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Questions & Empathy Card Deck

Part game, part self-reflection tool, this set aims to make individuals and groups see things from another angle

by Evan Orensten
on 09 May 2017

After launching their "Applied Empathy" speaker series in spring of 2016, the team at Sub Rosa found themselves being asked by attendees if the cards used to guide the discussions were available for purchase. These items, now known as Questions & Empathy cards, break down the seven archetypes of empathy—Sage, Inquirer, Convener, Alchemist, Confident, Seeker, Cultivator—and then ask seven questions of each in order to strengthen our empathetic minds. The seek to help users see the world from a different angle, and ultimately and ideally, create a difference in the ways we all interact, work and live together.

Officially launching today, the cards are available to buy online—for use at work, dinner parties, alone or however makes sense. We spoke with Sub Rosa's founder and CEO Michael Ventura about the project to learn more. It all began with a fairly abstract, but significant conversation. Ventura says the team was trying to figure out what Sub Rosa was really all about at its core, "What’s our point of difference? What do we stand for? What do we put into our work? What’s in our DNA?" They looked over a decade of work, and saw one theme: empathy. "How do we not just shut the door, sit in a room and have 'Wouldn’t it be cool if…" conversations, and instead going out into the world and gather information, and get out of our own shoes and think about the world from a different perspective," he explains. That idea of being empathetic became more than a vague concept, it was the basis for solving problems—and the team even built processes around it.

The cards were initially developed for an internal process. With seven archetypes that made for an empathic individual, they decided to "really start to understand how to limber up the parts of the brain that might atrophied." Based on the idea that we all have all seven of these characteristics, "But we are them in varying degrees," Ventura says, "So as you do some self-reflection and figure out where you have proficient and deficiency, you can become a more empathetic collaborator, partner, friend, whatever it may be."

While it may sound like an exercise in introspection, Ventura believes it can excel trust (and therefore efficiency) at work since "companies are an amalgamation of people," so these processes can be applied to business strategy, design, everything.

As for the questions, some pertain to the physical self, aspirational self, and more. "You do a self-assessment, you start asking yourself questions centered around where you believe you have weaknesses. Because that starts to limber up your brain, helping you to be more well-rounded." Each deck, designed in-house at Sub Rosa, also explains the archetype and how to use them. Essentially, Ventura says it's an experiment, but one he and his team hopes will make a difference. “We figured why not make them and see how it goes, because the world needs less small talk—and more big talk."

Available online today, the Questions & Empathy cards come in a set of 56, along with a guidebook, for $39.

Images courtesy of Sub Rosa

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