7 years, 10 months ago

From Business Design to Business Change (#2) – Be John Malkovich!

What interests me is that in many cases success in our work is not about the content per se (see post #1 of this series). Let me start this blog by recommending a somewhat strange, but brilliant and award winning movie ‘Being John Malkovich’. It is – quite literally – about entering the head of John Malkovich. This is exactly what I try to keep in mind when meeting new clients. Seeing reality through John’s eyes. It became my associative reminder: “Be John Malkovich, be [Client’s Name]! “.


Being John Malkovich

Be aware of the subjective reality in business change

Although of interest, I do not just mean diving into the requirements regarding my client’s business problem – this is all content. What I mean is taking it a step further. What drives my client? What are his/her fears or frustrations? What are his/her shortcomings? What is the meaning of this context for my design approach? I have experienced that having a somewhat deeper understanding of my client’s pain and gain (see below) pays off. It has improved my approach towards a business solution and has helped me gaining trust and acceptance. The Empathy Map below has, apart from my John-motto of course, helped me in changing my perspective.

The Empathy Map

The Empathy Map is a technique developed by XPLANE and presented in the book Business Model Generation. It looks like this:

Empathy map

The Empathy map is most often used to develop imaginary client profiles for customer segments. I used it for the first time in the field of business model management. I find it equally powerful for existing individual clients. It is a collaborative tool for teams (workshops) but I use it for myself on the back of a napkin as well. The following is what I do to get inside my client’s head. Please note I adjusted some of the standard questions in the technique to fit my purpose here:

1. Tape a big flip over sheet to the wall, in landscape orientation;
2. Draw the head of the manager in the centre – with resembling characteristics for more empathy, and fun – and draw the template around it, with keywords. You can also download the empathy map poster templateand print a poster;
3. Enter the client’s head and answer the following questions one by one by placing sticky notes on the sheet (in this order).

Empathy map questions

4. Analyse the results above, and answer the following questions:

Empathy map questions


The result

Below I present a case I made anonymous. Let us call my client Kees – team manager, 62 years old, insurance company, 5000+ employees, big change ahead. The result could look like this:

Empathy map result

If you’re working on buniess change, you should know what is inside your clients head

By entering the head of Kees for about an hour, I changed my perspective and gained some valuable insights for consulting him in the design and change challenges in his project.

Please share your experiences and ideas on this with me at a.hendriks@bizzdesign.com, or leave a comment.