Nudging or motivation: adoption and change management of Office 365 | Synigo Pulse
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22-07-2018 Written by Xavier Geerdink

Nudging or motivation: adoption and change management of Office 365

This year I attended my first Microsoft Inspire. Central to many of the conversations I had with people during #msinspire was adoption and change management, a subject that is very dear to me. Based on a meetup on adoption I facilitated I made a short presentation with the most important take aways.

Empathy with the enduser

In the field we observe employers struggle to get employees using the new stuff that they buy and give them. As such adoption has become a topic of its own in the field of ICT. You may quarrel about the question whether ICT people are somewhat late with showing some empathy to the enduser. In other fields adoption is a sine qua non. We only have to recall the great work in industrial design of people like Henry Dreyfuss (mid 20th century). Before taking new products (chairs, ironers, washing machines) to market he invited people to live with these products for a while and learn how they were used (or not). Henry Dreyfuss invented prototyping at the industrial scale.

The demand to (smart) adoption is paramount as we observe a tremendous growth in the tools people have available at work. As a consequence The Modern Workplace gets a bit crowded. So much choice. What to choose? Clients need help! According to a Forrester study the demand for adoption services will grow 10% year over year. In contrast (technical) deployment services will decline by 17% year over year (see Sean Wilson’s presentation “Drive adoption and change management for intelligent communications”).

Motivation or politics?

The conversation I facilitated on adoption had a nice twist. Companies often treat adoption activities as an one off thing and approach the matter pretty rational. You execute a project and done you are. But do your colleagues understand the behavioral changes you want then to take?

Probably the change programs we initiate in organizations are slightly too rational, based on the assumption that people are (rationally) motivated and clearly understand what the benefits of this new tech are to them. We have to take a better look at how people make decisions.

Behavioral economics has learned us that people often make odd decisions. Among other things, we tend to think automatically and are prone to emotional biases. Knowing these shortcomings experts have introduced nudges.


Nudges are everywhere. For example when buying a subscription to a magazine, you are presented with three options (paper, paper + digital, digital only). By default the digital only is selected, often accompanied with a attractive price and a dialogue “most-chosen”. Or take the government policy to make you a donor by default; you may opt-out of course.

Another example of nudging is a new capability of Microsoft Outlook (part of the solution workplace analytics) that gives you a notification about the timing to send your e-mail and help you avoid bothering your colleagues late at night. Organizations can use this to remind you about the cultural norm to know what people are doing outside work. It may help managers and others to stop sending all kinds of briefings late at night.

To summarize, a nudge is a choice situation that seduces you to take a desired action. A nudge changes the decision making situation. However a nudge brings no big penalties or financial rewards. Interestingly, nudges seem to be pretty effective in changing people's behavior. E.g. a simple nudge to share weekly management status led to 40-50% more checkins by team members. And it is reported a significant number of people opt-in to be a donor due to the default check marks on the form.

Nudging is very practical and actionable. In particular, one of the succesfactors of nudging is that you let people make small steps that are easy to take. One the reasons is that people tend to be "lazy". So, although the objective at work "be better at collaboration" is very noble, it will just not work. It is too big. Bring it back to things people can do immediately and which they can check of their to-do list.

It is thus interesting to see how we can apply this at clients to speed up adoption. Check my presentation to learn more about adoption and nudging.

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