During spring of 2020, many of use has had to change our behavior in respect of social distancing, washing of our hands, staying home when feeling the slightest illness, etc. In many societies the concept of “nudging” has been used as one method for getting people to alter their behavior and it could very well be that you have been nudged in the right direction without even realizing it.
Nudging is based on the idea of not overloading people with information, but instead send out signals to help them do what is best for themselves and for the people around them. It is a gentle way of steering people towards the wished for behavior. Does this leadership style appeal to you? Of course it doesn’t work in all situations but in this blog article I take a look at the possibilities of using the nudge theory for getting your people to adopt the new ways of working in Office 365 that you would like them to, as their manager.
Let’s start with looking at how to nudge effectively. Here are some classical examples of nudging that gives you an idea:
- A restaurant owner who wants the guests to order more vegetarian dishes puts these dishes at the top of the menu (as opposed to signs stating all the benefits of this diet)
- In the trafic, instead of setting up signs for slowing down, a tricycle on the side of the road is nudging the cars to slow down unconsciously
Taken to the context of Office 365, how to implement nudging? Maybe you have designed specific scenarios together with your team, but still they don’t seem to follow the scenarios. What should you do? Ban email for internal communication? Turn off the external file shares for storing documents? Don’t answer when a subordinates calls you on the phone instead of in Teams?
In the nudge theory there is a role as a “choice architect”. The basic idea behind “choice architecture” is, in the words of Nobel laureate Richard H. Thaler, there is an opportunity to make the better choices more readily available for the person who is to choose his or her behavior.
In his book “Nudge” from 2008 Richard Thaler says that:
Drawing on some well-established findings in social science, we show that in many cases, individuals make pretty bad decisions—decisions they would not have made if they had paid full attention and possessed complete information, unlimited cognitive abilities, and complete self-control.Richard H. Thaler
This is now an established fact in society, that we humans prefer to perform behaviors that “feel good”. And what feels good is often what the brain recognized from before. So that is why an email gets sent even though the person is aware of the team having decided to conduct all internal communication in Teams, for example.
So how could you practically work as a “choice architect” for your teams use of Office 365? If we play with the idea that you have gotten hold of better information than your team on Office 365 and you have spent time on using your cognitive abilities for realizing which behaviors that would actually lead to greater efficiencies and productivity for the team as a whole, then you could strategically architect the choices that your people will encounter.
Let’s now take a look at what you could do practically in Office 365.
One of the success factors of nudging is planning for small steps that are easy to take. The vision of “improved collaboration and communication” needs to be broken down into, first, scenarios, and then each step of the scenario. And when you have that in place, you can start planning for the actual nudging.
Nudge #1: Implement an auto reply in Outlook for the internal communication that you receive stating that you don’t check your email so often and that to get a quicker response to his or her message the sender could use Teams as its your preferred platform of communication.
Nudge #2: When you add a tab for OneNote to a channel in a Team, let Teams create a conversational thread for the tab. This will nudge anyone who enters the channel to actually explore the contents of the notebook. And make sure to have great content in there, e.g. meeting notes, draft planning, etc. If you have the work style of working out loud, put some of your content in the notebook for your team to discover.
Microsoft is also starting to use the concept of nudges in their design of Office 365. Some examples on this are:
Microsoft nudge #1: Outlook will gently nudge you to avoid after-hours emails to your to colleagues so they don’t have to work after hours, too (this is a feature of MyAnalytics)
Microsoft nudge #2: MyAnalytics will also be able to nudge you when you need more focus time as your calendar fills up.
Are you interested in learning more about nudging for Office 365? We are talking about nudging in this post in the Facebook community “Office 365 for People Managers”. You are very welcome to join.