Saturday, August 23, 2014

Your choice. Easy to check. Do something different.

No Fitbit on my wrist for the past few days. Mine broke. I really miss it. The wearable step counter, it turns out, did motivate me. It kept track of my movements and ever so gently nudged me on, every day.

Reminders were subtle. I had the Fitbit Force with the built-in watch. So all during a day, when I checked the time, an easy push on the button told me my steps so far.

At noon, 3,000 steps…I need to park further away and walk up and down the sidewalk before going in to the restaurant for lunch. Mid afternoon, I’ve got to get up from the keyboard and stretch…oh, and walk, because I’m only at 5,000 steps. At home after a hard day, only at 7,000 steps…so, yes, I need to get on the treadmill.

With my aspirational goal of 10,000 steps a day, which is about five miles, you can tell my Fitbit didn’t break from over use or dripping sweat. It simply cracked. Because mine was a model Fitbit no longer sells and was still under warranty, Fitbit is going to send me a refund. I’m just waiting for return instructions and materials to be mailed to me.

What will I do with that cash I’ll get back? I will buy another health band, and I do like Fitbit. It was my choice among the contenders, and that competitive playing field hasn’t changed that much. Or should I wait a couple of weeks to see if an iWatch materializes to change the game?

Now what does all this have to do with the stated goal of this blog, to see wearables through the eyes of people communicating at work? The obvious connection, and the one I’ve read lots about, relates to corporate wellness programs. Your company wants you to be healthy; your company gives you a health band. You and your coworkers team up and win rewards. The company presumes to save health care costs in the long run. Great plan! However, from what I’ve read, most people who join those teams are already exercising—or they drop out before long.

I found a different value to my Fitbit. Incremental metrics throughout the day encouraged me to do just a little bit more, without peer pressure. It was my choice to check the status and to decide how to respond. Choice, check, respond—that could apply to any communication message. If an employee chooses to know and there is an easy way to find out, that can lead to a particular behavior.

If you choose to know
and there is an easy way to find out,
that may lead to a desired behavior.
For some time now, in factories and call centers, metrics like numbers completed and time spent seemed to bark out: Do more faster. Sales goals hang over the heads of salespeople. Some places, a Twitter stream flies by with comments from customers, but it seems too much to follow. Cable news and a stock ticker doesn’t seem to fit the bill for individual response.

What should we be putting on our digital screens in the workplace? If employees could see an instructional metric or invitation to respond at the moment they walk by an unobtrusive screen, maybe they will want to respond to help meet a shared goal. Or maybe a quick invitation via Google Glass for more information may be the easy choice to take a micro-behavior. Simple communication might provide enough of an incentive for incremental effort.

What’s the difference between standard corporate motivation communication and Fitbit? It’s the choice to check the status, knowing the incremental goal, instead of becoming blind to the flashing light that’s always visible so eventually ignored.

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