Nudge, Nudge

In an article in 1843, Stanford researcher B.J. Fogg is claimed to be the founding father of "behavioural design", although I doubt that this is correct given that the basic theories have been around and applied for quite some time. However, it's interesting that he, again according to the article, is concerned about what his teachings might lead to although this apparently does not stop him from providing courses and workshops.

Fogg's behaviour model states that three things must happen at once for a specific behaviour to change or happen: The person must want to do it, he/she must be able to, and she/he must be prompted to do it. I really like his "tiny habit" concept, especially the celebration part which is awesome.

Another branch of the behavioural design area is nudging often focusing on making it easy for people to do the "right" thing from a societal perspective such as throwing garbage in bins or taking the stairs instead of the lift. The Behaviour Insight Team is the most prominent example of how this idea can be put to work. They call themselves a social purpose company and are jointly owned by the UK Government, Nesta and the employees.
Volkswagen made use of nudging theories in their much noticed and appreciated The Fun Theory campaign featuring the piano stairs and the deepest bin. The winning concept of "The Speed Camera Lottery" was implemented for a while in Stockholm. Apparently, the average speed which was 32 km/h before the test reduced to 25 km/h during the test, marking a 22% reduction in speed, thereby making the demonstration a grand success. Makes you wonder what it would take to implemented permanently.

One thing I like about the nudging area is that it's based on putting forward hypotheses and then looking at data to explore them. After investigating calls to the police in order to reduce pranks, the BIT team was able to come up with a (perhaps to some extent controversial) suggestion: wait 6 seconds before answering. Apparently, just hearing the phone ring puts pranksters off to a large extent. However, I suppose that it's not that easy to calculate balancing the reduced cost for fewer prankster calls with letting people with serious issues wait longer. There is also the risk of people changing back to former behaviour once the novelty has worn off.

According to their website, the objectives for the Behaviour Insight Team is to make public services more cost-effective and easier for citizens to use, improve outcomes by introducing a more realistic model of human behaviour to policy; and wherever possible, enable people to make ‘better choices for themselves’. What is best for the people is, of course, a matter of opinion.

It's fascinating although to some extent worrying that the same theories and methods can be used for (at least aiming at) societal good and for making profitable although often thoroughly damaging products.

One of Fogg's former students, Nir Eyal, wrote the bestseller "Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products". Another one, Mike Krieger, put his theory into practice and created Instagram. I wonder what governments looking into the teachings of the BIT team will get up to.

Yet another Fogg disciple, Tristan Harris, is a leader in the “Time Well Spent” movement focusing on creating "technology designed to enhance our humanity over additional screen time". I very much recommend reading his article "How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist".
"We need our smartphones, notifications screens and web browsers to be exoskeletons for our minds and interpersonal relationships that put our values, not our impulses, first. People’s time is valuable. And we should protect it with the same rigor as privacy and other digital rights." Tristan Harris


One for the Team

When I played football (soccer), I played rough when needed although I never received a red card. Not even a yellow one, I think. If a team gets a player dismissed from the football field, it's a real disadvantage and is very much avoided.

In hockey, penalties apparently are part of the game. Although the things the players do to each other in the rink would be considered assault and attempted murder if done outside the arena, they seem to just shrug it off and continue.

When we left the movie theatre after seeing Snowden, I asked my friend if he thought there has been any real change in the way NSA and other similar organisations handle personal information. He was also concerned.
To me it seems like organisations such as the NSA in the US and FRA in Sweden play hockey. Penalties don't really matter, they just carry on as usual. In Sweden, the governmental agency SIUN is the supervisory authority responsible for checking up on FRA and they have remarked ten times on their conduct.

Edward Snowden was given the Swedish Right Livelihood Award in 2014 and many people here thinks he should get sanctuary in Sweden whereas the FBI has requested that he should be arrested and extradited. Some hope that Obama will use his Presidential Pardon, but time is running out.

I definitely think Snowden took one for the team. The team not only being the American people, but the rest of us too. Thank you! Now it's up to us to check on our government and our agencies.

Although Benjamin Franklin did not intend this quote to mean what it has often been used for the last couple of years, apparently being the victim of contextomy, I still believe it deserves some thought:
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.


Chicken or Egg

Anne Radford, an outstanding AI practitioner and grand person in general, inspired me to invest in a box of Phaidon Maverick Postcards. They are great to use in Appreciative Inquiry processes, since they provide a new angle instead of using only words. Sometimes I let people introduce themselves by picking one card illustrating themselves and one the task at hand.

I have noticed that many people pick the card with a simple egg on it. They talk about transformation, things that will grow, the start of processes and so on.

Quite a number of metaphors and sayings are associated with eggs. For example "you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs". People can be describes as a really bad egg or an egghead. Sometimes you need to be really careful and walk on eggs but you don't want to put all your eggs in one basket. Alan Wong's restaurants used a nice exercise involving a metaphoric egg in order to develop their business. Read it and find out if you're a carrot, an egg or coffee beans.
 The International Egg Commission introduced the second Friday in October as the World Egg Day. Apparently it's celebrated in many ways in different countries. In Bangladesh 5000 free boiled eggs will be distributed, each in an individual box. In the USA the American EGG Board has published a number of videos featuring the Bacon Brothers (yup, Kevin is one of them) and The Incredible Egg.

In Sweden there has been a competition regarding who could produce the best egg-based course. I think the galette with eggs and spinach looks really tasty and I'm sure you can do it without the ham.

What the people selecting my egg card seldom notice is that the jagged edge around the egg image is actually a sentence in a kind of handwriting: "Contraceptives should be used on every conceivable occasion". This is a quote by the comedian Spike Milligan who also wrote poems.

If I could write words
Like leaves on an autumn forest floor,
What a bonfire my letters would make.

If I could speak words of water,
You would drown when I said
'I love you.' 

Spike Milligan


Singing Floors

Every morning I walk down the stairs to get my newspaper. I do hope my neighbours are up already, because the boards squeak every step I take, both up and down.

But maybe I should consider it a part of our security system in our apartment building, similar to the samurai "nightingale floors" or "uguisubari" which translates into “bush warbler guard watch.”
Neither a nightingale nor a bush warbler!
It should be noted that nightingales and Japanese bush warblers are two completely different birds. It can also be questioned to what extent the floors sound like any of these two birds. Check out for yourself: bush warbler, nightingale and uguisubari.

It's also doubtful if this design can be considered a case of biomimicry. However, I wouldn't mind going to Japan and checking out myself!


Appreciating Assets and Capital

At the beginning of this week I held a lunch seminar introducing Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to a group of User Experience people. AI is one of my favourite topics and always a joy to talk about. In my presentation I made good use of the video kindly provided by Jackie Kelm. In her overview of the basic concepts and history of AI she also talks about the concept "appreciate". I very much like the many meanings of this word, both how we use it in everyday talk in order to describe what we really like but also as a financial term.

Later in the week I hade the privilege of participating in the CIP Forum, this year focusing on convergence. Here an important topic is "assets", especially intellectual assets. I also like the taste of this word, assets. An asset is something valuable that cannot always be transferred into money as for example in "his greatest asset was his warm smile".
Although I think the reasoning is valid behind "intellectual capital" as in the famous book " Intellectual Capital: Realizing Your Company's True Value by Finding Its Hidden Brainpower " by Leif Edvinsson and Michael Malone, I must confess that I prefer using assets instead of capital when talking about the creative stuff that comes out of people's brains. However, in the physical world I do appreciate them both.