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