Monday, March 26, 2012

Pixar's 5 principles for success

Article over at Jump Associates website gives an insight to some of the concepts that took Pixar to the lead in innovative and blockbusting animated films. The interview with Oren Jacob revealed 5 principles that they live by to maintain success.

1. When it sucks say so.
This is often the hardest decision to make, whether something is excellent in the light of a looming deadline. Very often it feels easier to be satisfied with an adequate product or service rather than push on for excellence due to budget and time constraints. The question is at what cost to the end goal of brand building and ultimate success.

2. Defend your opinion and press play quickly
This is part of the review process, I like the idea of allowing the individual to accept or defend the feedback. I agree with autonomy that it allows. Of course if you have an opinion it is best defended with some examples and proof that your idea is better. This concept works well in a fair and unbiased work environment that allows open discussion without punishment for maybe being wrong.

3. Look upstream for the source of the problem
This is good point to make that not all problems exist at the point you observe, but maybe the result of something somewhere else in the system or process. It is always worth a deeper investigation if the problem solution is not immediately clear. Methods like the "5 Whys" that I have discussed before can help in this. Also open communications among team members can help keep these problem tansparent.

4. Match the medium to the message
This is always critical to the right step in the process of innovation. As Bill Buxton and others have explained the power of sketching early on and prototyping loosely can open up the right conversations, versus seeing "polished" artwork that instead of encouraging debate pushes people to aim their thoughts to criticism and negative feedback only. Seeing the work as the end result. These sketches and prototypes themselves also need thew right medium to encourage the right questions.

5. Hire for excellence.
Hiring the right people and putting them in the right roles is exactly what Jim Collins talks about in his book "Good to Great". Get the right people on the bus and all other things will begin to fall into place. Equally important is to get the wrong people off the bus. The right people are self motivated and need less guidance and motivation to perform excellently.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

SCAMPER your way to creativity

Alex Osborne an advertising executive in the 1940's came up with a technique for helping kick start the creative process. It is a simple approach and has proven effective in those quiet moments during a brainstorm when people begin to dry up with ideas. It isn't only useful in brainstorming it can have many applications in innovating new ideas and improving on existing ideas as well.

The technique has been summarized in the acronym SCAMPER.

S = Substitute
Can something be substituted for something else. Is there the possibility of replacing the rules, or the system.
C = Combine
Better know as synthesis how can related or unrelated items be brought together and mixed to create a new whole or part.
A = Adapt
Adaptation may mean looking out into the World an seeing if there is anything else that exists that already does something similar that can be tweaked or adapted to work for our situation needs. Maybe it can build on the work of something or someone else outside your current domain.
M = Magnify or Modify
simply, what can be made larger or extended. Is there a way to increase frequency. I would also consider the reverse can something be made smaller and reduced. Think scales and proportions. Like Charles and Ray Eames factors of 10. Can something be modified and given a new twist, what can be changed.
P = Put to other uses
Is there the possibility of putting something to a new use. How might you use it in another context. Is there another material that can alter its use.
E = Eliminate
Trim away excess, minimise. What if it were smaller. What if it was divided into many parts. What rules can be eliminated.
R = Rearrange or Reverse
What other arrangements might be better. Different patterns. Swap components. Reverse the context. What is the opposite. What are the negatives. Turn it around, upside down. How might it be unexpected.

The concept is based on the idea that everything is an addition or modification of an existing thing. Under these premise applying these thinking ideas should get things rolling again.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Disagree to Innovate

In a recent article from one of the designers at continuum, the idea of innovation occurring when disagreement happens is laid out. Daniel Sobol, puts forward 5 things you need to keep arguments in line with the creative process. One that particularly stood out to me was the paragraph about saying "No".

He suggests that where traditional brainstorming is mostly about building on the ideas of others and using the improv technique of saying "yes, and..." leads to a nice group dynamic, the power of saying "No, because..." can lead into a dialogue of critical thinking. This is an interesting idea and something I am keen to see how well it works. I think the value of this technique maybe after an actual brainstorm session has occurred and you are more in the mode of evaluating the ideas you have come up with and maybe looking for the best to build upon. My biggest concern would be controlling the group dynamic of criticism and keeping people from feeling to personal about the responses. I would also think that it could easily lead the generation of ideas to a halt as you analyze each idea in your mind. Still it is an interesting idea and I think with the right people and teams it can be an effective tool in brainstorming.

He outlines the other techniques to help in this augmentative approach as,

No Hierarchy. No one rules the ideas, and everyone is welcome to add to the idea pot.
Say "No, because..." Find another perspective that proves the original idea wrong. Say Why.
Diverse perspectives. T shaped people, and diverse backgrounds brings fresh perspectives.
Focus on common goal. Make sure everyone remembers the purpose and point of the exercise.
Keep it fun. Fun and happiness help people think and create outside the box.

Maybe when combined with all these other aspects he outlines the concerns I have disappear from the group. Still an interesting article and something I would love to try sometime.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Clicking With Others

So we have all had those moments in which we are talking with someone we have never met before or have know for only a brief time and you feel a sense that the two of you have much in common and you enjoy the conversation. We can think of this as clicking with the other person, they just seem aligned with our thoughts and beliefs and talking with them is enjoyable. You leave the conversation with them hoping to have some time again when you can again engage in a stimulating talk with them. So what are the things that make people click with us. Can they be analyzed and distilled down to certain traits?

Well Ori and Rom Brafman have written a book all about what makes people click, it gives insight to some of the criteria that are necessary to make these connections, in a meaningful way. What facinates me is the similarities to some of the ideas of Paul Adams when he describes people and their social circles that he has observed in his work on social networks for Google and Facebook.

Let's look at some of these requirements as outlined in the Brafman's book. They refer to these as click accelerators, because they talk mostly about rapid connections. I think these also apply to long term relationships as well. They outline these click accelerators as:

Showing our weakness's or how human we are can open others up to trust. Being honest and telling the truth offers others a chance to help us and share a problem or thought. Vulnerability can be considered as being shown in two stages the transactional and the connective. The first stage is made up of three steps:

Phatic, is not revealing.
Factual is only giving information about ourselves as data.
Evaluative reveals our views of people and situations, without emotion. This has limited risk of revealing information about ourselves.

The second stage the connective interactions are based more on our feelings and emotional point of view, these are far more revealing and authentic conversations. It consists of two more steps:

Gut Level, these are statements that are more emotional cues to how we feel about something or someone.
peak statements, these are the most emotional and inner thoughts and feelings we have towards others. They have the most risk of make us vulnerable to wrongful attack but are also the most valuable way to express ourselves authentically to others.

Moving through these steps of vulnerability takes our relationship and ability to click with another through different stages and levels of attachment. The more vulnerable you make yourself the more risk you take to get hurt, but also the deeper the relationship you will have with another.

Being close to someone physically makes a huge difference in our ability to connect with them. Whether working in an office or just meeting in at a football game. People respond better when they can be in close proximity to others. Having spontaneous communication helps forge relationships. Most of the work I have already looked into talks about the creative process improving when people interact more and are closer together in a building. Paul Adams also mentions that when people communicate they seem to prefer regular small lightweight interactions. These are going to occur more often if people are near each other. These interactions need not even result in a conversation, they might be what is referred to as passive contacts such as a nod of the head or can be thought of as liking something or someone in Facebook. It merely shows recognition of that person, but it all registers as another interaction, that adds up.

mihaly csikszentmihalyi, talks about this as being in a state of flow. Things just seem to be working, we are engaged at a deep level, with enough challenges and effort to keep us stimulated and enough progress to make us feel achievement and self satisfaction. This helps us make a connection with others when we can give them our undivided attention and listen intently at what they are saying. This level of engagement will be obvious to those involved both sides talking and responding with authentic conversation. There is a sense of agreement and acceptance of the others point of view and ideas. Much of this is about empathy.

Birds of a feather flock together, and we are no different. We tend to gravitate to those that have similar beliefs or interests as us. This makes sense when you consider how we want to support our own inner narrative, of who we are. Again Paul Adams talks about his observation of our social circles, and how we may have 4-5 distinct groups but how each group shares common attributes with us and with each other. It would make sense that to get a good connection we would look for similarities with those we converse with. We of course want to avoid conflict and are not always looking for arguments, and especially try to avoid those that cannot accept us for what we are or think. Interestingly, when in a business environment, we tend to align ourselves with others in our group, to appear similar, and avoid conflict. So when we can control our choices we prefer to find those that already believe what we do.

Safe place
The power of our environment has a profound effect on us. This is especially heightened when there is a shared goal or reason that puts us together. Adversity can bring people closer, and having a problem that is solved as a group or team makes that team string as a unit. But this doesn't need to be a negative event. Even sitting in the home of a person from another country than your own can have an immediate effect on forging new relationships, there is a sense of being removed from the normal status quo of your natural environment, and so you look for anything that can connect you to others in the group. This is all part of the wanting to be part of something larger than ourselves and looking for our our identities.

These are just some of the great ways that people can move from ordinary relationships such as they have with work colleagues to deeper relationships built on friendship and trust. These moments of clicking with another can be enhanced by some of these observations and being aware of them can help you achieve wonderful friendships that can last a lifetime.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Keep Talking The Power of Social Networks

Paul Adams who works on the product team within Facebook, has many great and wonderful thoughts on how and why people share content online. Certainly the experience and knowledge he has from working at Google and now Facebook places him at a wonderful vantage point to see how people use the social networks he has helped to build. He recently gave a talk and outlined many useful ideas and insights that can be utilized in designing for social media and networks.

Most importantly he emphasizes that people don't really share or like things what they are really trying to do is talk. Talking is the foundation on which most social media is really based on and the objects they share and comments they make are merely tools to help start those conversations with others.

So why do people talk? 

We talk to make their lives easier. They have am issue and want feedback, they have a thought and want to gather others opinions on the ideas they have.

We talk to build relationships. we have always since early days of tribal living wanted and needed to be part of social groups.

We talk because we like to help others. People usually like to help other people, especially if they have an experience or knowledge that maybe someone else doesn't.

We talk to craft our identities. The things we talk about and the people we talk with help us establish our self identity, and help us gain a great appreciation of who we are what we believe.

Paul mentions that people don't like and comment on social sites because they have a deep liking for the link or statement someone has made, but because they actually like the people behind the information. People look for commonality among others in their groups, jokes and humorous uploads can help see a match with like minded individuals. Most conversations we have are part of our reputation management, conversations help us define who we are.

Talking requires good listening and response. Today's conversations online are mostly what Paul calls Lightweight interactions and especially companies should be having many lightweight interactions with their customers. Talking and conversations are much more natural and long lasting into the future if they last for shorter periods of time but more frequently. The days of having deep and meaningful conversations are becoming rarer in our always connected world.

So who do we talk to? We mostly talk to people just like ourselves. People we have strong ties with. Most people Paul suggests have 4 small independent groups, in which 80% of the conversations are with the same 4-5 people. We are most influenced by the people we are closest to. People in each group are very similar to the person at the center of the social circle. Things that are interesting to friend in one group, will most likely be interesting to another group in your social sphere

So what do people talk about?

Personal experiences. 70% of talk is about this. This is one reason to build experiences around brands, it gives people more to add to their daily conversations.

People talk about other people. Not always in a bad way, but as part of what makes our lives, interacting with others. These form social norms, and gossip can help teach us how to behave with each other.

We talk about what's around us. Stuff in our Worlds, and in our current environment.

We prefer to talk about feelings not facts. We like to tell emotional stories.

So if you plan to build a social network or site that always social grouping and talking Paul suggests the following considerations as among the most important.

Why: Help people build relationships
How: Create lightweight interactions over time.
Who: Optimize for strong ties
What: Feelings not facts.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Brand experiences not products

I think we all believe that life's experiences are more important to us than the material possessions that we own. Well Susan Weinschenk recently wrote about the research that Carter and Gilovich did to prove out this idea and they uncovered some valuable ideas.

Their research looked to uncover why we value experiences over possessions. They proved that people use experiences to define their sense of self. People prefer to talk about themselves in terms of experiences rather than what they own. This can be thought of as part of our life story we carry around with us. People it seems prefer to talk about purchasing items through the experiences they have with it, rather than the material ownership of the product.

Knowing people by what they have experienced and how they use a product is more likely to give us a greater insight to the person than what they bought. Our memories associated with an object make that object more valuable and satisfying when the association is positive.

So with this in mind Susan put forward these considerations for products and experiences.

  • If you are marketing a product, put emphasis on what experiences you will have with it rather than what it will look like/feel like/ be like to own it.
  • If you are collecting purchasing info about target clients (as has been in the news lately with questions about privacy) you’d be better off to know what people’s purchases imply about the experiences they are having rather than just inferring from the data what they own.
  • The user experience of a product is more important than we think. It’s not just the idea that the product should be easy to use/ interesting. The EXPERIENCE part of user experience is not just a fancy word to use. People remember and evaluate, and even cherish experiences, even with technology.
  • Customers may resonate more with a brand if they can get a sense of what the organization has DONE, not just what products or services they sell.

Can Ford be Great?

Seems like the CEO of Ford has been reading "Good to Great" by Jim Collins. After reading this article at Fast Companies website I am reminded of some of the steps that Jim puts forward in his book to grow a company from good to great.

Getting the right people on the bus and taking the wrong people off the bus is important before driving anywhere. The right people are self motivated and dedicated to the cause of the company.

Confronting the brutal facts is critical in making progress and improving the wrong aspects of what you do.

Aligning everyone to the companies goals is crucial and making that message clear and easy to understand is equally important.

Knowing what people actually want is the hardest and most important part of any strategy, and makes things easier to sell if there is already a demand.

Having discipline and a clear objective but sticking to your core competences is critical in order to accelerate your growth.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Why do you Blog?

Small article discussing the reasons people blog. I know that personally I started blogging to fill in the gap I felt I had with having knowledge and wanting to find others that were interested. Some people make money from blogging and have other motivations, but I believe most do it as an outlet for creativity and self expression.

Seth Godin somes it up nicely.

"I blog because I don't really have a choice. The ideas in me insist on being shared, and this is the least painful way I can find to do it!"

Other reasons the article puts forward include.

  • To maintain a routine- motivation and accountability
  • To hone the craft of writing
  • To air new and provocative ideas
  • To spread cutting-edge information or timely opinion
  • To connect with a like-minded community
  • To forward the tradition of storytelling
  • To build resume or clout
  • To express creativity
  • To find catharsis after a traumatic event
  • To attract web traffic
  • To rant or vent
  • To see our names in print - ego

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ringing the Innovation Bell

This article from the NY Times website has an interesting story about the small group of scientists that produced some of Bell labs amazing innovations. Most intriguing to me was the insight to the culture that Mervin Kelly put in place at the lab to make things the most creative they could be amongst the scientists and engineers.

He setup an environment for creativity that allowed the exchange of ideas to flow between people. His focus was on making space one that allowed people to interact with one another easily. This is something that has been written about by Steven Johnson in his book about where creative ideas come from, the ability of people to cross pollinate ideas is a great way to inject others point of views. Like coffee houses in the old world, these types of environments foster conversations and debate that can lead to thinking in new ways about old problems. Being in close physical proximity to others even from other disciplines is a great way to have those chance encounters that can lead to interesting shared knowledge and problem solving.

Kelly also placed the labs inside the manufacturing plant, so that ideas could be transferred into things. This to me, describes the rapid prototyping ability that he wanted to foster. Prototyping gets people talking and conversing around a physical thing and can be a great catalyst as it keeps people focused on the task at hand.

He also believed in freedom for researchers to investigate the things that they most felt compelled and inspired to research. This is inline with the work Daniel Pink has written about, that autonomy is one of the driving factors of motivation for thinkers versus manual workers. It also allowed people to work at their pace and follow their own leads and direction. This I am sure was critical in helping Bell constantly create innovative new ideas and solutions to problems and new products. This kind of thinking is also what I think made Mervin Kelly a good leader of his group, he brought onboard the right people, self motivated and trusted them to work hard and produce great work, without constant monitoring.

Bell labs invented the laser, the transistor and the solar cell. I have no doubt that the insights of Mervin Kelly to the creative process and innovative environment he helped create were instrumental in the amazing work he and his team produced in their time.

Lewin's Equation for Behavior and The Social Web

Kurt Lewin, a german behavioral psychologist proposed a new notion for human behavior back in 1933, that challenged the popularly held belief at the time that we act according to our personality. It was believed that our intrinsic motivations dictate our behavior. Lewin proposed instead that our behavior was a result of both our personality and our environment together. He express this idea in an equation


This concept unlike the previously held notion does not require you to take sides in a nature versus nurture debate. It instead allows for the person and their environment to have influence on their behavior in complex and profound ways.

The environment is everything that isn't us, it can be the physical environment, which has an effect on what we do. It can also be other people, and what can be called our social environment. We are strongly influenced by other people and the social groups we join.

Our personality is of course a whole area of study and many theories and methods have been proposed to address how we can judge our personality type.

Most interesting for me as a user experience architect is how this concept applies to social software and social interfaces. In software design the interface can be thought of as an environment. Joshua Porter, suggests that the software interface is an environment that we play and work with on the web. He suggests that our behavior is greatly determined by the interfaces we use for these interactions. Social software he states should support the users personality, as well as, social environments and groups they are part of.

Joshua Porter outlines 10 key aspects of social behavior that need to be considered when building a social application or experience.

1. Humans are complex social animals, we interact for all reasons as outlined by Maslow's Hierarchy
2. Humans organize themselves into groups
3. Groups can be small and large, and for any purpose
4. Groups can be made of family, friends or anyone with something in common
5. Humans act as both group members and individuals at the same time
6. People behave differently in groups than as individuals
7. Humans play different roles in different parts of their lives
8. When humans are uncertain they rely on social connections to help them
9. People usually compare themselves to those in their social group
10. The people we know affect how we act
11. Sometimes being self-interested means to support the group, and sometimes it means to focus on oneself.
12. Humans are not always rational, but are usually self-interested
13. Unpredictable behavior emerges in groups over time
14. People derive value form social interaction, that cannot be described in monetary terms.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Get a Hedgehog to Make Your Business Great

There are many good companies in the World today, they produce adequate goods and consumables and they will continue to make products people buy and make money selling ordinary stuff. They are not very adventurous and don't take any unnecessary risks they also tend to not see the future so well and prefer to let things drift along producing average stuff like they always have. The problem with good companies are they are easy to tip over into struggling companies that suddenly look lost and scrabbling for something new or profitable that can make them once again good. The battle becomes harder and in too many cases these good companies either slow down and lose profits or disappear altogether. So what does it take to make a adequate company into a great company that rises from the average heap, well Jim Collins in his latest book "Good to Great" seems to believe he has an insight that will help companies grow into great companies that stand the test of time and become dominant leaders in their domain space.

After lots of research and evaluation of some of the best companies in the World that were selected on some strict criteria about sustained profits with his team he boils the great companies down to the all having the following traits.

1. Level 5 Leadership
This is a first requirement, having a leader that isn't thinking only about himself. Values his teams, and recognizes performance. Has a clear vision and willing to admit mistakes and inadequate knowledge. This is rare individual and is contrasted against a Level 4 leader who mostly wants the spot light and won't admit their short comings.

2. First who, then what.
Get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off. Only then can you drive the bus on the right road to success and direction that will succeed. The right people are self motivated and believe in the direction, they don't need so much pushing and hand holding. They also are experts in their domains and open to ideas.

3.Confront the brutal facts.
Part of being a level 5 leader is the ability to hand a paradox that Jim refers to as the "Stockdale Paradox", where you at the same time, have absolute faith in what you are doing, regardless of difficulties, but are also able to confront those hard facts about your current reality.

4. Hedgehog concept
The only way to get where you are going is to stick to what you can be best at. There is a reference to 3 circles overlapped, that reminds me of the power of branding. Do what you are passionate about, Do what drives your economic engine, and Do what you can be the best in the World at. This is focus, of the hedgehog concept that has to be understood at all levels of the company, and guide all decisions.

5. Culture of discipline
This is the focus of the company on the hedgehog concept, learning to say "No" to the wrong ideas. Not being swayed by tangential ideas and possibilities. This comes back to having the right people on the bus in the first place. Stop doing lists are as important as to do lists.

6. Technology Accelerators
New Technology is very attractive and shiny, but the goal should be to adopt technology not as a passionate interest but as something that supports the Hedgehog concept and drive the innovations and performance towards that goal. Don't adopt technology for technologies sake, make it work for you and the company goal. Start with the hedgehog concept then add technology not the other way round.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Apples Brand Thinks Differently

Tim Cook today announced the new iPad3 and a host of amazing improvements on an already successful game changing innovative device. The announcements today once again push the iPad out in front of it's competitors. Of course, this is all part of the course of any company in the technology and digital space to keep inventing and improving existing technology and setting itself apart from the others. Apple does this so well. Apple has a certain magical aura around it's image in the consumers eye. This I feel is reflected in what he said at the end of his presentation today.

“It’s the privilege of a lifetime for me to work with the most innovative people on Earth. Only Apple can deliver this kind of innovation in such a beautiful, integrated, and easy to use way. It’s what we love to do, it’s what we stand for.”

In this single statement he reveals how the very core of the Apple brand is about beauty, simplicity, ease of use. He also shows something about how they as a company view themselves in the World. Like the consumers the Apple products employees have a very clear message in their minds, how can they make something better and more desirable that falls inline with the brand values. This is what the company stands for, it is what raises it's thinking and products up to a higher standard than I believe most companies are willing to invest in, for fear of uncertainty and returns. Apple has always taken gambles and sold beautiful products that it believes people want. They appear to be right this time.

I was even looking at the logo evolution recently and liked the update that was shown today for this talk. It is a nice modern interpretation of the fantastic rainbow logo Rob Janoff did for Apple back in 1975.

It shows that Apple knows what it stands for, and tries constantly to add to it's brand image and the story it wants to tell, of itself to the public. Apple has made it's fair share of mistakes and bad assumptions about products but they have been very consistent with their brand and that is something that I think makes the company a very compelling idea to get behind. They try and improve the way people interact with technology. This is what Jim Collins in his book "Good to Great" would refer to a "Hedgehog Concept", and idea that drives every decision and path you follow as a company. What can we best the best in the World at, it seems Apple is the best at innovating and selling those ideas to people. Who doesn't want to consider themselves as someone whom thinks differently and creatively at the World. Buying into Apple is adding to your personal interpretation of yourself as that type of person. 

I don't regard myself as one of the brand faithful followers of Apple but I can't help but like their products and their brand. You won't find me queuing at 3am for a new iPad3 at the Apple store, but I am certainly going to be drooling from the window.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Applying Positive Emotions to Technology

Relax at Camp Cozy
A wonderful story of how the people at GE realized that their technology was being used by people in hospital often in difficult circumstances and with a lot of intimidation and fear about the unknown. This is especially true of the children in the children's hospital at Pittsburgh under going repeated treatment. The question was why does something that can help you have to be so clinical and scary?

The insight was to make the treatment more like an adventure for the kids. This was a wonderful approach to taking something that is highly scientific and necessary, down to a level that works for the people that have to use it. The results are stunning and a great example of how design can reach beyond the function of technology to create something very emotional and touching for those involved.

"The focus of the Adventure Series is to provide successful distraction therapy that will appeal to all five senses. Three-dimensional decorative elements were created for an enhanced viewing effect, and lights, sounds, and aromatherapy were added to create a one-of-a kind experience for each and every patient. "

Doug Dietz, Principal Designer, GE Global Design and one of the originators of the Adventure Series says.

“We did simple things that get overlooked,” he says. “I mean, some of the most effective insights we got came from kneeling down and looking at rooms from the height of a child.”

“Our first design session was actually in a daycare,” says Dietz. “We knew we had to come at this from a different perspective.”

Kathleen Kapsin, director of the Pediatric Radiology Department at Children’s Hospital, agrees.
“All of our equipment is very high-tech,” she says. “We can get you great images, but we can’t get them if the child isn’t laying still and feeling well enough to go through the scan.”
“We now have an elaborate way of almost pulling off a theme park,” she says, referring to the outfitted rooms.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Viral Videos and the Future of Entertainment

Kevin Allocca, the trends manager at YouTube puts forward three ideas of why he believes videos can go viral in his fun talk at the TED conference. He mentions that there are 48 hours of video uploaded per minute to and of that content only a tiny percentage actually goes viral, receiving over 1 million views.

He outlines the three consistent reasons to be.

Taste Makers
These are the people that Malcolm Gladwell refers to in his chapter on the law of the few. These people have many friends or followers and they are a trusted source of information or knowledge, whether that is technical or just social awareness. These people like celebrities make a comment or posting to the internet and many others pick up on it and begin the spread of the update. This of course today is made all the more easy with sites like Facebook, Wordpress and Twitter.

Community involvement whether through spreading the new conversation or actively editing and adapting it to make our own interpretation, is part of what being in a community of people is all about. Inspiring others to interpret an idea is really what participation is all about. Today's online communities now like to not only consume content but actively participate in the trend and social conversations.

This is part of what makes an idea Sticky. Again referencing Malcolm Gladwell's idea of ideas being sticky, and the book that Dan and Chip Heath dedicated to the subject this is where idea lives in your mind not as a passing thought but as a story with a twist. It has more touch points in your memory and it is more stimulating than something without the unexpected happening.

Today's media allows anyone to have access and the audience is no longer passive consumers of content but contributors with a drive to participate. Kevin concludes with the prediction that these new ways of following and adding to pop culture will start to define the future of entertainment.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Playing Tapes in your Mind

How often have you found yourself wandering around a store with various shiny items under glass that have their price tags on display, and no matter how hard you try you cannot get over the beauty of the more expensive ones on display. They are all so different but definitely the turquoise necklace is the best one there, but what a shame is so expensive. Well it must surely be the most carefully made and highest quality item on display or why else would it be so expensive. I think it must be priced high for that reason, I think it makes sense to buy it. Well it seems this may not necessarily be the case. Let's stop the tape and rewind. 

Robert Cialdini, in his fantastic book on the psychology of persuasion talks of a story in which just such a misconception occurred, and how a piece of jewelry that hadn't sold for weeks suddenly became more appealing and sold by being mislabeled with a higher price. So what might have occurred to make the item more desirable? Well he goes on the explain that we appear to have prerecorded fixed action patterns in our minds that are triggered when the right trigger features occur. In this case the turquoise and high price tag made us assume a natural correlation. These thought streams can be thought of as tapes that play in our subconscious that raise our emotions on the right cues and that influence our decision making. These trigger features don't have to be a complex and don't have to be large and prominent, it can be a small specific aspect that triggers the tape to play. The people that bought the more expensive jewelry played the expensive=good tape and probably believed in the idea that you get what you pay for. This doesn't of course work the same for everyone but it does show itself in many situations. We play these prerecorded tapes of assumptions once they are triggered. Much of this occurs because people have had similar experiences in the past and base new estimations on these past assumptions.

These fixed action patterns, are not just about consumption, they can show themselves in many situations. Nature has given us these abilities not as a curse but as a gift that allow us to quickly evaluate a situation or new stimulus as threatening or safe for example. It allows us to see someone as an enemy or friend. It also allows us to think about and empathize with another by playing what we imagine someone else may be feeling or needing. Robert goes on the talk about how the trigger word "because" can change our willingness to allow someone in front of us in a queue. Without this word and an excuse following it, even if the excuse is nonsensical, we are less likely to allow someone to queue jump. The "because" statement is needed to activate the feeling of empathy in us that this person must have good reason to ask to jump ahead. We generally want to be social and friendly and would if our needs are less, be willing to allow someone whom seems agitated to go ahead of us.

So why do we have these strange tapes playing on our minds, well it makes most sense when you think about the amount of information we have to digest everyday, quite simply we don't have enough time to analyze each and every piece information we receive, so we shortcut the process where we can and most times it saves us a lot of work and time so we can make assumptions and move on. This is just a modetrn interpretation of our evolved sense of quick evaluation of situations and people. Of course, as these examples show this process can be misleading and used against us by those that want to adjust our interpreter. This is what ultimately leads us to stereotypes and generally they are harmless ways the brain labels and categorizes the World around it, but of course as history has shown these can be misguided and lead us to wrongful conclusions.

This is just one of the many ways our mind works and does an amazing job of helping us process our complex Worlds. Just be aware that not always are the assumptions you make the correct ones, you may have put the tape in and started playing the fixed response, but sometimes you have to stop the tape and think a little more carefully and then you can see the truth a little better.