Engagement and distraction with Nir Eyal | Episode 100!

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Nir Eyal writes, consults, and teaches about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business. The M.I.T. Technology Review dubbed Nir, “The Prophet of Habit-Forming Technology.”

Nir founded two tech companies since 2003 and has taught at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford. He is the author of the bestselling book, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.

In addition to blogging at NirAndFar.com, Nir’s writing has been featured in The Harvard Business ReviewTechCrunch, and Psychology Today.

Nir is also an active investor in habit-forming technologies. Some of his past investments include Eventbrite (NYSE:EB), Refresh.io (acquired by LinkedIn), Worklife (acquired by Cisco), Product HuntMarco PoloPresence Learning7 CupsPanaKahoot!Byte FoodsFocusMate, and Anchor.fm (acquired by Spotify).

Nir attended The Stanford Graduate School of Business and Emory University.

Nir’s days are pretty regular from week to week as he uses a technique called time boxing, to plan what he is doing and when. Nir makes sure to reserve a few nights a week to do things around time and take meetings but everything is planned out prior and scheduled.

One of Nir’s favorite fails or a really big lesson was at a time when he had just helped start up two companies. One of these companies assisted app developers to monetize their apps. At the time these apps were pretty much only being developed for Facebook as the app store had not yet been unveiled. He was trying to apply behavioral techniques to achieve this and it was at this time that he learned the most and how to appropriately apply the techniques.

One of Nir’s favorite successes is the companies that have followed his book hooked and the hook technique, one example of this is Kahoot! the educational software to make the classroom more engaging. Another example of this is Fitbod an app that helps build gym habits, that Nir uses and changed his own exercising habits. What Nir thinks Fitbod did particularly well with is the fact they focussed in on one behavior rather than most apps that are must more general and just want to promote a healthier lifestyle.

Nir approaches most projects with the hooked model, whether that is consulting or investing and follows the same 5 steps through these processes. The first question is ‘what is the user’s itch?’ (what is the internal trigger that prompts them to action.) ‘What is the external trigger that gives them some information on what to do next?’ The third question is ‘what is the simplest behavior done in the anticipation of reward?’ The fourth question is ‘What is the variable reward that leaves them wanting more?’ and the last question is ‘What is the bit of work the user does to increase the likelihood of the next pass through the hook?’ This is most helpful in the early days of a company as well as when a company is facing problems, particularly with engagement.

Nir’s best practice when working is around ethics stating “we would never want to addict people it’s very different, an addiction is a pathology and preying upon people with a pathology is unethical, but I think there’s a bigger question around how do we quickly decide when it is ethically appropriate to use behavioral design tactics?”. Nir came up with the ‘regret test’ meaning one way we can decide if a tactic is ‘persuasion vs coercion’ is when you’re unsure about a tactic to raise your hand and request a regret test. This involves bringing in users and asking them “would you do what the designer asked you to do knowing everything the designers know?” and therefore test for regret.

Nir’s favorite game is Dr. Mario, he got really into it on a flight recently.

Nir would recommend Rory Sutherland who wrote a book called Alchemy to be a future guest on Professor Game podcast, Nir finds him fascinating. In the book, Rory makes a case for why behavioral design is not something that makes someone want to buy a product but is to change the perception of a product once you’ve already bought it. Nir would also recommend this book for people to read.

Nir would say his superpower is his ability to make complex ideas understandable and simple but not simplistic. He really enjoys the process of making complex things understandable and changing peoples views once they understand. Nir also states his Pseudo-Superpower is his ability to become in-distractable which he thinks is going to become an increasingly important skill, especially as technology becomes more persuasive. The reason he calls this a Pseudo-Superpower is that everyone can have this superpower!

If you go to Nir’s Blog NirAndFar.com there are articles around a number of subjects as well as podcasts available on these articles if you prefer to listen. If you go to indistractable.com there are plenty of tools there to help you master this.

Nir’s final piece of advice to builders is to build for yourself, don’t start a company if you want to get rich. Build a product that you yourself want and want to exist then you can’t fail, this is also a great ethical place to be.

We can find Nir on many places, he mentioned we can contact him through nirandfar.com/contact, about his previous book Hooked: https://www.nirandfar.com/hooked/ and the latest one Indistractable: Indistractable.com.


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