What a VC and Former Googler Thinks You Should Know About Design

Editor’s Note: I recently spoke to Irene Au who is a design partner at Khosla Ventures and former Head of Design at Google, Yahoo, and Udacity. She’ll be speaking at the upcoming Habit Summit in April, which I’m attending. (You can register here!) In this interview, we chatted about design strategy for startups.

Q: You have an impressive background as a designer at Google, Yahoo, and now at Khosla Ventures. Could you describe how your design role translates in venture capital?

Irene Au: As entrepreneurs start to recognize how crucial design and design thinking are to the success of their company, they are motivated to understand how to hire good designers, how to position them inside their organizations, and what this means for their product and development.

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How to Motivate People: 23 Insights You Might Not Expect

In the last six years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about motivation. At one startup, we built a platform for personal behavior change. At another, we used interactive chatbots to help people achieve their goals. As you might guess, the underlying question at both companies was “How can we use technology to motivate people?”

I believe behavior can be designed—we can create pathways in real life or in online products that lead people to take action. But I don’t mean “behavior design” in a manipulative, coercive way. I mean that we can design experiences that help people choose, by themselves, to take action. And that’s where motivation comes in.

So here’s a motivation manifesto. It’s a list of my observations about motivation—some based on real academic research, others based on personal experience. You might not agree with everything; I’d be happy to have you comment and tell me why.

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How to Make Facebook Politics Less Painful Using Behavioral Design

I made just one innocent political comment, and it practically started a war. The conversation quickly escalated until my conservative aunt Karen was yelling at Chris, a left-leaning friend from high school. Once Karen stopped yelling, Chris responded with a thoughtful, tempered response—except for the thinly-veiled Hitler reference at the end of it.

In truth, Karen and Chris have never met in person, and they live thousands of miles apart; this encounter happened on Facebook (names changed for this essay). I have seen dozens of similar conflicts in the past few months and admit to shamelessly engaging in some myself. Yet, if Karen and Chris had met face-to-face, I think their conversation would have gone differently.

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What Most People Don’t Know About Behavioral Design

Editor’s note: I recently had the chance to speak with Susan Weinschenk, a behavioral scientist, author, and speaker, about her upcoming talk Habit Summit in April. (I’ll be attending Habit Summit and you can register here!) She’s had a fascinating career in behavioral design, as you’ll see in this interview.

Q: You’re the author of the book, One Hundred Things Every Designer Should Know About People. What’s one takeaway from the book that readers get most excited about?

Susan Weinschenk: I think one thing that gets people is they have never stopped to think about the important role of peripheral vision.

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How to Conquer Crappiness and Achieve Glory

This essay offers a peek into my upcoming workshop, How to Achieve Goals Using Psychology and Technology, which you can register for here.

In the small college town where I live, one summer job is the clear favorite among students: door-to-door sales. Hundreds of twenty-somethings leave every year to make their homes in Minnesota, Texas, Illinois, New Jersey—you name it—where they’ll peddle a product or service to local residents. The popular products are home security systems and pest control. The summer sales routine is an all-out assault, as the salespeople canvas neighborhoods one door at a time.

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The Secret to Creating Opportunity

Depending on your familiarity with the history of aviation, you may recognize the name of Thomas Selfridge; he bears the unfortunate distinction of “first person to die in an airplane crash.” This is his story.

Thomas Selfridge was a First Lieutenant in the United States Military and, in the year 1908, stood at the forefront of the ever-intriguing field of aviation. At the age of 25, he was a noted member of Aerial Experiment Association. He was one of the first to record a flight in Canada, and he had already designed his own aircraft, which he called Red Wing.

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4 Ways to Be Less Distracted by Technology

When technology comes up in a casual conversation with a friend—whether you’re discussing Pinterest, Netflix, or the newest OnePlus 2 smart phone—we often joke about just how bad the addiction has gotten. Lately, I haven’t even been sure if addiction is the right word. Sure, there are people with serious technology addictions, on the level of chemical dependence, but the majority of us have little more than a nagging habit, understated by the fact that we love our technology so much.

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The Simple iPhone Hack I Discovered to Achieve My Habit Goals

Last week I discovered a pretty amazing, simple way to track a habit on my phone—it’s a “habit hack” that has made a huge difference in my daily routine. Today I’m going to teach it to you. But first, some backstory. (Scroll down if just want the hack and not the background behind it.)

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Tech Habits that Will Make You Cringe (and How to Fix Them)

Last night I climbed into bed around 11:30 PM, plugged in my iPhone to charge and swiped to the home screen to find my favorite alarm clock app—Sleep Cycle. But before I could get to the app, I quickly opened Facebook to see if I had missed anything. One of my friend’s had just had a baby, so I liked her photo, then flipped through a few more.

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