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I love this community initiative by my colleague and friend  moshe.naveh  (he’s full of helpful ideas and is one of the most supportive and nicest people you could ever wish to work with).  This Blog It Forward Challenge http://scn.sap.com/community/about/blog/2012/08/20/blog-it-forward-community-challenge gives us an opportunity to humanize ourselves and deepen our knowledge of our community.

Moshe ‘Blogged It Forward’ to me. And importantly, gave me the opportunity to not only answer some questions that I can have a bit of fun with, but (as I am also a “serious” type) gave me a format to balance the fun with a purpose and I’ll use some of this space to talk about a theme that is becoming increasingly central to my way of thinking in the context of software development, collaboration and user engagement and that is:  Empathy.

If you are not a native speaker of English Empathy means: (according to Wikipedia)

"the capacity to recognize feelings that are being experienced by another sentient or semi-sentient (in fiction writing) being. Someone may need to have a certain amount of empathy before they are able to feel compassion. The English word was coined in 1909 by E.B. Titchener as an attempt to translate the German word "Einfühlungsvermögen" "

If anyone can give further translation to Einfühlungsvermögen I’d be forever grateful as it seems that empathy started as a German word and it would be great if German speakers could help me define this.  But more on the topic of Empathy, later.

The Three Questions:

Moshe asked me:

What was your dream job as a kid?

My father (a photographer) documented two of those dreams back in the ‘50’s when I was a tot.

I guess I somewhat stayed with my “2 year old fantasy” of being a hacker (which in those days meant an onsite journalist), just like my uncle, Jack Fox who was a newspaper man and later became the executive producer for KNXT news in the 60s-70’s days of CBS broadcast Television. 

I then grew up to be a four-year-old who wanted to be a doctor.  That dream came to an inglorious end when I realized that I would have to take additional courses in Chemistry. 

But I guess you can see a theme emerging: writing/caring/healing/geeking out.

What is your favorite place in the world?

Wherever I happen to be.  I have the great fortune of having been in over 50 countries and in all of the 50 states of the US.  I LOVE to travel….and I love to host people in my home.

At home with some mentors. Look familiar?

In Israel with some colleagues.  Look familiar?

What was the most fun project you ever participated in and why?

Define fun?  One of the most inspiring projects I ever worked on was contributing a story to a compendium of stories that were written by people who had lived in “the Holy Land” (even the naming is contentious).  The book was called “Violence in the Holy Land” edited by Robert Wolf.  Through the project, guided by an NPR journalist and writer, I worked closely with Israelis and Palestinians to create ….here comes the word….Empathy.  We read and listened to each other’s stories and I made some incredible friends and started other empathy projects bridging middle-eastern girls from opposite ends of the political spectrum.  It was emotional, jarring, and perception changing.  That is the power of real empathy.

I’d like to create an SAP/SCN project along the lines of empathy exploring the Role of Empathy in Software Design.  I found a very interesting video and blog explaining empathy and it’s role in design on a website called: Realizing Empathy.

If we really use the principles of empathy in our work here in SCN, in the migration to a new platform, in the cycle of improvements,  in the collaboration between people of different cultures, genders, ages, I believe we can continue to grow a vibrant community.

Blogging it Forward

In that spirit I’d like to blog it forward to some thought heroes of mine with the specific theme of Empathy .

jelena.perfiljeva oddss thorsten.franz steinermatt jonathan.becher (this is very naughty as I haven't asked his permission and I'm not sure he will see this but heck, I think his management style is empathetic)

I’ll request that they answer two of the three questions that Moshe asked me as well as a third one.

New Question:

Describe an instance when empathy in a project, development, collaboration, work experience, or community interaction turned a situation around (or should have).