Build tools that let people do their job without interfering with it. This will sound contradictory to many managers, who prefer tools that make people fill out forms and tick boxes — after all that’s what managers used to do. We are trapped by the 20th Century, in that managers often like to use tools of compliance, and workers want to know exactly where the boundaries are. Even really smart people will spend a great deal of time ‘arranging’ themselves around their work, and the best way to avoid doing anything new is to have a lot of rules, forms and processes to fill out for your manager. It’s the best way to stay out of the bunny boiler.
So when managers use toolsets, they really need to think about their ability to design them for positive emotion, to increase the investment in processes. A tool which only reports has little positive emotional value. There is nothing more stark and intimidating that a spreadsheet with your name on it and boxes to fill it. As a design it’s the equivalent of a rabbit fence. With todays easy to use, easy to build toolsets, there is no reason to avoid thinking about the tools we use to manage people. Even if those people are making highly creative (emotional) work themselves. When we think about ‘the other side’ of school, the reporting – it’s almost the opposite of the kind of tools we are advocating as being 21st Century.
Here’s one example of turning something dull into something with higher emotional design value. It’s a calendar (game) app for iPhone called Epic Win. You get to set rewards for your own work, level up your inescapable diary-driven life, and smash events as your travel on an entirely pointless character journey. While this is of course extreme sillyness, it’s also very clever multimedia emotional design, it turns an aspect of work into play.
So, if you want people to engage with a process, no matter if it’s mundane or not – there is little reason to build a rabbit fence – as the problem is rabbits like to stay in the compound and manager like to count rabbits. The result, virtually nothing new.