Each morning, my mother would hand me my daily Flintstones chewable vitamin before I left for school. But now that I’m an adult, she can’t tell me what to do — Mountain Dew and Starcraft all night!
Well, and less vitamins. Since moving out of my parents’ house long ago, I’ve also moved away from this healthful routine. Sometimes it takes effortful self-control to do things we know we should do. But not always. Habits can function as a force, shaping our behavior and negating the need for self-control.
So months ago, I purchased a jar of multi-vitamins and placed it in my cupboard to get back into my healthy vitamin habit.
It sat there. Unused. Lonely.
I’m responsible. I’m a grown-up. I knew I should take my vitamins. Yet it was hard to do so regularly.
So I made one small change: I took the jar out of the cupboard and placed it on the countertop. Since then, I haven’t missed a day of taking my vitamins.
The visible jar is an unavoidable reminder, a trigger to take my vitamins. Removing them from the cupboard also made it easier, increasing my ability to do so. Sometimes the tiniest friction can make the difference between action and inaction.
BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model describes this best:
“[T]hree elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and Trigger.”
By simply increasing my ability and creating a trigger, I’ve been able to reinstate this habit. Sometimes it doesn’t take all that much to change behavior that feels so difficult to start doing regularly. For example:
Buffer’s Leo Widrich recommends setting gym clothes on top of the alarm clock to encourage morning exercise.
Google increased water consumption by 47% by simply rearranging the fridge. Water moved to eye-level, unhealthy soda to the bottom. More Googlers chose the more visible, reachable bottled water.
Leo Babauta instructs daily flossing-challenged people to start flossing just one tooth per night. This may seem ridiculous but starting out with very small habits makes large changes in behavior much easier.
What changes would you like to make in your life? Here are a few triggers and friction-reducers to start:
Want to eat healthier? Pre-prepare individual meals and place them toward the front of your fridge for maximum visibility and accessibility.
Having trouble focusing at work? Remove notifications, which are triggers that kill productivity, and access to non-essential applications, which increase friction against distraction. (Check out Information Diet’s excellent list of tools for managing digital distractions.)
Want to blog more? Make an effort to write the first thing that comes to mind each morning as you prepare your morning coffee. As soon as the kettle sounds, stop and move on with your day.
Reflect on your daily behavior. Which are destructive? What changes would you like to make? Consider how these simple concepts be used to change your daily habits and improve your life.
What habit hacks have you implemented in your life? Please share with me on Twitter @rrhoover or in the comments!
First, the seed being sown falls on good ground, but the birds get it. Then it falls on shallow ground and can’t grow. Then on thorny ground, where it withers away. And only with the last attempt it falls on good ground and the seeds grow.
So we must shift our focus. We don’t want to look for which seeds thrive and which don’t. We want to know what the rate of success is.
Buffer’s Leo Widrich describes Jim Rohm’s law of averages in explaining his approach to measuring success.
Great things are not accomplished with a silver bullet shot of optimism but require work and a kind of faith that is informed by reality.
Image: Sergiu Bacioiu
In many companies, your manager will know the team’s and company’s objectives, but you won’t. He may keep crucial information from you so that he can consolidate decision-making power.
Not so at Qualtrics, the extraordinary Provo, Utah-based company that did $50M in revenue, raised $70M from elite venture capital firms Sequoia and Accel, turned down a $500M acquisition offer, and grew its headcount to nearly 300 employees in 2012. At Qualtrics, transparency is perhaps the company’s most important value for one simple and obvious reason—”Nowadays, you’re hiring individuals to think.”
For employees to think for themselves, they need information—and that comes from transparency. At Qualtrics, not only can every employee see the company’s objectives and every employee’s objectives, every employee can also see what every employee has gotten done recently, performance reviews and ratings for all employees, meeting notes from all meetings that have taken place, and even the office’s security camera footage.
We took our best product guy and some of our best engineers and built a system internally to help scale our organization by knowing everyone’s objectives in the company. We have five objectives annually for our company, and everyone goes into the system each quarter to put in their objectives that play into those broader goals.
We have another system that sends everyone an e-mail on Monday that says: “What are you going to get done this week? And what did you get done last week that you said you were going to do?” Then that rolls up into one e-mail that the entire organization gets. So if someone’s got a question, they can look at that for an explanation. We share other information, too — every time we have a meeting, we release meeting notes to the organization. When we have a board meeting, we write a letter about it afterward and send it to the organization.
When everyone’s rowing together toward the same objective, it’s extremely powerful. We’re trying to execute at a very high level, and we need to make sure everyone knows where we’re going.
Qualtrics is taking to an extreme what many tech companies have done to eliminate the manager-as-a-single-point-of-failure antipattern of corporate organization. Transparency gives the power of self-determination to every employee in the organization.
Google has found that the most innovative workers — also the ‘happiest,’ by its definition — are those who have a strong sense of mission about their work and who also feel that they have much personal autonomy.
Google has long been known as an elite organization bordering on elitist. It’s fascinating to see how their conception of prospective candidates has changed as they’ve looked at the data over time, departing from a SAT and GPA-driven view.
Source: The New York Times
We’ve seen an interesting trend at companies that are extremely culture-focused: the culture hacker. Software developers have built internal developer productivity tools since time immemorial because great engineering cultures push for automation and improving iteration speed. But now developers are turning their attention to addressing team dynamics and how the whole company functions and works together on the whole — in a word, culture.
Zappos: making values concrete with process and code
At many companies, company values are just words on a piece of paper tacked to a wall somewhere. At Zappos, they’re extremely thoughtful about giving their values bite. For example, they’re famous for paying new employees to quit. After new employee training ends, each employee is offered the opportunity to quit their job and walk away with $1,000. They do this because one of the Zappos core values is “be passionate and determined”, and paying people to quit ensures that those who remain are incredibly enthusiastic about their work and in it for the long haul.
They take it a step further by using code to reinforce cultural values in individual workflow. As Zappos has grown from a small startup to a 1,500+ employee company, it’s had to scale its value of having a tight-knit team and family-like atmosphere. It was a natural fit to help those relationships scale through technology.
Zappos has what’s called a “Face Game”. When you log into the computer system, after you enter your password, a face pops up of a fellow employee and you’re asked to enter the person’s name. Whether you answer correctly or not, you see a bio and profile – another way of getting to know your fellow workers and building culture.
During a recent visit to Las Vegas, we met Darshan Bhatt, a developer at Zappos who spends 100% of his time on building internal culture products that empower everyone in the company to make Zappos culture their own.
For instance, Zappos conducts monthly surveys to gauge the happiness of employees in the company. At another company, the survey results might be something management discussed behind closed doors to determine, at most, where in the company to deploy more pizza parties. At Zappos, Darshan builds tools that empower every employee with the data necessary to improve culture and happiness in the company.
Darshan showed us an application he was building that every employee in the company would get access to that allowed you to plot anonymized survey responses along different employee demographic information. He showed us an example where he plotted employee tenure length versus reported employee happiness. This gave insight into whether every stage in an employee’s lifecycle at the company was being properly supported and put the power of that data in the hands of every employee to make improvements.
Shopify: developers working with the human relations team to reinvent HR
Shopify is a hugely successful e-commerce software platform based out of Ottawa, Canada, that has a remarkable company culture. They have a two-person team called Shopify Labs which is focused on building internal tools. What surprised and impressed me was the tight-knit relationship the Labs team has with HR in working together to build culture products.
At your average company, you’ll likely see a sharp division between front office and back office teams like HR. You might even see a contentious relationship if HR is focused too much on compliance/CYA and running employees through an impersonal annual review process. Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke made the point to us that they call HR “human relations”, not “human resources” to reinforce HR’s cooperative, culture-focused role at Shopify.
The Labs team together with HR built an application called Unicorn to recognize employee accomplishments in a fun, peer-sourced way.
When Serena does something great, Daniel gives her thanks by going into Unicorn, logging her accomplishment, and giving her one, two or three unicorns. Everyone in the company sees Serena’s plaudits and can pile on more unicorns if they agree that she did an awesome job.
At the end of month, every employee in Shopify gets allocated a proportion of the company’s profits that are set aside for Unicorn bonuses. Daniel’s allocation goes to Serena and anyone else to whom he’s given unicorns over the course of the month.
Unicorn gives the power of employee recognition and even bonus disbursement to every employee in the company, not just to managers and HR. The tight working relationship between Shopify Labs and HR makes the cultural value of peer recognition real and vibrant through software.
Bestselling author Dan Pink told us that the biggest trend happening today that’s disrupting enterprise organization is that “talented people need organizations less than organizations need talented people.”
We’re seeing how company culture is becoming a huge differentiator in attracting and retaining top talent, and this is doubly true for the companies that truly walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Companies on the bleeding edge of focusing on company culture like Zappos, Shopify, Github, and Stripe are investing developer time — the most valuable resource at a software company — to make cultural values real through software.