Customer collaboration: exploiting the Hawthorne Effect

Way back in the 1930’s researchers from Harvard Business School were running employee feedback research on various proposed innovations in their working conditions on behalf of the telecoms giant Western Electric (now Lucent). The results were quite amazing: they had discovered the Hawthorne Effect.

The Hawthorne Effect: how to win friends and influence people

For example, this is what the Harvard researchers found:

Brighter lighting conditions resulted in better productivity but then later they also discovered that dimmer lighting produced the same effects.

Shorter working hours were tested and they also improved productivity but then surprise, surprise so did longer working hours.

So as a result of this research the Hawthorne Effect was discovered:

"if you seriously involve others in trialing, testing, reviewing and suggesting improvements in your work/products they will inevitably become positively disposed to it and be among its biggest champions"

Applications of the Hawthorne Effect

So what is the application of the Hawthorne Effect?

Simple – in any team collaboration effort ensure you get your product to your customers and potential users at the earliest possible stage and make it clear to them that you really need their help in improving it.

The Hawthorne Effect is also one of the underlying principles of viral, word-of-mouth and buzz marketing which has proved so successful in fueling growth in recent internet ventures such as Skype by using the Hawthorne Effect with key opinion leaders. Use of the effect in this context is described in more detail in Connected Marketing by Justin Kirby and Paul Marsden.

In biological terms the parallel to close customer collaboration is, of course, Symbiosis which is applied to organisational teams in How symbiotic is your collaboration.

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I am surprised that this article does not address or at least acknowledge the serious flaws that exist in the Hawthorne Effect research. I refer you to an article by Berkeley Rice,snior editor of Psychology Today. The article is entitled: The Hawthorne Defect: Persistence of a Flawed Theory.

Could ne 1 be kind enough to send me the Howthorne style real life experiment conducted with some excessive data as well. Scientific rigor is expected thanks

Very useful post here. Thanks for sharing. I realized these details are so helpful for my research.


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