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A User Adoption Science Lesson: Our Brains don’t like Change

August 6, 2012

A few days ago, I read an article that has stayed front and center on my mind.  It’s a university research study about our brains and change.  According to Michigan State University, the brain has trouble learning new tasks when the rules change.  As the article suggests, imagine moving to a new country and having to learn to drive on the other side of the road.   The study indicates that our brains become “overburdened trying to suppress the old rules while simultaneously focusing on the new rules…”

At that point, I immediately started to think about technical projects in law firms. Often they are major desktop overhauls.  Honestly, if a project includes a Microsoft Office upgrade it’s hard to make that a “small” project.  Char LeMaire and other Traveling Coaches have long been sharing the message that the change to Microsoft’s ribbon interface requires some “unlearning and relearning.”

My mind shifted again thinking about the need to include the end-user  as a strategic partner in any technical project in a law firm.  After all, they are the ones that will be dealing with the change on a daily, and possibly, minute-by-minute basis.  The technologist’s goal is to help our users be productive as soon as possible.  If this research is on point, then we need to continually strive to better understand what our users need and do all that we can to help them get there.  The importance of user adoption is definitely gaining ground in law firm technical projects.  Science would be proud of us.

Take a look at the link to research paper and let me know what you think.  What could we all do better for our users when we change the rules on them?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 6, 2012 5:28 pm

    Great article Tami! Thanks for sharing. I think that the pre-learning and user acceptance testing both go a long way towards easing the user into the change. One thing we are trying right now is allowing the user to run two applications simulaneously. That was not possible during the Office 2010 rollout for us, but it is workign great with this new application. It removes the pressure from the user to make the switch immediately and if they get in a crunch they can always switch to the “old rules” and get the work done. I actually don’t think anyone has done that so far, but it mitigates the worry over adopting the new system and puts the user in a better frame of mind to learn the new rules.

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