Thursday, May 7, 2015

Incentivizing Understanding of Customer Needs

One of the issues with diversity & inclusion discussions, is that it can often create cognitive dissonance.

One example of cognitive dissonance played out during the 1990's, at a time when I had taken to reading Parade magazine from the Sunday paper. The Time Everyone “Corrected” the World’s Smartest Woman. Marilyn Vos Savant posts the published material here: Game Show Problem .

To me, the thousands of letters Ms. Vos Savant received are an early prelude to the Internet dog-piling culture we see today. Some of the letters seem as if they could have come straight from Derailing for Dummies.

In Long Fuse, Big Bang, Haseltine discussed a behavioral conditioning box:

Reward Punishment
Good Behavior X O
Bad Behavior O X

Haseltine explained how businesses and other organizations often make rules that attempt to incentivize Good Behavior and punish Bad Behavior.

However, he advises that the entire box needs to be used. Specificaly, organizations need to be certain that they do NOT reward bad behavior or punish good behavior. I think the NYT Article, "How Some Men Fake an 80-Hour Workweek, and Why It Matters" has good examples of both of these mistakes: rewarding the illusion of productivity, while punishing those who follow the formal processes to request lighter schedules.

Bringing the conditioning box back to internet culture, one reason that the common internet adage, "Don't Feed the Trolls" Is Bad Science is that it ONLY addresses the "Reward" column (don't give them the attention they want). As the link points out, adequate socialization needs to not only encourage good behavior, but also dissuade anti-social behavior.

In my blog, I have written about how diversity drives innovation. I have also written about how product design for a global world requires tacit, often-unconscious knowledge about the culture and environment of the place where one wishes to use the product. I have written about how history, language, and religion connect to that tacit knowledge of culture.

All of this writing about culture, is also about understanding product users. Understanding culture not only means understanding one's employees-- it also means understanding one's customers.

Does your organization encourage or discourage understanding your customers? Are you sure?