A Reminder About the Design of Little Things

At the Qualtrics Insight Summit in Salt Lake CIty last week, I was able to see Dan Ariely’s keynote speech. I’m a huge fan. Ariely is one of the leading researchers in behavioral economics, which is a field that influences a lot of the thinking that shows up in my blog.

Ariely shared a version of this graphic (that I borrowed from Ariely’s blog) that shows the percentage of people who sign up to be organ donors across different companies and asked the audience this question: Why do some of these countries have such high participation rates while others are so low?

Organ DonorsThe audience guessed that the differences were due to political, religious, or cultural norms. Everyone was wrong. It turns out that the differences can be traced to a simple thing: the design of the forms for becoming an organ donor. In the countries with high participation rates, the form provides a check mark for opting-out while the low participation rate countries use an opt-in form.

In other words,people demonstrated the same behavior across all countries—they did nothing. It just turns out that this common behavior had radically different results based on how the forms were developed.

Here are three key lessons from this example:

  1. People aren’t as thoughtful as we think. We generally believe that people make informed, logical decisions. But in many cases, especially when faced with complex decisions, they choose to do nothing.
  2. Forms can trump strategy. The people who develop the strategy for a company often make huge salaries and have big corner offices. But what about the people who design the forms? Do we even know who they are? But the best strategy can fall flat because of decisions about how a form is designed.
  3. Don’t forget the little things. A few years ago I introduced a concept called the Design of Little Things (DoLT), defined as “the small changes that can dramatically improve the customer experience of much larger investments.” Don’t think that deploying an experience is the end-point. Assume that you’re going to get it wrong and keep resources in place to learn and evolve.

The bottom line: Design experiences based on how people actually behave

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile: www.linkedin.com/in/brucetemkin

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