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Design thinking event to spotlight the power of empathy

  • Randy Salzman

Posted on September 20, 2017

Empathy allows people to understand and share the feelings of others, and it is also a key component of the design thinking process, which is used to solve complex problems in the world.

During an upcoming presentation at Grand Valley, the difference between affective empathy (subconscious) and cognitive empathy (conscious) will be explored, as well as how these concepts apply to design thinking.

“Empathy is the key starting point to true design thinking and understanding the difference between empathy and sympathy is beneficial to meeting the needs of others,” said John Berry, director of Grand Valley’s Design Thinking Initiative and Design Thinking Academy.

Randy Salzman, a design thinking-based author, educator and consultant, will present “Empathy: Abstract to Application” on September 27, from 6-7 p.m., on the second floor of the Eberhard Center, located on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus.

“Many people struggle with seeing life through another’s eyes, and this presentation expands the human ability to recognize complexity and difference,” said Salzman. “Rather than attempt to measure student empathy, we will focus on enlarging students’ ‘latitude of acceptance’ around their own human silos.”

Salzman said that today’s social trends are pulling people around the world farther apart, despite seeming as though they are coming closer together.

“Apparently as we spend more and more time in front of screens which tell us, generally, that the world is just as we want it to be, the less inclined we appear to be willing to step outside our protective shells and recognize that all ‘others’ have the same emotions, the same needs, the same desires,” he explained.

The presentation is sponsored by the Design Thinking Academy. For more information about the Design Thinking Initiative and Design Thinking Academy, visit the