Some might see programming people to produce a desired behavior — for example, to encourage training and adoption on new technology systems — as slightly unethical.  

On the other hand, bringing chocolate to reward people who ask good questions during training doesn’t seem unethical to me — it seems downright thoughtful.  

It's Not If, But Why Employees Don't Use Software

Another approach to behavioral change is introducing consequences for perceived "bad" behavior. 

Marianna Noll writes in "The Psychology of Change in Software Adoption" that adapting reinforcements and consequences can provide desired changes in behavior, especially when it comes to adoption of new software: 

“For example, let's say you implemented a new type of software for tracking projects. When projects have current updates, you know the software is being used. A consequence in this instance would be to use the software during a meeting, pointing out the percentage of projects each project lead is managing that have current updates. The consequence is a powerful double motivator of recognition and embarrassment when a user’s updates are either present and well written or missing.” 

The issue here is user adoption of technology systems relies heavily on first impressions — and no amount of bribery with chocolate (or other rewards) can heavily influence the likeability of your technology system. Tactics like public shaming during meetings or similar consequences could serve to isolate non-users even further. 

Concern yourself more with why employees choose not to use the tool, not the fact that they aren't using it. 

The Value of Software Simplicity

The amazing digital workplace tools and systems that I use on a regular basis never required explaining, bribing or consequences to convince me to use them. They're intuitive and make it simple to get things accomplished quickly. In many cases, they're so intuitive that no instructions were needed to begin work.

That’s the secret to user adoption in many cases. Blame low user adoption on organizational culture or lack of process all you want, but much of it depends on the software itself and its ease of use.  An internal champion who really locks onto a tool and champions its adoption in an organization can go far in driving use and adoption, but not if the tool itself is awful. 

A great example is a web application I frequently use called “Wunderlist.” It's a simple tool that appeals to frequent to-do list makers like myself. It’s replaced the old journal I filled with notes on things to follow up on, tasks to do, informational reminders and more. It's one way I measure my daily output. 

Part of the tool's appeal is due to its simplicity. 

A complicated system with too many bells and whistles, or that requires too much time explaining what it does, will have a harder time finding a home in the daily work streams of the average user. 

Technology systems need simple, straightforward purposes, just like organizations have missions that outline their purposes and objectives. 

Think of all the really amazing digital technologies you use in your everyday work life. Are they intuitive? Easy to use? Do they make your work better and more productive?

Thin-Slicing Our DAM Opinions

Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems should be nailing all of these points. And if yours isn't, it’s time to question the future of that tool in your organization. 

The decision to continue with a system or tool is often made quickly, based on very little information. We make snap decisions as individuals if a tool is worth our investment of time, our investment of creative energies or if it is doomed in our organization.  

Learning Opportunities

People also use this kind of quick decision making when evaluating potential candidates for jobs or even for speed-dating. It’s a phenomenon called “thin-slicing.”  

"Thin-slicing" refers to the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience. It's how we determine if we like someone during a job interview after only a few seconds of interaction and how we decide how much we like a particular technology. 

Fresh out of graduate school, I firmly believed that the user must adapt to the system and the system must adapt to the user, in an almost fifty-fifty split. But looking at the systems and tools I use on a daily basis, I realize my own behavior in adapting to a system is fairly rigid. The process has to be as simple as ordering pizza online, and the system needs to be refined, simple and pleasantly straightforward.  

DAM systems have never screamed "sex appeal" and to a certain extent, struggle with complexity.  

So sure, an organization’s culture can influence the successful adoption of a DAM system, but so will the quick decisions we make as individuals about the value of something. An organization can have the right processes in place and still fail miserably at orchestrating their DAM strategy.  

The decision to like or not like a DAM system may be quicker than we ever imagined. We’re already up against a lot as an industry in driving adoption and awareness of Digital Asset Management, and now it may be that your users make snap judgments that influence the adoption of DAM technologies. 

Show, Don't Tell Your DAM Value

Every DAM professional should set this as their goal: stop explaining.  We spend an excessive amount of time trying to explain the benefits of digital asset management and of what information governance can do for an organization. But as every writing instructor will advise, let’s show, not tell.  

Successful DAM systems and technologies organically embed best practices into things that people already do. They make it easy on the end-user and they provide value without an exhaustive breakdown of how they provide value.  

Amazing technology systems are like great brands — you recognize it when you see it.  And no amount of chocolate or public shaming can change that.  

Title image Gabriel Gurrola

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