This week’s Thought Leader Thursday came together thanks to Erin’s ability to channel a sense of empathy and apply it towards her projects. She highlights the importance of cultivating this skill and why it’s essential to tap into while problem solving.
I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy lately. Which is a strange thing to be doing, to be actively thinking about empathy. Personally, it’s always come naturally to me. It’s not something I’ve had to try to do or think about often. In fact, it sometimes has been burdensome. But that is for a different blog post, for another time; this post is about the importance of empathy.
Lately, what’s been on my mind is how important of a skill empathy is to utilize not only in relationships and community but in business, in negotiations, in marketing, in design, in creating better products, and in engineering. That’s right, I said that empathy is important in engineering. Who’d of thunk that?
I’ve been seriously lamenting over the lack of empathy in engineering.
It’s so easy for development teams to be highly-focused on the task at hand, completing finite assignments left and right. Then they just pass the work off and move on to the next task. Because of this steady groove, individual empathy frequently only extends to a partner on the team, rarely does it ever extend to the end user. And that goes for all products, not just software.
Wildland is made up of some of the best people I have ever known. They mostly find themselves on the amiable side of personality charts, striving to make everyone they interact with happy. But even the best, most amiable people need to do things that build and flex their empathy skills, especially when empathizing with people that they probably will never meet.
By extending the practice of empathy to people you don’t interact with, or even fictional personas that represent broad groups of people, you will better understand the needs and expectations of those people. This is an important step to solving problems for people, even when the assumption maintains that it is a highly technical problem that needs a technical solution. You cannot design and engineer the optimal solution without empathizing with the people that will be impacted by the solution. With a little mindful effort, you and your team will be able to make good assumptions as to how those people will behave and react to the solution you ultimately provide.
Exercising empathy with individuals and groups outside your own world not only help you and your team better understand the needs of clients and end users at work, but it will supercharge your ability to empathize with those around you. You’ll have super senses that will help you understand how others perceive you and your actions. You will be adept to recognizing interpersonal conflict early and you’ll be able to deal with it readily. Motivating others will be a breeze as you have extra-strength empathic energy. Helping others will come more naturally because you see the world through the super-lens of understanding.
Empathy is important for teams to work on together, in order to produce a culture of leadership and a culture that people are excited to work in.