Empathy in unusual places

I recently read a book by an FBI hostage negotiator and listened to an interview of a military interrogator. The common thread between the two is the use of empathy in their jobs. Empathy isn’t something I associate with either the FBI or the military. They are fascinating. I recommend you read and listen to them.

Years ago, I started talking about empathy with software developers at DelMar. Programmers with a stereotypical bent towards the technical and a lack social skills also aren’t commonly associated with having empathy. It is rare. Because of the rarity, it is valuable to be a software developer that can empathize with the end user of the software or the salesperson who has to sell it or the customer support representative that has to support it. If the programmer can put themselves in the position of those folks they will make better software.

Today, I see empathizers all over Little Engine Ventures. I see people empathizing with truck drivers who have a broken windshield and need to get back on the road. People empathize with a farmer who is trying to find the right balance of maximum yields and minimal costs. People empathize with family members that are dealing with the aftermath of a death of a loved one by cleaning out their house.

All of these people spend most of their days trying to see things from the shoes of someone else. These are my shoes today.

I need to spend less time thinking from my shoes and more time thinking from the shoes of our investment partners, our company managers, and their customers. I could give a lot more examples of empathy I’ve seen displayed in the last two years. But I’ll end now, because I need to get back to work. Who can lend me their shoes?

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