Nearly ten years ago, we were asked by a large financial services company to help their innovation group spread the gospel of human centricity. Over several years and many product design projects, we created dozens of empathy artifacts, most notably several different generations of personas. These personas were beautiful objects with big photos and many personal descriptions of our character’s desires, motivations, and frustrations.
We don’t make personas like that anymore. Back in the day, we needed personas to promote user empathy for our business and product partners. Now, empathy is baked into product management practices generally, and the hard job is understanding how to connect user understanding to long-term product strategy.
Instead of personas, these days we make more action-oriented user understanding artifacts.
In all cases, these tools are designed to give a strategic output. Rather than helping teams build empathy per se, these are meant to help make hard decisions about what our products should or shouldn’t do. Honestly, making these tools is quite a bit more challenging than making personas. Still, it’s also clear that they better represent the increasingly mature role of HCD in product management and strategy.
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