Monday, December 01, 2008

Software to Change Human Behaviors

The title looks persuasive? Yes. It is!
When I looked at the list of new management gurus by CNN, one of the Gurus who generated curiosity was BJ Fogg, Founder and Director, Persuasive Technology Lab, Stanford University. As mentioned in CNN site, the Big idea of Fogg is that ‘Mobile technology will be the most powerful way to influence customers in the next 15 years’.
Well, I am not going to talk about Mobile technology in this blog post. And I am not going to talk about web 2.0 either. This topic has relevance but not much significance with Web 2.0.
But, my interest was, How Software applications in general, used in combination with specific media like Web/Mobile, can change the attitude and behaviors of humans. The pitfall in this approach is that it can impact the customers both in the right way and the wrong way!
And for all you know, sites like Amazon are already leveraging these concepts for quite a few years. The amazon’s reputed ‘Recommendation engine’ that suggests books based on the past like-minded buyer’s preferences/behaviors, is actually trying to influence you saying ‘Why don’t you buy that book as well?. It seems to be good (by displaying the rankings)’ Well, this may be called as Marketing, to be precise in the business context. But, It is actually ‘persuasion’ in a larger context. Same with, Amazon reader list application recently added in LinkedIn.
For the first time, I am hearing somebody deeply thinking about how technology can be linked to human attitude, their thoughts and behaviors. This perspective empowers the technology field like never before and I see a ‘Wow!’ factor!. As Software Developers/Designers, we might have done this persuation in the past unconsciously. Now, the same design theory is being approached in more formal and scientific manner.
Now, if Technology and Software applications has so much of power, the question is, what are we doing with that? Are we leveraging those technologies to write powerful applications that generate positive impact among people?.
Stanford is working on an interesting field named as ‘Captology’. Captology is defined as the design, research, and analysis of interactive computing products/technologies created for the purpose of changing people's attitudes or behaviors. In fact, Stanford has already published couple of books on the same topic and they are available on Sale in amazon.
I happen to read the excerpt in the book and the author talks about some of the interesting thoughts on how Captology can have a deeper impact to the level of user interface design of graphical applications.
It would be interesting to explore how these concepts and technologies can be applied towards ‘change management’ / ‘Organizational Design’ in the context of Enterprise 2.0.

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