Isaac Newton the pioneering scientist said “For every Action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. While this was postulated to explain the functioning of cosmos and physical things, this may very well be applicable to human behavior. For every behavior you exhibit towards others, they exhibit a response. Whether it is equal, opposite, favorable depends on the context in which the first action was executed.
While in the case of objects, it is immediate. Human behavior is immediate as well latent. No, we are not making an effort to postulate a new law. We are trying to see the relevance of an universal principle to human behavior and see if this reactionary element can be leveraged to gain influence and acceptance in the market.
Note, many large-scale phenomena are the sum of individual actions. sometimes millions or even billions of them. Sharing photos online is a good example. As we speak, trillions of photos of individuals, their families in social and intimate situations are getting shared without constraints. This wasn’t the same when photosharing started. They had to overcome a lot of obstacles including but not limited to peoples cultural norms, their privacy concerns and many other defenses holding them back.
Take the case of eCommerce in highly populated developing countries. If you are grappling with the question, “How do i make sure that my audience will buy their daily staple from my online store?”. Instead of fretting over competition from mom and pop store just a few minutes walking distance, innovators need to think about the minimum action that will make the switch possible.
As an innovator you aspire to impact millions. A complete shift across societies, across cultures and countries is your goal. You are working hard for your vision to materialize. But, all of this have to start with figuring out how you will make the process easy for one.
“What is the first action a prospect will reciprocate ?”
“What is the spark that will bring about mass behavior shifts?”
“Are there approaches that businesses could use to influence behaviors on a micro level and reap macro benefits?”
Tim Brown, CEO of design firm I D E O points to an emerging field in design for behavior change as a source of methods and tools to incentivise, whether in the service of organizational change management or shifting purchasing behavior or even broader social initiatives pursued by companies for the common good.
Behavioral Psychology is the study of human behavior, essentially their actions and reactions in a given context. This study helps us get under the hood of human thinking. Be sensitive to people and set incentives to incite an action and evoke a reaction. We can start this learning by learning the human mental system.
Our Mental System is layered to avoid cognitive overload. Having a solid idea of each of these is essential. It will help design systems that will ease the cognitive and make it easy for the mind to adapt a new thing without much resistance.
In the 2006 film Memento, director chris Nolan tells a story about a man, Leonard Shelby, suffering from short-term memory loss and his mission to revenge his wife’s killers in spite of his disability. In medical terms this condition is called anterograde amnesia.
With inability to form new memories, leonard develops a technique to help him recall the day to day events and correlate it with his past. He does this by using hand-written notes, tattoos, photos and anything to record stuff. I am sure you know more about the movie then me.
There are many more stories of memory loss, gain and the struggle to live a normal life. What is the point of all this ? Our life is tied together by our memory. There are two types of memory. Permanent and temporary. Both of them need to operate in sync and together need to restore what is stored for a normal life.
In this book “The Power of Habit” Charles Duhigg presents the story of Eugene Pauly, a 71-year old man who suffers from viral encephalitis, which makes him lose the medial temporal lobe of his brain. The resulting effect is that he could clearly remember anything that occurred prior to 1960.
On the flip-side, he had short term memory about recent events. In that state, he falls into the condition of constantly repeating words. He neither could remember his children, where he was and where basic installments like the kitchen or his bedroom were.
During the course of the treatment one day, Eugene disappeared only to show up fifteen minutes later. It just happened that Eugene had, that day, taken the habitual walk all by himself.
He soon made it his daily routine to take the walk around his house by himself. This occurrence startled scientists.
Eugene proved that the part of the brain where habits are performed and operate is entirely separate from the part of the brain responsible for memory. It was later confirmed that we can learn and make choices without having to remember anything. To put it visually
Essentially, what we learn is that there are multiple types of Permanent and Temporary memories. There is a category of memory storage dealing with regulation of life that helps us unconsciously perform a routine task (habit) and consciously complete a not so routine task.
This distinction is important. We are normally hardwired to optimize energy usage. Anything that is new to learn consciously is something we resist. We like repetition and integrate any new thing into our existing routine.
Roy Baumeister in his book “Will Power : Rediscovering our Greatest Strength” has shown, in gory detail, how our willpower is fundamentally limited, and varies from moment to moment. Our ability to concentrate, perform well on mentally challenging tasks, and to resist temptation are all linked to how “tired” our brains are.
When we’re tired, and our willpower is drained, we increasingly rely on our intuitive processing. Tell me the things you do first as you wake up in the morning ? If checking your phone is the answer. You are not alone. Did this habit exist a decade ago ? It slowly evolved into a habit. One that is routine and done without any conscious load.
Imagine a situation where you are on a date which has worked out really well. Suddenly, from around the corner to your house you and your partner get attacked in a robbery attempt. In the moment of reflex you catch hold of the gun from a robber and shoot at him fatally.
To survive physically or psychologically, we sometimes need to react automatically. This automatic mode of thinking, not under voluntary control.
Think about another instance where you work for Amazon Chief Jeff Bezos who asked you to present a path breaking idea. You will need to write a 8 page executive memo. uhh…
You need to slow down and deliberately fiddle with pencil and paper starting thinking about how to impress him and the audience. You to have put a lot of diligence to write something that makes sense comprehensively.
There are situations where there is no threat to physical self but to our intellectual abilities. In those situations we think very differently and deliberately. Looking at it from an overall perspective we see that Deliberative Thinking is conscious and non habitual. Leverages a lot of the temporary memory to process.Intuitive Thinking on the other hand is unconscious and habitual. leverages a side of the permanent memory reserved to process routine activities effortlessly.
As an innovator you wish your prospect to restore information quickly with a given clue. Further you want to integrate the actions into the prospects daily life as a routine like a tooth paste or a morning coffee or a body perfume. You want them to do it intuitively select your option out of the many options available without much thought.
Einstein said, “The only source of knowledge is experience.”
Aristotle said, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”
Benjamin Franklin said “Tell me and I forget, Teach me and I remember, Involve me and I will learn “
There is experiential learning and a form of learning that is “not so experiential”. We can call that socratic.
Giving people an experience rather than just a lecture, course, or book will help them learn and develop themselves can be very effective.
Experiential learning is designed to help each person gain insight in their own way through introspection and self-directed activities.
Our brains are wired to remember emotions. Experiential learning enables people to feel, improving the brain’s ability to remember. Training without experience leads you to risk missing out on long-term behavior change. Wait..that’s not all.
According to Donna Qualters, Director of the Center for Learning and Teaching (CELT) at Tufts “unless experiences outside the classroom are brought into the classroom and integrated with the goals and objectives, students will continue to have amazing outside experiences but will not readily connect them. Without a careful curriculum involving structured, reflective skill building, students may never learn what we hope they will outside the four walls of the classroom.”
There is a case for information, experiential and integrated learning.
Using a tool or a product is also a form of learning. Even remembering the product and contextually feeling that fitment of the product to solve a particular problem and alleviate a specific pain is also a form of learning for the prospect and customer. If it is an innovative solution it is even more so.
Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons’s studies show the limitation or strength of our attention depending on the situation. If our minds are oriented and focused on a particular task, We might literally ignore a gorilla in front our visual field.
We are very selective about what we attend to. Researchers estimate that roughly half of our daily lives are spent executing habits without consciously thinking about what we’re doing.
Our conscious minds usually only become engaged when we’re in a novel situation, or when we intentionally direct our attention to a task. As per Krug author of Don’t make me think “We scan, we don’t read”.
Don’t expect users to read lots of text on a web page or any product interface for that matter. if you don’t help the reader get the gist in a two-second glance at interface page, you risk losing the reader’s attention. Appealing to the sensation of the user and gaining his attention is an important.
“The only thing that is constant is change.” ― Heraclitus
Change is probably the single most important barrier between a prospect and his drive to progress in life. Understanding how the brain works will transform the way elements of business communication is shaped. It also helps give a common reference point for multiple departments to make people friendly choices as they contribute to the product development effort.
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