Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Your Answer May Depend On What Chair You Sit In

People lie.  That’s a fact.  Sometimes when they don’t even mean to lie.  The situation, the way you ask the question, the surroundings… all contribute to folks’ responses.  But you can optimize your chances for the truth by manipulating external forces.

Here are some variables you can pay attention to for your next Focus Group or Collaborative Collective Intelligence Challenge…

Bigger Is NOT Better
If you want to be sure your participants are operating in an ethical manner, you might want to squeeze them into a tight space.  You might not appear to be the most cordial host, but if you give folks roomy chairs, they’re more likely to reasonably consider a false response.  Expansive postures encourage people to relax the rules.  People in wide poses are more likely to overlook flaws in your product or within others’ ideas.    A large work area encourages and positions people to be more likely to cheat.  Those in spacious seats are more likely to ignore instructions.  In fact, in NYC, a study showed that cars with larger passenger compartments were more likely to double park.

Sort of makes me think we should not be surprised in the future if people bend the rules during a Passover Seder ("Why is it that on all other nights we eat either sitting or reclining, but on this night we eat in a reclining position?") 

Conservatives Are More Liberal Than They Think
For those on your team or in a Focus Group who self describe as “Conservative” or for that matter the older people on your team, you can expect them to act even more conservative when you pose a question. It turns out that people who reported being in the center and on the right actually held views on the issues that were more liberal than their partisanship would suggest. But people who are somewhat conservative identify as even more conservative as an expression of loyalty when it comes time to finally vote on a topic.  It probably stems from a desire to keep things status quo.

OK, Bigger IS Better
It all depends on how you ask the question.  If you offer a product that is “double sized”, “king sized”, people will think it is worth more whether it is truly bigger or not.  Studies show people are willing to pay more for equivalent portions with larger sounding labels.  In fact they ate less of a portion when it had a larger sounding label.

Doubting Thomas Notes Details
If you want people to pay attention to details, the minor differences in your new product…If you want people to give your offering a fighting chance…Put them in a distrustful state.  If your audience thinks they might be hoodwinked, they’ll put a keen eye on the topic at hand.  A distrustful frame of mind causes people to pay attention to dissimilarity, including how things may be different from stereotypes.

I Must Be Right…Everyone Agrees With Me
There is a famous notion that the winning project is the one suggested by THPPITR (The Highest Paid Person In The Room). If you ever wondered why these CXO’s are comfortable with this path, they’re not acting with guile…it’s likely because they think everyone in the room agrees with them.  Studies show senior executives will assume everyone shares their values.  They can even project their moods on to others. 

If these senior executives are part of your ideation team, you might want to figure out a way to democratize the process so their opinions and votes are of the same value as other team members.

Wrap Up
This reminds me of something I heard in a college course entitled “How to lie with statistics”.  They pointed out that a company who sold toothpaste asked dentists what toothpaste they preferred.  The fact was they kept asking more and more dentists until they finally got a sample where “9 out of 10” dentists agreed their toothpaste was the best.  They might have had to ask a few thousand groups of ten until they got there…but they were quite patient and required a certain response.

The Truth?  You can’t handle the truth!  Or maybe you can’t necessarily trust what you’re hearing if the situational circumstances are skewed against you, or in the favor of a choice you wouldn’t prefer. 

Yap, A. et al., “The Erogonomics of Dishonesty:  The Effet of Incidental Posture on Stealing, Cheating, and Traffic Violations,” Pscyhlogical Science (forthcoming).

Zell, E. & Bernstein, M., “You May Think You’re Right…Young Adults Are More Liberal than They Relize,”Social Psychological and Personality Science (forthcoming).

Just, D. & Wansink, B., “One Man’s Tall is Another Man’s Small:  How the Framing of Portion Size Influcences Food Choice, “ Health Economics (forthcoming).

Posten, A.-C. & Mussweiler, T., “When Distrust Frees Your Mind”, Journal of Perosnialty and Social Psychology (forthcoming).

Overbeck, J. & Droutman, V., “One for All: Social Power Incrases Self-Anchoring of Traits, Attitudes, and Emotions,” Psychological Science (forthcoming).

Ron Shulkin blogs researches and writes about enterprise technology focused on social media, innovation, voice of the customer, marketing automation and enterprise feedback management.  You can learn more about Ron at his biography web You can follow him Twitter. You can follow his blogs at this Facebook group.  You can connect with Ron on LinkedIn.  

Ron Shulkin is Vice President of the Americas for CogniStreamer®, an innovation ecosystem.  CogniStreamer serves as a Knowledge Management System, Idea Management System and Social Network for Innovation.  You can learn more about CogniStreamer here .  Ron manages The Idea Management Group on LinkedIn (JoinHere).

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