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This week I chat with Ryan Holiday, an author, hacker, and self-described “media manipulator.” Ryan’s new book “The Obstacle is the Way” takes an interesting look at how challenges shape and improve our lives.

We discuss the personal habits Ryan integrated into his working life to reveal how he accomplished so much in so little time. Enjoy!

product psychology

I do quite a bit of research, writing, and consulting on product psychology — the deeper reasons underlying why users do what they do. I also frequently teach and speak on the topic. Invariably, after each talk, someone approaches me and asks, “That was very interesting. Now where do I learn more?”

I’m never sure what to say, since there’s so much great information available. What this person really wants to know (and I’m assuming you do, too) is where all the really good stuff is. They want to know the highlights, the takeaways, and the methods and techniques that can help them be better at their careers, build better products, and ultimately improve people’s lives.

That’s why I’m proud to announce a new online course called Product Psychology. This free course taps into the collective wisdom of some of the brightest minds in the field to help you better understand user behavior. They’ve taken the time to dig up their favorite articles, videos, and resources to get you up to speed quickly. Best of all, lessons are sent free via email.

Nir’s Note: This guest post is by James Clear. James writes at JamesClear.com, where he share ideas for mastering personal habits. Join his free newsletter here.

In 1936, a man named Kurt Lewin wrote a simple equation that changed the way we think about habits and human behavior.

The equation makes the following statement: Behavior is a function of the Person in their Environment. [1]

Known today as Lewin’s Equation, this tiny expression contains most of what you need to know about building good habits, breaking bad ones, and making progress in your life.

Let’s talk about what we can learn from it and how to apply these ideas to master the habits that shape your health, happiness, and wealth.

What Drives Our Behavior?

Before Lewin’s Equation became famous, most experts believed that a person’s habits and actions were a result of the type of person they were, not the environment they were in at the time.

Nir’s Note: This post was co-authored with Stuart Luman, a science, technology, and business writer who has worked at Wired Magazine, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and IBM.

MAKING WORK INTO A GAME HAS ITS CRITICS. IS THIS A PRACTICE WORTH KEEPING?

11550024626_8a0284ef2a_bIn the never-ending effort to motivate employees, companies are taking cues from video games–adding scoring, virtual badges, and other game-like elements to everyday work processes to make jobs more fun.

Some proponents insist that one day every job will somehow be gamified, while detractors fear it’s just another management fad or worse, a sinister new form of corporate control.

To weed through some of the hype, here are four pros and cons to gamifying the enterprise.

The Good

1. GAMIFICATION INCREASES EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT

The most often cited reason companies try gamification is to improve employee motivation. Apparently, there are a lot of workers who need the extra boost. According to a 2013 Gallup poll, 70% of U.S. workers reported themselves as not being engaged in their jobs.

Nir’s Note: Justin Mares is the co-author of the new book Traction, a startup guide to getting customers. Justin’s framework provides a simple way for new marketers to discover their most effective triggers. Get 3 chapters of Justin’s book free at tractionbook.com.

6384294717_5047a35d48_bIn his book, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Nir Eyal introduces the concept of triggers as they relate to building user habits. As a quick refresher, triggers are anything that cues action. For example, when you see a “Sign-up Now” button on a blog asking for your email, the trigger is effective when it prompts you to submit your email address.

As we learn in Hooked, people will only take an action when they’ve been triggered by some cue. But how do you decide what triggers to use? Furthermore, once you have ideas for your triggers, how do you make them as effective as possible? What insights can we glean from user psychology to help us get more users to start using our product in the first place?

Nir’s Note: This guest post comes from Marc Abraham, a London-based product manager. In this article, Marc reviews the recently published book Designing for Behavior Change by Stephan Wendel. Follow Marc on Twitter.

Designing for Behavior ChangeBehavioral economics, psychology and persuasive technology have proven to be very popular topics over the past decade. These subjects all have one aspect in common; they help us understand how people make decisions in their daily lives, and how those decisions are shaped by people’s prior experiences and their environment. A question then arises around what it means to change people’s behaviors and how one can design to achieve such change.

Stephen Wendel, a Principal Scientist at HelloWallet, has written Designing for Behavior Change, which studies how one can apply psychology and behavioral economics to product design. In this book, Wendel introduces four stages of designing for behavior change: Understand, Discover, Design and Refine (see Fig. 1 below):

Recently, I started looking into the explosively popular new game Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. The game has ranked at or near the top of Apple’s U.S. App Store charts for the most downloaded free game. Industry watchers say the app could gross $200 million annually and net Kardashian a sizable chunk of the game’s profits.

My line of work is researching what makes some products so compelling and in the case of the Kardashian game, I wanted to know what was behind the app’s phenomenal growth.

I soon discovered that one potential driver of all of its installs is a rather sneaky tactic that exploits user error and can unwittingly post messages to players’ Twitter accounts.

It’s called the “viral oops.”

Unlike viral loops, which are actions users take in the normal course of using a product to invite new members, viral oops rely on the user ‘effing-up.

Nir’s Note: This guest post is by Dr. Marc Lewis, who studies the psychology and neuroscience of addiction. After years of active research, Marc now talks, writes, and blogs about the science and experience of addiction and how people outgrow it. Visit his website here. 

Xbox 360 ControllerYou’ve just obliterated the last seven or eight zombies. It was a narrow escape and you’re flushed with satisfaction. But you didn’t see that horrendous creep, weaping sores and oozing  pus, because he was hidden behind the dustbin in the shadow of a bombed out building. You get slimed, you’re dead. Or worse than dead. So you touch the “play again” bar at the bottom of the screen. Now you start further ahead than last time. You know you’re going to meet the slime-master again. Soon. Be prepared.

Or you’ve crossed the desert and scaled the abandoned fortress, nearly to the top, moving along pathways that require hair-trigger adjustments with your joy-stick. But the wind is getting stronger by the second. It keeps pushing you back along the path, dangerously close to the edge. You make a daring dash between gusts. But you miscalculated, and the force of the wind blows you right off the edge. Down you plummet, to a plateau you crossed minutes ago. Now you have to make that climb again. But do it better. Get it right.

Nir’s Note: This guest post is written by Max Ogles. Max writes at MaxOgles.com about behavior change, psychology, and technology. Sign up for a free copy of his upcoming e-book, “9 Ways to Motivate Yourself Using Psychology and Technology.”

6273266577_c37d3fec72_zA commonly quoted and incredibly scary stat reveals that 9 out of 10 people who undergo heart bypass surgeries as a result of poor health are unable to change their habits, even with their lives on the line.

We’ve all failed at something, though luckily most of us don’t face death as a consequence. Here’s a short list of some of the habits I started, only to eventually fail:

  • For two months, I went running 3 to 4 times each week. (I even ran a half marathon!) Then I quit running and didn’t run again for over a year.

Nir’s Note: This guest post comes from Marc Abraham, a London-based product manager at Beamly. In this article, Marc reviews the recently published book “Designing Multi-Device Experiences” by Michal Levin. Follow Marc on Twitter or check out his blog.

book coverWe live in a world where the number of connected devices is growing on a daily basis at an immense rate, with people constantly switching between these devices (PCs, smartphones, tablets, TVs and more). The question arises how we can design optimally for a device to be used together with other devices.

Michal Levin, a Senior User Experience Designer at Google, has created a framework which aims to capture the interconnections between different devices. Levin calls this framework an “ecosystem of multi-connected devices.’ The underlying goal behind this framework is to enable designers and product creators to “understand the different relationships between connected devices, as well as how individuals relate to them.” As a result, companies can create natural and fluid multi-device experiences for their users. Levin has written about the fundamentals of this ecosystem in her book Designing Multi-Device Experiences.