Monday, May 07, 2012

Why You Need a Behavioral Psychologist On Your Product Team

I found myself having a number of Aha! moments while listening to Roy Sutherland's TED talk on Perspective. His thesis seems pretty straightforward: in product design, perceived-value often loses out to what we might consider actual value, and this is a shame, because perceived value is just as important, if not more important than actual value.

One of his many examples: apparently the British Post Office wants to make an impact on how people view them, so they undertake a massive effort to increase 2 day delivery rates from 98% of first class mail to 99%. Only thing is, the average person thinks that the postal service has a deliver rate between 50-70%. Don't spend time increasing actual delivery rates, spend time educating people about what you currently accomplish.

Of course, some industries have this perceived vs. actual value equation figured out already. Car companies come to mind, knowing that we'll gladly buy the car that makes us feel X, rather than purely on the stats alone.

While the thesis of Sutherland's point is key, I think equally important is his suggestion that perceived value (or the psychological element) be a sort of voice at the table during product design. It's not that one should depend solely on perceived value alone, but that it should be included in the mix. In other words, hire yourself a behavioral psychologist, they'll do wonders. Or, short of that, at least consider the mental/emotional side of the equation before optimizing purely for hard facts and figures.

I'm really not doing the talk justice. Here, give it a watch:

Remember: at the end of the day, happiness is in your head - not in your wallet, driveway, go living room.

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