If you want to see something really complex, just look in the mirror. The human mind inside of us is one of the most complex machines, shaped by thousands of years of evolution and deeply embedded with multiple contradictions.
I say this because it relates to a really impressive article that I recently read. The article, “The Irrational User”, is from Alvin Hsia, Product Designer at Airbnb. Hsia argues that humans are predictably irrational and characterized by cognitive biases. He then provides eight common cognitive biases to keep in mind when building products.
Even though the article is over 2,300 words long, I highly recommend that you read it. But if you don’t have time, this post provides quick summaries of the eight common biases mentioned in the article, as well as examples of how EHS or Risk software could take them into account.
1) Assigning Human-Like Traits to Non-Human Entities
Referred to as “anthropomorphism”, it describes how humans like things to be like them. People naturally feel more connected when products and services demonstrate a human element, and the importance of the field of user experience design shows this.
What it means for software: The easy answer would be “great user interface”. But it’s more than that. For example if you use change management software, you should have the ability to create approval workflows through drag-and-drop functionality, so it matches closely the way you perform other tasks in your natural environment.
2) Negativity Bias
Humans tend to remember and recall unpleasant memories more than positive ones. Which is why, for example, couples that have at least a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative moments are more likely to stay together in the long-term, according to psychologist John Gottman. A “moment” is defined as the few seconds that it takes a brain to store an experience in memory.
What it means for software: The easy answer would be “no bugs”. But it goes deeper than that. For example if you use incident management software to report incidents, there should be a lot of positive moments you go through (e.g. type first 3 letters of facility name to see a choice, easily attach an image, automatically trigger an incident investigation, etc.) for each negative or annoying moment you may encounter.
3) Loss Aversion
This refers to people’s tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains. Or as Hsia says it so well: “we may like to win, but we hate to lose”. For example, the amount of lost satisfaction of a person who loses $100 will be greater than the amount of gained satisfaction of a person who wins $100.
What it means for software: A risk management software must cover both risks and opportunities. Many risks can actually . Furthermore, the system must facilitate decision-making by helping you quantify the impacts of both risks and opportunities in a user-friendly way.
This is straightforward and refers to how people who receive an unsolicited favor, even if it’s of low value, will return this action with another favor.
What it means for software: Your software provider should not just provide a product, but also access to a where knowledge is shared and gained. By learning tips and best practices from other users, you can then share your own lessons learned to increased collective knowledge.
5) Judging an Experience by Its Peak and Its End
Referred to as “Peak-end rule”, it describes how people judge an experience based largely on how they felt at its most intense point and at its end, rather than based on the total sum or average of every moment of the experience. It’s like a movie where 80% of it is boring, but includes a very unexpected twist and surprise ending.
What it means for software: Audits can be time-consuming and demanding, which is why many people don’t like managing them. But an intelligent audit management software that uses historical compliance performance data and risk indicators to suggest priorities for audits can change the entire experience by helping you better prioritize audits, thus saving time and reducing costs.
6) Holding Two or More Contradictory Beliefs
Referred to as “cognitive dissonance”, it describes the mental stress or discomfort experienced by someone who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas or values at the same time. As a result, an individual tries to reduce the inconsistency by avoiding situations that increase it, or they become uncomfortable.
What it means for software: Users want a quick software implementation out-of-the-box. But they also may have specific needs that require customizations. A software provider should offer both: a QuickStart implementation methodology that allows rapid deployment and use of software, and the ability to implement customizations later, if required. This approach maximizes value and reduces the discomfort associated with having contradictory objectives.
7) Putting More Effort to Achieve a Goal, the Closer the Goal is
Referred to as “goal gradient effect”, it describes how most people are willing to put more effort into achieving a goal the closer they perceive they are to it. As Hsia’s article explains, “providing a sense of progress towards a goal accelerates the rate of goal achievement and increases program retention”.
What it means for software: A corrective and preventive action plans software should show you exactly where you are in a workflow. In addition, user-friendly and configurable dashboards should show completion rates, status and progress of tasks and action plans.
8) Social Proof
People assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation. This effect is prominent in situations where people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior, and is driven by the assumption that others possess more knowledge about the situation.
What it means for software: Incidents can be prevented by reducing at-risk behaviors. At-risk behaviors can be reduced by reporting observations. can be used to encourage workers to actively report observations. Since it’s easier to , workers start to do it more often, and the practice spreads as more and more workers get on board.
We hope you found this post interesting and that you learned something new about software…or your own mind!
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