Creatures of Habit


It amazes me how video games entirely consume my kids’ attention. As soon as their hands hit the controller, the story, fantasy and competition captures their undivided attention. Unlike their list of a thousand excuses and needing a perfect alignment of stars when it gets to their homework, video games need none. They and the controller are now slaves to the world of gaming. The devil’s got them!

As product managers, it’s our fantasy to build products which can get this kind of attention and craving from users; not just grab their attention, but make them demand for more. Really, in the world of supply and demand, who would not want that kind of demand! Who would not desire mile-long lines of dedicated buyers right outside their door, hours before the store opens? I wonder often, what would I have to do to get that kind of an engagement?

Looking deep into the gaming world and diving into the psychology involved behind product experience (after all it’s a commercially viable product and someone is making loads of money from it) it’s clear to me that the principles used are age-old, simple, yet we have missed them even though they were in plain sight. Product folks often spend hours on that perfect UI/UX of an app, website, product or solution. They spend weeks brainstorming the amount of data that’s worthy of presentation, weigh each feature, each word and see how it renders to the utmost and optimized experience. While all that’s good and is needed (really needed), here is a challenge. Deep down it’s not always about convenience or getting the answer right away. After all, if the games were drop-dead simple, would they grab my kids’ attention for weeks in a row? Probably not. Gaming apps appeal to two inner cravings within a human psyche: a) their ability to entice users with attention-grabbing experience (no doubt), but more importantly, b) their appeal to our inner deep-seated habits. It’s the latter which lures the user into addiction.

They say we are creatures of habit. While we can try and change them, research shows we keep falling back to the old ones (if not practiced for 21 consecutive days). Truth is, humans don’t like change and if this notion has any merit to it, why fight it? As businesses, if only we could strive to make products which appeal to the old habits and teach users new ones over a sustained period of time, we’d be golden! The question is, how do we do that?

After reading several articles and posts from very wise men and psychologists, I am summarizing a few ways to show how:

  1. Begin with something they crave

  2. Challenge them with something exciting

  3. Provide them with some competition

  4. Reward them for accomplishing something

These traits manifest into a deep need, a need which makes a person desire for more. In many ways, it can be said that user experience is not just about the intuitive design, or the number of clicks, or the relevance of information rendered, or the principle of less is more, but an appeal to form long term habits. In other words, wanting more.

In summary, after building many successful and commercially viable products, I ask myself a question- why do I develop more? The answer is - my habits crave for a challenge. Building something which solves a problem has always fueled my creativity which in turn allows me to make more, build more, solve more.

I took the gaming industry as a case study to demonstrate the role of our habits in using a certain product. I realize, it may not be directly applicable to many. But knowing how humans think and work, perhaps it’s a challenge for us product folks to try these ideas while developing our next product.

Let me know how your product fared as a result. I’d be real curious to hear your story!

[Many thanks to Aparna Gupta for her help as an advisor and editor ]

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[About Guidunz: We are a full service product management consulting firm who focuses on developing a needs based sustainable growth plan for their clients. We are dynamic results-oriented executives skilled in growing revenue and obtaining productivities across Healthcare, Financial, Telecom, SaaS, Cloud based Industries. Our strength is providing strategic leadership while developing and managing growth solutions in highly competitive and dynamic B2B and B2C markets. In our 17 years, we have built and managed over 50 cloud based technology products, generating recurring and top line revenue while bringing cost efficiency via process improvement.]

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