The scarcity principle is an economic theory that suggests limiting supply generates greater demand for that item. Basically, when things are scarce, the more we want them. A recent article by Robert Gilfoyle, President at User Adoption Solutions, suggests this theory can be applied to the adoption of new technologies, like intranets or enterprise social networks, in an organization.
Robert believes that some organizations start with technology solutions that are too lofty or big, leading to delayed launches and poor adoption. He thinks there’s a different way to approach the problem using the scarcity principle – limiting the use of the tool to the key use cases or features that will help an organization achieve its goals more quickly. In essence, to have selective information, communication, and collaboration aspirations with the first rollout.
In his article, Robert shares an example of a real work situation where this was put to the test. The results were interesting and worthy of consideration for other business settings. Even more compelling though, is how the scarcity principle might drive leaders to focus carefully on the specific core objectives of implementing an intranet in the first place: which teams need the tool most, what features should it have, what problems do we hope to solve, how will this help achieve our goals?
Central to this is understanding which human workplace needs the tool will meet. This is where the rubber hits the road – less really is more when you focus on these very important basic requirements first. We’re intrigued by the notion of the scarcity principle for intranet implementation. Most notably because it forces leaders to be very clear about understanding needs and objectives – and keeping people central to any strategy and its execution. Read on to find out more about Robert’s ideas and findings.
24%, that is the average number of people in an organization who regularly use a modern intranet where one is available. Swoop Analytics also discovered that very little collaboration takes place amongst that 24%.
We know why people don’t use intranets and Social Networks; no compelling purpose, managers that don’t know how to make them ‘fit’ with the way work gets done, and most of all because collaboration is a behaviour, not a technology. Look here if you want to know the full story.
So here’s the thing… maybe we’re trying to gain the value available from them in the wrong way… we have been striving for cross-functional communications and collaboration, knowledge sharing – big stuff – when we could have been focusing on the Scarcity Principle to grow slowly the use of intranets from small beginnings.
The Scarcity Principle: ‘Opportunities are always more valuable and exciting when they are scarce and less available’.
Mark Zuckerberg used this principal to grow adoption of Facebook. Initially, Facebook was only available to students at Harvard. Quickly, the buzz about it spread to other Ivy League universities – the students demanded it, so Zuckerberg supplied. Students at other US universities heard that the Ivy League folks had this new and exclusive technology, and they wanted it too. Next came high schools and then the world…
Paradoxically, restricting Facebooks availability increased people’s desire to try it – could this also be true for modern intranets?
Here’s the story of a medium sized Canadian producer of specialized digital products that tried using the scarcity principle – what happened might surprise you.
The firm had four major products and each had its own Product Development Team (PDT);
Each PDT had evolved a unique product development methodology;
Someone realized that although the teams were largely independent, they had common challenges and inefficiencies that if addressed, would save hundreds of hours and ten’s of thousands of $’s x 4, and
The leadership team decided to put together a project team consisting of members from each PDT to deal with the challenges and inefficiencies so that all four teams would benefit. The project team was provided with a modern intranet so that it could be evaluated as part of the project. Would it add value or be under used?
How they did it
An Executive Sponsor was chosen, and she was given accountability for the overall success of the project. She selected a Project Leader who figured out who needed to be in the cross-functional project team;
The team got together and agreed on some goals, developed a set of ‘team guidelines’ which described how they would work together, and clarified individual responsibilities;
Keeping the Scarcity Principle in mind, the team decided which of the functions on the intranet would make goal achievement easier and quicker and agreed to use only those for now.
All project goals were met on time and within budget. As a result, they now have a ‘core product development process’ that is the foundation for all product dev.
The intranet provided the ease and speed desired, and it was adopted by all of the PDT’s.
Word spread that the PDT’s had the intranet and people started to ask why their team hadn’t been given the same opportunity; ‘how come the PDT’s have got it and we haven’t? We need it more than they do!’ – This is how the Scarcity Principle works.
The company provided the software to other teams; but only if they requested it, and only if the first use of it was to be a specific and defined project that they could cut their teeth on.
The employee engagement bonus
People who feel that they are contributing to something meaningful, have the information and tools that they need to do a great job, feel that they belong to a team where peopletrust one another and are recognized when they go the extra mile, are much more engagedin their work than most.
The combination of the strategic use of the intranet, clarity of purpose and good leadership, ensured that these core human workplace needs were met during this project.
If you want to find out how meeting these needs drives high levels of employee engagement you should read this short and excellent blog from the folks at Jostle.
Less is more!
About Robert Gilfoyle
Robert Gilfoyle is President at User Adoption Solutions (UAS) based in Vancouver, Canada. UAS helps small and mid-sized enterprises get the business results, and ROI expected from investments in Enterprise Resource Planning products such as CRM, SharePoint or SaaS products through improving end user adoption rates. They provide solutions that increase the speed, level, and quality of User Adoption (User Adoption = the extent to which people actually use new software or IT Systems effectively) so that more employees use the new software more often and more effectively, resulting in increased productivity and ROI.