From empathy to care

Lots of good reflections in this piece about what went wrong with “design thinking,” but I’m particularly drawn to the notion of moving away from “empathy” as centralizing concept and towards care. I’ve long worried that the overwhelming emphasis on empathy in the workplace presumes we’re all Deanna Trois, with an alien ability to simply know what someone else is feeling. In reality, it’s often hard enough to sort through our own feelings about a situation, let alone intuit someone else’s accurately. Shifting the focus to care—or, I’d suggest, compassion—instead moves us away from shared feeling and towards taking action in support of people’s well being. As this piece notes, it also shortcuts circumstances where the empathy of the designer positions them as an expert over the user’s own testimony and desires. If your role isn’t to be empathetic but to care for someone, how does that change the range of choices available to you?