How to Use Empathy to Build Software Products

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It's not just about compassion. It's about "getting" where the other person is coming from.

By Poornima Vijayashanker (Founder, BizeeBee & Femgineer)

This post originally appeared on Femgineer.

There’s one skill that every wildly successful product manager, UX designer, businessperson and leader has in common. It helps them unite teams and ship products that customers love time and time again.

What could possibly unite all these technologists? It’s conscious and deliberate empathy.

Most people believe empathy is just about being compassionate, like lending your friend a shoulder to cry on when they’re going through a breakup. Others dismiss it altogether as a distraction, because they believe it’s more important to be efficient, focus, and get stuff done!

Well, it just so happens that when a company is plagued by lack of motivation, missed deadlines, and high employee turnover, often it’s because employees feel that their teammates, bosses and management don’t “get them.” They might feel like coworkers jump to conclusions or assume their intentions and motivations. In other words, they don’t feel that anyone has empathy for them as an individual.

Lack of empathy is terrible for team-building, but it also impacts another crucial part of your business…

It actually seeps into how products are created, so customers feel like your company doesn’t “get” them either! Why would a customer who feels misunderstood stay loyal to you or recommend you to your friends?

Empathy isn’t just about being compassionate. There are actually several different types of empathy. And there’s one that’s most helpful for success in business and technology.

We’ll tell you how to start using it right away in today’s episode of FemgineerTV. For expert guidance, I’ve invited Indi Young, a founder of Adaptive Path, user experience consultant, and author of two books: Mental Models and, most recently, Practical Empathy.

Indi will help us clarify several misconceptions and avoid some misuses of empathy…and of course to learn how to actually practice it in the right way.

Watch the episode and learn:

  • Why Tom Gruber, the designer and co-founder of Siri, believes empathy is crucial to getting things done in tech companies.
  • Why empathy isn’t limited to just building products but extends to processes and building teams.
  • Why we’ve fallen in love with quantitative data, but it isn’t enough to develop a deep understanding of our teammates and customers—we need qualitative data too.
  • Why empathy is a skill that can be learned and practiced.
  • How to translate our learnings from practicing empathy into actionable insights for our business.

If you’re struggling to understand your customers and find alignment with your teammates then you’ll want to watch this episode!

If you’re on-the-go, listen to the episode!

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What do you currently do to understand your customers and teammates?


About the guest blogger: Poornima Vijayashanker is the founder of BizeeBee, a platform that helps membership based business drive growth. Before acquisition she was the founding engineer at Mint.com, has launched Femgineer, a company that helps tech professionals and entrepreneurs level up their careers and has been one of Inc Magazine's '10 Women to Watch' in tech.