No, this is a not about Austin Powers. This is about the tiny little things that cause us to move through our days seamlessly. They are our little patterns and rituals that make our complex lives seem almost mindless. Here is how I get to the gym each morning: I wake up at 4:45am. I brush my teeth. I put my gym clothes on. I drink protein. If I do these four “things”, it is almost assured that I will get to the gym and have a great workout. Forget one, and chances are I won’t make it to the gum. For me the final commitment that I am really doing this is the chugging of my protein drink. One time I forgot, and halfway to the gym I turned the car around and went home back to go back to sleep. What a powerful little sequence!
These little “things” I do are behaviors, and I spent the last 48 hours studying them with Behavior Design guru, BJ Fogg. (If you don’t know who he is, you should. ). In his behavior bootcamp he gave me and my team a new lexicon to more precisely define, analyze and design. For several years we used product design methods to solve our complex challenges, and it was a bit like trying to throw a baseball with big fat mittens on. The past two years, we incorporated service design techniques, and that moved us from mittens to gloves. My guess is that adding behavior design will allow the gloves to come off, and we’ll be able to throw the damn baseball with speed and efficiency.
Please don’t mistake this posting as a complaint with methods. We learned the right things at the right time. Each layering of method, prepared us for the next deeper level. But how exciting when you feel the clicks and sparks of connection. More to come on our behavior design journey….
Dr. Evil: Are those sharks with laser beams attached to their heads? Scott Evil: [nods] Dr. Evil: Cool! You mean that I actually have frickin’ sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their frickin’ heads?
I had the good fortune to see Barry Kudrowitz share his insights on how play can/should influence every step of the design process. And the myriad of games that just might stimulate different phases of your work from Pictionary & Apples to Apple to Legos and Taboo, each triggers different (and happy) insights. Perhaps my favorite moment was his explanation and demonstration of the Canine play-bow. The play-bow is the playful pose that dogs use to invite other dogs for a rough and tumble play fight. Ass in air, front paws jetted straight out…which of course resembles a bow. And then the dogs are at it! Rolling, romping and……learning. Learning what works and what doesn’t in the very important function of a fight. Seeing a grown man demonstrate this on stage if far more hilarious… both ways, whether man or dog its fun to watch, and you can really feel the “playfulness” barrel through.
And THIS has everything to do with how we design new stuff, try new stuff and make new stuff stick. Being playful invites people to make mistakes, to roll around and tumble with new ideas, and to figure out how to make this important stuff work in important moments. Being playful and messy has been my teams mantra these past several weeks as several hospitals kickoff implementing some of our newest innovations. It’s amazing how disarming/charming being playful can be, morphing the painful process of “implementing a new system” to “tumbling to the finish line”. Which would you rather do?
I had the incredible opportunity last week to participate in a poverty immersion. With so many uninsured and underinsured getting ready to enter the healthcare world in just a few years, the simulation was a chance for those providing healthcare to gain a better sense of their lives. It by no means could ever replicate it, but I was surprised at the choices I made and the feelings that emerged. The immersion started with me as a dad in a family of four. I was laid off for months without health insurance, with a full-time working wife, a seventeen year old pregnant daughter, and an eight year old son. The object was to get through four 15-minute periods each representing a week with as much of my family needs met as possible. Suffice to say, I chose to keep my 17 year old daughter home for one week to watch my suspended 8 year old, so that I could go to social services to get food stamps.
Everyone who participated shared similar thoughts…mostly amazement at the choices we were forced to make, and how complicated the safety net was. It built a whole lot of sympathy, and more importantly got the room thinking on how services might be more seamless, timely and precise. And that is what a good simulation should do.
Simulations can hard to pull off. This one provided three nuggets on how to make them better:
Don’t over simplify. We as designers and facilitators often try to make the experience as easy as possible. Why?!? Life is complex and we’re dealing with smart people. They’ll figured it out.
Allow sufficient time. I groaned at hearing the simulation was 2 hours long. TWO HOURS. Well, that turned out to be the right amount of time. Two hours, allowed the participants to not only get into role, but be the role….for a long time. About a third of the way through I stopped being me and was really worried about my simulated family. It also allowed me to start optimizing my life because I was in the simulation long enough.
Low fidelity works. This was a great reminder just how low we can go. For a pharmacy, there was only a piece a paper with “pharmacy” written on it. For a bank, “bank”. Simple, but such powerful associations that nothing more was needed. Why waste on time on tasks that our brains are so powerful at doing for us.