It’s all BS. (Behavioral Science that is)

Hello again my friend,

Do you ever have times when the simplest tasks seem difficult? 

Today’s letter has been that way for me. It’s almost 10 in the morning and I’ve struggled to get motivated enough to sit down and write.

How do we change behavior?

Over the last week we’ve been talking about behavior change. How do we modify behavior to produce better outcomes for ourselves and others? 

It’s a complex question and when you consider things like environment, past experience, along with the fleeting whims and desires of large groups of people things get even more complex.

For example, this morning I was on a consulting call with a team of app developers who are building an exciting new financial app. 

The team has focused heavily on the unique technology they’ve developed and all the different ways it can be used help people make better decisions. 

It’s an amazing concept that has a lot of potential but they were overlooking a very critical piece of the puzzle that could make or break the success of their app. 

They were concerned with whether or not people would want to use the technology but the quality and usefulness of the tech is just a small reason why people will use it.

The iPad vs. the Tablet PC

For instance, Apple came out with its iPad in April 2010. It was a massive success, a game changer for portable computing.

What most people don’t know is that 10 years earlier Microsoft released a similar product called the Tablet PC. 
Here’s how Microsoft described the tablet in its press release,

“The size of a legal notepad and half the weight of most of today’s laptop PCs, the Tablet PC is a full-powered, full-featured PC that runs Windows XP and combines the power of desktop computing with the flexibility and portability of a pen and paper notepad.”

As you know, it flopped.

Microsoft saw the Tablet PC as the next evolution of mobile computers. But with the exception of a few niche industries like home apprisers and insurance adjusters there wasn’t any demand for an expensive tablet with a stylist. 

The technology was great. But Microsoft didn’t consider the WHY or HOW people would want to use it. 

Steve Jobs on the other hand saw the iPad as a consumer device rather than a replacement for your laptop and built the user experience accordingly. 

It’s not about the tech

Getting people to accept a new technology, change a routine or buy your stuff is not a technology problem. It’s a psychological one.

So when I got on the call with the development team this morning my first questions weren’t about the technology but rather who they thought would use the tech and why. 

Once we had a clear idea of who the user was we could then design a user experience around the tech that maximized the likelihood of adoption by the users. 

Tomorrow I’ll talk about some ways we do this using our second model of behavior modification “Attractiveness”

Talk soon,


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