In this MTP Engage Manchester talk, Jack Sheppard, then Product Designer at 11FS gives us a lesson on empathy and its importance in the world of product. He shares some guidance on how empathy can make better product managers. His key points include:
- What empathy is
- Where empathy comes from
- The effect of modern life
- How to be more empathetic
Read on for a summary of Jack’s talk or watch the video to see his talk in full.
What Empathy is
When American President John F. Kennedy won the West Virginia election, it was because he could empathize with the miner workers of the state despite their very different backgrounds.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. Empathy does not equal sympathy and is a part of who we are. It influences how we interact with the world around us.
Where Empathy Comes From
Empathy comes from neurons in the brain and is felt by observing someone experiencing something. Empathy isn’t a skill, but something that grows within us over time and with experience. Empathy provides a social benefit, not just a personal experience. It stems from our desire to be part of something good and connect with people around us.
The Effect of Modern Life
Jack illustrates for us how we seem to have closer relationships with our phones than the people in our lives. The high availability of digital products at our disposal serves a purpose but also comes at a cost. We begin to lose some of the daily experiences we once had. He also explains how social apps allow us to move on quickly without consequences. There is no longer an opportunity cost for not building a relationship with someone or finding a great song or tv show.
How to be More Empathetic
Product designers such as Jack are often seen as the ones who should be championing empathy in the product world. We must remember that designers don’t monopolize empathy and it needs to be part of the overall culture.
The key takeaways from his talk are that we need different experiences and interactions with different people to grow as product people. Also, using empathy is beneficial to people everywhere.