The first step of the Design Thinking process is empathy. This is the single most important step of the process and it is what allows Design Thinking to generate solutions that would not normally be generated. Empathy, being at the center of the process, allows the focus to be on the end user, the person experienceing the problem. After all, an optimal solution cannot be created until the problem is fully understood.
Empathy can be broken down into three parts, observe, engage, and listen. First, to begin your empathy work you should simply observe users, say for instance we are trying to reimagine a shopping cart. The first step would simply be going to a grocerie store and watching people intereact with the carts. Observe not just how they use them but how they interact with them. After you observe it is time to engage. By engage we often mean interview. However the key to good engagement and good interviews is in how you ask the questions. When we are designing a new product it is very easy to ask leading questions that confirm a solution we already have in the back of our mind. That is why there is one key tip to good interviewing. Seek stories, not answers. If you can get your subject or user to tell a story you are bound to hear about true instances, complete with problems, emotions, and beliefs. This is where the last step is extremely crucial, listen. Now, listen does not simply mean listen to their words. Rather, listen to their body language, listen to things they may not say but things that may very well be simply implied or inferred. If you can listen effectivly you will undoubtedly get to the root of someones problems, not just what, but why.