Could Coffee Influence Behavior?

We've posted on here about how coffee could have a positive impact on employee recognition and productivity. As it turns out, further research proves that coffee (or just caffeine in general) could help further influence employee behavior.

This article on PsyBlog discussed how caffeine makes us more suceptible to persuasive messages. It discusses a study done by the University of Queensland in Australia in which a group of individuals are attempted to be persuaded about a certain topic. Amongst that group, before the attempted persuasion, half of the participants had a caffeine pill and the others took a placebo. The results of this double-blind study? Participants "under the influence" of caffeine were more persuaded than ones who weren't.

Could these findings be applied to the workplace? Our previous post on caffeine/coffee consumption looked at providing coffee to employees as a perk or an incentive for working hard at your company. However, the benefit could prove to be mutual. The effects of caffeine consumption include increased awareness, brain arousal and a sharper attention span. According to PsyBlog, the reason most messages pass us by is because we aren't attentive enough to pay any attention to them. However, with the increased stimulation from caffeine, we are able to process those messages more thoroughly which in turn makes us increasingly likely to be influenced.

With that in mind, think about your employees. Are you trying to communicate a message with them? Attempting to influence their behavior and attitudes in one form or another? Sometimes persuasion is best served with a hot cup of joe.

What do you think?

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E-Books Look To Stuff Stockings This Holiday

If you're wondering about what's going to be a hot ticket item this holiday season, you'd be making a safe bet banking on e-books.

Way back in the day, Sony had the only game in town with a huge cumbersome e-reader. Eventually Amazon stole the show with their Kindle. For the longest time, Kindle has been the go-to device for e-reading with its plethora of content and grayscale, easy-on-the-eyes screen. However, the growth of the e-reader market has exploded with competitors looking to take over Kindle's throne. A recent article from Fast Company noted that e-books are now a $1 billion industry. With that market size comes more aspiring "Kindle Killers" to take a piece of that pie.

Barnes and Noble's Nook has seen a facelift of late with the release of the Nook Color. This device not only provides a sleek 7-inch color touchscreen to enhance the reader experience but also runs on an Android platform. The Nook upgrade also has a kid-friendly feature in its "Read to Me" application, a feature that has a professional narrator reading select children's books aloud via the device. In addition, Nook Color is a social device, making sharing book discussions a seamless experience for users via Facebook, Twitter and Google.

Other e-readers look to mix things up to. Sony's e-reader provides a lightweight portable device with one redeeming feature - battery life. Sony claims that users are able to enjoy up to two weeks worth of reading enjoyment on one single battery charge (in comparison to Nook Color's eight hour lifespan). Another device that will also crash the e-reader party will be the iPad. Though it's not first and foremost an e-reader, its iBooks application provides a very interactive reading experience for its users and looks to make even more waves in the e-reader scene.

The e-reader market has grown exponentially over the last couple of years. Do you see this being over-hyped? Or will these devices really be a holiday hit?

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Incentives and the Progression Dynamic

In one of our previous posts about using game dynamics with incentives, we mentioned briefly the utility of the progression dynamic. Of the four dynamics discussed, this particular one could prove to be the most influential to any incentive or loyalty program.

For a quick refresher, the progression dynamic mentioned here is defined as as one in which success is granularly displayed and measured through the process of itemized tasks. We've stated on several occasions that incentive programs should be focused on specific goals for success. We've also talked about how rewarding small behaviors influences the big picture. Using a progression dynamic system in your program, you can achieve both objectives.

The Progression Dynamic of Rapid Rewards

Several loyalty programs take full advantage of this. Take Southwest Airlines' Rapid Rewards program as an example. There are two clear goals established for a Rapid Rewards member

  • Earn a free round trip flight
  • Earn A-List Status

A free trip has its own unspoken benefits for the customer. A-List status not only has a few rewards in route to earning that title (at least two free flights) but also enjoys other perks such as line-jumping at Southwest A-List Progression Barticket counters and automated checkins - giving members the best available boarding pass. A Rapid Rewards account homepage shows several statistics showing progress. At the bottom right of the screen, a progress bar is displayed, giving a visual representation of how close a member is to achieving the A-List status goal. Above that, your progression towards a free rewards flight is detailed. This itemized box includes how many credits you have earned and how many credits are left to earn your next free flight.

In addition to the above mentioned details and other features showing your recent flights and upcoming flights that contribute to your Rapid Rewards credit, Southwest also provides several ways to earn incremental awards. Often times members receive coupons for free drinks and exclusive deals throughout the year for flying with Southwest. They are always engaging members and clearly communicate what members need to do to earn awards while also showing them their progress in that task. It's a simple method but one incentive and loyalty programs should note.

It's About Communication

For an incentive program to thrive, clear communication is needed - we've mentioned that on here before. A large component  of that communication is expressing exactly what steps need to be taken in order to accomplish the goal. Little things like visual representations - even mundane things like progression bars - will do a lot to help motivate progress. Tapping into this progression dynamic while rewarding incrementally along the way makes your incentive program more and more like a game. A game where there is no real "first place" but one where everyone with a goal has a clear cut path of achievement.

What do you all think? Does this progression dynamic encourage a positive game layer to an incentives program?


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Netbooks and Laptops: What's the Difference?

Since the release of Apple's most recent MacBook Air, the lines between what differentiates a netbook from a full-fledged laptop are becoming blurry with every new upgrade. According to our own Jim Valenti, many of the new netbooks have about as much power and capabilities as most of your average laptops. The rise of internet programs like, Google Apps and other cloud-based software, the need for a large hardrive has decreased of late. Many professionals can nearly operate their day-to-day tasks with internet access alone, making the portability of netbooks becoming increasingly attractive.

Sony VAIO W SeriesAs we spoke about before here, the new MacBook Air has the small size and portability, similar to a netbook. While it also has a slightly smaller size computing power than it's MacBook Pro relative, it can still do just about anything your average user would require. However, Apple isn't the only game in town. Other technology companies are jumping on the netbook bandwagon, coming out with powerful units at lower price points.

Sony's new VAIO boasts similar features that your normal notebooks do - except with half the size and cost. Their new W Series PC has a 250GB storage capacity while having the ability to maintain up to eight hours of battery life. With 1.83 GHz of ram and weighing in at a mere 2.93 pounds, this featherweight device hits like a heavyweight. It's lower-than-a-normal-notebook price point also adds to the appeal.

HP's Mini 5103 is nothing to sneeze at either. Targeted at the HP Minismall business segment, their 10-inch device has a stylish design and a feature lacking on many netbooks: a comfortable keyboard. It also has 1GB of RAM and one-ups the VAIO with 250GB of hard-drive storage space. The Mini also has two front-firing stereo speakers, aiding those who need that volume for video chat purposes. Aside from a mediocre battery life and slightly higher price point than the VAIO, this personal computer from HP definitely ranks among the higher end of the netbook segment.

So what is the difference between netbooks and traditional notebooks? After a quick scan of the tech specs of the HP Mini and VAIO W Series, one can see the differences are hardly noticeable. Will there always be a defined line between netbooks and traditional notebooks? Or do you all think there will eventually just be one line of devices?


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LinkedIn's New Company Page Features

In an attempt to become more interactive, LinkedIn has rolled out a few additional features on their Company profile pages. What used to be a purely static feature with no opportunity for interaction, company pages now have a couple of other features: recent tweets and a "Products and Services" tab. What do these features provide? More importantly - how are we using them here at Hinda?

Recent Tweets

This is mainly an addendum to the already existing blog tab toward the bottom of the Company page. Is a company on Twitter? What are they talking about? With the exception of @ replies, this new tab shows up-to-date tweets from the company. On our page, you can see how we are contributing to the conversation online. By taking a look at what we - or another compay - are saying, viewers can judge whether or not we're not only worth the company follow on LinkedIn but also worth a Twitter follow. The recent tweets tab also gives insight to the personality and thought sharing on part of the company.

Products and Services

This is most likely the biggest addition to the company page. Companies now have the ability to feature any key products or services of there business to their profile page. On the surface this only appears as just another traditional marketing medium (which it sort of is) but it comes with a twist:


Is there a LinkedIn connection or company follower that has used one of those featured products or services? This is where the interaction comes into play. Those users can personally endorse one of those products and give testimony to the effectiveness or awesome-ness of that product. Social marketing gets its traction from what third party users are saying about a company and this new LinkedIn feature definitely taps into that concept effectively. Why simply take the company's word for that product or service when you can easily see what others are saying about it?

How are we using the new feature?

We have recently added two of our featured services - the Warehouse Dash and Custom Packaging - to our list of services. Both service pages include short and fun YouTube videos elaborating on the features of those services. Feel free to check them out! If you have experienced any of these services, feel free to let people know about your experience while on the page.

What do you all think of the new company feature? Is it a good addition for LinkedIn?


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Unselfish Leadership

What if for today we take a different view of incentive programs. Instead of looking at them as an expense or an investment, what if you looked at incentives as an act of giving towards your employees? There is always going to be (and should be) accountability, metrics and ROI of your incentive and recognition programs. However, for right now, let's take a brief look beyond the numbers and data.

Employees that are well treated are more likely to stay around, agreed? Rewarding your workforce for good behaviors, meeting company goals and an overall "job well done" does a lot more for employee engagement in an organization than just "taking" all the time from employees. Sure you give them paychecks in return for their hard work but then again... so does every other company. How does that separate your organization from a competing one?

In his book Tribes, Seth Godin discusses how leaders who are generous ultimately see more success than those who are always looking out for themselves:

"Leaders who set out to give are more productive than leaders who seek to get. Even more surprising is the fact that the intent of the leaders matters. The tribes can sniff out why someone is asking for their attention. Looking out for number one is an attitude, and it's one that doesn't pay."

He goes on to describe leaders who sit in cubicles with their staff (aka Tony Hsieh of Zappos) or others who aren't in it for their own self glory but genuinely want to help those around them. As a result, people like Hseih have built successful companies - ones that their employees (or as Godin would call followers) remain fiercely loyal to.

Employee loyalty improves retention. Bottom line, better employee retention ultimately helps your bottom line. 

How are you giving back to your employees?


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Could Incentives Improve Facebook Engagement?

A recent article on Brandweek discussed how some brands (mainly food) are dangling incentives in front of people to encourage Facebook Fan Page growth. The article investigates coupon efforts on the part of Healthy Choice and a sweepstakes effort from Jack-in-the-Box that are rewarding people for becoming fans. Efforts made by these companies are certainly doing an effective job bringing people to the table but it's not enough to just get people there - it's just as important to keep them.

Engagement on brand Facebook pages is just as - if not more important - than just having fans. There has been several studies on the value of a fan but the results really can't be accurately justified as results. An organization with ten thousand "Likes" may not be generating as high of an ROI as a page with only one thousand. It's not the numbers that drives brand loyalty but the interaction and conversation around the brands. In other words, the focus of these brands shouldn't rest soley on gaining "Likes" but also encouraging the Likers to become content contributors toward the page.

So how do they go about influencing this behavoir?

Jay Baer recently posted about how our measurement of Facebook "Likes" is way off. Just having an arbitrary number doesn't do much to drive business. Facebook pages will have a much more significant impact on your business if you give people a reason to participate. Incentives are one method but should be used beyond simply rewarding a button click. Using rewards to influence people to engage on your page and take time to interact with your brand will reap the best long term business success.

We've talked before about adding a game layer to incentive programs - a concept that is definitely applicable here as well. You could have contests or award people points for interacting with your brand. These interactions could be starting up discussions on a message forum on the site, uploading viral video onto the page referencing one of your brand's products, or even contributing blog posts about your brand with the chance of being rewarded in some way. If a company is willing to incentivize their fan page, they might as well do it right, instead of stopping short at just "Likes."

What do you think? Would rewards have potential to increase engagement on Facebook pages?

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