How We Monitor Goals Matters Big Time

While there is no rocket science to making behavior change, small changes in your approach can make a big difference. So I am always on the lookout for evidence-based practices that may hold small but important insights into how we can make lasting behavior change.

For example. a new article in the Psychological Bulletin  reviews 138 studies that examine the effects of monitoring your progress towards a goal to achieving that goal. While the connection may seem to be common sense, the real issue is how to I do it to maximize the effect. Said directly, is there a way to monitor progress to maximize its impact on goal attainment?

According to the evidence the answer is yes – make it frequent, public and recorded.  To quote the meta study:

“Furthermore, changes in the frequency of progress monitoring mediated the effect of the interventions on goal attainment. Moderation tests revealed that progress monitoring had larger effects on goal attainment when the outcomes were reported or made public, and when the information was physically recorded. Taken together, the findings suggest that monitoring goal progress is an effective self-regulation strategy, and that interventions that increase the frequency of progress monitoring are likely to promote behavior change.”

The daily huddles that characterize successful SCRUM coding teams and lean daily improvement efforts are examples of how well this results holds up in practice.



Do You Know Your Higi Score?

Many of us have seen the sit-down stations in drug stores that have you put an arm in a sleeve and give you a blood pressure and pulse reading.  The folks at Higi have gone further to create a interactive health kiosk that captures blood pressure, pulse, weight, body fat and BMI and uses it to compute an overall health score called the Higi Score.

You create an account, provide some basic information such as height and age and your progress is tracked.  You can access your info from the station, a computer or an app.

There are levels, awards and even a way to create a winner-take-all challenge with a group of like minded Higi users.

They have nearly 10,000 stations across the US and some evidence that the Higi can reduce blood pressure in people that are hypertensive.

The evidence comes from a 3-year study involving 159,000 hypertensive users that was presented at an American Heart Association Meeting:

“Nearly half lowered their systolic blood pressure to below 140 mmHg, the cut-off for high blood pressure according to AHA. Both men and women across all age brackets saw lowered blood pressure over the course of the study.”

From a cognitive design standpoint interesting features and functions include the gamification and the way relatively complex health data (weight, BP, pulse and BMI) is rolled up into one score.

If designed correctly, this composite score can give me something that provides a signal that supports how I learn from feedback better than any of the individual measures.

The Weight Watchers program attempts to do this with a point system for foods.

Add in some gamification or socialization features that make it feel good to try and change the score and you may be able to get some lasting health behavior change.

Anyone up for a Higi challenge?


The New Face of Knowledge Management?

Tom Davenport offers some interesting insights into why knowledge management has fallen off the executive agenda and is seemingly on its last gasp.  Reasons include – it is too hard to change knowledge-related behaviors in a corporate culture, Google made it super easy to find knowledge outside of the organizations, the field collapsed into SharePoint and it ignored analytics. All true.

His prediction is that it will not stage a come back.   IBM’s Watson capability is now stealing the knowledge show!




Take the Magic Leap (Click on the Image)

They have received $542M in start-up funds to bring magic back into the world….

“Using our Dynamic Digitized Lightfield Signal™, imagine being able to generate images indistinguishable from real objects and then being able to place those images seamlessly into the real world.”

Mana for Cognitive Designers!


The Growing Market Demand for Empathy

In cognitive design we create artifacts that generate specific mental states when seen or used.  In addition to core functionality and ease of use, cognitive designs reliably deliver a particular think-and-feel experience.    Retro car designs that invoke nostalgia, educational events that generate wonder and websites that help you forge deep personal relationships with others are examples.

But designing think-and-feel experiences that meet deeply felt psychological needs is hard.  One reason is that you must understand what other people really think and feel.  And that requires something that business have not normally focused on – empathy.

But all that seems to be changing. According to a recent column by Geoff Colvin in Fortune, Employers are Looking for New Hires With Something Extra: Empathy.  The author did a  quick online search for jobs paying over $100K involving empathetic traits and got a thousand hits with positions from firms ranging from McKinsey to Mars.    Brad Smith, CEO of Inuit (a $4B software company) hits it on the head:

Designing emotion into the product is now something you really have to think about explicitly and measure yourself against”.

This is a big claim from a technology company and one that signals cognitive design is starting to move into the mainstream.


Finding the Best Innovation Ideas

Tremendous time and energy is spent trying to generate good ideas for start-ups and corporate innovation processes. Indeed, some consultants make a living helping others try and figure it out.  Fortunately, we all ready know how to do it. It is not easy but the concept is simple.
Paul Graham states it very nicely when he writes that we should focus on a problem we have first hand experience with and pick something:
  1. We want ourselves
  2. We can build
  3. Few others see as worthwhile.
Many entrepreneurs and innovators I know support this insight.  Its a bit like the nose on your face.


Free Access to World Class Cog Sci Books in June!

Psychology Press recently launched a Century of Knowledge in Cognitive Science, offering readers free online access to nearly 2000 titles for the month of June.  Some of the titles will be useful to cognitive designers. For example, check out the practical insights in the areas of decision-making or anxiety, two major cognitive design challenges.

You get complete access to the book from your browser.   Check them out and reply to this post with titles especially relevant for designers and innovators.



Netflix: How Do You Think About Movies?

We watch a lot of movies. Collecting data on the movies we watch and how we react to them might provide some insights into preferences, mental models and psychological needs that are useful for cognitive designers.

So I am always on the look out for new studies on the psychology of films.  For example,  early this year, The Atlantic Magazine published an interesting article on How Netflix Reverse Engineers Hollywood. Through a combination of journalism and text mining the author claims to have discovered that Netflix uses nearly 77,000 genres to drive its recommendation engine. These place movies into extremely specific categories that represent a narrow but useful viewer psychographic. Some examples: Evil kid horror movies , visually striking nostalgic foreign dramas and gritty suspenseful revenge westerns.   They also include a list of Netflix’s favorite movie subjects that include, at the very top of the list, movies about marriage and royalty.

Tagging (categorizing) all of these movies is a big investment for Netflix. They use a combination of human and machine intelligence to do the work.  The article states:

“Using large teams of people specially trained to watch movies, Netflix deconstructed Hollywood. They paid people to watch films and tag them with all kinds of metadata. This process is so sophisticated and precise that taggers receive a 36-page training document that teaches them how to rate movies on their sexually suggestive content, goriness, romance levels, and even narrative elements like plot conclusiveness.”

This made me wonder if this would in fact be a great learning exercise for students of film. They could do the tagging work as a way to learn about films and at the same time generate a lot of commercially useful meta-data.  I explore how this might work in general in my post on learning labor.