Is It Really Lack Of Initiative That Stops Us From Trying Out New Things?

Listening to Adam Grant’s interview got me thinking about why people use things that they know do not offer much intrinsic value and why they feel that the cost of using an alternative is higher than the benefits of making the switch.

Here’s what Adam Grant said in an interview for his new book Originals

What browser you use signals something about the way that you tend to live your life. If you use Firefox or Chrome, you have to download those browsers; whereas Safari and Internet Explorer — they come pre-installed on your computer, they’re the default. And if you’re the kind of person who just accepts the default, you tend not to take as many original steps as the rest of us.

I agree that the lack of initiative is a major reason why people stick with the defaults. These defaults could be the pre-installed browsers on our laptops, applications on our smartphones, or processes in our organizations. And, this ties in with lack of curiosity to explore alternatives. As a result, the conventional set-up prevails.

But, lack of curiosity on the part of such people does not necessarily mean that they are never in the know of better, cheaper or faster alternatives. A majority of people gravitate towards things that are better or faster or cheaper. So, for instance, when most of my friends use Chrome & Google Maps, it is highly unlikely that I am unaware of what they use. If this is true, why do I still stick with Safari & Apple Maps?

If I know that most of my friends use things that I do not use, it does not matter if I was curious about finding the alternatives for my existing systems. So, lack of awareness is surely not the reason for not using better alternatives. I think the major reason that stops people from using alternatives that they know others use and that are better is the perception of the value of existing apps/browsers/systems. Such perceived value results from the power of defaults. Higher the perceived value of something, higher do the switching costs appear to be.

Apple Maps is preinstalled on my iPhone. So, when I first bought the phone, I immediately started using that app as a navigation system. Since it is deeply integrated with the operating system it lives in, I can use is seamlessly. The app might not be the best at what it is supposed to be doing. The UX of using that app is frictionless. The UX within the app might not be frictionless. The convenience of having a native process trumps the utility of it. So, as I use it more and more, my perception of its value increases. Once the value passes a certain threshold, the cost of abandoning Apple Maps (an existing system) and using Google Maps (a a new system) seems exponentially high to people that are not tech savvy for the most part.

And, this is exactly why people tend to use the GIF integration within Facebook’s Messenger more than Giphy even though Giphy can be used from within the app and offers much more value. The convenience of a native GIF feature trumps the utility of Giphy. The UX for using native GIF feature is better than the UX of doing the same task with Giphy. I also think this is exactly why most people stick with Apple Email over other emil clients on their iPhones and why most people use Twitter’s native app over Tweetdeck. And, this is why its really hard for new social networks like Peach and Musically and Anchor to go mainstream.

People will stick with what they are currently using until and unless they think that the alternatives offers 100x better value. Only then, the convenience of existing systems will get outweighed by the utility of the alternatives.

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