A Genius Bar in every building

Over the past few months, I’ve written about using social tools and practices to save money, about a framework for influencing behavior, and about applying the Fun Theory at work. Today, I want to describe a project I’m working on to show how you can tie all those ideas together, unlocking value and enthusiasm even for mundane corporate goals.

The mundane corporate goal

One way firms can save money is by having people use their own mobile device instead of corporate-owned Blackberries. (Usually referred to as BYOD or Bring Your Own Device.) In a large firm, there could be many thousands of corporate mobiles and the costs could easily be tens of millions every year.

But how would you get people to use their own device instead?

What your firm might normally do

One way to change behavior

Normally, you would just change the policy: “We will no longer issue devices or reimburse employees for mobile expenses.”

You’d still want employees to have mobile access to work, though. So you might accompany your policy change with an awareness campaign, making sure everyone knew about the change and asking for their cooperation.

A different approach: A Genius Bar in every building

Changes to policy are powerful and raising awareness is important. But you can get better results - and do less damage to employee engagement - with an approach that taps into all of the 6 sources of influence described in “Influencer” by Kerry Patterson et al.


So we decided to try something different and more positive. We noticed how many people loved using their iPad for work once they got it set up and how they were often eager to help others. What if we could somehow connect those people and form a social movement that drove adoption while reducing costs?

“A Genius Bar in every building” started as a blog post on our social collaboration platform. It described how local volunteers could staff pop-up Genius Bars and help people set up their iPhones and iPads. Over the next few days, others contributed ideas and offered to volunteer. Soon, we had organized our first 2 events.

The initial events weren’t smooth or professional, but we learned a lot. And we were struck by how grateful everyone was. (“Thank you so much for doing this!”) Afterwards, one of the volunteers wrote about what could have gone better. Another person wrote down detailed instructions for future events. Someone else started an online sign-up sheet for volunteers in every location.

Now, we have events planned in a growing number of buildings all around the world. People are continuing to contribute suggestions for improving things. And with each event, we create more positive stories, attract more volunteers, and expand the movement.

Applying the Influencer Checklist

Is this all we can do? In using the Influencer checklist, we see the Genius Bars help us in 4 ways:

6 sources of Influence

☑ Personal Ability: Having mobile experts in each lobby makes it convenient for people to enable their devices.

☑ Social motivation: Seeing a crowd gathered around an Apple logo can go a long way to motivate others to join. We also use the social collaboration platform to share stories of how other people at all levels are using their own devices.

☑ Social ability: By crowd-sourcing volunteers, we build up a network of experts who could help people locally and complement the small team of mobile engineers.

☑ Structural ability: A simple physical thing like having a “Blackberry Bin” makes it easier for people to give back their devices.

To tap into all 6 sources of influence, we’ll still need to change the policy to help with structural motivation - e.g. changing the reimbursement policies over time so it becomes increasingly unattractive to use a corporate device. We’re not doing enough to appeal to those who aren’t personally motivated to give up their corporate Blackberry. (Perhaps the “Speed Camera Lottery” from last week’s post might be applicable here.)

We have a choice

The point is that even for something as mundane as reducing mobile costs at work, we have a choice:

We can rely on crude carrots and sticks to change behavior.

Or we can care.

Care about the people affected. Care about producing more sustainable results. Care enough to try something different so we can make work more effective and more fulfilling.