Social Web Design: Respond to human behavior. Don’t fight it.

Simbolo de Reiki

In my most recent post about how to avoid Enterprise 2.0 failure, I suggested that it’s important to understand and respond to human behavior if there’s any hope of accelerating business performance via social computing concepts. Here’s an excerpt:

What’s in it for me’. Not just ‘What’s in it for us’

The single biggest point of failure occurs during the initial

planning phase: focusing primarily on organizational benefits and putting individual incentives and therefore, behaviors, a distant second. The former helps crystallize the big picture and to justify the initiative to bean counters. The latter ensures sustained engagement, which in turn delivers improved performance.

The emergence of true Enterprise 2.0 transformation is unlikely to see the light of day if it’s designed to change how we as individuals or user constituencies behave. It might be called Enterprise Social Networking or Social Business, but honestly, if you haven’t considered and responded to the psychological drivers for each user type, a vibrant socially networked business ecosystem won’t emerge.  Consider the typical sales rep: She wants to consume as opposed to contribute. She searches, never browses. And she almost never personalizes interfaces. On the other hand, an engineer wants to collaborate, share, learn how to code better from others and contribute to a larger team success. Two very different behavioral models based on different incentive structures. Designing interaction models around the behaviors of each user type before selecting software and launching mitigates significant programmatic risk.

In the business world, incentive, intention and design context influences behavior. Understanding and accounting for these constructs are crucial to programmatic success and ultimately, performance acceleration.

I saw this post by rock star social web designer Joshua Porter of Bokardo that describes the thinking behind the design of a SocialCast feature. Joshua writes:

One of the guiding principles of interaction design is to support existing behavior. This means to figure out what is already happening, what activities, tasks, and interactions people are already doing, and build support for them into software.

This may not seem like a glamorous way to approach design, but from my experience it’s the fastest way to make people happy. Let them do what they already do faster/better/easier, and then you’ll have their attention in order to push the envelope after that.

Earlier this year, I wrote about a similar topic: Design, but in a programmatic sense of which interaction design is certainly a crucial component. (Post: how social computing can accelerate business performance for sales teams.) Central to this strategy and execution plan is understanding how the typical sales rep wants to work with people and data. And then exponentially improving that interaction via social computing constructs and technology. That’s very different from trying to design software or programs that want to fight known human instincts and behaviors.

Social software is but one component of overall enterprise 2.0 success. There’s a litany of factors to be considered to successfully realize true business performance acceleration and to manage risk, not the least of which is accounting for interaction patterns of each user type. That said, there’s no arguing that its a hell of a lot easier to improve probability of success if the software does its part to make this process easier. And so Joshua’s post really struck a chord with me.

I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing interaction designers and I’ve always felt that good interaction designers never get due props for their role in the overall success of a given initiative. Thanks to Joshua for writing about this topic.

Update: A few hours after I published this post, Steve Wylie, GM of the Enterprise 2.0 conference (Disclaimer: I’m on the advisory board) just announced that Thomas Vanderwal will be speaking at the conference this fall in San Francisco. Thomas, a well respected social web designer, will join social software luminary Stewart Mader to talk about “Five Things Companies Learn After a Year of Enterprise 2.0 Adoption”. Its great to see a designer joining a strategist to talk about adoption strategies and inhibitors. Full post here.

 

Image: Reiki

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11 comments
Staffing
Staffing

It is very important to show the benefit for every one as a independent human being instead of focusing on telling whats in for the whole team. http://staffingpower.com/

contractor web design
contractor web design

what's with all the twitter links? anybody uses the old-style links! I usually can't open links like this twitter thing! don't know why is that...

Paula Thornton
Paula Thornton

tterschueren's comments also made me think about a critical issue that I'm always trying to draw attention to: many digital technologies (I like to add the modifier that's always dropped) focus too much on the 'collectives': community, project, etc.A fundamental differentiator of E2.0 is the celebration of the individual in the context of the whole.

vanderwal
vanderwal

It's always funny when I get singled out on one facet of my depth of knowledge :-) As irony would have it, I am not a fan of labels as they are far too constraining. Most of my work, while it touches on UX and design, it only a part of what I offer (developer, managing dev & design teams, inside/outside/through firewalls for organization and customer work interaction tool dev, as a slice of it). Where the E2.0 market has giant gaps is on the overlap of ease of use (from light use to people who heavily use the services) and sociality (the with whom are people interacting problem that plagues individuals and organizations). Spending now 20 years building and managing things I thought would be perfected in a year or two. Running away from tech to get a masters in public policy (economics/econometrics and social quantitative analytics) only kept me tied closer to my passion sparked in undergrad (organizational communication and theory). Oh, this is also my 4th consecutive E2.0 speaking. My first year 2007 I got a perfect 4.0 & the only other presentation perfect score that year was Jeffrey Walker. While UX is badly needed those who grasp the complexities and realities of social tools inside the firewall where Web 2.0 tools honed on early adopters don't work on the normal people who make up 95% of the people hoped to use the tools. With out understanding the problems of Web 2.0 the UX adopting those approaches can quickly lead to Enterprise 2.0 failures. Thanks for the nod! Appreciated.

tterschueren
tterschueren

I really like this thought:"What’s in it for me’. Not just ‘What’s in it for us’. The single biggest point of failure occurs during the initial planning phase: focusing primarily on organizational benefits and putting individual incentives and therefore, behaviors, a distant second. The former helps crystallize the big picture and to justify the initiative to bean counters. The latter ensures sustained engagement, which in turn delivers improved performance."But from another point of view: not as the "product designer" of a web 2.0 tool than as a consultant who brings web 2.0 tools into companys and groups. It is very important to show the benefit for every one as a independent human being instead of focusing on telling whats in for the whole team. Thanks never saw that so clear. :)

Paula Thornton
Paula Thornton

Always get a chuckle when my UX colleagues are 'discovered' writing about the stuff we spew all the time. I'm more concerned over conversation this week with individual writing a book on Enterprise 2.0 who has never heard of the term UX (while then also wondering, "How can you write about Enterprise 2.0 and NOT know UX?")We find we have to repeat ourselves a LOT and try to tell the whole story (it's a LONG story) from different perspectives. The detailed post I did on "intent" is similar to the theme you bring up here. @Bokardo is sharing a specific instance of the type of work that then should become part of a 'collection' of findings (for reference by the team as work ensues, and for future reference as one contextual design instance): http://www.fastforwardblog.com/2009/07/31/the-c...But we're still dealing with the context of the "no forethought" for design/development (as in everything is done by developers) or "afterthought" for the inclusion of interaction design (which is the END product of a whole UX cycle). It's because of this that I wrote my profile/bio the way that I did: http://www.fastforwardblog.com/author/pthornton/The issue is, Enterprise 2.0 is not business as usual. If you apply everything you know about normal development and approaches to E2.0 you'll get withered green shoots, but you won't get a lawn [hmmm, maybe that's the title I've needed for a piece I'm working on : ) ]

Sameer
Sameer

good point. even starting at user constituencies is a big win

Sameer
Sameer

Didn't mean to pigeon hole you. Ill weasel out of it by saying that I meant understanding behavioral aspects as well; not just tactical interface design. :)

Sameer
Sameer

Glad you got something out of it :)

Sameer
Sameer

Thanks for your comment, Paula.My goal with this short post was really to act on the nostalgia I felt after reading Joshuas piece. I used to work closely with some amazing UX designers years ago and they (you) often don't get the notoriety they deserve and so I hope I played a small role in reminding everyone about how crucial this piece is to solving the puzzle. And its exponentially more important as we bring in social constructs.

vanderwal
vanderwal

Heh, it is a long list I often just leave blank.

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  1. [...] This post was Twitted by hebsgaard [...]

  2. [...] Social Web Design: Respond to human behavior. Don’t fight it. | Pretzel Logic – Enterprise 2.0 http://www.pretzellogic.org/2009/09/social-web-design-respond-to-human-behavior-dont-fight-it – view page – cached In my most recent post about how to avoid Enterprise 2.0 failure, I suggested that it’s important to understand and respond to human behavior if there’s — From the page [...]

  3. [...] He does a far more succinct job of making a point about behavior and change than I did in this recent post about:  Social Web Design: Respond to human behavior. Don’t fight it.  [...]

  4. [...] for context, cognizance of both process and social at the business activity level, and a deep understanding of and response to individual incentive that makes participation a natural [...]

  5. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by SameerPatel: grt #SM post- Which Comes First- Person or Community? http://bit.ly/NjEVT. Makes a similar pt to mine re: E20 tribes: http://bit.ly/3oklcC

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