This Agency Created a Deck of Cards That Helps Solve Workplace Conflicts and Spark Conversations

Sub Rosa tested its Questions & Empathy game on Eileen Fisher employees

Agency Sub Rosa has launched a set of cards to strike up conversations about empathy. Sub Rosa
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Strategy and design agency Sub Rosa thinks it has a solution for any internal conflicts your company may be facing with clients—and the key is a special deck of cards.

Beginning this week, Sub Rosa will sell sets of the cards called Questions & Empathy online and in its New York store (where it is also headquartered). The agency came up with concept and designed the cards.

So what makes this deck of cards so special?

The full deck, which is somewhat reminiscent of a deck of tarot cards, includes 49 question cards and seven “empathic archetypes,” with seven questions for each archetype. The seven different archetypes are somewhat abstract, with names like inquirer and alchemist. The questions are designed to push people out of their comfort zones and get them to have honest, open conversations.

Fair warning from the Sub Rosa team: Things can get deep pretty quickly. But it’s all part of the experience—learning to trust those you work with by opening up to them over what is essentially a card game.

Sub Rosa

The idea for the Questions & Empathy cards came a few years ago when the agency went back over 10 years worth of work and found “a common through-line that made our practice unique,” according to Michael Ventura, Sub Rosa founder and CEO.

“After evaluating the work, it became clear that one theme was consistent across all of our work: empathy,” Ventura said. “The team and I decided to create a tool that would enable us to conjure empathy more readily.”

The deck ties in with a speaker podcast series Applied Empathy that the agency launched in March 2016.

It may sound a bit out there, but Sub Rosa has already tested the deck on its own team, brands and even students at West Point. A few months ago, Ventura presented his cards to about 200 Eileen Fisher employees. At the event, Ventura asked attendees to think about a recent instance when they had not been empathic.

“After sharing a story about a workplace conflict, one woman felt compelled to seek out the colleague with whom she had difficulty, apologize and hug her,” Ventura said. “It was a simple yet poignant moment that reinforces our belief that Questions & Empathy can be used in both personal and professional settings to great effect.”

Alyssa Benjamin, communications manager at Eileen Fisher, said the cards “encourage you to reflect on how empathy does or does not show up in your life without self judgement or self critique–an approach that is actually quite refreshing.”

You can order your own set of cards for $39.00. Here are some images showing how the cards look:

Sub Rosa

Sub Rosa

Sub Rosa

@ktjrichards Katie Richards is a staff writer for Adweek.