Eight tabs open on your browser, but there's one in particular that you can't stop checking. That modest blue and white web page has been whittling itself into the sub-levels of your life since its inception. We are all guilty of the mid-work, pre-bed, post-life-event routine of checking Facebook.
You've downloaded the mobile app, activated push notifications to send you intermittent reminders, and even placed the browser icon in a convenient spot on your bookmarks bar. While Mark Zuckerberg is the glorified hero behind the multi-billion dollar business, there is a deeper psychological reason to Facebook's continued success. There is a reason why dozens of articles have been written about the devastating effects of social media on our day-to-day interactions and our lack of attention at work. Like an addiction, this network-of-everyone-you've-ever-met beats on your brain like a well-versed rock song. We're desperate for a solution yet have become so willingly dependent on this bountiful source of information. According to Drake Baer from BusinessInsider, "There are about 7 billion people on Earth. Over 864 million of them check Facebook every day."
The question is, "Can enterprise software be designed in such a way that employees want to use it so much that they cannot stop using it, like they do with social networks?"
ServiceRocket recently interviewed Nir Eyal, entrepreneur and author specializing in the integration of social psychology and business, to discuss this very question.
In his new book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Eyal sheds light on the inescapable truth behind our addiction: "We want to use Facebook, We aren't forced." But where does the fine line between want and need blur? How has Facebook become so universal that now we are dependent on it? Is it our want to stay connected to current trending news or our need for speedy unabashed social interactions?
Eyal would argue that it all boils down to the fundamentals of intertwining behavioral psychology and smart software development. Between triggers, actions, rewards, and investments, those millions of users are stuck in an eternal positive feedback loop. While Facebook has obviously mastered this four-step process, relaying this concept to enterprise companies and designing smart software can pose a bit of a challenge.
As Eyal suggests, it's easier to train people in behaviors they want to do than behaviors they have to do. So, how do we create a compelling software system that people will initially want to use, then have to use?
Let's take a closer look.
Triggers are going off at every moment of everyday. If you're connected through social media, have a smart phone device, or even pay attention to the thousands of "mental alarms" in your head, you'd agree that triggers are hard to avoid. A good example of a trigger is that little blue and white globe icon located at the corner of your Facebook homepage. It's responsible for notifying you when you've been connected with a friend, when someone tags a photo of you, or when you have an upcoming event, etc. These triggers act as an instant messaging system that alerts your brain to focus focus focus on the task at hand.
Enterprise triggers do the same. By going beyond user wants and needs, organizations are able to anticipate and even provoke actions by sending frequent reminders. Similar to the persistent Facebook notifications, once the user has been exposed to these triggers, there is an immediate unyielding human urge to react. Without realizing it, we are always searching for distractions from our daily routine, and this leads to an impulse being acted upon. Automated email reminders that accompany a learning management system prompt users to perhaps take a quiz or finish a segment of a recent lesson. Even something as simple as manager involvement within the company can act as effective triggers, aiming to interrupt the inevitable process of forgetting by encouraging an action.
Actions can occur a split-second from the imposing trigger. Whether we want to or not, our minds are being programmed to react quickly and effortlessly to certain stimuli. The easier it is to complete an action, the better.
According to Eyal, there are three key components to creating a successful actionable item:
- The layers of behavior (ie. motivation, ease of access, triggers)
- Designing with distraction in mind
- Creating easy to learn/teach actions.
Think about Facebook: post-pending notification, you're a click away from gaining pertinent information about your friends and family. Easy.
Enterprise actions can be just as effortless. Simply logging into a system or retaking a section of a lesson you didn't feel confident about reinforces our behavioral instincts associated with the software. One of the most crucial ways you can apply knowledge learned is to log onto the system and complete a task! It could be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be... and you'll thank yourself later.
Rewards are the nuts and bolts to this process. If you've ever heard of Ivan Pavlov's salivating dog experiments, you may just gasp at the notion of being classically conditioned by a software program. Once we recognize a trigger, we act, and therefore expect an immediate reward. In this case, the reward is knowledge. With the introduction of social media on a massive scale, we yearn to absorb as much information about our peers as humanly possible. It's your best friend's birthday (to your surprise... "I swear it was in October" you mutter under your breath) and Facebook just saved your life with an event update... your favorite artist just posted a brand new track and you're the first to hear it!... or you have some news for your network and want to spread the knowledge. Rewards for our actions are everywhere, and we relish the endless possibilities.
Enterprise rewards can save your business. Since people intuitively want to reap the benefits of their time and effort, once an action is associated with a reward, we are more inclined to be invested in it. And with the rapid progression of the business technology era, learning one new thing can drastically change the way you approach a problem. And thus, by finding a quick and effective solution, you're doing your job better! The overall business process becomes more efficient and in turn, money and precious time are both saved.
While the nuances of a successful software program may vary drastically, by intermingling the triggers, actions, and rewards in a thoughtful and balanced manner, the user will be delighted by his or her overall experience.
As Eyal explains, "when we're told what to do, we rebel." This means we need to try even harder to get people to want to use software at work. Our attention is valuable and in a world where interest can be lost in an instant, creating smart software is the key to getting people hooked.
Call for comments
- What enterprise software products are designed to get you to want to use them?
- Do you have tools at work that you cannot live without? Why?