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Nir’s Note: This guest post comes from Stephen Wendel, Principal Scientist at HelloWallet and the author of Designing for Behavior Change. Steve’s new book is about how to apply behavioral economics to product development. Follow him on twitter @sawendel.

brainIt can be extraordinarily difficult to stop habits head-on. Brain damage, surgery, even Alzheimer’s disease and dementia sometimes fail to stop them.[1] But why are they so difficult to change? First, it’s because habits are automatic, and not conscious. The conscious part of our minds, the part that would seek to remove habits, is only vaguely aware of their execution;[2] we often don’t notice habits when they occur and we don’t remember doing them afterwards. Across dozens of studies on behavior change interventions, researchers have found that the conscious mind’s sincere, concerted intention to change behavior has little relationship to actual change in behavior.[3]

Nir’s Note: Lyle McKeany is an entrepreneur writing and working on an early-stage startup. In this essay, he shares his experience using lean methodologies with my Hook Model at the Lean Startup Machine conference. This article also appears today on Pando Daily. Follow Lyle on Twitter @lylemckeany.

startupThe conventional view of lean startup ideation methodology is to identify a problem, test your riskiest assumption with a certain success criterion, talk to potential customers before coming up with a solution. Then pivot or persevere until you validate a solution. But it turns out that this conventional view isn’t always the appropriate approach. Here’s how my experience at a Lean Startup Machine(LSM) event in San Francisco earlier this month proves it.

The Lean startup movement is not hurting for attention these days. There are plenty of advocates who write and speak about it almost daily, some of them even make their living doing so. According to Wikipedia,

The launch of my new book, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, has been quite a whirlwind. The book is currently a bestseller in several categories on Amazon and I’m thrilled the reviews have been so positive.

Below are a few updates and special offers for my blog readers:

Workshops

I have two Hooked workshops next week.

San Francisco, CA – Monday, January 13 – This is a full-day course based on the class I teach with Dr. Steph Habif. This will be a small group session and only 5 tickets are left.

Brooklyn, NY – Wednesday, January 15 – This is a 3-hour workshop.

Blog subscribers get 50% off either workshop by using the code “NirAndFarFriends.”

Online Course

I’ve recently published an online course based on the book. Blog subscribers get 50% off the course using the code “NirBlogSub.” The discount is available for people who register for the course by January 17th. The course is available on Udemy here.

Nir’s Note: In this guest post, Ryan Hoover describes the design decisions and strategies used to build a habit-forming product, largely influenced by the learnings on this blog.  Follow @rrhoover or visit his blog to read more about startups and product design.

bugs-bunny

Recently, Nathan Bashaw and I launched Product Hunt, a daily leaderboard of the best new products. As two product enthusiasts, we wanted to create a community to share, discover, and geek out about new and interesting products. But to make it a success, we knew we had to make it a habit, a product people would use every day.

Early feedback suggests it’s been working, as gauged by several tweets and our own site traffic analysis. Qualitative feedback is great, of course, but what people actually do is more important.

  • 60% of daily active users (DAU) are returning visitors

Nir’s Note: In this guest post, Abhay Vardhan, discusses how to measure the strength of user habits with cohort analysis and retention rate. Abhay is a founder of Blippy.com and blogs at abhayv.com. Follow Abhay on Twitter @abhayvardhan.

Imagine an entrepreneur showed you the graph to the right for his new app called, “PinterestForDogs.”

You would think PinterestForDogs is doing quite well, right? Well, it depends.

A common mistake entrepreneurs make is to focus too much on user growth. Instead, it is often more important to ask: “Is the product creating a habit so users keep coming back?” and “How do we measure the strength of such a habit?” These questions are crucial because without establishing user habits, it is impossible to sustain a healthy user base. Eventually, all user acquisition channels saturate.

If you are an email subscriber, you will soon receive access to my new book titled, “Hooked: A Guide to Building Habit-Forming Technology.” I am working hard to have it to you by the end of the year.

In the meantime, I need your help. I am offering a first look to those interested in reading, editing, and providing suggestions for improvement.

In exchange for your time, your name will be listed in the book as a “Contributor” and in addition to receiving a free copy of the e-book, you will earn my sincere thanks.

If you are interested in being a contributor, please click here

NOTE: The Contributor Program will be open until December 12th, at which time I will be finishing the final draft and sending it to print. If you’d like to help, please hurry.

image4-notes (2)A few minutes before his helicopter touched down in a covert military base just outside of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tommy Thompson reached for his secret weapon. He was about to meet with top Afghan officials and he needed to ensure he hit his mark. But Thompson’s mission to the war-torn region in 2004 did not involve delivering guns and bombs. As the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, the diplomat was there to win hearts and minds.

To accomplish his directive, assigned to him by the President of the United States, Thompson relied upon information delivered at exactly the right time and place. Minutes before each meeting with dignitaries, he was handed a top-secret intelligence briefing.

The CIA-prepared binder contained the most vital, and at times trivial, information on who the Secretary was going to meet. A quick glance provided the context for the meeting, notes from previous encounters, and often times contained personal information.

Devil investor

This article originally appeared in the Harvard Business Review

A friend called me heartbroken, crying. She had spent months looking for investors to fund her fledgling startup and now she had a big problem. Someone was ready to give her the money.

Trouble was, the cash came with a catch. The only investor willing to pony-up the money was someone she didn’t like. She also got the feeling he did not like her much either, and yet, he wanted to invest. “If he was involved, I have the feeling I would quit my company down the road,” she told me over the phone.

Time was running out, she needed the funds and with no other investor ready to commit, she feared she’d have to take the money from someone she couldn’t stand. The very thought made her sick in the stomach.

Nir’s Note: This guest post comes from  Brendan Kane who has built technology for MTV, Paramount, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, and the NHL. In this article, Brendan describes how he reprogramed the way he views the world using little more than his iPhone and iPad.

We all have the power to change our lives. I know this because I found ways to reprogram my inner circuitry and change my perspective of the world. A few simple steps inserted into my daily routine dramatically improved my life. Surprisingly, many of my new rituals were made possible using the technology I carry with me every day.

Think Big

“Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do.”

-Steve Jobs

2692469539_bdcea8c064_bRecently, I was asked by a friend why there have been so many guest posts on the blog lately. “What’s Nir been up to?” he asked. “Why aren’t you writing anymore?” The answer is, I am writing.

I’m working on two books at the moment. The first is a brief overview of my Hook Model, targeted at product managers, designers, and start-up folks. This e-book will be emailed to all blog subscribers by the end of the year.

The second book — still in early stages — is also about habit-forming technology, but is written in a narrative-style and targeted at a broader audience.

So while I’m feverishly plugging away at these two projects, I will publish occasional blog post of my own in addition to featuring select guest posts related to business, behavior and the brain. Feel free to suggest your own ideas for a guest post.