Thursday, May 5, 2022

How to Nudge Your Way Through Agile Testing: An #InflectraCON LIve Blog

 I confess the title alone convinced me to come to this talk. I've never met or interacted wth Ard Kramer before. Ard calls himself a "Qualisopher" (Quality Philosopher, nerdy to a fault and I like him already ;) ). Ard starts out with an interesting question... "Do you drive better than the average driver?" When we ask such a question, we have to think "what is average?" What does that represent? Are we more favorable for ourselves or are we less favorable? In other words, do we perceive ourself as being better than others, at least in an average sense?

We have a lot of biases, as the question helps illustrate. We have our own biases and those biases are actually things that we can leverage to our advantage. Marketing uses biases to help sell all the time. Maybe we can use that knowledge to help us. This is the key to where "nudging" comes in. By leveraging the biases of people, we can encourage behaviors. By encouraging behaviors, we effectively give them a nudge. An example that was used in the talk was the idea that by making something fun (in this case, a waste receptacle was wired for found so that any time something was thrown into the waste bin, a noise of a falling object (in a cartoonish manner) was played back. This sound was amusing, so for many people, it was fun to use that waste bin. Over time, that bin had more garbage thrown away in it over other receptacles that didn't have the sound wired for it. By making it a little more fun, the municipality changed/nudged the behavior of its residents.

There are two main systems that people put into play when we are working on things, one is the sense of the "Doer" while the other is that of the "Planner". While most of us like to think we are capable of doing the second, we are actually much more focused on the former. Both have their benefits and advantages but both are different from one another. The question then comes down to "how can we use these models to help us "nudge" people in desired directions?" In the sense of testing, how do we feel about the product we use? IS it a product I can stand behind? If so, then it is likely that we can nudge people to help come along for the ride we hope to have people go on. 

An effect that is used is "The default option". In many cases, this is an area that few people explore. If the default is either too low or too high, there is a likelihood that people will not be happy with the results. It is safe to say, though, that if something requires a lot of interactions and confirmations, the abandonment rate to accomplish a task/create an order increases considerably. Thus, a reasonable set of defaults is helpful but the defaults need to be explained in a way that will make sense and be appreciated by the user(s). 

Another effect that is helpful is consistency. When people do things and are encouraged to do them, they often get a greater commitment. Why? Because when people give themselves the ability to accomplish tasks for and by themselves, it solidifies ownership of the process and thus greater consistency in accomplishing and succeeding in the task. 

Additionally, things we are asked to sign off on tend to get a greater commitment. Why? We are not anonymous at this point, we are now putting out there our own desires and focuses. By signing our name to a process, we own it, we own the outcome, and that either gives us great pride or great pause. Either way, we tend to be focused on what we are doing because we are known entities doing so.

An interesting approach that I had not heard before is "The Zeigarnik Effect". The idea here is to leave things open or unresolved because we are more likely to remember things that are not completed. Once we have completed something, well, completely, we tend to offload the learning we have done. Not completely but somewhat and then it is hard to recall where everything is. By ending a given day's efforts with a question allows us to hang on to what we have learned.

Another clever approach is to trigger an unconscious behavior. One example was the idea that trains that had quiet car designations struggled to encourage people to honor the principle of the quiet car. What they did to solve the problem was paint the cars to suggest/represent the users were in a library. What's the typical behavior of people in libraries? They tend to treat it as a space to be silent, or at least quiet. By painting the cars to look like actual libraries, they helped set people's behaviors as to how they would react and interact. Frankly, I think that is clever :).

There are lots of methodologies we can use to allow us to do the things we need to and what we expect others to do. Nudges are just that, they are not extreme, they are not unpleasant, and they are often simple things that can help guide people to move just a little bit one way and accomplish tasks in a better way.

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