The UX of Inner Motivation

By | April 22, 2010

We moved into a new house a few months ago.  We still have boxes left unpacked; pictures not on the wall.  We had a nice surge of motivation to unpack, but then we ran out of steam.  The whole job seems really enormous.  It’s easier to just get through the day-to-day with the minimum of effort than to buckle down and tear open that box.

Hanging up that first picture is hard work.  You have to look at all the walls and decide where each picture is going to go.  You can’t just pick up a picture and randomly point at a wall.  Once you make a hole in the wall, there is no going back without Spackle and paint.  This is what makes it such a difficult task.  You have to design the whole before you can make progress on the first thing.  After that, it’s much easier.  Each incremental improvement doesn’t need to go back to the original design process.

However, you might make a mistake midway through and realize you need to start over.  What a horrible feeling!

What I am describing is why most people stick the status quo.  It’s just so much easier.  It takes incredible inner motivation to be able to get started, take the risk of failure and do what you need to do.

I told a friend that she should stop smoking.  She said, “I know, I know, I know.”  This roughly translates to “I can’t.  I don’t have the willpower.”  I told the same friend, “You have good experience.  You can get a job as a product manager.  You just need to update your resume, email them and apply.” She said, “I know, I know, I know.”  (Same translation)

How this applies to products
People have a very hard time finding that inner spark to break the pattern and the status quo.  When they do…it’s a big deal because work begins and they build up cognitive dissonance.  In other words, once someone is started, then continuing is the new status quo and people will stick.  If you have a product or service that requires people to “get started”, you need to examine the customers behaviors.  What is their current status quo?

The key is to make the initial motivation very small.  Don’t make them think about money or integration hassle or learning a new product.  Give them a way to get started quickly.  Reduce all friction to get started and you will find that their inner motivation will kick in alot sooner.

Now if I could just get started on hanging those pictures.

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