Ek haath de, doosre haath le

Give and take

The headline translates to ‘Give with one hand, take with the other’. Right from the time we were 2 years old we’ve been taught how important it is to give and share our toys with others. But little do we realize that we can benefit immensely if we use this philosophy by design, to affect persuasion in our daily lives or even in business.

Here’s an interesting experiment conducted by psychologist Dravid Strohmetz that illustrates how spontaneous favors can elicit the need to reciprocate. In the experiment, waiters of a restaurant handed over bills to their customers, with or without sweets. In the first situation, diners were given their bills without any sweets at all. Then a second group was given one sweet. This simple gesture of kindness resulted an increase in tip of a mere 3%. The third group of diners received two sweets each; and compared to the first group, they gave 14% larger tips. Not bad. However, here comes the clever bit. For the fourth group, the waiter was asked to present the bill to the customers along with one sweet each, then, just as he was about to turn away from the table, he reached into his pocket and quickly handed everyone a second sweet. In terms of sweets per customer, everyone ended up with two sweets – the same as the customers in the third group. But psychologically this was very different. The waiter had just carried out an unnecessary and nice favor, and because of that, tipping increased by 23% as a result of the need of reciprocating the favor.

Simply put, we like people who help us, and we help people we like. So if you want help, try helping others first.

Illustration by Mayur Tekchandaney

Do the right thing

Here’s a smart way of how design can be at the core of how your company does business. This was in the news in the US in 2008, but is increasingly becoming relevant to the way design can be applied to get better business results today.

U.P.S, the logistics company, realized that their trucks would sit in the left lane, engine idling, waiting for oncoming traffic to clear, so that it could make a left-hand turn, something that was wasteful — of time and peace of mind, for sure, but also of gas and therefore money. We’re talking about more than 95,000 big brown trucks delivering packages every day. U.P.S realized that when you operate a gigantic fleet of vehicles, tiny improvements in the efficiency of each truck, translates to huge savings overall. So here’s what they did:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ak2GqmrUnVw&w=420&h=315]

This design thinking helped UPS shave over 28.5 million miles off its delivery routes. That in turn resulted in saving roughly three million gallons of gas! It also reduced CO2 emissions by 31,000 metric tons.

So next time you are in any of the cramped metros of India (which would be quite often), plan your route so that you take as many free left turns as possible.

Illustration by Mayur Tekchandaney

Design can work in unexpected ways

The image of a small black fly inside the white urinals in the men’s bathroom has helped reduce spillage rates in the men’s rooms at airports. Yes its true. In response to dirty bathrooms caused by men urinating on the floor, an airport maintenance worker Jos Van Bedoff suggested that they etch the image of a fly onto the urinals to give men something to aim at as they hurry to and from flights. According to NPR science correspondent Robert Krulwich, who gave a fuller account of the story, the man thought back to his time serving in the Dutch army during the 1960s, when red dots had been painted on the latrines in the barracks to improve cleanliness. Sure enough, spillage rates in the airport men’s room dropped an estimated 80 percent after the fly was introduced, leading to a much cleaner bathroom. Fascinating how men instinctively aim at targets, and how a routine action can be disrupted by a simple, strategically placed graphic design.

Illustration by Mayur Tekchandaney

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