The psychology of experiences and creating habits with guest Nir Eyal

December 18, 2019
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Joe

00:00

Welcome to the DNA Experience podcast from Cloud App where we discuss how and why creating experience is so important and the psychology behind what makes an experience so great. Thanks for joining us.

Joe

00:16

Hey, welcome to the DNA of an experience podcast from cloud Up. We're excited to have have all with us today. Here is a a great author of a book that I'm a big fan of called Hooked and also one coming out that I've been reading. And it's been a lot of fun, and I also just love Nir's backgrounds going to Stanford, which I did a program for Adobe through Stanford. I  learned a lot about design thinking and and lots about the creation of different businesses. We've been able to connect on that and also just really connecting on social. That's kind of how we how we connected, which is kind of fun. So I'd love for you to tell me about yourself and how you became an author, starting off with  some of these books that you've done.

Nir

01:17

Sure, yeah. So I started writing back in 2012 after my previous company was acquired, I'd help start to companies, and we're the last company that was acquired. I had some time on my hands, and I wanted to figure out what I would do next. And I had this hypothesis that habits would become increasingly important as the interface shrinks from desktop laptop to mobile devices, to wearable devices. And now to these auditory interfaces like the Amazon and Alexa, that  interface kind of disappears. That if you don't remember what to ask the technology to do, it might as well not even exist. And so that kind of convinced me that we had to figure out how to build habit forming products. And the problem was, I didn't see a book on how to do that. So I started writing about it, and that became, ah, class that I taught at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford and later at the design school at Stanford. And then that turned into a book. My first book Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products, and five years later, that book is done very well. Thank goodness, it's  done better than I expected. Certainly. So, over 1/4 1,000,000 copies to date and shortly after that book is published, Um, you know, I wrote that book for a couple reasons. One is that I wanted to democratize these techniques so that people could use the same tactics with social networks and the gaming companies used to build habits. Why can't we use that for good? My target audience was never the gaming companies and social media act like they have known these techniques for years. They didn't need my help. My target was the rest of us. How do we know who those who are building SAS software or enterprise software, educational software or fitness software banking software? Why can't we make those tools just as engaging in The answer is we can; we just have to use this method.  That was the premise for hooked. Then five years later, fast forward and we find that  I don't have to convince anybody anymore that products use psychology to observe changes in behavior.  Every knows that five years ago I had to convince people of this. Today I think  everybody knows that. Now I think the problem is that people find these products  to be so engaging that sometimes it's it's hard to not over use them. And so that was the premise for in Distractible is how do we get the best out of technology without looking to get the best of us? And I originally started writing the book thinking that the problem was technology because that's what all the other books on this topic tell you. It turns out that's not true, that the problem is actually much, much deeper. It's not just the psychology, it's not just the technology is actually the psychology of distraction, and all sorts of things could distract us. And so that's really what I want to dive into.

Joe

03:55

Yeah, I really love how you infuse yourself into the book, gonna talking about what's been watching that place, being having your device in your hand. And there was an interesting article. I'm sure you saw it in the Times yesterday about slack, and I kind of think about I kind of like 15 years ish my career now.  I grew up without social media and other things, but certainly didn't grow up in a time where there was no email or instant ways to get a hold of people. Yeah, So what are some tips from your book? It's really trying disconnect from that. So when I go into, like, two hours of meetings, I'll come out. We'll have 20 slack messages, 10 emails, five text messages, and two missed phone calls. Yeah, it could be certainly overwhelming.

Nir

04:52

Absolutely. Yeah. So the first step is to define the problem that we're trying to solve here. And the problem we're trying to  solve  is why do we do things against our better interest?  So you know you want to do X, and you do why? You know, you want to sit down at your desk and do that big project, but you procrastinate by checking email and slack channels and whatever else you're doing. You know you wanna be fully present with your family and yet we check our phones. We know we want to work out. We know we want to eat right, but we don't know why. It's such a fascinating question to me, and that's that's really the premise, the book. And so to answer that question, we have to take a step deeper to first define what is. Well meet my distraction. So the opposite of distraction is not focus. The opposite of distraction is traction. Both words come from the same Latin root, Tahari, which means to pull, and both words end in the same five letters. Action A C T I O N. So traction and distraction both end in the same five words Action reminding us that traction is any action that pulls you towards what you want. The opposite of traction is distraction, any action that pulls you away from what you really want. So this means that we have to define what it is. We want that if you allow your schedule to be made by other people, they'll be happy to do so right. If you don't plan your day, somebody else will. And so that's That's Ah, one of four main pillars around what we can do to manage distraction. But let me start with the very first thing we have to do, which is to understand what prompts us to either attraction or distraction is only two things. It external triggers or internal triggers. External triggers are the pings, dings and rings. All of these things in our environment that prompted attraction of distraction and the internal triggers are the things that prompt us from within. And it turns out that is actually the Rio source of most of our distractions. That traction, a distraction, both actions. It's what we do in response to an external or internal trigger. It's not the trigger itself. So if your phone rings, it can prompt you to do something you wanted to do or something you didn't want to do with attraction or distraction. But the most important step is this first step of mastering our internal triggers because it turns out the reason we reached for these devices is actually for one reason. That is, for psychological pacification that were like babies with our pacifiers, because we don't like to feel something, and so that we have to realize that fact or will always get distracted from something. Distraction is not a new problem. It's been around for a very, very long time. What's changed is that if it's distraction, you seek distraction. You will find it is easier than ever to allow yourself to get distracted. But that doesn't mean that we're powerless. And that's a really important theme in this book is to understand,  is the proximal cause is the thing we blame. Slack and Facebook and Instagram and email and meetings you have all that stuff we blame but none of that is the root cause. The root cause is bad feeling. We use these things to say the reason we do everything. All human motivation is prompted by a desire to escape discomfort, so the first step is to master the internal triggers. The second step is to make time for traction, and we do that through, you know, many, many techniques. It's a it's a good chunk of the book. The third step is  hack back. The external triggers the pings, dings and rings not only on our devices, but also all the unnecessary interruptions throughout our day. Like you know, just working in an open floor plan office could be incredibly distracted. What do you do about that? Meetings could be horribly distracting. Email could be horribly destroyed.  So there's all these different environments where we need to figure out how we can hack back the external triggers. And finally, the fourth technique that comes after we did those other three is to prevent distraction with pacts where we can actually use various technique called pre commitments to help prevent us from getting distracted, prevent us from doing something we don't want to

Joe

08:54

Yeah, I think that's you nailed it, obviously. And the book definitely goes over a lot of these techniques that really help you. And you know one thing I love from Damon John said this before the conference, and he's someone give us a shout out out when we raised our money and may he said, Don't answer, You know, the first couple hours of the day Is that someone else's problem? So you focus on what you need to worry about first, definitely, there's like that. Stephen Covey techniques you know, folks, big rocks and things they need to get done. So let's take it. Oh, the brand.

Nir

09:36

I would I would just interject real quick. I don't care if you check email first thing in the morning. I don't know if that kind of advice is actually helpful. What I want to be conscious of is helping people understand the strategy, not the tactics. Whether you're checking email first thing or in the morning or not, that's a tactic. Strategy tactics or what you do strategies why you do it. So it could be that in this individual's case, there's a good reason why he doesn't want to check in on the morning. Great, he should do that. But what when people adopt somebody else's tactic for their strategy,  that could backfire. It's more important to understand why you do this and come up with your own tactics because, you know, look,  if your job is to be on call as soon as you get up, well, then I can't tell you not to check first thing more. That's ridiculous, right?  But what you should do is you should decide how you're going to spend that time.  This drives me crazy. People say, Oh, the world is so distracting. I can't get anything done. I got emails, I got phone calls, I got text messages, group chat and I say, Well, what did you get distracted from today? What is it you wanted to do? And they show me their calendar and it's blank. There's nothing on it. Their whole day is one big distraction because they didn't decide what they got distracted from. So you cannot complain about becoming distracted unless you know what you became distracted from. And so that means you have to keep what's called a time box calendar, where you know how you want to spend your time. I mean, uh, it seems like such a simple technique is actually one of the most studied time management techniques in productivity science. Thousands of studies have demonstrated this, but I think it's missing. It hasn't been practically explaining away where, where you're not just doing this on your own, you're actually sinking. Your skier count is what I call schedule sinking, where you're sinking your schedule with your colleagues, not only in your work life but also in your home life. Like I want people to sit down with their significant others and say, Hey, this is my schedule and where I owe you time and where you owe me time. And this is where we're gonna spend it together. You know that in advance. Because the fact is, this isn't this time is gonna magically appear, right? So maybe Oh, I want to write. I want to do a side business. I want to exercise more. Well, where is that time on your calendar? It's not gonna happen if you don't plan

Joe

11:44

You know, several years ago, my life was being overrun by meetings, and people respect that

Nir

12:01

Totally. And you should synchronize that counter with your colleagues. Look, this is what I have on my plate this week. Is this right, boss? Like do I have time for I mean, is everything that you want me to do this week on my calendar, but that's only step two of four. It's a very important technique, but you have got to the other four are the other three as well.

Joe

12:23

So the last couple of minutes, kind of chatty, Let's take it to a brand level, you know. First book was very grand. Focus. Hooked. Distractible is very personal focused if your brand and you're trying to create an experience which is becoming kind of a new thing here. Qualtrics, they're all about experience. Business. How are you kind of cutting through that noise? All those things bombarding people, enabling them to see your brand first of all, but also recognize that you're kind of trying to help also.

Joe

13:01

Every successful product needs to be a gem, and this isn't a framework I created actually came out of Reach Hoffman from Lincoln. But the idea behind the gem framework is that every successful product needs three things  growth, engagement and monetization. There's a three big things you need. So growth is how do you acquire customers? And in a way that's sustainable engagement. How do you bring them back? And monetization is how do you keep your business alive, given that you have the other two? And so what I focus on is engagement because you can buy growth, right? You could spend a lot of money on Facebook ads or Google ads or Billboard ads, whatever. Doesn't matter on the side of the highway to get people to try your product. But a lot of he'll skip the step around engagement around. How do we get people to come back now? Not every business needs. We will come back in the same frequency. What we find is, however, for many companies, particularly in the SAS enterprise face. If customers don't use your product frequently, they won't renew. And so many products are built just with growth in mind. And they become what's called a leaky bucket because it's so easy to buy growth. Just run a bunch of ads, right? Get a bunch of sales people, people, you know they try, your product will sign up, but then do they leak out? Exactly. And so that's what hooked is all about. Hooked is about how do you build a kind of product and service. Is that our habit forming that people use because they want to, not because they have to, and it turns out there's a four step model for that as well. It's about making sure that you have external triggers and internal triggers. It's about creating the simplest action in anticipation of reward, making sure the reward is fulfilling. And it leaves the user wanting more and then finally getting used the user to invest in the product. So it's those three steps out of those four steps are a trigger action. Investment is a successive cycles through these hooks. This is how customer preferences are shaped, how our tastes are formed and how these habits take hold.

Joe

14:52

One last question. What was the recent, like brand experience you had on? Let me tell you one that I had that was pretty cool. So I say the W in San Francisco and I checked into the mobile out. I had my key, and I totally skipped the front desk right, which is kind of like married now that's there, like entry point. Like creating experience for you is having a personal. And what I thought was cool was I got there late at night and I went in the elevator and there was a map. That's it good in that in the elevator, and I thought I was kind of a cool like, You know, it's very physical, and it's like creating that connection without having a person doing it, knowing that they have a big base now two and three, mobile and being digital. What's kind of like a fun brand experience you've had recently? Travel? Retail?

Joe

15:48

Yeah, So I'm a big proponent of the hook model. Obviously, it was based on, based on my first book, Hooked. And so where I've seen it applied for good in many ways has to do with patient adherents and healthcare in personal finance.  I started using  an app called Fit Body, which for the first time in my life, has helped me keep up, keep up on exercise routine on. So what Fit Body does is they help people who go to the gym stick with that routine by helping them know what to do when they get there. So this isn't for the couch potato. It's for the person who goes to the gym is like, I have no idea what exactly I should be doing here on. So the Fit Body app uses these four steps of the hook  model. And I think what's what they do particularly well is in that fourth step of the investment phase. And a lot of companies skip this step. They think we'll just give people what they want. That's what they'll keep coming back. But if you are not asking them to invest in the product, you're missing a huge opportunity. So what Fit Body does is every time you open the app and you exercise with it and you enter in the data of your last work out there, using that information to load the next trigger and customize the experience based on your last experience with the actor. So, based on how many reps you did, how many sets what you know what muscle you worked out. They will give you a custom tailored workout based on how fatigued some muscles are versus others to make sure you get a great workout. That's a perfect example of the investment face using customer data to improve the product with use.

Joe

17:17

Okay, very cool. Well, thanks for your time today. Nir

Nir

17:19

My pleasure. Joe, thank you.  If you and everyone could go ahead and check out Distractible and Hooked; that'd be great.

Joe

17:31

Thank you. Thanks for joining the DNA of an experienced podcast. We hope you learn something that will help improve your collaboration and enhance the experience you create for your customer. Join the collaboration 2.0 movement today by getting Cloud App, the instant business communication tool used to  instantly share  videos, screenshots and Gifs perfect for both internal and external communication. Get started for free at www dot get cloud at dot com. Thank you. We look forward to seeing you next time.