How to design products that change Gen Z minds – UX Planet
Youth movements are very popular in Tel Aviv, where I was born & raised, and most of the kids join one of the many options offered in the city. I chose Sea-Scouts when I was 12, and even though I graduated (with distinction, if I might add 😜) back in 2010, I always feel a part of it.
The Sea-Scouts deliver their values through marine activities such as rowing and sailing in different types of boats. The captains of the boats are teenagers who take their roles as group leaders quite seriously, as they should. Being a captain of a boat is no joke.
Even though they understand they have a serious job, there’s a problem. The teenage instructors and the grown-up troop managers never see eye to eye. Even though the age gap isn’t that serious (troop managers are usually 25–35-year-old) the instructors always think they know best, when it comes to what it takes to be a good instructor.
When I started my 3rd year of college as an Instructional Tech student, I had to pick (together with my partner and good friend, Ella Ziv) a client for our final project. As we are both graduates of the Sea-Scouts, we decided to pick our troop as a client.
Our first task of the project was to research and find a problem we can solve with technology. What we found was that the instructors don’t perceive their role the way the tribe’s management would have wanted.
According to the management’s role definition, their success in their role is measured by their performances in 4 categories — Instruction, Leadership, Management and Marine Skills. Each category holds different tasks and responsibilities. The problem is that the instructors don’t perceive their role as a whole, and choose to focus on one or two categories, usually the ones which are easier for them, and don’t pay enough time and attention to the others.
This wrong perception leads the instructors to be not so good at their job, which leads to the instructors’ cadets quitting the Sea-Scouts. With that, the tribe’s headcount is descending, and the tribe is not meeting its goals — to make better kids who’ll become better people.
No one puts Gen Z in the corner
I can still remember the great feeling of responsibility I had as a teenager instructing in the Sea-Scouts. The instructors see their job as a mission — to grow and maintain this great organization, and make new people fall in love with it.
And as you can imagine, it is not an easy mission. They need to prepare 2 activities per week, lead special events, call parents and update them on a weekly basis, deal with registrations and fees, be good sailors and with all that — to make a good example and be a worthy leader for their kids.
while adults prioritize and decide when to do each task, teenagers decide which task is deserving of their precious time
When so many tasks are on the table, prioritization is naturally made. But while adults prioritize and decide when to do each task, teenagers decide which task is deserving of their precious time. Unfortunately for them, all tasks are important and need to be done, so when instructors are giving up some of their responsibilities, they’re not doing a good job. Some of them are even doing a VERY BAD job, which often makes the kids leave Sea-Scouts for good. And that’s a shame. Because Sea-Scouts makes good people. Look how I turned out!
After doing user interviews we understood that the workload is not the actual problem. The instructors have specifically told us they know all tasks are important for them to do well in their job. They just don’t want to do it.
Gen Z think they know better than everyone else, especially those “old” 30-years-old running the troop who are giving them annoying tasks, that in their minds, are just not important. They can manage without them.
Now it got a bit more complicated. How are we going to change these young minds into believing tasks that seem irrelevant are crucial to their success as instructors?
We started researching perception among teenagers. What affects them, what drives their decision making? Gen Z, more than any other generation, are driven by their influencers. They are also more competitive.
After researching the hell out of it, we came to 4 conclusions:
- Changing minds needs time, so we’re looking at a process that should be closed in a specific time frame. For us the time frame was the first year (out of 3) of instruction.
- Changing minds comes from awareness. The instructors need to be aware of their current state if we want them to change any bad habits and adopt others. We needed a method of self-reflection in our app.
- Changing minds varies from one to another. We would need to create an adaptable app that customizes according to the instructor’s status and progress. That was a key element for us later in development.
- Changing minds doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The social element here is key.
The mind changing machine
We decided to create a mobile app that will lead the instructors through their first year in the job. The app would encourage them to be better instructors by showing them that doing tasks they normally ignore is crucial to their success. This encouragement is made using gamification and social media-like activities.
We collected a list of all these tasks and categorized them into those 4 categories that are all an important part of their job, so the instructors can see the difference between their accomplishments in each category.
The instructor shares their task completions with their friends with photo or text. Each share grants the instructor one step on the progress bar that reflects for them what are their strong & weak categories are, so that they know where they need to improve. According to the instructor’s weak spots the app recommends on tasks they should do in order to improve. Each task page includes a feed where they can watch each other’s achievements, get inspired and see their own accomplishments.
Our proposal is leaning on elements from social media and gamification, both proven with great influence on teenagers, Gen Z in particular. We wished to use the social influence to make them change habits and the gamification to maintain these habits and create engagement.
Game players get satisfaction from level accomplishment and skill development. The sense of progression motivates them for continued effort. In our app, each task completion signals achievement.
Achievements elements in gamification can be granting points or badges, levels, leaderboards, progression bars or certificates.
We used these elements as the foundation of our app, as our main objective is to change our users’ minds about these tasks. By making their responsibilities a challenge rather than a task and rewarding them on each achievement, the tasks become a part of the game. Their eagerness to win and prove themselves makes them do things they wouldn’t have done on their own and that makes them better instructors. While they are getting in-app rewards and encouragements, they are getting them in the real world as well. When they are not neglecting their tasks their cadets are happier, their managers are happier, and their self-esteem is rising. Win-Win-Win.
Our progression bar is a main element in the app. We chose to show it as a circle to represent the fact that each task is a part of a bigger mission — to be whole, a complete better instructor.
We designed each task icon as a badge, but it is granted only after the first accomplishment.
It’s important to pay attention as to what’s the user’s success criteria. Who is the best user — is it the one who collected the most points, or the one who is a frequent user?
For us, we wanted to encourage the instructors to excel in all 4 categories, so our leaderboard shows the one instructor in each category who completed most challenges, while one instructor can achieve the goal and be a winner in all 4 categories.
After each task accomplishment, the instructor gets a star for the specific task. Just another small reward to give them a sense of accomplishment. More accomplishments — higher star score.
A study released in Jan 2018 reveals that Gen Z is more emotionally affected by social media than other generations who are also online. As the study shows the different negative effects such as being bullied & having lower self-esteem, we wanted to use these effects to encourage each other to be better instructors.
We based our whole system on the base of sharing. By sharing with each other their accomplishments and their success, we hope to create a new consensus about being a good instructor.
Change minds & chill
Our Gen Z testers, with an attention span of 8 seconds, were playing with our app for a whole 10 minutes or so when we first gave it to them. That’s a win right there!
Their reactions were exactly what we hoped for — it’s nice, but we want more. More statistics, more missions to accomplish, more options for social interaction, more badges to earn.
And from our starting point where they wanted to do less and still get success — that’s a start of a change.
Like I said, changing minds takes time. We can’t just tell Gen Z what to do and they will do it. They love being independent, self confident and autonomous, therefor to make their own decisions. That’s why you can’t tell Gen Z to change habits or how to do their job. They need to decide on their own. Instead, put a mirror in front of them, and hopefully, with time, they will use that mirror to make better choices.