Business Exercise: Walk in the Shoes Of...

Posted on by Brandon Klein

To understand another person, group or organization, “walk in their shoes” for awhile. Look at the world from their vantage point. Name their concerns, opportunities, limitations and hopes. This can be an individual assignment or a team assignment. Participants may be asked to “walk in the shoes of” employees, management, colleagues, vendors, competitors, co-venture partners, customers, and the like, depending on the nature of the topic. Sometimes we’ve brought together leaders from different organizations, had them each “walk in the shoes” of the other as a Take A Panel exercise, then report to each other their concerns, requirements, et cetera. Each felt well understood by the other, when they could see how well their counterpart could take on the different role. As a DesignTeam assignment, this is sometimes given to one team while others develop other scenarios or explore various strategy options.

To understand a situation and its dynamics more deeply. To get a wider perspective on a topic or anticipate the behavior of another (individual or group). To facilitate communication between groups by deepening understanding of the other’s point of view. Sometimes, to allow issues to be raised that one party would be hesitant to raise, but the other (while walking in their shoes) could raise.

Is usually a Scan exercise. Time requirements vary, but is usually given a typical DesignTeam round (approx. 90 - 120 minutes design, 5 to 10 minutes per team to report).

Strengths — Helps participants deepen their understanding of another’s point of view. Can help bridge separation or misunderstanding between groups. Weaknesses — The results could reinforce existing assumptions, if there’s no mechanism to balance it or check it out. Thus, other modes may be more effective: for example, have customers directly involved in a design process, instead of imagining their input.