Understand what drives user behavior.
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It’s New Year’s Eve. There I am on the dance floor – it’s teeming with people and there’s hardly space to breathe. Loud thumping music pierces my eardrums and I have no idea where my friends are.
Then, the guy next to me takes a misstep, spills an entire cup of beer down my shoulder. I gasp as the cold brew winds its way down my back. But he’s too drunk and the music is too loud for him to notice. Is this supposed to be fun? What am I doing here? I hail a ride to get out of there.
At home, after wringing out my shirt and getting ready for bed, I take a minute to pull up my phone and glance at my Instagram stories.
There I see the plate of chocolate cake from the dinner with friends that started the evening.
Nir’s Note: This guest post is by Gibson Biddle, former VP at Netflix and CPO at Chegg. Gibson is speaking at the Habit Summit in San Francisco on April 11th.
In 2005, as I joined Netflix as VP of Product, I asked Reed Hastings, the CEO, what he hoped his legacy would be. His answer: “Consumer science.” He explained, “Leaders like Steve Jobs have a sense of style and what customers seek, but I don’t. We need consumer science to get there.”
There I was, looking at an enormous wall of television screens. Each one flashed the exact same scene — a beautiful flower slowly blooming to reveal each petal, pistil, and stamen in exquisite super high definition detail. It was downright sexy. But now it was time to make my choice.
Would I buy the $400 television within my budget or would I splurge on the $500 deluxe model that somehow helped me understand plant biology in a new, more intimate way?
Though every cone and rod in my eyeballs begged me to buy the better one, my more sensible instinct kicked in. “Your budget is $400, remember?” Sighing, I bought the crappy model and braced for a life of media mediocrity.
What are the ethical responsibilities of companies that are able to manipulate human behavior on a massive scale? It’s a question one hopes technologists and designers ask themselves when building world-changing products — but one that hasn’t been asked often enough.
Operant conditioning, intermittent reinforcement, the search for self-actualization — the techniques used by product managers at the world’s largest companies are equal parts psychology and technology. As Sean Parker, founding president of Facebook, recently acknowledged, the company has long been engaged in the business of “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”
Nir’s Note: This post is co-authored with and illustrated by Lakshmi Mani, a product designer working in San Francisco.
You walk into your first yoga class. You’re a little insecure about your weight and how your yoga clothes cling to your body revealing every flaw. You’re nervous about making a fool of yourself.
Your eyes instantly zoom onto the fit model-esque people chatting in the corner. As you walk past them, your ears pick up the tinkle of laughter. My god, are they laughing at me?
You pick a spot in the back of the classroom where no one can see you. The teacher asks everyone to get into crouching fish pose. Do people know this pose?
You flail around on your mat and fall over with a big thump.
Technology is taking over our lives, especially in the workplace. What can we do to put technology in its place to finally get focused work done? Below are resources, tools, and articles for regaining focus in your digital life. These are tools I use myself but is not meant to be an exhaustive list. Full disclosure – I am an investor in Pana.com, one of the companies mentioned in the presentation. If you have tools and tips you’d like to suggest, please share them in the comments section below… Here’s my presentation on how to find focus at work by Slaying the Messaging Monster.
This blog is about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business. I call it "Behavioral Design".
I write to help companies create behaviors that benefit their customers while educating individuals on how to design healthy behaviors in their own lives. Feel free to read more about me here.
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