Like many, I’ve often dreamed of opening a small business. But the truth is that small businesses are in an increasingly tough position. In today’s uncertain climate, there are many different threats to success.
Take Brexit’s threat to European relations, market pressures like Trump’s developing stance on free trade, or even the possibility of cyber-crime. In fact, six out of every ten enterprises will close after only five years of trading, and as many as 15 high street stores are closing each day.
So, to compete, small businesses must become as productive as possible and explore every tool at their disposal.
As behavioural scientists, we study how humans interact with other beings and the environment. From our work in the field of behavioural science, we have come across many psychological ideas, theories, and advice which can be applied to business settings. To our surprise, many enterprises aren’t aware of this field of research despite the benefits it can bring. So, this field is ideal for helping small businesses understand their customers, their employees, and the market they operate in. It can identify the things that are holding your business back, and provide scientifically verified advice on how to implement the latest productivity tools.
Keep reading to find out how your business can benefit from the science of productivity.
Staying on trend is the key to success
Small businesses have undoubtedly seen much change over the recent years. And the truth is, technology is often at the heart of these changes. It is dramatically shifting the way businesses function. Thanks to the proliferation of low-cost, readily available products, new tech is often quite cheap to implement, offering great value for money. So, staying up to date with the latest tech can be a great way to increase productivity, efficacy, and profitability.
At the moment, there are several key technology and productivity trends which are shaking up the way these businesses operate.
- New technology
Firstly, popular technology has transformed the way collaboration happens in the workplace. Is your manager based in Australia? No problem thanks to Skype. Other collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, Yammer, Google Drive and Vodafone One Net Business also bring remote teams together. While the innovative platform Slack allows easy communication and file sharing among teams, Google Drive also offers the possibility of jointly working on a shared, cloud-based document at the same time, which has drastically changed how we can work. As an example, the Shoreditch-based small digital agency named Manifesto helps organisations explore change, yet they can afford to have half their employees out of the office while all still working on the same project.
- Big data
The second trend, Big Data, describes the use of computers or apps to analyse very large sets of data about aspects of the business and the consumer. This provides incredibly in-depth insight into both businesses and their customers. Once you understand something better you can adapt to it, which can, in turn, increase productivity and profitability. For example, an ice cream parlour can use Big Data to find out which of their flavours are the most popular and identify when there is a higher demand for their products (during a heat wave or when festivals are happening) meaning they can staff and stock up accordingly. However, one of its weaknesses lies in its very quantitative nature. Because it is numbers based, it means that individuals often find it hard to relate to the findings. As such, there has been a recent shift towards humanising Big Data results, thus making the results more accessible. This means that you will be seeing more infographics, such as colourful tables, creative representations and dynamic animations. Look at Umbel.com’s Big Data infographic for an example.
Lastly comes automation – which basically means machines which don’t require human interaction. In fact, there are options which businesses can implement today. A good example comes from the chat bot. These are clever pieces of software, (such as IBM’s Watson) which can efficiently deal with basic queries that customers have, all without requiring the use of a human. See TOBI, Vodafone’s example of a chat bot here. They are becoming the new first line of customer service. So, by implementing such technology, you can apply your skilled team to other areas of the business. When we take the trends mentioned above and take them through their natural progression, we get a unique image of the future of the workplace. We will undoubtedly exist in a connected, high paced, well-designed environment, in which AI, automation and intelligent machines play an increasingly more important role.
3 steps to making your business more productive
When it comes to applying some of these technologies to business, there are several key factors which act as barriers to tech adoption. Luckily, behavioural science research has identified these factors and provided us with actionable solutions.
- Performance expectancy
In other words, does the change you’re proposing even work? A good example would be the use of chat bots. As mentioned above, one of the keys to selling in the concept is to help your employees realise that the technology does actually work and how it can help them do their jobs better and easier.
- Ease of use
Human beings generally gravitate towards the path of least resistance. This means we look for the easiest and most convenient way of doing something. Just think of Apple, a large part of their success lies in the way in which they can turn complex technology into an accessible and easy to use format for users. If you are thinking of applying a new piece of productive tech to your business, ensure that the tech makes employee’s jobs easier.
- Social influence
As much as we might not like to admit it, we are guilty of following the crowd mentality when it comes to decision making. We often look to others to understand what decisions we should make especially those we identify with such as family and friends. For example, how many of you ask what your friends are having before deciding on what to order? As such, when implementing a new technology in the business, make sure that others are seen using and embracing it. This normalises the behaviour and makes it seem natural.
In addition to making big changes across your business, individual employees can learn new behavioural tricks to boost their productivity. Behavioural science has provided the following tips which show how to take a realistic and effective approach to building positive habits. A key part of productivity:
Tip 1: Keep it simple. The more complex a habit is, the harder it is to form. By keeping it simple, you will increase the chances of success.
Tip 2: Build habits like you would build a house, brick by brick. This means that you should incorporate any new habit into an existing one. The research behind this tip comes from a 2013 study which considered what is perhaps one of the hardest habits to master, flossing! If this tip can get you to floss, it can help your business too.
Tip 3: You may have heard somewhere that building a habit takes ’21 days’, but this isn’t true. More recent and research shows that on average it takes people around 66 days to build a new habit. This is over 2 months! Don’t be disheartened if you are still finding it challenging at three weeks, this is entirely normal.
Thankfully, in our modern world, we have access to new developments that can greatly improve our productivity. Through implementing the correct technology, we can develop more productive and efficiently run small businesses. All in all, having an open mind to both psychology, science and technology can help improve productivity in ways which were never previously available.