Wednesday, October 29, 2014

TLDR thoughts on UX Day and Conferences in General

I recommended to many of the early career professionals at UX Day today that they should think about how to get the most out of conferences they go to by valuing the different kinds of activities they can be involved in.  If a session is going to be an exact replication of papers that they can read in the conference Proceedings, then they are wasting a valuable opportunity by attending that session. If there is a panel discussion that will go beyond the proceedings paper, then it adds value.  Otherwise, they should spend the hour in the lobby introducing themselves to people, starting conversation, and getting their name out.  Not only do they meet people who may be good professional contacts later, but they also get great practice building their self-branding skills, communication skills, conversational skills, body language reading skills, and more.  That is the real secret of attending conferences – not going to technical sessions.

That is why we have as one of the primary missions of User Experience Day to create these networking opportunities, personal branding opportunities, and professional development opportunities.  We have some that are heavy on the professional side, such as our invitation-only leadership development initiative.  We have some that are an equal balance, such as the mentoring lunch. And then we have some that are heavy on the social side like our happy hour. 

I personally make sure that we enough fluid-enhancement (e.g. open bar) to make sure that our risk perception goes down, our risk tolerance goes up, and everyone gets into the mood for meeting new people and making new professional connections.  Tonight was a great example.  Thanks to the generous support of Whirlpool, we had our capstone happy hour at their penthouse showroom in downtown Chicago.  We had 200 people in attendance and the group consensus was that it was the best event of week, technical or otherwise.  We made sure to introduce everyone to the people that were best for them to meet and in a venue that made it easy to start up a conversation.  If we had some way to measure the value to the attendees’ career development, I think we would be totally off the charts.  It makes the whole trip worth it for me – that is why I am here.  And to tell you the truth, I feel really good right now that I could help make it happen.

Friday, October 24, 2014

This Week in EID - Episode 26

I got one very critical comment on my Monday post on Evolutionary Design via Linked In.  He apparently doesn’t believe in the whole concept.  Evolution might have taught us to seek food, but not mates or tribes.  Luckily, the next commenter came to me defense.  Boy do I love social media !!

On Tuesday, I of course promoted the Future Visions Panel next week at the HFES Conference and UX Day in general.  I hope many of you plan to be there.  It should be a great conference and a great panel.

Creativity is one of my favorite topics, so Wednesday’s post was fun to write and the source article was even more fun to read.  I think there is a lot of good insight into what creativity is here, so recommended reading for sure.

Then I closed the week out with a games/training/gender/biascombo.  Any two of these topics would be the source of many blog topics, so putting all four together was an interesting exercise.  Let me know what you think of it.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Studio Journal Episode 15 - The Hallway

Now that I have been living in my Dollar Store Studio (Do you like that name?  I came up with that this week for my content strategy course.) for a month, I have learned something very interested about the hallways. 

The insulation between the apartments and the hallway is non-existent.  There are visible gaps around the doors.  Evidence for this is that I can smell some wonderful Indian food in the hallway when I come home from work.  There are a lot of South Asians in my building, obviously.  And their food smells leak into the hallway. 

On the other hand, it is at least 10 degrees warmer in the hallway then in my apartment.  It was 20 degrees during the summer (not good), but in the winter I think that might be a bonus. 

Except that I can’t help but wonder why food smells transfer but temperature doesn’t.  I am sure there is some physics explanation for this about the size of food particles versus the pressure differential that transfers temperature.  But that is way beyond my physics skills.  I barely got through Physics 1 at Tufts.  If someone could explain this to me, I would appreciate it.

Losing a Win-Win situation

This research resonated with me more than I would like to admit.  They looked at what happens when you have to decide between a set of options that are all good.  In theory, you win either way.  So you should take the best one and be happy.

But it isn’t that simple.  It never is.  It turns out that two areas of the brain both get activated.  The pleasure area gets activated in anticipation of getting a reward.  Dopamine shots all around.  It doesn’t matter if you have two choices (easy to find the best one) or six choices (harder to find the best one)

But your anxiety area gets activated also.  It can’t help but be worried that you won’t pick the best choice (regardless of the fact that they are all positive) so it releases stress hormones.  And it releases more in the six choice condition than in the two choice condition. 

Then there was also a follow up study.  After the study was presumably over, they gave the participants the option to change their minds.  Electrical activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, which signals conflict and indecision, was higher in people who changed their minds.  This indicates that even after they thought the study was over, some participants remained conflicted about the choice. 

They also found that participants who reported more anxiety in their daily lives were more likely to change their minds.  So anxiety is related to indecision, stress, and buyer’s remorse.  Every time you make a choice, even when it is all good, causes anxiety.  It can build up over time and cause long term anxiety and stress.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Save the World One Cup at a Time

Two decades of studying human behavior (a shift up the cognitive psych based Human Factors that I was originally trained on) has taught me at least one thing.

If you want to change anyone's behavior, you have to integrate a new behavior into the old one in a way that doesn't require any sacrifice, effort, or concentration.  And it has to be customized to the individual.

Here is a great example.  It is innovations like this that will prevent (or at least slow down) climate change.  How many people do you know that don't really like the taste of coffee, they just want the caffeine jolt?  So instead, give them an espresso cookie.  And save millions of paper and styrofoam cups.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Errors of omission to discourage voting

There was an interesting study done by Christian Grose at the University of Southern California on human behavior using voter ID laws and political party.  They sent a simple question to 1,871 legislators in 14 states with large Latino populations.   “Do I need an ID to vote?”  And the emails were signed Jacob or Santiago, to see if there would be a difference in response rate to the different ethnic names.

The answer in all of these states was a definite “No.”  No Voter ID laws had been passed in any of the states.  The researchers were not studying whether the lawmakers would lie about it.  They were simply measuring whether the lawmaker’s office sent a reply.  If not, the assumption was that by not responding, the lawmaker could discourage poorer citizens, who often trend Democratic and are less likely to have ID, from voting because if they didn’t have ID they wouldn’t know they didn’t need one. Of course, lots of politicians are too busy to reply, but that shouldn’t be different between political parties.  So any significant difference could be due to this bias.

They did find a difference.  Republican legislators were less likely to respond than Democratic legislators.  But this difference was small.  The big finding was between Republicans who supported Voter ID laws and those who didn’t.  Republican legislators who supported these laws were 40% less likely to respond to the question.  This was “one of the largest gaps” the researchers had seen in any of their studies.  It doesn’t prove cause and effect.  Perhaps Republicans who support Voter ID laws coincidentally were more busy during this period that others for some other reason.  But . . .