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Friday, February 22, 2013

How to Get People to Do Things They Don't Want To

So, you're standing at the bottom of the stairs next to an escalator. Who wouldn't take the escalator? Well, what if it looked like this instead...

Piano Stairs

Give yourself a minute to look at the above picture again. It hasn't been PhotoShopped or manipulated in any other way. This is actually what it looks like. In fact, there's a great video on how and why they did this:
The Fun Theory is a project that has taken to changing the way people think about the things that they either don't want to do or things we don't really think about.

For instance, does it drive you nuts how some drivers blast right on through a stop sign? Well, one inventor suggests creating signs with video screens that display interesting facts while you wait your turn, encouraging drivers to stop and make things safer.

Tired of the trash on your streets or sidewalks? Another poster detailed information on his design of a Plinko-like trash receptacle where the refuse is dropped in and the user gets to play a game.

Fed up with riders who get away without paying for their bus rides? One group came up with the idea of giving paying riders a lottery ticket along with their transfers.

The Fun Theory's site is filled with a wide range of ideas. Some of them are truly inventive – and needed – while others remind you of what that drunk guy in college came up with during a kegger (and they even post their “designs” on something resembling a napkin...yikers.)
I love this idea of turning drudgery into something fun. I'm the first to admit that I can be an adult baby when it comes to things society or even just my family would love for me to do. For instance, only 33% of us attempt to wash our hands after using a public bathroom (I'm not saying I do this, but statistically speaking, it's likely I've done it at least once, along with all of you). Only 16% use actual soap. Ga-rossss. However, there's a inventive team who came up with the idea of turning simple soap into a game. This Pavlovian-type system includes four colorful levers on the top of the sink. One of them contains soap, of course, but the others either beep, or moo, or produce lightweight bubbles. When you strike liquid gold, a small crowd erupts in applause and cheers.

Kids are targets, too, with a few ideas. When I was a kid, it drove me nuts every time my stepdad turned around in the car before he would pull out and yank on our seat belts to make sure we were in good and tight. Half the time, we had either locked the clasp wrong or didn't have the belt tight enough. With one new invention on the website, there are seat belts that double as game or video screens. When the belt is properly installed, the screen is activated, entertaining young minds with educational shows or games.

Personally, I love the idea of taking a positive spin and finding fun and inviting ways to ask people to do things they might not think to do or just don't want to do. I think we can all recall an incident or two when we were kids when our parents tried to get us to do something, but we pushed back or refused. Think if they'd taken one of these creative approaches. We might have gotten in the habit of turning off the water while brushing our teeth (one idea is to have a sink that "explodes" when you go over your time limit) or we might have recycled our used cans (one suggestion convinces passersby to drop them in and turn them into game tokens.)

In Berkeley, CA, there's an ever-changing playground called
Adventure Playground. It's a non-profit site where they take old boats or other leftover wood and allow the children to build their own massive forts and playhouses from the scraps. The key is that to participate, the children have to first either pick up ten pieces of trash or turn in five nails they've found on the ground. It works in two ways: 1) it keeps the place looking nice without adding additional help and 2) it teaches the kids that there's value for what they are getting (not to mention, it teaches them how to clean up without it seeming like it's the most horrible chore on the planet.)

The people at The Fun Theory are taking this idea and jacking it up a bit so that now the adults dig in and do the same.

Not all of the suggestions were about how to turn something that's a drudge into something delightful. Sometimes the suggestions were just fun in and of themselves. Like the slide stairs, pictured below:

(I saw this and thought "belated Christmas present to myself." Of course, knowing my house, it's more likely one of our cats would be sent down - unwillingly, mind you - before the screws were even set.)

This is a phenomenal movement towards encouraging people to do things they really ought to - like stopping at stop signs or quitting smoking - without shaking our fingers or making them feel bad. (and guilt only gets you so far. Just ask my grandma.) When it's made this fun, who wouldn't want to join in?

Now, if you don't mind, I'm off to wait for the UPS guy. I hear my slide is being delivered today and I have a cat to prepare.

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have horribly mean cats; don't make me use them.

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