the psychological demands of change

Presented at Monktoberfest 2014.

It's about the psychological demands of change. Related to an Ignite talk earlier in the year, Unicorns and the Language of Otherness, about the investment of identity as a barrier to change

Soon after moving to the west coast for #startuplife, I read Hooked. It's mainly about using the mechanics of addiction for profit, how to build addiction into products. Buried as a subpoint deep in the book, there’s an interesting bit about Alcoholics Anonymous and support groups, in general. People in the group have been through something already or are going through it together. Their experience provides proof that the next step is achievable. Their empathy provides positive reinforcement to nurture that achievement.

That reminded me of the Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, which makes the point that the source of self-esteem is confidence and of confidence is efficacy. We do new things constantly when we’re little. Our success in doing those things gives us a sense of efficacy. That sense of efficacy translates into confidence which in turn forms the psychophysical (biological? evolutionary?) basis of self-esteem. 

Think about what happens when you try to do something new. Generally, you suck. And when you suck, you feel bad. You suck, your efficacy is challenged, your confidence is challenged, your esteem is challenged. Which is hard. 

Where doing something new is difficult, changing something old to do something new is even harder. You’re taking something you know how to do, where you have an efficacious experience, and you have to abandon it to do something else. You’re not just starting from scratch and then building experience, efficacy, confidence, and esteem. You’re starting from a place of confidence and cutting it out of your life. As you stumble along in the learning process, you hopefully find efficacy, confidence, and esteem along the way. But until that happens, the experience is unpleasant. Changing behavior actually hurts.

Changing behavior actually hurts.

Community support eases the pain by filling the gap. It supplies an external source of confidence and esteem to get you through until you can build your own.

In tech, we are producing and evangelizing new patterns, architectures, cultures, metaphors, and interfaces at an ever greater pace. We demand of everyone that they change, that they give up what they’re confident at, that they stumble along and fail on the way to the every new promised land we pitch. We demand that people suffer. So we should provide the means to alleviate that suffering. 

Make change consumable. 

Not just UX or user centered design, but psychological centered design.  People work in specific ways, feel in specific ways, learn in specific ways. Don’t build for the customer or the user. Build for the human. 

Design for efficacy. 

When we talk about building minimum viable products and breaking down the ultimate thing we’re trying to build into something that’s useful at each stage of creation, it’s to create efficacious experiences at every turn. Little wins matter.

Fill the gaps.

When we can’t help our users or even see the friction that we’ve created, they can help themselves. That’s why we build communities. They can help themselves, but they can’t do it by themselves. They can only do it together.

Disclaimer: This is neither expert nor scientific. :)

Photo credit: MVP image from here. 

Slides below.