Taking vitamins every day? It didn’t work for me. Despite the best of intentions, by the time day three or four rolled around, I had missed my first daily dose of plastic-encased chemicals. And things went downhill rapidly from there. By one week, daily vitamin-taking had become a forgotten ritual.
But then I discovered Gummies! Yes, delicious, chewable, colorful, translucent-bear-shaped Gummy Vitamins! Now I wake up every morning anticipating a succulent, chewable treat that kick-starts my day and, by the way, also delivers my daily dose of vitamins. Somehow, I don’t forget my vitamin-taking any more.
Gummies show how instant, positive reinforcement can alter our behavior. This silly hack gives us insight into how we can build effective routines in both our business and personal life. I call it the the Gummy Vitamin Effect.
Application to Life
Say you want to learn a new language. Each marginal word you learn doesn’t seem to have a huge benefit, it’s only in the future when all the words you’ve learned together that you suddenly become fluent! As a result, most people give up on learning a language because they struggle on the learning curve to fluency. Thus we need to add immediate rewards to the language accumulation step.
Software does this well. For example, in Rosetta Stone learning a small set of words results in a leveling up. This gives you an incentive to keep learning as you are seeing a more immediate reward. Offline, we could hack an immediate reward. One way that works well is to buy a bag of jelly beans (or something small and tasty) and every time you learn a new word, devour a jelly bean.
By bringing instant rewards into your learning, you are more likely to succeed (but maybe not keep off the pounds).
Applications to Work/Management
To be a better leader, we have to make ourselves and our teams more efficient. Understanding the Gummy Vitamin Effect is key to making your team better.
Everyone likes feeling appreciated. Performance reviews are too spread out and decoupled from actual actions. As a manager, you can use the Gummy Vitamin Effect to hack this process. When a team member updates you on progress for a long-term project, give positive feedback immediately. People love to be validated, and like a gummy bear, it’s something that people look forward to. By being focused on giving quick instant feedback, you couple a reward with a step in a long-term direction.
The Taj Hotel in Bombay is known for having employees even more dedicated to customers than the Ritz. Harvard Business Review investigated how the Taj Hotel has such dedicated employees, finding that managers lasered in on ensuring that each staff-guest interaction demonstrated kindness. To accomplish this result, they provided rewards (bonuses, gifts, etc.) to employees within 48 hours of hearing any positive review of an employee. This built a culture of kindness by reinforcing positive behavior. You can apply this same idea in any business through spot bonuses and employee rewards. There have been some recent start-ups, such as Achievers.com, emerging in this space, dedicated to make it easy to reward employees.
The Gummy Vitamin Effect has big implications for how we manage teams, develop good habits, and teach.Try looking at your life and how instant rewards can encourage positive behavior. Oh, and buy some Gummy Vitamins.