Empathy Stage

1st stage of Spiritual Design Thinking

I used Stanford’s d.school (design school) model of design thinking as a theoretical framework to build my model. In the d.school, the empathy stage is considered the centerpiece of a human-centered design process. To learn more about design thinking, take a look at this helpful PDF:


Design thinking was an early, paradigm shifting “human-centered” approach that challenged the older more traditional “problem-based” approach to design. My goal was to take this a step further and to reframe design thinking from a spiritual formation perspective that moved it from being “human-centered” to being “God-focused.”

Paradigm Shift in Design Thinking

This is a bit technical but I utilized Mark Lau Branson’s theory of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to reframe design thinking from a spiritual formation perspective. AI is an organization development model that is rooted in a biblical framework that seeks to be responsive to God’s activity in the life of a given community or organization. During one of our lectures, Dr. Branson stated that at the heart of AI is a belief that the Holy Spirit already had His “boots on the ground” and was at work with our churches, organizations, and ministries. Our job was simple: identify, appreciate, and focus on the positive things that God was doing in our midst.

Inspired by his comment, I sought to reframe this empathy stage as a centerpiece of a God-focused design process that started by listening to God’s voice. Based on my research, it was clear that “listening” to the voice of God was challenging in the new global high-tech culture. Technology has simply amplified the number of other “voices” that are shouting for our attention and affections through an endless stream of tweets, updates, pings, and notifications. Hearing God’s voice is imperative in the new high-tech global cultural context.

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