Keeping ‘The Ask’ Small And The Reward Surprising


(Richard Millington) #1

Originally published at: https://www.feverbee.com/surprising/
If you’re asking the audience to do something new, something that feels too much like additional work, where the pay-offs are unclear (or uncertain), and where they receive the benefits in the unimaginable future, you’re asking for too much.

That first action you want them to take should be:

  • Simple and non-committal. They should be able to take their first step to that new behavior within a few minutes without committing to anything longer-term.

  • Deliver an outsized reward. The easy mistake is to exaggerate the benefits of this behavior. This sets expectations too high. Even if you meet them, they’re not impressed. Far better to ask for the small amount and over-deliver when they undertake the behavior.

  • Deliver the benefits today. Make sure they get the benefits immediately. Don’t highlight the benefits in a few year’s time. Deliver the benefits right now.

Working with a software company a few years ago, the organisation’s software developers around the world “never had the time” to create and share information (or compare what they were working on). They considered themselves too important to participate in a community.

Unless you make the community a place to save time.

The developers spent a lot of time writing code and creating frameworks which already existed elsewhere in the company. We identified the most common overlap and asked each developer we interviewed if they could “do us a huge favour” and simply share one piece of software another person we had interviewed would love to see (we checked they wouldn’t mind if we took the effort of documenting it).

This doesn’t commit them to long-term participation and doesn’t require much effort to get started. We’re not selling the benefits of a global knowledge sharing system or the potential for a better world. We’re not asking them to change their habits in any major way.

We’re asking for them to send us something they have already created. When they send one in, we can also share the others that were created with them. This delivers an outsized reward. Soon, we have an outsized reward for that tiny contribution for the community.

Better yet, we begin to create this internal community as a place that will save time, not consume it.

The challenge then is to find the simplest, non-committal, behavior and deliver a surprising reward.

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