The coolest thing about the wearable revolution is its impact on fork decisions through nudges. We face fork decisions every day. Should we go to the gym or stay home? What’s the best response to the prospect’s objection, counter it directly or ask for more information? What action should we take based on the latest numbers?
Let me give you an example from my life. I work out on the same days every week, but sometimes I just don’t feel like it. I’m sitting on my couch when my phone reminds me about my upcoming workout. My thinking process goes like this: “I know I’m supposed to work out today, but the latest Stranger Things season just came out. Perhaps I can skip it and catch up tomorrow.” Without the nudge, I would break my gym streak, and my health would eventually take a hit.
These nudges are fantastic when perfectly timed. Wearables are one method of delivering these nudges at the right moment. I help my clients find the equivalent of wearables to help them move forward consistently. Establishing these nudges is essential for long-term growth.
You may be asking yourself why nudges are even needed. Why can’t we just clench our jaws and power towards our goals? The answer lies in how we deal—or don’t deal—with distractions.
Why we struggle with distractions
Our world is full of distractions. We see them when we walk by that amazing-smelling bakery, we hear them from our friends and colleagues, and we receive them in our inbox every day. There’s always something new and better that we should be doing. It could be a new diet or a new marketing channel. We fall for distractions because of a lack of patience. We don’t want to wait weeks or months to see results. We wanted them yesterday.
In business, I see a lack of patience in strategy. When management teams formulate a plan, everyone is excited, high-fiving each other and riding the high of possibilities. As the strategy gets implemented, cracks start to appear. Marketing is supposed to develop new customer profiles, but they get distracted by a hot new channel. Sales aims to increase the number of referrals, but the initial calls aren’t going well. Instead of reflecting on what could be improved, the idea is abandoned for the latest AI software idea.
Slow progress makes us doubt our plan, but distractions prevent us from accelerating. Maybe that diet worked for other people, but it won’t work for us. That marketing channel looks promising, but our customers aren’t there. We need an invisible coach who can guide us through the countless fork decisions we face in all of these endeavors.
The value of an invisible coach
Well-timed nudges are the invisible coach you wished you had. When your eyes start to wander at the checkout counter, an invisible coach can remind you to maintain the course. Past Ruben decided that working out on a Tuesday is the best option. The reminder from my phone helps Present Ruben follow through, which will make Future Ruben happier and stronger. Nudges help us reaffirm a choice we made in the past so that we can have the future we wanted.
To get the nudges, you need an invisible coach. These are the tools and processes that you set up to deliver the right nudges at the point of a fork decision. If you are aiming for a large transformation of your business and its culture, you won’t get it with one large and sweeping decision. The culture will change through hundreds and thousands of tiny decisions. One manager with a vision can’t influence all those decisions, but they can set up a system that works like an invisible coach to your whole company.
When I help companies become more data-driven, we look at how to make all of these tiny decisions easier through nudges and invisible coaches. Reports, dashboards, and meetings can all create nudges towards becoming data-literary. The same concept applies to any cultural transformation.
Finding the wearables of your business
Just like smartwatches want you to walk more, business wearables can get people to be more innovative, more data-driven, and more effective. I help clients set up three types of wearables: coaching, opportunity meetings, and checklists.
I’ll admit a secret. I’m highly skeptical of the value of training. I see companies engage in many training sessions, and I even deliver them myself, but I’m not sure of the value. Few skills can be learned in isolation. Imagine trying to learn to ski by watching a video on YouTube. Your confidence would be misplaced if you thought you could just hop on a lift and go down the mountain after a video. Skills have to be learned in the real world.
Coaching is the term we use for transferring skills from an expert to a novice, and it’s the first wearable of your business. When companies ask me to deliver training sessions, I always pair with them as a coach for a time. I can then work with individuals through real situations. For example, we may look at the performance of the latest product launch and determine what features should be optimized, what information should be shared with the management team, and what unexpected opportunities should be explored. I can coach using real data and situations and thus provide the nudges for my clients.
Another type of wearable in your business is well-designed meetings. I’m not talking about meetings that could just as easily be an email. I’m talking about meetings where you explore opportunities or discuss the latest insights. For example, I helped a client establish a weekly data meeting where people could bring their questions and requests. The meeting led to breakthroughs in perceiving who their best customer was and how to reach them best. It became a weekly nudge.
Checklists are another form of wearables. My clients create checklists for actions that need consistency. For example, they may create a checklist for how to analyze a product launch properly. The checklist ensures that they spend enough time going through the day, talking to customers, and thinking about what worked. A simple checklist becomes a nudge to pause and think through the data instead of rushing to solutions.
When thinking of business wearables, keep the following criteria in mind:
- Alerts people to opportunities or issues
- Notifies people in the most convenient channel for them, e.g., email, SMS, Slack, and so forth
- Limits the data to the essential metrics, e.g., 7,500 daily steps
- Focuses on critical fork decisions and not every possible decision
We all need more nudges
If we have the right nudges coaching us through our toughest situations, things can start to feel effortless. You’ll spend less time babysitting individuals and more time focused on big strategic items. Instead of putting out fires, you can be focused on building the next generation of products or services. Best of all, you may realize that “impossible” tasks like breaking into a new market or changing your business model can be broken down into manageable decisions and nudges.
I would love to hear how you help your team deal with distractions and stick to your strategy. Message on Twitter, I’m @ugarterd.
Photo by Solen Feyissa