Empathy and Innovation

Instructor Alessandra Scroccaro
Modality In presence
Duration 6 hours
Period First semester

03/10/2022 at 17:00-18:30
07/10/2022 at 17:00-20:00
24/10/2022 at 17:00-18:30

Course objectives

This course stimulates you to improve your empathy skills in order to really solve societal problems, innovate services, products, and processes, and finally make a better world. Empathy is the ability to recognize emotions and to share perspectives with other people. Thus, empathy skill is the key to innovation: it can help us innovate more quickly and, ultimately, sell more products, satisfy more customers, and generate more significant revenues.

There are three stages of empathy:

  • Cognitive empathy is being aware of the emotional state of another person.
  • Emotional empathy is engaging with and sharing those emotions.
  • Compassionate empathy involves taking action to support other people.

To use empathy effectively, give your co-worker/colleague/client/target your full attention, looking out for verbal, paraverbal, and nonverbal clues to help you fully understand their situation. Set aside your own assumptions, acknowledge your colleague’s feelings, allow an emotional connection, then take positive action that will improve their well-being.

How can we employ empathy? Basically, we can use empathy in the following three ways:

  • To really solve problems: at its core, design thinking is about empathy. To really understand a problem you want to solve, you must have an empathetic view of the people who are experiencing that problem.
  • To innovate: Empathy is the single most-overlooked ingredient of innovation. This makes great sense because innovation is so often borne out of someone’s frustration with the current way or state of things.
  • To manipulate: Anyone who is sufficiently skilled at empathy has a unique understanding of human emotions. Understanding emotions at such a deep level could allow some really terrible behaviours. As innovators, we must be vigilant in guarding against this manipulation.

Content summary

  • Explore and understand the Empathy skill, its facets, and its uses
  • Experience empathy exercises and feedback activities
  • “Being blind for a day in Trento city” – in collaboration with UICI Trento, you’ll have the chance to experience blindness in the urban context.
  • Discover how empathy can be useful to solve real problems and innovate, simply “Walking in the user’s shoes” and “Seeing the problem as if you were experiencing it yourself”.
  • Reflect upon the experience of “Being blind for a day in Trento city”

Teaching methods

  • Interactive lectures
  • Cases
  • Teamwork
  • Indoor and outdoor activities in collaboration with the UICI – Trento (Unione Italiana Ciechi e Ipovedenti), the Italian Blind People Association.
  • Important notice: Monday 3rd and 24th of October the scheduled time will be from 5 pm to 6.30 pm. The outdoor activity with Unione Italiana Ciechi will take place on Friday 7th from 5 pm to 8 pm.
  • Students will be asked to prepare for every session by completing a pre-assignment. A final reflection paper will be asked as proof of completion of the credit.


Papers, slides, and materials will be used during the course.