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frog + WIN London: Radical Empathy for Radical Change

At frog, we believe real change takes empathy. Sometimes Radical Empathy.

When it comes to making things people love, empathy is core to the process. Designing for rewarding and enjoyable experiences by keeping the user’s real-life situations and unmet needs front of mind is essential to the human-centered ethos. It’s often the first measure of a product’s success. Yet, at frog we believe true innovation looks beyond the current state of business-as-usual to create real, lasting space for change and growth. This is especially important in the case of fighting cultural norms that too often affect women’s ability to advance in the workplace. Here is where a design research technique like Radical Empathy can play a pivotal role.  

Over the years, frog has hosted events across the US, including New York, Los Angeles and in Austin during SXSW, focused on helping women empower one another through personal storytelling and brave conversations. Since early 2017, frog has been proud to partner with WIN (Women in Innovation) in their mission of supporting and creating community for women aspiring to leadership roles. Most recently, frog partnered with WIN London to host a night of deep conversations and deeper understanding. The ultimate goal? Develop techniques for turning personal vulnerability into professional power through Radical Empathy.

frog Senior Strategist and WIN London Co-Lead Sesh Vedachalam discusses the true meaning of empowerment.

Change Gets Personal
During a Radical Empathy exercise, things tend to get personal pretty quickly. In London, frogs Kara Pecknold and Sesh Vedachalam prompted each attendee to recall a memory from a list of three possible choices that greeted them as they entered. The options were the following:

  • Tell me a story about a turning point when you found strength
  • Tell me about a time when you were unexpectedly recognized
  • Tell me about a time when you felt powerful

Then, women—often complete strangers—paired off to tell their personal stories to one another. Once they each shared, the tables were turned. Each then had to recall the story they had just heard as if it were their own by delivering that story in first-person language to a larger group. The result is a new way for all parties to consider and understand their own, as well as each other’s, real-life experiences.

The evening had began with an introduction to Radical Empathy in the form of a video about Yona, a passion project-turned-business objective from female frogs in San Francisco looking to reinvent the pelvic exam. As part of the research phase of the project, the twist came by having men put themselves in the mindset of a woman in a doctor’s office, imagining—and then declaring in first-person—their own story of having undergone the procedure.

Radical Empathy aims to transform the pelvic exam experience by reimagining who is experiencing it.

Sustaining a positive culture for more people means thinking further than what’s possible today, toward what we can all do to empower one another in the future. Tactics like Radical Empathy and Appreciative Inquiry can help make this future real.

For more on the night’s events and important takeaways from the discussion, see WIN’s detailed wrap-up post, which is complete with a stunning visual summary of the night’s key themes.

frog

frog is a global design and strategy firm. We transform businesses at scale by creating systems of brand, product and service that deliver a distinctly better experience. We strive to touch hearts and move markets. Our passion is to transform ideas into realities. We partner with clients to anticipate the future, evolve organizations and advance the human experience.

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