Empathy and Optimism as complementary forces in product management

Jase Clamp asks, What’s in the DNA of Product People? I especially like his depiction of the complementary forces of empathy and optimism.

This process of synthesis we call empathy. We all know that is what is needed to begin the job of product. But if it stopped there, we’d just be counselors, sitting with people, understanding their pain, and journeying with them.

We harness an opposing force that provides balance — it’s our ability, while reaching into the present to understand problems, to also reach into the future and feel what could be. As product people we often don’t know the exact shape a solution will take, but we have to believe that there is one and we’ll keep striving until we find it — which is an essential sense of optimism.

And on the topic of empathy… I shared this in the weekly newsletter, but I feel like I’m seeing a lot more articles on the importance of empathy in product management and design. One way I know this is that the blowback articles have started popping up as well (“6 Reasons Why Empathy Is A Bunch Of Crap!”). I recently came across this video from Brené Brown on the differences between sympathy and empathy. Even though on the surface it has nothing to do with technology work, it gave me a lot to think about in terms of how we interact with colleagues and customers. Check it out, it’s only 3 minutes long.