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!
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 Norhria. In the example participants were given a choice to receive $100 in 28 days or $120 in 31 days. Most of the participants in the study chose waiting 3 extra days to get the $120. Next participants were given the decision of receiving $100 now or $120 in 3 days. In this decision the same participants chose the $100 now over waiting three extra days for the $120 reward. So why did the participants decide to change their decision if the time between rewards in both choices is 3 days? The same reason you were willing to drive across town to save $8 on a toothbrush but not a suit!
The problem occurs because like in the dot visual illusion we measure the alternatives of our decisions based off of relative information. The only sure way to know if the dots are the same size is to use an external measuring device like a ruler. The same holds true for the cognitive illusions, yet most people don't take the time to establish the correct cognitive ruler. In the toothbrush example our natural tendency is to compare the $8 in savings to the $15 toothbrush and think it is a great deal. In the suit example we compare the $8 in savings to $500 price tag and think not a great deal. Yet in both instances you save $8 dollars by driving 20 minutes. The correct cognitive ruler to assess both decisions is to ask yourself whether driving 20 minutes to save $8 is worth it, and if it is, then you should always drive 20 minutes to save $8 whether you are buying a toothbrush or a suit!
In the money and time example participants compare 3 days with 28 days and decide that waiting 3 extra days after having waited 28 does not seem like that much longer to get the larger $120 reward. But when compared with receiving the $100 reward right now, ...
In our last post we promised a follow up for making your contribution social media ready. We have a few basic principles that if followed can help your content avoid being ignored and capture the attention of your second and third circles.
The first of these principles is to lead with passion. Find something you are passionate about and pursue it. We see so many people using social media just for the sake of using the technology or for shameless self promotion. If you aren't passionate about your work it will show in the quality. . If you want your contribution to capture attention, put your heart and time into it, there are no shortcuts.
The next principle is possibly the most important. Find a niche, become the expert, and dominate that niche. Stop trying to contribute content, products, or services that attempt to meet everyones needs while sacrificing what makes you unique. We see so many round pegs trying to fit in triangle, star, and square, holes instead of embracing the fact that their passion, experience, and knowledge makes them the expert to dominate a specific niche no matter how small or eccentric. Fill your niche and rock out!
The next of these principles is to make sure your contribution is rooted in story. Story is the essence of the human condition and it is the best way to process, package, and get your audience to remember information. This goes for everything from your blog posts, instructional videos, presentations, and even your resume. The bottom line is that people are suckers for a story. If your contribution has an amazing story, it will travel and it will be remembered.
The last principle is important, especially in the social media context. So many social media groupies fall into the "expert's trap" where they are really excited to show off their knowledge of a particular subject on go on to ad nauseum. Don't fall into this trap! Keep it short! We have found that when people view content online their attention span hardly last more than 5 minutes. We have found that our 2 - 4 minute video posts receive the greatest attention and have the most potential in capturing the audience's attention through out the whole piece.
That's it! Now that you know the principles, get out there and start contributing. Thank you for watching and we look forward to your feedback.
Social media and networking have fooled a lot of people and companies into thinking they are rockstars. Unfortunately the ease of access and near zero cost of distribution has created an internet that sounds a lot like this. (bad music playing) The abundance of fake rockstars has created an audience that is willing to be your friend, but not willing to listen to what you have to say, buy your product, or help you get a job.
Unfortunately most people and businesses using social media and networking are following the funnel rule: Cram more people into your brand funnel, and maybe you can trick a few into listening to what you have to say. The problem with cramming is that it is costly both in time and brand credibility, and cramming is the most inefficient and absolute worst way to go about being a rockstar.
If you really to be a rockstar, you have to understand one thing, and on thing only: contribution. Your power and influence are directly proportional to the amount you or your business contribute to your audience. When you look at the essence of relationship and group formation dynamics, contribution is the key element that unites and brings people together. It is a simple yet powerful concept that if understood and properly implemented can mean the difference between being truly great and just being noise.
This principle has not changed for thousands of years. When you look at all the rockstars throughout history, beethoven, einstein, gandhi, martin luther king jr., all have been immortalized not because they were interested in cramming people into their branding funnel, but because the impact of their contribution was so incredible people were naturally drawn to them.
A great way to visualize the power of contribution is to use Seth Godin's analogy of circles. As Seth put it in his blog post, most people are putting all their energy into increasing the size of their first circle, when the real power and size of their network lies in the second and third circles. The only way to gain access to the second circle is to create a message, product or service so incredible, unique or valuable that it contributes to your first circle in such a way that your first circle wants to share it with their first circle. If it is really amazing then your newly created second circle will share it their first circle giving you access to the third circle and so on
One of our favorite stories of contribution and social networking is Zoe Keating. With nothing more than a cello and a macbook she is able to create beautiful loops of music that grow into incredible works of art. Is she actively seeking out new followers and friends for her twitter or facebook pages? No, but she has a razor sharp focus on following her passion to contribute some of the best music in the world. Her contribution shows in her numbers. She has over 1.2 million people following her on twitter. Her shows are regularly sold out and she has been featured in wired, n.p.r., and WNYC's Radio Lab.
The message is simple, if you want to be a rockstar, stop trying to add more people to your first circle or cram them into your branding funnel and start contributing content, products, and services that are so incredible that they are worth linking to and talking about. In our next post we will give tips for making your contribution social media ready. Thanks for watching and we look forward to your feedback!
This mondaydots post models Don Sull's active inertia.
This is a "how-to" video that explains the basic workflow of the mondaydots process.
This dot model explains the classic trade-off triangle in public policy decision making. With California on the brink of a budget crisis, I thought it appropriate to discuss how to cut in times financial dismay.
This video models the debate over whether the U.S. should pull out of the Iraq war.
This is the original mondaydots model built for a friend of mine that used to teach at Harvard Business School. It explains how General Petraeus was able to pull off a dramatic change in the military mindset in the war in Iraq.
This is the presentation I give on the Student Generated Content Education Model.
This is my explanation for why I use dots in my presentations and why the mondaydots blog exists.
This mondaydots model explains how why most organizations miss their goals and how to use s.m.a.r.t. goal setting to create a nimble, fast moving team.