When you switch a group of people to OpenOffice.org, the biggest problems you encounter are rarely about the software. It's all about change management.
I've been trying to untangle this problem for years, and I have a few techniques. Show people the fun, cool aspects of the program. Emphasize the money being saved (which usually doesn't help at all). Try to demo the program without divulging that it is not MS Office.
And then NPR comes along with two back-to-back stories that are directly relevant.
I'm sitting here with my tea listening to a story about loss aversion, how we will work harder to avoid losing something we want than to gain the same thing. (Kind of like how we feel the pain of losing money on the stock market more than we feel the pleasure of gaining.) I thought, wow, this is so applicable to the psychology of switching to OOo. So I started creating a new blog entry and bam, the next story is about how people get more benefit from a placebo when they are told it costs more. And that, obviously, is dead-on applicable to switching to OOo as well. I could hardly type fast enough.
Here's the first story. There's a site, www.stickk.com, where you can place a bet on whether you will lose a certain amount of weight by a certain date. (Let's leave aside the question of verification.) According to the NPR story, some people respond very well to a contract. ""There are a significant portion of people who have an explicit preference for commitment," says Karlan. The commitment, or the stakes, help people act in their own self-interest. The contract helps them stay the course."
Furthermore, they will work harder to avoid losing money than to achieve the benefits associated with becoming thinner (gaining something they want). "The results exemplify what behavioral economists call "prospect theory," or loss aversion. "What we know about incentives is that people work a lot harder to avoid losing $10 than they will work to gain $10," explains Ayres. "So something that's framed as a loss is really effective at changing behavior.""
So this explains why the obvious benefit of Openoffice.org, freeing up money you're spending on Microsoft Office, isn't that enticing to many people. Whereas losing their comfortable Microsoft Office or WordPerfect is very painful.
How to frame switching to OpenOffice.org in those terms? It has to be associated with losing something people love. For instance, if people were going to have to choose between paying Microsoft Office and something they want more, like health benefits or their free periods (these might not be realistic examples), they might be happier to use OpenOffice.org because by doing that they avoid losing their health benefits or free periods.
This sounds like heavy-handed mafia-type techniques, I realize, and I'm not trying to do that. I just think it's interesting that the pain is more intense from losing something we have than the pleasure of gaining something we could have. So I'm trying to think of ways to help people see more clearly that not only can they do what they need to in OpenOffice.org but that the money that's freed up can help them keep what they really would hate to lose.
Based on this, I think that when you present the campaign to switch, it would therefore be effective to try as hard as you can to present the entire budget with all the expenses, and the entire amount of money you have, and ask the decisionmakers what they want you to cut. Don't just make it about switching office suite software. Make it about having 3x things you are currently providing and 2x money, and ask what to cut. That helps make it clearer what's really important.
- Are the fabulous high school music program and those two great music teachers more important than using Microsoft Office?
- Is that new ambulance and Chris the EMT more important than using Microsoft Office?
- Is finishing that new product that could help you demolish your competitors more important than using Microsoft Office?
This not only helps people focus on what's really important, but helps frame the idea of switching to OpenOffice.org in terms of avoiding losing something users want, which is more effective than gaining something.
Now here's the other story. People were given two placebos, supposedly for pain relief. Placebos, no effect in the chemical whatsoever. There was a back story for each placebo, and they even made fancy pens for one of them with the fake name of the placebo on the pen. One placebo, let's call it fendorexor, was a lot more expensive than the other placebo, which we'll call endorantec. When people were given the more expensive fendorexor, machines hooked up to the people indicated they experienced less pain than when they were given the less expensive endorantec.
This is very interesting. It's not just reported pain, it's actual observed-by-machines pain. People's brains not only fool them into thinking that a sugar pill can reduce pain, but that the reportedly more expensive sugar pill can reduce pain more than the less expensive sugar pill.
So the key benefit of OpenOffice.org can be the thing that makes people think it's not as good. Ironic, eh?
I'm not quite sure what to do about this. It's hard to sell the work involved in a transition without mentioning the price. But I think it's a good idea to emphasize other aspects of OpenOffice.org, like the open document format, the availability on multiple operating systems, no licensing issues, easy availability to students at home, etc. And when you demo OpenOffice.org, do it first without mentioning the price. Or try to disguise what it is, show screen shots without the title bar. Downplay the price to users, emphasize the price with decisionmakers.
Anyone have any ideas on how to use this information to help facilitate switching to OpenOffice.org? Comments, please.
[Note: OpenOffice.org is not always the right tool, especially if you do business or other activities with organizations that are tightly and rigidly tied to Microsoft Office specific macros and processes. This blog is presented to help people manage the change management part of a transition that has been well considered and well planned, where the software issues have been ironed out and solved.]
Losing weight and loss aversion:
People like more expensive placebos: