Using Data and Empathy to Drive Change

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There was a time when the predominant conditions in which teams operated could be described as stable, predictable, simple and clear. At the team level, changes of any kind i.e. role, responsibility, leadership, were also slow and more easily accommodated. The path ahead was clear. The job was well defined and people had the confident expectation that the team would be together for a long time. A lot has changed in the last 50 years. Today’s rapid acceleration of new ways of working, combined with the prevalent uncertainty, indicates that the world has changed forever. The role of leaders today is to navigate the difficulties of this existing environment while planning for whatever lies ahead.  Moreover, even though the present Covid-19 pandemic will, one day, be behind us, that doesn’t imply that all businesses will be able to return to their usual. Most organizations will have to shift quickly and transfer their attention towards resolving critical challenges in the years ahead.  Organizations can cultivate competitive advantages that will allow them to thrive now and in the future. The issue, however, is that the world dynamics have changed dramatically in 50 years, but our mindset has not. We are just now realizing what it means to operate as a team in a world that is no longer steady, predictable and clear. How can leaders be certain that they are delivering value in change to people, employees and customers? The answer lies in a blend of data-driven insights and human-led change management resulting in what we call intelligent data change management, which can be described as utilizing data to create value within your change process. Companies do feel the compelling need for change, but the question remains: have they invested their time in setting the right change plan? To navigate this volatile world, we must be a rock-solid stabilizing force.  The biggest prediction is that more businesses will turn to data to make strategic decisions on how to return to service. 2021 is the year we see the influence of the business user have a major impact on data and analytics, driven by the need to adapt quickly to the next round of changes caused by the pandemic and the economy.  So how will this shape the remainder of 2021? This article by LinkedIn shows the following trends that shape our present and future:
  • “People Analytics: Data is now accessible to all, and understanding and capitalizing on analytics is quickly becoming a must-have skill in HR.
  • Employee Experience: Companies are starting to work for employees and prioritize their needs – not the other way around.
  • Multigenerational Workforce – Later retirements and the arrival of Gen Z prompts companies to embrace age diversity in the workforce.”
This leads us to a concept called “Data Empathy” Data empathy is “the process of understanding the context, values, and intentions around data. Using data empathy in your process allows you to identify biases. It helps guide your data analysis process and points you to new questions you can answer in your next project. Although we like to believe that data is objectively right or wrong, or true or false, the reality is more nuanced. Human subjectivity is introduced during the data collection, data exploration, and data interpretation steps.” Therefore, it is essential to acknowledge this and to account for this in any data analysis.  Data with empathy requires combining the expertise and skills required for comprehending culture and human emotions with science and quantitative data analysis techniques:
  1. Begin by asking the right questions: Rather than approaching people on a merely transactional level, use a more empathetic and individualized approach. This can be done by asking questions about their behaviors, thoughts, reactions, trust-placement, spending habits, etc. 
  2. Blend data, custom research and quantitative methodologies to summarize the person’s situation and role. Then, you will be able to create various personas for your audience.
  3. Observe activities in the participant’s world. Examine the participant’s experience and picture what it is like to be him or her. Use the “Empathy Mapto capture what the participant sees, says, does, and hears.
  4. Explore the thoughts and feelings that are internal to the participant and not visible. These might be inferred, predicted, or noted during research. Take into consideration the positive and negative sides of thoughts. What makes the participant feel good or bad? How does he/ she feel about certain situations? 
  5. Discover the specifics of frustrations and challenges. What are the obstacles that stand in the participant’s way? What are the goals that he/ she has? What does he/ she aspire to achieve?
  6. Create unique experiences to build lost lasting relationships. By proactively creating emotive, earned communications, everything can be done and fueled with empathy—from employee experience, to services to values and purpose.
Human-centered design that relies on data empathy allows leaders to create a tailored experience in any process within their organizations and reach optimal results. When you’re dealing with challenges, data empathy provides you with methods to reach beyond the symptoms towards the underlying problem, and to rapidly test the solution. Data empathy also guides us towards the magic formula of shifting from the traditional KSA (Knowledge Skills and Abilities) towards KSE (Knowledge Skills and Energy); meaning that by relying on your findings, you can discover where each and every individual in your organization draws energy from, and utilize this knowledge to deploy people and teams to their highest and best potential.  
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