techniques, useful to gain a more nuanced understanding of others online, are also useful to build rapport face-to-face. When we get back to relative normality post COVID-19, you might try them there too.  Please share with us your experiences and comments on @EIntervision 

Building a Story Together with Empathic Creativity


Building a Story Together... with Empathic Creativity

The Idea

With empathic creativity, you learn to notice when something exciting happens and help each other in turning that into a story.


You will need:

  • A non-see-through bag
  • Ten items from your house that fit in the bag. The person who chooses the items and fills the bag doesn’t play and everyone who plays is not allowed to see what is in the bag!

Let’s play!

You can play this game with a minimum of two people, but more people is more fun!

  1. Put all the mystery items in the bag, making sure the players don’t see what they are.
  2. Take turns feeling an item in the bag and describe what you feel until you can guess what it is.
  3. When you know what it is, you can take it out of the bag and give it to the person to your right.
  4. This person starts a story: “Once upon a time, there was a …. “. You can tell anything you like, but you must make sure that the item you just got is part of the story. Don’t finish the story, this is just the beginning!
  5. Now it’s your turn to feel in the bag, describe what you feel while guessing the item and once you know what it is, pass it to the person to your right side.
  6. This person continues the story, making sure to incorporate the new item in the storyline.
  7. Continue this way until all items have been guessed and used. The last person can finish the story with the last item out of the bag.


Like playing Empathy? Check out the other games here.

If I were You with Imaginative Empathy


If I were You... with Imaginative Empathy

The Idea

Stepping into the shoes of somebody else helps to see the world from their perspective. With this game, you are going to literally step into someone else’s shoes.


You will need:

  • A favourite story or video with several characters (animals count too! If you can’t find a story, you can use the Little Prince video above).
  • Pen and paper
  • Optional: your wardrobes, to have a costume party

Let’s play!

You can do this exercise several times, changing roles every turn to try to play different perspectives.

  1. Read the story together or watch the video and note down all the characters in the story. If you have more players than characters, consider if there are objects in the story which play an important role and turn them into characters too.
  2. Let everyone choose one character they want to play, try to choose a character which is quite different from you.
  3. Before we start, have a look at your house and the clothes that are around and dress up to match your character.
  4. Everyone ready? Let’s go!
  5. Stand in a circle together and imagine what it is like to be this person/animal/object.
  6. What expression would you have with your face if you would be this person/animal/object? Make the expression and show it to each other.
  7. How would you hold your body? Your hands? Your feet? Take the body posture and show it to each other.
  8. What would this person/animal or object think? How would they feel? What would they want?
  9. Now all take one step backwards to literally step into your role. You are now your character.
  10. Re-enact the story, or make up your own, making sure to stay in your characters role.
  11. Have a little chat when your theatre play is done: what was it like to be this character? Was it difficult to play someone you are not?


Like playing Empathy? Check out the other games here.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall with Reflective Empathy


Mirror Mirror on the Wall... with 

Reflective Empathy


The Idea

Sometimes when we listen to people we only hear the things we want to hear. What we hear might be different from what they are trying to tell us. We can be a mirror to reflect what we hear, and check that we hear correctly what they are telling us.


You will need:

  • Just yourselves

Let’s play!

You can play this game with a minimum of two people, but more people are more fun!

  1. Let everyone sit in a circle.
  2. The person who chooses to start the game thinks up a very short story.
  3. They turn to their right and whisper the story in the person’s ear.
  4. The listening person takes a moment to think about what they heard, then turns to their right and whispers the story they heard in the ear of the next person.
  5. Repeat this process until the last person whispers the story they heard in the ear of the person who started.
  6. The starting person tells the original story to the group and also the story as it was retold in the group.
  7. It can be very funny when the story is changed as in Broken down Telephone. But it is also important to learn to keep the story true. You might like to try the game both ways.
  8. When playing the game remember that for the story to be heard correctly depends on each person both listening well and speaking simply and clearly. When the story starts out too complicated it is very difficult for people to understand, remember and tell.
  9. Have a little chat after the game. Was it difficult to understand what the other person was saying? Did you manage to remember all the things to repeat? Where did the story change?


Like playing Empathy? Check out the other games here.

You Move I Move with Kinesthetic Empathy


You Move I Move ... with Kinesthetic Empathy

The Idea

We understand each other much better if our bodies move together. In this exercise we are going to explore how it feels to move together.


I like to move it - Zumba Kids

You will need:

  • All players need to find their favourite song (or two!) to dance to and something to play it on.

Let’s play!

You can play this game either in couples or in a group.

  1. Each player takes turns: playing their favourite song for a minute and dancing to it.
  2. All other players try to mirror the dance moves of the player who’s song is playing.
  3. When the minute is over, the dancer decides whether the others have  been acting like proper mirrors.
  4. Then the next song is played and all players mirror the new dancer.
  5. When all songs are played, and you still fancy a bit more, you can either return to the same song of the first player and try a new dance, or change songs and keep going.
  6. Make sure there are plenty of drinks around, dancing makes you thirsty!

Like playing Empathy? Check out the other games here.

What we feel with Self-Empathy


What we feel with Self-Empathy

The Idea

Sometimes we feel something but we don’t really notice we do. With this exercise we are going to explore our feelings together.


You will need:

  • Yourselves and…
  • Some colouring pencils and paper


Let’s play!

  1. Sit together, not touching each other and close your eyes
  2. Let’s start by taking some deep slow breaths, exhaling slowly through your mouths.
  3. Count how long it takes you: four seconds to breath in, five seconds to breath out.
  4. Now feel inside your body: do you notice a place where the feeling is stronger?
  5. Put your hand on that place and see what it feels like
  6. Maybe the feeling has a colour? What colour do you see?
  7. Maybe the feeling has a shape? Can you make the shape with your hands?
  8. The feeling probably also has a name. What name would you give it?
  9. Open your eyes and show us what you felt: can you draw it on the paper? Don’t forget to give it the colour and the name as well!

Like playing Empathy? Check out the other games here.

Let’s Play Empathy!

Let’s Play Empathy!

Being home with your children is their dream, yet to you it might feel overwhelming at times. Whether you are starting your homeschooling journey, trying to keep your children from interfering with your work duties or are just looking for some family quality time, we’ve put together some playful exercises to practise empathy with your children. We added recommended ages for the different exercises but you might find that your children add their own creativity at different ages. We’d love to hear all about it!

Let us know how you get along: @Eintervision

What we feel… with

Exploring together what we feel and what
that feeling looks like.
(Ages 4-12)

You Move I Move… with
Kinesthetic Empathy

The best way to connect together is when we
try to be like a mirror!
(Ages 3-16)

Mirror Mirror on the Wall… with
Reflective Empathy

Can we repeat a message correctly?
(Ages 5-14)

If I were You… with
Imaginative Empathy

Imagine what it is like to be a
frog in the rain or a lion in the desert …
(Ages 6-16)

Building a Story Together… with
Empathic Creativity

Collective storytelling with objects.
(Ages 5-16)


Supporting Healthcare Facing Crisis

Supporting Healthcare Facing Crisis

The Covid-19 crisis is impacting us all. For healthcare professionals who work day and night, the impact is specific and dire: The risk of contamination, constant pressure, long hours and the impossibility to be there for everyone who needs you. We are here to support healthcare workers facing the corona crisis.

As a healthcare professional you probably entered the profession with a vocation: helping others, doing something for humanity. Now is the time to test your calling to the limit. Beautiful: That is what we do it for! But also hard: people will get sick and people will die.

You go to work every day, do what you can and keep your courage and morale. This is only sustainable if you take care of yourself. 

To support healthcare professionals helping us all, we offer FREE ONLINE Empathic Intervision SESSIONS. 

In Empathic Intervision, colleagues come together to explore situations, questions and problems with an intent to learn from each other, improve expertise and co-evolve new insights to tackle professional difficulties.

In 90 minutes, online, from wherever you are, we guide you through a process to catch your breath, share experiences, be heard and take care of yourself and each other.

Email us on info@empathicintervision.com to book a session:

Wednesday 6 May 11h00 to 12h00 (Central European Time)
Tuesday 12 May 16h00 to 17h30 (CET)
Thursday 21 May 12h30 to 14h00 (CET)
Wednesday 27 May 11h00 to 12h30 (CET)

And if these dates don’t suit you, let us know. We will facilitate ongoing Empathetic Intervisions during this crisis and try to accommodate your schedules.

Your facilitators

Lidewij Niezink and Katherine Train, the co-founders of Empathic Intervision, will be your facilitators.  

Dr Lidewij Niezink is an independent empathy scholar and practitioner and co-founder of Empathic Intervision, holding a PhD from the University of Groningen in The Netherlands. She develops evidence-based interventions and education for diverse organisations and writes and speaks on empathy for scientific, professional and lay publics.

Dr Katherine Train is co-founder of Empathic Intervision and Empathy Facilitator at Design Thinkers Academy, South Africa. She holds a PhD from UCT, Graduate School of Business. She researches, develops and presents training on empathy, wellbeing and professional development. Current projects are with human-centred designers and service design in healthcare.

Enhancing Intervision with Empathic Practices

Enhancing Intervision with Empathic Practices

In our previous article we introduced you to Empathic Intervision as a new peer-to-peer structured method of interaction for groups working together to identify opportunities and co-create solutions. We described how it supplements intervision with the advantages of layered empathic capacities to aid deeper hearing and consideration of each other’s perspectives. We also discussed the general process of Intervision meetings and described its contributions to well-being, personal growth, innovation and learning for individuals, organisations and groups.Today we continue by describing some of the challenges people experience with Intervision. We then continue, showing how Empathic Intervision is designed to address these challenges and enhance Intervision benefits. Additional layers of empathic skills will be introduced and Empathic Intervision is explained.

Challenges with existing Intervision Methods

Intervision methods are generally successful in improving professional expertise and quality of work. They do, however, come with specific challenges.

Conflicting intentions and expectations

Peers joining an intervision may come to the group with different expectations of- and intentions for a meeting. Some people are inclined to grab a cup of coffee and throw up their legs, while others feel there are pressing issues and no time to waste. These differences can create tensions which go unnoticed unless explicitly voiced.

Lack of trust

The nature of the intervision process relies upon mutual trust. Confidentiality is essential. What is discussed during intervision stays there. Participants are not allowed to take any of the information discussed into other conversations, unless with specific consent. But establishing trust is frequently taken for granted. Having no formal way to contract ethical responsibilities with one another, leads to -often unintended- mistakes. Once trust is breached, interpersonal problems inevitably arise.


People interacting together regularly start to take each other’s way of working and thinking for granted. In these situations diverse views can disappear and creativity can wither. It becomes more and more difficult to come up with creative alternatives to current problems his may lead to demotivation to hold more intervision meetings as well as a lack of finding ways to solve issues at work.

How Empathic Intervision enhances Intervision

Empathic Intervision addresses the complexity of interpersonal dynamics in diverse groups. It applies layered empathic capabilities to the intervision method to facilitate interpersonal processes. If left unacknowledged and unharnessed, group dynamics may undermine the intervision process. Empathic capabilities are engaged in Empathic Intervision to ensure that unique skills and perspectives associated with diversity are embraced to facilitate creativity and innovation rather than causing aggravations between people.

Intention setting

The outcome of the intervision meeting is better served if it is guided by a skilfully articulated intention. Empathic Intervision is useful to you and your colleagues when it is applied as a means to an end. Intentions act as a road-map guiding the individual and collective will and actions with a particular focus.

Each Empathic Intervision meeting begins with setting a collective and a personal intention. The collective intention is named as such since it is agreed upon with the whole group. Taking time to discern a collective intention alleviates the problem of people coming to the meeting with different expectations of, and intentions for, the meeting. The personal intention represents each individual’s intention towards the collective intention. It shows all participants the depth and breadth of perspectives and establishes both, focus and commitment.

Ethical responsibility

Working effectively and efficiently with others in an Empathic Intervision meeting requires mutual trust. This in turn requires creating a conducive environment for each person to be courageous to offer their best. It requires sharing experiences, thoughts and feelings. The most innovative solutions emerge when people are able to share their most deeply held insights and creativity. These aspects are often accompanied by feelings of vulnerability. It is therefore essential that all participants in the meetings carry a shared ethical responsibility to uphold an environment that embraces confidentiality and the suspension of judgment. Empathic Intervision emphasises the practice of ethical responsibility with a step in the structured process dedicated to contracting the required environment by the members of the group.

Arriving with self-empathy and personal intention setting

Practising helps you to develop agency, the awareness of yourself as being the initiator of actions, desires, thoughts and feelings. With self-empathy you become aware of your own experiential state in each moment. This enables you to differentiate your own emotional experience from the experiences of others. In the group it helps to become aware of your intentions, how you relate to others and how you avoid slipping into groupthink.

Coordinating interaction and synchronization with kinesthetic empathy

Interpersonal dynamics in a group can be complex. Often the complexities are provoked through intentions and states of being expressed and responded to through bodily gestures. Kinesthetic empathy is applied to intervision practice as a way to bring awareness to these unconscious expressions and to help you and the group to synchronize and coordinate with each other. You become more aware of the influence you have on each other and on your and their physical space. When self-empathy and kinesthetic empathy are practised together, the best of individual and group thinking is brought into being.

Mutual understanding through reflective conversation

Once intentions are set and ethical responsibility is contracted, a space is created to address the issue at hand. In conventional intervision methods, a speaker speaks and peers listen. Empathic Intervision has a different approach to gathering information. It asks peers to reflect back what they hear the speaker say. The advantage of this type of conversation is threefold:

  1. It slows down the process, giving everyone time to reflect and not jump to conclusions.
  2. It makes sure peers hear and understand what is being said and gives the speaker the possibility to correct if what is being said gets interpreted in a way which does not correspond with the experience of the speaker.
  3. It holds up a mirror for the speaker to reflect on what is experienced, which gives opportunity to develop and deepen the issue at hand.

Identifying and considering perspectives through imaginative empathy

While the to and fro of empathic conversation gives an opportunity to clarify the experience of the speaker, it does not offer alternative perspectives. Chances are that the search for common understanding actually has an adverse effect: it narrows the way group members look at the topic. Imaginative empathy uses imagination and acting to enable you to renew your outlook on the issue at hand, understand the perspectives of others in your group and to experience the effects of having a problem explored from multiple perspectives. It is used as a means to explore complicated, complex or stressful situations through ‘as-if’ acting.

Empathic Intervision makes work engaging and challenging

The peer-to-peer nature of intervision makes this organizational approach relevant to current organizational development. We are observing the emergence of practices such as human-centric design, agile self-organizing teams and co-creation, where the aim is to bridge silos, cross barriers and engage a broader range of knowledge. Hierarchical systems, in which experts are able to define a path and influence follow-through, are losing traction. Methodologies are emerging that rotate power dynamics from hierarchical to horizontal. The aim is to enable people to engage their authentic, motivated selves at work.

Intervision is an approach to action learning and experiential learning. The process of Empathic Intervision provides a method of organized dialogue that responds to the needs, in organizations, for a human-centred approach. As a peer-to-peer process it aims to transform traditional hierarchical power dynamics. It also combines work with learning. Colleagues are able to tap into their combined knowledge, experience and skill repertoire to explore complex work issues in real-time.

We hope to have given you a taste of what Empathic Intervision is and how it can be of benefit to a diverse range of organisational processes. If this has sparked your interest, why not have a look at our website, where you will find more information about the different programs we offer, the science informing this method as well as ways to contact us.