User experience and interaction designers need to understand how users think as well as be aware of business goals and needs described by managers and colleagues from other departments. Chocolate… delicious chocolate… can help you get the information you need to do a great job.
Candy in real life
My grandfather used to be famous in our neighborhood. Why? Was he rich or handsome, or a music star? No, he carried candy in his pockets and he gave candy to every kid he could find; soon he became the girls and boys local super hero.
Actually, in some countries, it’s common that old men give candy to children. The uncommon behavior was that my grandfather would also give candy to adults. Hence, he became the local super hero of children and adults as he surprised neighbors and got many smiles in return. I’m sure many adults thought that it was ridiculous to get candy from an old man and be treated like a child, but they did, in any case, smile.
Chocolate, the food produced from cacao (as described on Wikipedia,) is one of the top gifts, worldwide. It’s also one of the most popular ways of saying thank you, I love you, I appreciate you, and make someone smile. Most of us love chocolate.
Chocolate for users
I always take two small chocolates with me when I go to user tests. I give the first one to the user at the beginning of the meeting and I leave the second chocolate on the table next to me. I say that the first one is a small present for joining the test; users usually smile and know that there is more to come.
The goal is to create a funny situation, a reason to smile and relax. It is also a way to thank the user, just one more detail (aside from the monetary incentive). I am convinced that tests run better when we use chocolate because it makes users happier and more open to talk and share information.
Chocolate in meetings
Use chocolate in brainstorming sessions as a reward every time a colleague adds something interesting to the discussed topic. Rewards provide initiative, and could result in a courageous colleague who shares something crazy that paves the path to a cutting edge solution.
Again, the goal is to create a playful environment, to brake the ice, make people smile and, above everything, to reward participation.
I use small pieces of chocolates that are easy to throw in the air and that people can eat immediately. My favorite brand is Ritter Sport: Small colorful pieces of delicious chocolate.
Communicate the benefits
We don’t want people to think that they are being rewarded the same way dolphins at SeaWorld are. So, make sure that everybody gets the idea that it is a game and make it clear that this technique is used to make the test or brainstorming session a success. With chocolate it will probably be!
Chocolate pictures from Ritter Sport