Design as Mangement

What gets measured, gets managed.
–Peter Drucker


Companies that identify, measure and manage key customer behaviors are the ones who succeed. While analytics and business analysis can solve the challenge of identifying and measuring, design is how you manage behavior.  I use the word manage like you would when talking about managing a person at work. You set goals, you encourage desired behavior, you discourage undesirable behavior. More than that, you give new skills, you connect people with others that can make them more successful as a collective. Perhaps you haven’t thought of that as design, but it is.

Managing behavior starts with understanding human nature and their context. And then — when possible– shaping the context to encourage the desired behavior. The context is the environment. The obvious things in the environment you design are the interface and interaction. What information do you show, and when? How is it presented? Anyone who has done any multivariate testing knows line and color can cost or make you millions of dollars.

Design manages behavior when it provides clear instructions in the form of a clean and understandable UI. Design manages behavior with incentives such as progress bars and points. Design can also incent in subtle ways, such as a shopping comparison chart that makes the promise of what you at a fair price. Design, like a good manager, provides support through good error messages and contextual help. Design rewards good behavior with success messages, badges, and by revealing community approval in RT’s and likes.

Design has harder management challenges as well. On social sites, other humans are as much a part of the environment as any other element, and the crowd must be designed as well.

Look at Facebook. Yes, it’s corporate blue, the color of trust. But it’s also Soylent Green: made of people. The walls of text are words from people’s mouths; the photos are faces and pictures of things people care about.

What we have no direct control over on Facebook
What we have no direct control over on Twitter

You can spend hours designing the perfect submit form but what gets submitted is out of your hands.  You can design tools to help the community manage itself, but they may use it to bully instead of police.

The best design includes choosing the first people you invite to the site, and how you will model the behavior you wish to see. The best design understands you are designing norms as well as layouts.

It may sound creepy and skinneristic to talk of shaping behavior, but we do it all the time. We tell our children not to lie or steal. We tell people to stop stringing us along. We have hard talks with employees who don’t seem to care.  We seek others to help shape our behavior when go on diets, and join counselling.  The potential issues are not if we should shape behavior, but how we do it and when.

Futility is trying to shape a behavior that is unnatural to the person’s nature.

Immorality is shaping the customers behavior to encourage them to do something they do not wish to do.

A good business model sits in the sweet spot of human desire and the business’s ability to meet it. Bad business models try to reshape the human to the business’s capability. If you can truly understand your potential customers, and meet a need they keenly feel, and partner with them to help them achieve that dream, you will make money.

Design is done by the people called designers, but also done by product managers as they choose a feature set, and engineers as the implement. It’s done by community managers are they model good behavior, and marketing as they choose who to broadcast to. And, of course, design is done most often by the executives who design teams and manage them. The sooner they all realize they design, the sooner they can start making conscious choices that give the results everyone wants to see.


I think Gamification because popular because some businesses thought they could finally reprogram humans. Sadly, there will always be those who believe humans are animals to be trained.

Gamification should have become popular because play is a basic human trait. Play delights and nurtures. How could we choose to take everything from Games except play?