Kathy Sierra is a BoS favourite for good reason. Channelling her inner Vince Vaughn (A terrible film reference for those uninitiated), Kathy comes to BoS to deliver another talk for the ages on how to build successful products on the basis of building it for your user.
Video & Transcript below
The 11th Business of Software Conference USA, September 18-20th 2017. Boston, MA.
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We’re going to look through the successful attributes of what makes a successful, sustainable, product, not in the app itself, but in the user. What is it about successful users? That’s what we’re going to look at. So were going to compete on user awesome not on app awesome. Because competing on how fabulous our app is…that’s French, and this is the saddest venn diagram because this is usually what’s happening.
So the company is constantly trying to care about their…about how the users perceive them and their product. Meanwhile, the user doesn’t care so much about how people fell about you. They care about what they are able to accomplish. So the bar for competing on App Awesome is a lot higher, now that doesn’t mean there are a lot of awesome products out there, but people are trying to compete “were the best product, no were the best product no ours is the best, no ours is the coolest” and not a lot of competition for who is making the user the best at whatever it is your helping them do. And I’m using the word bad add because it’s harder to misinterpret. Bad ass means the user really has to be really good at something.
So were going to design for bad ass, that’s you, that’s your competitor, or maybe you can switch them, so that’s your product, competitors’ products but none of that is what matters because what matters is this “what is the bigger context that your products or subset of” and that’s the place where bad-ass lives. That’s what the users are really trying to accomplish. Alright, if you don’t necessarily want to be good at your tool. What are they using your tool to do? What does it enable? So I’m going to use these two concepts of the context, which is why they are actually using it; the thing their hoping to achieve; what are you a subset of? And then tool to mean whatever it is your product is that you offer. So context and tool. And we want to focus on helping our users become bad-ass, not at our tool, because that’s not their goal, their goal is to, become more enabled, more powerful, more skilful, at whatever that context is. This is the slide that I’ve devoted my life to. I’ve been showing it for years. Although I’ve had to update it.
Marketing is all about the compelling context. Right, we know what might motivate people to draw them into actually wanting to have out product and then, as soon as they give us money, which in this case was 25-30 dollars, that’s what they get. Were all about the tool, after they, become our customer. So our users want to be bad ass at the context, not just the tool. So here is a way to think about it. Don’t make a better x, make a better user x. now it’s really easy to look at this and say “isn’t that really the same thing; I mean if you’re making a great product, isn’t the whole point of a great product to help a user be great. But if you actually look really hard and focus really hard on what does it take to make the user awesome, you may make very different choices. And I’ve seen companies have like a 50% shift in their features once they really focused on making the user awesome, not how great the product looked. So you’re up and to the right has to match theirs. And if you imagine that you’re up and to the right is based entirely on their up and to the right if the goal is for a sustainable, durable, robust, long-term successful company. Not just a quick hit.
So remember, this is what we want, this is how were going to get there, that’s what we’re going to create, so the point of view is design for the post user x userx. Because all that matters is what happens after their done clicking, swiping, and this is an exercise that you can just put yourself through, is imagine that you’re making a documentary of your user. And your literally following them around and your seeing what they do after they stop and walk away from using your product what happens, what do they show, what do they to talk about with other people. What have they now accomplished, how do they feel, what happens next. How quickly do they come back, how much more do they want to do. So those are the things we have to focus on. What happens after their done interacting? Because if they’re going to talk about it or just demonstrate to someone else that they are more capable and more powerful as a result, what’s going to happen is a result of whatever they do when they walk away. So the wrong question is, what did we enable, what can they do. The right question is what do they actually do? Because we tend to take a lot of responsibility for what they can do, “all these features and capabilities are in our product, but we don’t take responsibility for much is what they actually do. So bad-ass is what they do, and in fact, it’s about what they do reliably over and over again. So remember if they just do one outrageous thing it’s a jackass, not a bad ass [audience laughter] So bad-ass takes three things, and these are the three things, that I went over in a high level in my other, presentations. So if you’re interested in the top two, I would recommend going back to the one I did 2013 at Business of Software 2013 because the one were going to focus on now is this one.
So, we need to keep people motivated to move forward, so were going to talk about motivation, now what happens when we want to talk about motivation. What happens when we want to think about motivation? Right, here are all the ways we can think about motivation. Maslows hierarchy, the Arcs Model, it goes on and on. Oh, that’s the player types which the game vacation team added badges to. And there are four, and one guy said no we should have six called the hex model and another gamifcation consultant said well no we need eight. That’s the octalisus model that will blow your mind. And then this one ends with a gun which I thought was appropriate so there’s so many complicated ways of looking at what motivates an individual person and categorizing all of our users into different types based on whatever it is that they want.
And there is a way to really simplify this. And were going to look at the two types of motivations; two main motivation theories and if we understand these, it becomes a lot easier to make choices for what our users will do. So it’s just operant conditioning, which is BF skinner, which I’m sure most of you remember, but we’ll go into some details about that. And then self determination theory. So these are the two main theories. But before we go, so context to keep in mind, so were going to look a little on how were going to use this, and then well come back and get into theories. So remember the path to bad-ass. This is kind of how we look at it. Well there’s a motivation magnet pulling them along this journey, but, we also have de-railers. So something is pulling them off now were making the assumption that they are motivated, or were motivated at one time for the compelling context at the end. Yea they wanted to be better at photography, they wanted to be better at what it is that their using your software to do. So, what do most people do? Well to compensate for the user being pulled of or derailed, we go, let’s add more motivation. So what we really mean is let’s add more persuasion. More seduction, let’s try to entice them…further. But that’s not the real problem. There already motivated. This isn’t a persuasion problem. They’re motivated, but something is stopping them. So that’s going to be our real secret weapon. While everyone’s focused on how to keep pulling them and motivating and seducing them, were going to look at, what’s stopping the motivation they already have. Or had. Something blocking them, what are those things? That’s what we’re going to focus on. Because, remember this is about sustainable success, we want this so we have to have that, and that won’t happen unless he keeps going. And keeps going. And keeps going.
So we have to have that continued motivation. So, two big derailers. Remember this? So, here’s the first derailer. Users are really motivated by compelling context. “yea I want that. That’s awesome that will be great, yes ill buy your software” And then, they buy the software, and this happens, suddenly, except this happens much earlier, suddenly now, it’s all about the tool. All the support, all the help, everything you’re surrounded by now is just the tool. So there’s this big disconnect between the compelling context that they wanted and now the experience their having which is the tool. And another big one…any snowboarders in here? Skiers? Oh, ok ok. Alright..yes..so.. and if you’re a skier who tried snowboarding you might have found out that’s even worse. So, uhm, so this is the compelling context “yes it’ll be fly it’ll be awesome” and then the first day of snowboarding is like this. (audience laughs)(referencing slides)So that’s how a lot of our users feel using our software. So we have to figure out what to do. I mean, that is going to happen.
Right, and you may have software, in fact, if you have, uhm, complex software, that’s really powerful, we can’t feel bad about having software that might be complex and powerful. Sometimes this is going to happen. We have to figure out how to help them, uh, overcome that. Not necessarily to try somehow making it easier. We have to make the hard stuff more tolerable so that they don’t lose as much motivation. So again, they actually lose their motivation for the ultimate compelling context, they just stopped believing that its going to happen; that there’s any connection between what they’re doing now, and what their left with, and what their actually going to get to. So they want to believe that this is just a step along the way. Not something that’s actually going to derail them. And you all have things that you have tried to do and wanted to be really good at and master and just didn’t. And something pulled you off something that may have told you that this is just never going to be worth it. It’s just so difficult. And, it would have been better if you could have just had enough faith that this is just a step along the way, and I’ll get through it. So before we get into the deep motivation, this is just the emergency motivation to help with that. So, one of our big problems is that we pretend that that’s not happening. We pretend like the user in not having that experience.
The gap of bitter disillusion. “I mean we did our part” So, this is our mythical user (referencing slides, audience chuckles) right we, we pretend like this is our user. He sits down to use the software, and he’s so relaxed and happy. It’s great, and there he is with his credit card which is even better (audience chuckles). This is our mythical user. He’s having a great experience and he’s just always happy because his whole life is happy. So this is how we create the product, with that assumption, when this is our actual user so we have to figure out how to deal with that. So one of our problems is we often act as though it’s easier than it actually is. Because we don’t acknowledge that. Or we acknowledge yes it’s hard but, read the manual. That’s the user’s responsibility. We can’t actually hold their hand and help them do it.
So again (referencing slides, audience laughs) if it’s really hard then we make this assumption. This is a good user this is the user that we want, this is the actual user that we have. So we have to figure out what to do. This is what happens though. This is the best case scenario, is that the user is struggling, and the user says, I’m an idiot and blames himself, but often they are also blaming us. So the problem is not that we gave them this manual that may be really difficult and dry and goes nowhere near the material that marketing promised. This is really not so much the problem. I mean people are used to this. The problem is that we treat them though as everyone else is fine with the manual. So we act like their the idiots.
And if we just acknowledge yes this is difficult, this is a problem, you’re not an idiot.
So the two sweetest words that a user can here when they’re struggling, and hopefully, before they start struggling, is that this is typical, this is temporary. There’s nothing wrong with you, this is how it is. So they really need to know. What they really need to know is that you understand; that you have a clue about what they’re going through. But we often create our software and support as though that when they have a problem, again it’s their fault. It’s not something that’s to be expected. So imagine that you were to create a UI, or whatever you might have, that reflects how their actually feeling. Because this is not what the user is actually feeling. When he’s struggling. So what would you do to create something in your own product or even in your support that reflects what he’s actually going through. So that he knows you get it.
So you could add a button. So, and, there was a product called Wasabi that was a financial management piece of software for consumers. And in fact they added a “I’m freaking out” button. And, uhm, the CEO said that button was the one thing that people said over and over again “just the fact that you had that button, was such a huge relief to me, because it told me it’s obviously a normal thing to be freaking out. “They have a button for it,” The kindle fire, the new one, has the mayday button, have any of you had this? That kindle that has the mayday button? I don’t. I didn’t even see it except in video. But it has a mayday button that you can click on, and then you get instant support, and just a few days ago, amazon said now, 75% of their customer contacts from that device are coming through that mayday button. And they said that the customer service people get all types of requests like “can you help me with this angry birds level?” you know whatever it is. But, so make sure they know, that struggling is normal.
Don’t be in denial about it; some people say I don’t want to plant a seed that this is hard. Right. You’re not planting the seed, they already know. So we can just try to tell them to relax about it. They want to believe that it’s just a step. So we can just tell them, we can just say this is hard. And one of the best programming books that I’ve ever seen, it’s on objective seeing, and the opening page says, this is going to be hard. Now were going to get to the long term sustainable. We’re going to talk about operant conditioning and self determination period. Now part of what I want you to keep in mind is they are at opposite ends intrinsic motivation and external consequences. These two things are at opposite ends of the motivation scale. And we’ll see what that means a little bit later. It means there on opposite ends. So well start with operant conditioning. Operant conditioning, how many of you remember operant conditioning from your bf skinner, from psyche 101. Ok so it’s all based on consequences. Right, and he did in fact, train pigeons to do missile guidance. They never actually had to deploy, to guide those missions which are good for the pigeons; he was able to train them to do seemingly complex behaviours although they were really just simple behaviours in a very long chain. And so it’s the classic thing where the rat learns to push the bar and get a pellet. Don’t do this thing over here, and the floor is shocked; whatever it might be. So consequences, and almost all animals trained today is operant conditioning.
But as you’ll see so is most school, most parenting, most employer/employee relationships, and often, relationships we have with our customers is actually barely disguised operant conditioning. This apparently was a real thing. He really did think you could put babies in skinner boxes as well, but ok. I need a volunteer real quick. Someone who’s willing to stand up here with me for a few minutes. It will be really easy I promise. Awesome ok. So operant conditioning; you don’t have to do anything just hang out; operant conditioning has these four quadrants. Now in the two columns we have reinforcement and punishment. For increasing behaviour through reinforcement decreasing or stopping behaviour through punishment. Then we have these two rows with a plus sign and a minus sign and we can also use the term positive and negative, which is really a problem, because negative sounds…you know, negative, bad. And positive sounds good and that’s not what they mean. The plus and minus just means you’re doing something adding or taking something away. So in the reinforcement column, this is for behaviour that we want, we have positive reinforcement, because we add something and we have negative reinforcement, which means we reinforce behavior by taking something annoying away.
And then we have, I’m going to show you a little demonstration of that in a minute, and then we have positive punishment and negative punishment. Again positive punishment is not the good kind, right, it’s the worst kind. Because it means you add something, you add punishment. Negative punishment, just means you take something away, and that is the punishment, that you’ve removed something good. So, I’m going to use these terms because these are the most common terms we use plus r minus r plus p minus p but that plus r is the one to focus on. Because that’s the one were often focused on with our customers especially. So these three are the ones that are used for almost all animal training and again in other things as well. And you’ll see it will start to look familiar. But first I’m going to pretend that you’re a horse stop
So I’m going to show you how easy this is. So imagine that I’m holding a treat and I’m going to take a step back, and I want you to take a step forward. Good job here’s a treat. So I added something to reinforce the behavior, right, how many of you have ever had dogs you’ve trained? This is the obvious one. Negative reinforcement, this is the one we use most often, with horses, but we also use it with dogs and it will start to feel familiar, if you’ve ever been an employee, child or parents. So now, I want you to move over but you don’t really want to, so I’m just annoying you , tapping you, I’m tapping I’m tapping I’m tapping and finally you step over and I release. That’s negative reinforcement, because I have subtracted the annoying pressure, and that was the reinforcement that you did the right thing. Now you’ll see a lot of people go, reward the horse for doing the right thing. Well, we removed pressure, that’s not actually rewarding, but we like to call it that. Positive P, I won’t put you through that. Which means you did something I didn’t like, so I wack you, whatever it is. Negative p means, we don’t usually use with horses, some people use it with dogs, use it a lot with kids; just imagine for a second that you’re a kid and you did something wrong you didn’t clean your room, hand over the ipad. So that’s negative punishment because we’ve punished by removing something.
Horses really don’t have anything that we could take away that they could make a connection to. They’re not interested in our attention the way dogs are dogs are sometimes you just ignore them and that’s a, your taking your attention away, that’s punishment. So now, stay here I’m not done with you. Uhm one of the things that’s a big problem is when people mix quadrants. Some of the behavioural scientists, especially with animal training, again all of this is true for humans, it tells us what might happen when we mix quadrants. And we usually do. So what it looks like is, I’m going to start annoying you to move over, keep resisting , keep resisting keep resisting, ok I say go you’re not listening, you’re not listening you’re not listening, WHACK! Now I punished her for not listening, oh and here’s a reward. So now I just used all three. So I added Plus P, Positive P punishment because I wanted to stop the behavior of not listening. I escalated all the way up. And then, I gave her a reward. This causes all kinds of problems including things like resentment and some of the behavioural scientist are calling this a poison cue; when you actually use rewards in combination with something that’s not optional, that your putting pressure on, and that you might even possibly, punish them for doing it.
So it would be far better, if I just said you know this is something you have to do, you just don’t have a choice. Maybe it’s dangerous if you don’t do this I’m sorry, you have to do it. The best thing for me to do is not give a reward because I’m just blowing the reward having all kinds of resentment like when your boss puts a huge amount of pressure on you, not saying any of you do this to employees, a huge amount of pressure; meet the deadline, meet the deadline, and the employees know, there is no option when you have to, but then they get a reward for doing it. Right, usually that’s not a happy experience of a reward so it gets a little bit complicated. Reinforcement schedules are something I’m sure you heard about. And reinforcement schedules are how often we give the rewards. So I’m going to ask you to take a step forward. Give you a treat. Now, step forward, didn’t give you a treat, give you a treat, just in time (audience laughs) so this actually turns out to be really important because if you get that wrong with the horse they just dis you and walk away or kick you or whatever. The reinforcement schedules, what they found, intermittent variable rewards once the animals actually learned, right in the beginning, you just do the highest reinforcement you can every single time, even the slightest attempt at a step I’m going to reinforce that because that’s teaching you what I actually wanted. Once that’s happened, to use that for motivation, we found that intermittent variable rewards are far more motivating. Has to do with the whole way the dopamine reward system kicks in in the brain.
So intermittent variable rewards versus absolutely guaranteed, regular rewards. So 50 percent rewards that are unexpected one time and then not for three, and then two just in time is more powerful, than actually every single reward. Even though it’s fewer rewards. So that’s reinforcement scheduling. Now, this looks familiar with animal training, classrooms work this way, most employee employer relationships ultimately come down to some form of this. But it also is the entire Internet. The entire Internet is nothing but intermittent variable reward, or their might be another cat picture there might be a tweet, so this is one of the reasons that it’s so compelling. Right? We never know when there’s going to be that next tweet that next light, that next whatever it is. So I’m almost done with you.
Now positive reinforcement, out of all the quadrants, it has some unique characteristics. By the way, most animal trainers don’t recommend plus p or human trainers. Plus p which is adding punishment because it has, it works its effective, but it has side effects, would be very negative, including the animal does exactly what you want every single time, until the day it explodes. So usually adding punishment because of the side effects is not worth it. Now plus r also has unique characteristics and that’s why we tend to think that it’s the thing we should use. So one of the things I can do with plus r that I can’t do any other way.
If I do pressure, think about this with your kids or your employees, if I do pressure and tell you to move over, right, I’m never going to get more than that behavior until I ask for more. There’s no incentive, there’s no reason I haven’t even communicated to you that you should any more. I mean why would you keep doing more. But how many of you have seen your dog start going through all of its tricks hoping its finding the right one. Right? Sit, lay down, jump, high five, it’s looking for what one will trigger the reward. So that’s the benefit you get from plus r. you get this seeking behaviour where their actually trying things where you will get more than just (inaudible), we hope. So the problem is, now you’re a horse, so I’m going to lead you. Now imagine there’s a jump right here, and I’m going to lead you over, and I want you to jump the jump. “jump” gooooooddddd and here’s a treat, now come back here oh good thank you. Ok now, let’s imagine you jump this jump here, ok now this time I’m just going to stand back here and I’ve taught you to go over the jump because I’ve given you a treat each time you got on the other side of the jump. Now, it’s up to you. Here’s the jump, go over the jump. Ok she’s not actually a very intelligent horse, because, back up. She’s a very good horse though. Turn around. Actually she was smart enough to know what I wanted, but not smart enough to test me because if this is the jump, every time you got the treat, you got the treat for standing there, on the other side of the jump. So, the horse is going to get you on a technicality. Right, it’s going to say, technically, I’m doing exactly what you trained me to do. Just stand on the other side of the jump because that’s when you gave me the treat. So we need a way to decouple the delivery of the reward from the marker that says “that’s what I’m giving you the treat for” and that’s what clicker training is. Does anybody use this? It feels like magic when you first use it. So it usually takes no more than one day. Five minutes, ten minutes for a dog or even a horse to learn to connect this to the treat. And this lets you separate them in time, but has a very specific marker because I can’t shove the treat, I mean you can pretty much shove the treat in the dogs mouth the moment they sit it’s much harder, and this in fact of course evolved from training animals you actually cant access that quickly so I, since I can’t shove the treat in your mouth, when you’re going over the jump, now I’m going to lead you over the jump. And jump so now in her mind, she knows exactly and of course now your patient because you know the rewards coming, give her the treat, and you know exactly what it was for. You can make it so specific, I have one horse that he accidentally tripped to go over a jump and had one leg up like this and for about a week, he just walked around like limp because he knew exactly what you said.
And since then I’ve actually learned to use that to get very special behavior from him. Thank you to my horse (audience claps) so there amazing things that you can do. So again the clicker just lets you decouple treat delivery from the very specific mark. And the sound type has very interesting properties for the animal. And so I’m going to throw these three out here and if you click while I’m talking, Mark has a Taser, so… there’s a dark side. This is in actual balloon that people go up in. anyway there is a dark side, a big dark side, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
So the first problem with operant conditioning is that it’s really fragile. It’s very fragile. In many many ways. As opposed to intrinsic motivation which is incredibly strong and durable and robust which is why that’s the side we want to be on although it’s a little more bit involved than that. But operant conditioning, just one of the things they found for example I think it was IBM that did a study of rewarding people for interacting in an online forum which by the way, that’s not a good idea. But rewarding people for interacting in this online forum and sure enough, no big surprise they found that when they took the rewards away, people stopped interacting on the forum, and in fact it got worse than it was before and you’ll see why that can be. It’s fragile because you have to keep it going on all the time, and if you stop, you’re not only likely to get a pre reward behavior possibly worse behavior and resentment. Second problem is that it is coercive. It is meant to be coercive now that’s why we use it.
All these books, there not 100 percent operant conditioning, but at the core that’s mostly what we’re talking about and that’s mostly how these things are implemented so this one I hear all the time. Yea but rewards rewards don’t make people do something they already wouldn’t have done. But that’s of course, not true. So if it’s subconscious, rewards are a very powerful form of subconscious, coercion. It can convince you that you wanted to do that thing. You wanted to interact with that but we know that nobody is actually going to say this. So if were engaging with brands because of their “rewards system” just think about that for a moment. Now if you want to be absolutely certain just how far you are being manipulated, then either of those books is a huge eye opener of all the different ways that these things are subconsciously affecting you. So grumpy cat has so much to say about operant conditioning.
So we have to be really careful about it. So if operant conditioning is over there, now mind you, I’ll come back to animals in a second, intrinsic motivation is there, what we do, oh excuse me, so this is the biggest problem. Operant conditioning actually can reduce or even kill intrinsic motivation. If it was there or if it was a chance could be there. So that’s why I said rewarding people who are engaging in an on line forum could be a very dangerous thing to do. Even though it might look like a flurrying engagement at the beginning. Which is why this is so hard to overcome because it’s very counter intuitive that rewards could have this effect but it could have a terrible effect? So you may have heard some of these stories, you may have heard me mention some of these stories. It all started with these monkeys that were playing with these little puzzles because they really enjoyed solving these wooden puzzles so then the researcher said, so let’s give them their favourite treat. After each puzzle they solve their puzzle solving will go up. And of course their puzzle solving went down. As a result which of course made no sense but these puzzles, they were intrinsically rewarding. That’s why the monkeys were doing it. The kids who were drawing with their markers, when they were given a little ribbon, for their pictures, their interest in drawing, went down. And their drawings became less interesting. It’s happened with writers, it’s happened with adults, basically everything you could imagine hundreds of studies on its effect. So, if we don’t want to use that because we don’t want those negative affects what about dogs. There’s something really interesting about animal training, especially dogs and you will actually all recognize this. The reason it doesn’t tend to have the same problems is because their training us. We’re doing all this operant conditioning which in theory should, some ways, demotivate them for certain behaviours.
Meanwhile the dog is playing a very complex intrinsically rewarding game which is pushing all of your buttons to see which one will get you to deliver the treat. So their actually training us to do exactly what they want. Think about babies, right? Babies are just operant conditioning machines. Now, are all rewards always bad? No. not all rewards. The rewards that are particularly damaging are these plus r positive reinforcement, variable rewards are contingent on some behavior; if you do this thing, you’ll get this reward. You may not get it every time, but if you do this thing the reward will be coming based on something we want you to do. So those are the kind that are dangerous.
So if you do something like reward your customers just out of the blue with a special thank you gift that they weren’t expecting; that wasn’t a reward for a specific behavior and knew was coming, those are awesome, and they don’t have any of the negative side effects. So what do we have? We can’t use that. What about things that aren’t or never will be intrinsically rewarding; drudge work. Well then it is possible that we can use plus r for things that are very short term, never going to ask that person to do this long term we don’t need it to be durable we don’t need it to be robust, we just need them to actually do it in the short term. Then it’s possible, what if we want it to be long term but it’s still not something that’s intrinsically rewarding, it’s never going to be fun to do on its own. So that’s makes this self-determination theory, and what self-determination theory tells us is that it’s not an external consequences intrinsic motivation on that side and intrinsic motivation on this side.
It’s a continuum and in fact it looks like this. So intrinsic motivation is on the right and that means that their motivated because this thing over here is rewarding for its own sake. And well talk about that in a minute. It’s something that the person really wants to do. It feels great to do it, not for any external consequence. Someone says, yea I really want to do it because I want my name on the leader board; chances are that’s an external reason. Would they still do it if the leader board went away? Then it wasn’t rewarding on its own. It wasn’t rewarding because of this external thing. So intrinsic motivation means it might be aided by other things happening but intrinsic motivation means, it’s so rewarding on its own, that you’d do it anyway. Now the self-determination theory continuum has four kind of intrinsic motivation. We don’t care about those labels. We care about if there are two parts.
So, we have the bad part over there. And then we have something interesting, right there. This is what we care about. This is the kind of motivation that makes athletes, not go to the party the night before the game when they really wanted to. They did the hard thing. They run, because of their other sport and they don’t like running, but they do it, because they have to. There’s so much that we have to do that’s not intrinsically motivating. And we need to do it. So how do we motivate for that, without using operant conditioning. So these are the ones we care about, because these are the ones that are strong.
That’s the kind of motivation that’s really powerful and strong.
So two forms of intrinsically rewarding experiences; high res and flow and those are concerned with the context so high res is the ability to have these deeper, richer, experiences. You know more, you see more, you feel more, you hear more, the ability to make finer distinctions inherently really pleasurable to the brain. So it’s different from just, you learned more facts. It’s learning to perceive more on a specific thing or a specific domain; that’s what powerful, making finer distinctions are. This guy hears more in the music. This guy looks at the code and suddenly something magical happens. And actually I have to interrupt for just one second I’m about to pass out from jet lag could someone pass me the chair, I’m really sorry. Seeing something in the code that other people don’t see. Who knows what this picture is.
Does anyone recognize it? What is it? Excellent. So you have higher resolution for Cambridge. You can see things other people don’t. You probably know what part this is. What’s this? Right, so you have higher resolution for these things. You have higher resolution for architecture. This is the movie sideways….massage? (audience laughs) so this is wine, so they claim to be able to have this deeper, richer experience with wine. But in the United States at the last business of software, we saw that Mark has a one bit relationship to wine. Its either red or white.
There’s no finer distinction. But, he has an 8 bit resolution, and this is something he actually told the American audience. He has a higher resolution for understanding geography and 64 bit resolution for those shirts very very high definition. So that’s high resolution, and it’s inherently pleasurable, that’s intrinsically rewarding flow, I’m sure your all familiar with, because you’ve all experienced it. Flow is when you’re really in your element. That’s how people describe it. I highly suggest that book it’s worth the read if you haven’t read it and it’s the manual used by Virgin Games when I first started there as a game developer. And it really means there’s a careful balance between challenge and ability. And if that happens, there’s a chance for flow to happen.
So, it’s one of the most pleasurable states that people can ever have. Without the flow state there is no negative flow state, there’s always a good state because suddenly all the judgment, all of the worries goes away, you are just in it. So any time you can help people be in that state while their doing something, that’s motivation in so many ways. So what breaks flow? You’re in flow your just in it You’re in the zone the UI is not getting in your way because your just doing it, and then, that breaks flow. Anything that takes you out of the experience is breaking flow. Any time that the person becomes aware of what their actually doing breaks flow, or how long they’ve been at it; those are the kind of things that breaks flow.
So obviously UI and UX designers use this a lot they think about this. So intrinsically rewarding experiences high res and flow; those are things we’d like to give to people. Now I’m sure a lot of you people are familiar with this> I’m going to do it sitting down, but you guys are going to do it standing up. This is a way to have an intrinsically rewarding experience in less than one minute.
If your familiar with any of Cuttys research from Harvard, it’s that you can change your body position and increase your testosterone, lower your cortisol levels in less than two minutes. In fact if we decided to draw all of your blood, which would be awful, we could prove it. But I’ll just take your word for it. So what we want to do is think about adopting a super hero pose and I’m actually going to make you all do it. Because believe me Mark will ask you to do it again later. So what
I want you to do is think about whatever super hero pose you can do. Right, whether it’s just arms out, powerful, superman, wonder woman, whatever it is. We’re going to stand up right now, otherwise the shock in your seats will go off. I’m only going to ask you to hold this for like 30 seconds. And, adopt the pose! Whatever it is. Big expansive super hero pose. Not because he stopped. Ok, how many of you are familiar with Andy Cuttys work? Man I really suggest you go look it up, because it will shock you. Or you could watch her ted talk. In ways that they have used this; you do this, and you go into your interview, so people were doing job interviews, they would do their power pose for two minutes, go into a job interview, and the interviewer, would have a more positive experience with them. But this is what’s interesting. They weren’t doing the power pose at the time they were doing the interview. They were still living off the effect of the power pose earlier. There are all sorts of thing that happen that are really interesting. But, it’s an intrinsically rewarding experience. So not everything could be intrinsically rewarding.
We know this. So those things are already really motivating. These things are not but they still have to happen and we have to help our users do this. So to get into intrinsically rewarding experiences, there has to be ability. To do the hard things, there has to be will power, but of course they both take both. Will Power and ability, everything that were doing needs to focus on helping our uses have will power and ability. And there’s one really important weird trick that happens and we can do. The users’ journey takes will power and ability. If they stop it’s because they perceive that they don’t have enough ability and they don’t have enough will power to stick it out. So if we can bring those up, there’s a much bigger chance of them to keep going. Or if it’s something to keep you going tried and stopped tried and stopped so will power and ability. Because that side of the continuum is the durable, long-term, robust side. That’s the side we want and it takes will power and ability so what do we do to get will power and ability?
Here’s another study. I won’t actually ask you to do it but ill pretend you’re doing it. And I’m sure most of you have seen this or remind you; imagine I took this half of the room, and gave you a two digit number to memorize. Simple task. Two digits. Seven digits over here, I give you guys a 7 digit number to memorize, that’s it. Now, after the experiment, the researcher comes in and says experiment is “over” but of course it’s not over and you walk out to do your processing and then the researcher says, would you like a snack before you leave and he offers you a piece of fruit or cake.
What happens is, you guys with the two digits, you will pick the fruit. You guys, pick the cake. You guys were more likely to pick cake than fruit. Maybe they first thought that this was just the brain worked harder and needed more glucose in the brain. And that’s partly true. But then, it became so much more interesting than that. There’s another story, they took dogs. This dog had to wait in the crate for ten minutes; this dog had to sit for ten minutes. They did this with all kinds of dogs, all kinds of breeds. After the ten minutes, remember he’s in the crate, he just has to sit, that’s all, not anything else just sit. After that they release the dogs and they get to play with their favourite treat puzzle but the dogs that had to sit spent only half the time before they gave up. So just being obedient, think about your zapped their will power to work on the treat but they actually wanted the treat, so it zapped their cognitive resources, and if you think about a bad UI, its demanding people to do things that are more difficult, here is 7 digits, here is 2 digits and just think about this. 7 digits overwhelmed their cognitive resources, that are not a lot of numbers. It takes so little to override cognitive resources.
Costs them to choose cake, so, this is a problem if you have a difficult piece of software. Now this is what’s interesting though, it’s all one tank. Will power, cognitive resources, its one pool, it’s not like, we used to think of things like, wow this guy just has more character and he may have more strategies for maintaining his will power, but it is all one tank so what you deplete over here, hurts you over here. If you deal with angry customers all day, you’re going to write terrible code after that.
If you write really intense difficult code, even if you loved every moment of it you’re going to eat the wrong things later. It’s one tank. So if we need to build up motivation, we need to have will power and ability, with the right kinds of motivation, we need cognitive recourses. That means we need our users to have cognitive resources. Because our entire job should be reducing cognitive leaks. And in fact, if there was just one thing that you remember from this it would be that. Reduce cognitive leaks, everywhere reduce cognitive leaks. And sometimes just telling someone, “yea you know what, your right, this is hard” already I’ve taken away a huge leak. Because of the stress of worrying that I’m an idiot, the fact that were talking about this is hard, right, you just now made that easier. So the user’s journey takes will power and ability so we have to manage cognitive resources. That’s our job. And remember, it’s not just the tool , because you could say, well our tools easy but if you want the user to keep becoming successful, your job is to help the user use the tool do what it needs to do. And that is probably where the real challenge is. So we need to help them reduce cognitive leaks.
So simplest way, how many of you have read Don Norman. Design of everybody thinks. Ok great so he calls it knowledge of the world versus knowledge in the head. So if you have to have something in your head and you use this piece of software that takes more cognitive resources than if it’s already just out there and explains itself. So for example, the stereo on the top, is visible, it says what it does, you don’t have to remember anything, and it doesn’t have complicated modes, that is knowledge in the world. The bottom requires knowledge in the head. Even then, I can’t get that stereo to work correctly so that is a huge leak. So reduce cognitive leaks by putting user usability in the world wherever you can. So this is the cooker, the stove top, these dials map to the burners no problem, you know exactly what burner, what control controls what burner. But this is what they usually look like. You could have the same stove for years and still go wait which one is it. So, this is much better, but this could also have a little indicator. To show which one and in fact I had a stove that had that, but of course it wore off. This is a real example this is actually true. Think about that. Just think about that. Which tire? It’s bad enough that you have no idea, but now you use more cognitive recourses, trying to figure out, there must have been a rule that people know like do you start from the front left, so all sorts of bad things are happening. We all think that choice is awesome we give the user lots and lots of choices.
But we know, this is not actually what they feel. When were confronted by choices. This is what they feel. When they have choices. Because even after they make the choices, it’s still stressful, their still leaking resources. So it doesn’t mean, don’t give them choices, but you don’t force them to make those choices. So if they have trusted filters and defaults, it’s a huge benefit, and we also have micro leaks. Micro leaks are just the tiny little things that add up that you worry about right? I did turn off the oven; I did switch my phone on airplane mode right? It’s not going to actually buzz while I’m in the theatre right? So, death by 1,000 cognitive micro leaks. This is micro interactions, have any of you read that? It’s a really great book. In a section not about closing cognitive leaks, that wasn’t its intention. It’s about helping users with all of those little things to help delight them, but it’s actually closing little cognitive leaks.
This is a great UI book. And the main one is reduce the need for will power. If you want them to be smarter, don’t make them use will power. Because if their using will power your also decreasing their cognitive resources to learn and get better and do more. So we have to think about that. It’s zero sum, if you take it from one place you take it from everywhere. The problem is we’re competing against everything. Everything is zapping our user’s cognitive resources. Which means everything is hurting their ability and will power. Everyone else.
This isn’t just about attention and time. This is about zapping their cognitive resources.
Including the whole internet the whole internet is your competition. This is not your competition in terms of buying, they already bought it. It’s your competition in terms of do they even have the will to use it let alone the functioning cognition.
So they’re already struggling all the time this is what’s funny to me. How many of you use personas. Most of you. So often are really interested in categorizing people and describing them and getting to know them so that we can sell to them. It’s to get them down that funnel. And we work really hard. We worked really hard to get it one pixel over instead of conversion rates. Well, what do we do when we’re doing that? We’re designing for their cognitive resources. We want to strip out every possible impediment.
So they can click the buy button, or subscribe, or join. And the minute they do, we don’t usually ab test the crap out of every little pixel on the actual interface our support, our FAQs, or whatever it might be. So were all about reducing cognitive recourses to get them to buy, and then we just forget. Those personas talk about what that person is like. It doesn’t stop when they start actually using the software. Ok so we might say something like busy mom. Or really stressed out guy. But somehow we believe that as soon as they sit down to use the software, everything in their world is awesome. Now that they bought, their persona stuff just goes away, it doesn’t matter how busy they are. And yet they come into this with all of those problems. So we act like, this is our user the time that they are using the software.
Moving is one of the most stressful things, but look, he’s happy; he’s not losing cognitive recourses here. And if he gets stressed he gets a massage. This is his cute cat. This is who we appear to write our software for. At the time there using it. So we create personas so we can sell to the busy stressed person. And once they have bought the software, they have morphed into a stock photography model. In fact this guy is not real; his life is not so good, because his wife has a whole other family. This is his cat, that’s his baby. This is who our user actually is. The chance of this being your user, is equal to this as your customer service rep, standing by for your calls. So we have to not treat our actual users like they have a stock photography life. Because they need those cognitive recourses. Not just the welder using your software, but the rest of your life. So if you happen to be managing their cognitive resources one tiny bit, you may have given them a few more moments to have the energy to deal with their kids at home or their more angry customers. Don’t treat them like that, treat them like real people. With actual cats. They don’t need you to be perfect. They don’t need you to convince them that it’s easy. They need you to just tell them that you understand. They just need you to be honest. Now, I’m going to end the way I always end. What you people are doing in this room, your increasing the ability for people to have flow experiences. You’re increasing the ability for people to have higher resolution experiences. Which means you’re actually increasing the resolution of the real world? And by helping them conserve their cognitive resources, you are helping them have a little bit, better, life. And I am proud to be here and be a part of this thank you.
The 11th Business of Software Conference USA, September 18-20th 2017. Boston, MA.
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