Our human nature encourages us to turn away from complexity. Simplicity saves time, makes things easier to use, and demands less of our attention and capacity.
Software is a perfect example. We like our phones and watches to be simple. We want to turn the device on, and know exactly what we need to do to make it work. Twitter is easy, every post is only 280 characters. Facebook is easy, we quickly post vacation photos and news of job promotions. Microsoft Word is easy, start to type and before you know it you have a document that is ready to be saved to your hard drive.
The people responsible for encouraging use of these platforms don’t have to think much about encouraging their use (feel free to argue that point). Facebook is baked in. Everyone needs to create documents in Word. Our President uses Twitter multiple times a day. Simple.
When we introduce software that does more, it takes more work to teach and it takes more work to learn. If you are in a position where you are trying to introduce new software to your colleagues, this may be a difficult, intimidating truth to accept. But take a deep breath. Exhale. It’s OK. In the long run, that extra effort and time you will need to give to the rollout of the software will pay off for both you and for your users.
If the software was easy and simple to use, it may take less time for your users to learn its functionality, but it would not encourage very much reflection in how it can best be used, and how their work and processes can benefit from learning the software.
I mentioned Word earlier. Most of us use Microsoft Word on a daily basis. As I said, it is pretty simple and direct to use. But how many of us use even as much as 10% of its total functionality? What if we were encouraged to deeply explore ways that Word could help make collaboration easier? Ways that we could connect other colleagues to the documents we are working on? Ways that we could save time and effort simply by fully adopting its deep, and sometimes complicated technology. As long as we are talking about Word, a few tips.
- If you are an O365 subscriber, always save your files to OneDrive so they are easy to share with others.
- Click “Share” in the upper right hand corner of your Word file to tag others in your file, to get a link to share with others to bring them to your file, or to immediately share a copy of your file.
- Rather than emailing your file, just add a comment and “at mention” a colleague in your file (using the @ symbol), and they will get an alert from your file, and access to your file. Immediate communication, immediate collaboration.
As the person responsible for rolling out and introducing the software, we are thinking about tips, tricks, user psychology, and “carrots and sticks” all the time. However, in order to be truly successful at encouraging our colleagues to use the software, we need to first look at ourselves.
If the software was easy to use, we may introduce it and (if we are not doing our job well), think that our work is done. We will walk away without giving any thought to how the software is best used in our work, and in our work culture. All the user needs to do is type and save. Type and post. Enter a few hashtags and “at” symbols and they are done.
But we know. We know that there is a lot under the hood of the software we are introducing, and it is going to take more support from us to get more adoption from them. We need to learn the software ourselves. Plan the roll out. Develop user guides. Get leadership involved. We need to be paying attention all day, every day. We need to be responsive to questions, creative with ideas to encourage use, and endlessly supportive, encouraging and optimistic.
In other words, when we know software is complicated, we are going to work harder to ensure its successful rollout. Alternatively, when we know software is simple, we may simply “flick the switch” and hope for the best. Complexity demands more of us, better of us. The hill is steeper. We need to take a deep breath, we need to be prepared. We need to be prepared for the challenge.
Just because software is complex does not mean we should abandon all hope and walk away. Recognize the potential help the software will be. Be prepared to answer the questions. Think about workflow, company culture and policy and procedure. Embrace the complexity. It’s good stuff.