Business Design Tools

Empathy Map

When looking at business models using tools like the Business Model Canvas, we get to see the mechanics of how the business creates, delivers, and captures value. When zooming in on one particular customer segment using a tool like the Value Proposition Design Canvas, we can dig deeper into the exchange of value. Empathy Mapping allows us to zoom in even further to that customer segment, at a persona or person level. When using the Empathy Map, it’s about finding the balance between facts and assumptions. The more facts we can use, the better – but assumptions are inevitable. That being the case, what are the critical assumptions we are making about our customers, stakeholders, or colleagues?

The Empathy Map allows you to really dig in to try and understand what is truly important for these people, regardless of the context in which you appear in their world.

This version of the Empathy Map was developed by Dave Gray and is Licensed to

Who are we eptathizing with?

Who is the person we want to understand?
What is the situation they are in?
What is their role in the situation?

What do they need to DO?

What do they need to do differently?
What job(s) do they need to get done?
What decision(s) do they need to make?
How will we know they were successful?

What do they SEE?

What do they see in the marketplace?
What do they see in their immediate environment?
What do they see others saying and doing?
What are they watching and reading?

What do they SAY?

What have we heard them say?
What can we imagine them saying?

What do they DO?

What do they do today?
What bahavior have we observed?
What can we imagine them doings?

What do they HEAR?

What are they hearing others say?
What are they hearing from friends?
What are they hearing from colleagues?
What are they hearing second hand?

What do they THINK and FEEL?


What are their fears, frustrations and anxieties?


What are their wants, needs hopes and dreams?

5 Effective ways to use the tool

Understanding your customers

It’s easy to jump straight into value proposition design. That is the core of your business and where the revenue or exchange of value will come from. However, trying to provide value to a misunderstood customer is very risky business. Do you have your blinkers on? Try using this canvas before you design your value proposition to make sure your offer nails exactly what your customer wants, needs, or may pleasantly surprise them! Keep asking yourself “why would they care?”. What problem are you solving? What opportunity are you creating?

Knowing your audience

If you’re pitching to investors (internally or externally) or perhaps presenting a keynote speech, designing a relevant story for your audience is essential. You can use the empathy map to help tune your message/call to action and general content into something that resonates with the audience. You can also build empathy during your pitch/keynote to help gain trust and confidence especially when playing to the emotion of shared challenges. Show them you care.

Becoming a better boss

A practical and tangible way use this tool is on your work colleagues, especially people who report to you within your team. Try this in your next one-on-one to help you tune into the mind of the person you are meeting. What do you think they feel, hear, and think? What keeps them awake at night and what do they truly dream about? It can be hard to strip away our own bias about people based on what we know (or think we know) about them. Try a blank canvas and see what you can uncover. Who doesn’t want to have an understanding boss who actually cares about them as a person?

Better understanding your boss

The flip side of the above is to get inside the mind of the person you report to. Why do you think they behave in the way that they do? What makes them tick? What motivates them? What cases them pain? What does his or her boss want? What are your main assumptions about this person? What if you are wrong? Maybe you can ask them? This is NOT an exercise in sucking up to your boss but a real opportunity to connect on a different level.

Understanding Key Stakeholders

It would seem that we all live in a fast-paced, complicated world full of “ecosystems” (whatever that actually means). I know, you get it, it’s a world of multiple relationships. Some are more important than others. Who are your top 3 key stakeholders within your ecosystem (or world)? How well do you understand them? How well do they understand you? When we take the human-centered approach of being “customer centric”, who are our customers? We typically all have internal customers. Do we treat them like customers?

Top Tips

Be as specific or as general as you like

This tool can be used at a very personal level by thinking of one person in particular. Do you want to understand what Paul from the head office might want from your team? The empathy map is great for that. It can also be used on a specific demographic, regardless of how general it is. Is the target demographic for your product young professionals? Use the empathy map to help paint a picture of who they are.

Where possible, seek to validate your assumptions

Most of the time, the empathy map is a series of assumptions. This is fine, but validation of those assumptions gives you the confidence that you’re on the right track. Strike up a conversation with someone in that demographic or, if you’re looking at a specific person, talk to them to make sure what you’re saying is what they are actually experiencing. Don’t be afraid to get scrappy doing this. The more you do it, the easier it will become and the more the use of the tool will become a habit.

Create scenarios for your team

Please don’t dismiss the empathy map as a quick one-off exercise and paint it with broad strokes. You can (and should) get specific with it by including scenarios to work against. For example, your team could role play the target audience for a pitch. Collectively get inside the head of your CEO, COO, CFO, etc. What can you discover as a team by doing this? Another example could be to map out the customer journey for a specific customer and specific product/service. What does their emotional journey look like at a high level? Where are the sales blockers and enablers from the customer perspective? You can walk in the shoes of your customer by doing this.

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