Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘behavioral science’

A New Tool for Understanding People’s Emotions – Beyond Verbal

Posted by Plish on July 26, 2013

“Hey, Bill, how are you doing?”

“Things are going well!”

“It doesn’t look like it.  Looks like you’re tired and worn out.  Something bother you?”

“Nah, I’m hanging in there.  Life is good!”

Variations on the above conversation happen all the time.  People say one thing but are feeling another.  For whatever reasons, sometimes people don’t feel comfortable sharing their emotions.  That’s okay – we respect that.  But, when you’re trying to create a product or service that makes that person’s life easier, it often helps to understand the emotional underpinnings.

In the past I’ve blogged about PrEmo, a way of measuring emotions by utilizing the natural human capacity to notice emotions in others.  A new tool has been (and is being) developed over at BeyondVerbal.com.  They’ve been analyzing the intonations in people’s voices to tease out the emotions behind them.  These intonations are universal and when categorized, provide a means for determining the emotional states of people around the world.

I did my own little demo at their website.  So far, I’ve found it amazingly accurate.  I’ve also found it hard to fool.

So give it a try – I’d love to hear your thoughts about the tool and its applications!

Posted in Behavioral Science, Customer Focus, Design, Emotions, Experience, innovation, Innovation Tools, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Building Empathy on the Road to Innovation (and a Better World)

Posted by Plish on October 5, 2012

While the woman on the table braced herself for the extremely invasive transvaginal ultrasound, the technician tried to calm her:

“You know, when I was in school, they had us go through this exact same procedure so that we can understand what you’re feeling while you’re going through this.”

The woman smiled slightly, relaxed, and thought to herself, “At least this won’t be as bad as it could be…”

And it wasn’t…

Empathy goes a long way towards impacting how we behave with others, how we design products and services for others.  Sometimes, as with the ultrasound technician, a shared experience forms the empathic response.  However, we can likewise gain empathy by observing how others respond to certain situations – by reading people: looking at their faces, listening to their voices, watching how they fidget or stand still.

While responding to others’ expressions is somewhat ‘automatic’, the accuracy of our empathic responses can actually be improved.

Researchers at Emory University have developed a meditation protocol (Cognitively-Based Compassion Training, or CBCT) that trains people to be more effective in reading what others are feeling.

Study Co-author, Lobsang Tenzin Negi, director of the Emory-Tibet Partnership, had this to say:

“CBCT aims to condition one’s mind to recognize how we are all inter-dependent, and that everybody desires to be happy and free from suffering at a deep level.”

Build empathy and build a better world.

Sounds like mandatory training, not just for innovators, but for all humans…


Posted in Behavioral Science, Case Studies, cognitive studies, culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, Emotions, innovation, Innovation Tools, meditation, Research, Science, The Human Person, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

When a Design Gets Ignored – Lessons From a Parking Lot

Posted by Plish on February 3, 2012

Went to the Post Office today and saw the above scenario and had to take a picture. (I roughed in a map of what the parking lot looks like.  Green arrows represent the designed travel path. The X’s denote cars oriented as seen in the picture.  I parked by the lone car along the entrance to the P.O.)

Despite the best efforts of planners to create a smooth flow to the traffic pattern in this lot, when the opportunity presented itself, everybody took the ‘easy’ path (which was, no doubt, started by one individual) and the people pulled through the ‘design intended’ slots, and into the next, enabling them, hopefully, to pull directly out, albeit awkwardly, without having to back-up.

I think we’ve all done what the above people did.   In a moment, we decide to park ‘wrong’ but we’re happy with what we’ve done because we think we’re getting a two-fer: Easy in – Easy out.

The reality is bit more complicated. In order to get out easily we need:

  • No one parking across the spot from us
  • No one parking behind us
  • No one parking too close to us
  • No one leaving at the same time
  • No one driving down the roadway the ‘right way’, looking for a parking space.

If any of the above occur, our path out is hardly easier than it would’ve been had we parked properly.

The lessons from the above are myriad, but the one that stands out is this:

If a design enables someone to do a task more easily in the present, with a perceived benefit in the future, that person will do the task the easier way, despite gentle reminders to the contrary.

The corollaries to prevent the above are the following:

  • Make it more difficult to do the task (concrete parking chocks would do nicely, but frankly, I don’t like them)
  • Eliminate the perception of future benefit (signs showing chaos if people park wrong, signs threatening ticketing, etc.)
  • If the preferred way of parking is more elegant, redesign! (This really could be done on this lot. Seriously, will anyone ever park in those spaces on the right side of the lot??)

The above scenario is a cautionary tale that highlights the importance of prototyping and experimenting to learn how your product will be used.  Testing needs to go deeper than just confirming that people can follow instructions and that people use your product as you expected.

You really learn about your product, and what people’s needs are, when you allow them the freedom to interpret the product and its use context, on their terms.

“But nobody followed the rules! They didn’t respect the traffic flow and slant of the parking spaces!”



Posted in Behavioral Science, Customer Focus, Design, Emotions, innovation, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

That’s YOUR Chunk of Open Office Space, This is MINE…

Posted by Plish on September 16, 2011

In the past I wrote about the health impact of open plan office spaces and their impact on creativity

Now it appears that open office spaces, intended to foster interaction, instead foster territorial behaviours that undermine collaboration.

 Professor of Strategic Management, Stephen Cummings, who led the study said,

“The intent of taking away dividing walls and doors is usually to improve creativity and performance by fostering spontaneous fun, interaction and sharing…However, we found evidence that it can lead to attempts by employees to re-create spatial and social structures and boundaries, actually undermining the behaviours an organisation is trying to encourage.

…most teams marked out their territory with posters, slogans and personal items, even moving furniture to create their own personalised space, which seemed to put other teams off moving into that space.  Employees also tended to use the activity rooms in their established team groups at separate times rather than mingling with other teams.”

He also mentioned that people felt that they lacked privacy and hence they had to be more rigid in their behaviours and hence less innovative.

So what to do?  Well the obvious step is to create a mix of open and private space, understand what your people are like, and build an environment that plays to individual strengths, needs and personalities.  “One size fits all,” isn’t the way to an innovative culture.




Posted in Architectural Design, Authenticity, Behavioral Science, Case Studies, creativity, culture of innovation, Health Concerns, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Driving Emotional Connections – A Case Study of Home Shopping Channels

Posted by Plish on February 11, 2011

In times when people are deluged with stimuli, it’s essential to design products and services so that positive, lasting, energizing experiences result. These emotionally engaging products and services, when analyzed, share commonalities.

Richard Chase and Sriram Dasu, in their article: Want to perfect your company’s service? Use Behavioral Science;(Richard B. Chase and Sriram Dasu;Harvard Business Review, Jun 2001; 78-84) point to 5 rules that can improve the positive experience of services or minimize the impact of negative experiences when they occur (I color coded three rules so they can be found later in the article).

  1. Finish Strong
  2. Get Bad Experiences Out of The Way Early
  3. Segment Pleasure, Combine Pain
  4. Build Commitment Through Choice
  5. Use/Respect Ritual

Harvey Hartman of the Hartman Group, in one of my favorite, loaded, little books,Reflections on a Cultural Brand: Connecting with Lifestyles, highlights 5 principles and how they lead to emotional engagement.  Design the control  of these principles and you increase the emotional engagement:

  1. Community>>Interaction>>Belonging
  2. Knowledge>>Empowerment>>Confidence
  3. Authenticity>>Trust>>Security
  4. Relevance>>Personal Connection>>Comfort
  5. Surprise>>Delight!>>Pleasure

When used in tandem, both of these sources provide guidance in designing experiences- Hartman with regards to the content of offerings and Chase/Dasu with regards to how things unfold over time.

Let’s examine how these various principles are applied in the case of home shopping television stations such as HSN or QVC.

These companies are excellent examples of providing emotionally engaging services.  (If you have access to these stations, it might be worth stopping by and watching them for a while – some of what I will say will make much more sense after you have.)

When tuning in to one of these stations people see a gregarious host, possibly an equally bubbly product expert, beautiful models, close-ups of various products and a prominent insert on the screen that points out the retail cost, the customer cost, shipping, how many have sold and/or are available, and how much longer any special deals will be present.  And this continues, pretty much, 24×7.  There is a wonderful structure to the flow of the shows.  Whether it’s food, jewelry, frying pans, or electronics, when you tune in to a shopping channel you quickly fall into the flow of the program – people fall into the ritual.  The programs are also segmented by product offerings and time.  Because of this combination of ritual and segmentation, people can tune in at the time of their choosing, and buy what they want, when they want, with a choice of payment plans and shipping options.  These stations strongly leverage three of Chase/Dasu’s 5 guiding principles.

Let’s look now at how the experience of Shopping channels maps to Hartman’s principles.


It’s clear that aspects of shopping networks map well to the principles noted by Hartman.  Multiple opportunities for building positive experiences are leveraged whenever possible.  The more that experiences can be mapped to these principles, the more powerful the pull of the product or service.   Couple this with the Chase/Dasu principles and it becomes obvious that the success of home shopping channels is anything but accidental. 

There is a nexus of  experiential meaning present for those that visit these networks, and this means that it is highly likely that these people will also be evangelists.  The result is a self-sustaining, emotionally fulfilling shopping experience, all in the comfort of the home.

How do your products and services stack up against this tandem of Hartman and Chase/Dasu principles?

Posted in Authenticity, Behavioral Science, Case Studies, creativity, Customer Focus, Design, Emotions, Experience, innovation, Market Assessment | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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