February 20, 2010

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relativity and immediate gratification watch "relativity and immediate gratification" on vimeo note: Ever since I started mondaydots my friend, Professor Doolittle, has encouraged me to read Back of the Napkin. I finally did this past week and I can easily say it is one my favorite books. I used the SQVID process from his book to refine some of the ideas in this post. If you are interested in the drawings, you can find them here Transcript Most people believe that the inherent need to satisfy immediate gratification stems from greed, a lack of self control, or the ability to sacrifice a smaller short term gain for a greater long term gain. While I agree, I also think that some of our short sighted decisions stem from the natural way we compare alternatives in the decision making process. In fact I think the real cause of immediate gratification can be found in this picture from Dan Ariely's "Predictably Irrational". Which of the darker dots is larger? In this illusion it looks as though the dot on the left is larger. If we do a quick measure, we can easily see that the dots are in fact the same size. Even with this newly minted knowledge if we loose the ruler, our eyes go back to seeing the dot on the left as being larger. The problem is relativity. As Ariely states, "our natural tendency is to compare things that are easily comparable-- and avoid comparing things are not easily compared." So how does this apply to immediate gratification? Just as our eyes can be tricked by visual illusions, our mind can be tricked by cognitive illusions. A great example of a cognitive illusion is my slightly modified example from "Predictably Irrational". It is an illusion I have fallen for many times before. Suppose you are standing in line at the market getting ready to check out with your fancy $15 toothbrush when the person in front of you turns around and tells you that across town, the same toothbrush is on sale for $7. You get out of line, hop in your car, and drive 20 minutes across town to get your toothbrush on sale for $7. The next week you are at the suit store. You are standing in line ready to check out with your $500 suit when the person in front of you tells you that across town they have the same suit on sale for $492. You think to yourself $8 off a $500 suit that's not worth the 20 minute drive, so you stay in line and buy your suit. Aha! You have fallen for the cognitive illusion! How come you were willing to drive 20 minutes to save $8 off a toothbrush but not a suit? Before I explain, let me show you how this same type of cognitive illusion can cause you to fall into the immediate gratification trap. The example comes from the book "Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices" by Paul Lawrence and Nitin...
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mind the information gap watch "mind the information gap" on vimeo In reading "Driven" and "Made to Stick" I stumbled across an incredibly interesting idea. It's called Information Gap Theory. Dr. George Lowenstien wrote a paper about it in 1994 and it works like this: when we come across something new that is not explained by our previous knowledge or experiences, an information gap is formed. If you are a designer, creator or communicator, understanding how to use this gap will have great rewards. Before I tell you how to put it to use, let's explore the gap with a story. Let's say you're a pentagon, and your entire world, all your of your previous experiences, everything you know, everything you think about, is pentagons. Then one day you come across a hexagon. A hexagon is not very different from anything you've previously experienced, so a small gap in your information is formed. This gap is easily rectified by explaining the hexagon as a pentagon with six sides. You quickly close the information gap and move on. Next you come across a polygon. This polygon is so unlike anything you've ever seen before that it creates a huge information gap, and a problem occurs: when the information gap becomes this large it creates fear and people, I mean pentagons, loose the desire to close the gap and don't engage with the new product or service, I mean polygon. They either ignore it or run in the opposite direction as fast as possible. Then you encounter a dot. It's like a pentagon but has a beautiful, continuous, smooth curve and no harsh angles. It is similar but also different from anything you have previously experienced and it creates a medium sized information gap. The power in medium sized information gaps is that they inspire curiosity. They are small enough to be crossed but large enough to create interest and this is the key to putting Lowenstein's Information Gap Theory to work for you: When you are building your next new product, service, or ad campaign, aim to create medium sized information gaps. It amazes me how many new product developers, marketers, and advertisers create the wrong sized gap. They either create a "me too" product or service which creates an information gap that is too small and uninteresting. Or they let their engineers and creatives add wild, bloated, and unnecessary "features", and create a huge information gap that inspires fear over the size of the gap and size of the of the learning curve. Each of us has an inherent desire to learn and explore, to the degree that you can create medium sized information gaps with your audience, with your new website, widget, and or marketing campaign, you will be successful! Thanks for watching and I look forward to your feedback!

jeff monday

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