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Did you hear about the new cafe in Hackney that let you pay in good deeds?

On the last weekend in June, Ring (an Amazon company) opened NeighbourGood Café in Hackney which offered a new way to pay. Instead of currency, people could pay in good deeds. The cafe said “No matter how big or small, it can be anything from offering to give practical tips to helping with shopping or DIY.”

Ask yourself why you clicked on this article? My guess is it’s because either you know me or you were curious to hear about the cafe. Most humans love novelty. Why? In an article with the Scientific American neuroscientist Gregory Berns explained that this is because our brain releases more dopamine in response to new pleasures over pleasures we’re expecting.

Novelty as a tool can create ambassadors and retain employees for longer. Many of us seek novelty for ourselves because of emotions like boredom, pain or loneliness. If you look at history, there is a cyclical nature to how things are run that’s driven by human behaviour. New doesn’t have to mean new to the world, only new to you and your community.

What does novelty look like?

Novelty can take form in a lot of ways, from a surprise cake on a birthday to an announcement of an unexpected new disease. As you can see, novelty lies on a spectrum that ranges from familiar to unfamiliar, and both positive and negative emotions are tied closely to risk. What this relationship is and how sensitive it is is tied to the personality trait ‘openness’ which varies for each individual.

Openness is normally distributed, so most people thrive somewhere in the middle between thrill seeking and routine guarding. Using novelty for the average person is a powerful tool to keep them both engaged and incentivised ambassadors of your community. However, not everyone likes novelty because of fear and risk and hitting the sweet spot in novelty is crucial.

Something new should feel fun, exciting and should make you want to talk about it. If most of the people in your organisation feel that way about the “something new” you’re introducing, you know you’ve gotten it right. Are you wondering how you can strike this balance? I’ll tell you the secrets behind how Pret uses something new to keep me hooked.

What can you learn about novelty from Pret a Manger?

Let’s talk about another cafe, specifically Pret and my Pret subscription. I am obsessed with it. I used to have the same thing every day. A soya americano or french press with a bit of milk if I was at home. Coffee is expensive, so I was more reluctant to try new drinks, then the Pret subscription came into my life. Since then, I’ve tried flat whites, macchiatos, lattes etc. and when they give me a reward, I’ll even try a snack or I’ll give it to a friend to make their day. I’m also more inclined to try their new seasonal products when they’re released, like anything pumpkin spiced in the fall or their holiday drinks.

I’ve become a brand ambassador to a company I pay every month because of the low risk economic freedom I get to explore new drinks and treats, while simultaneously creating a routine I have a positive association with. I feel like I have a secret weapon to being productive, so I feel socially incentivised to talk about it.

Pret combines levels, surprises and consistency in a low risk way to create brand loyalists and more early adopters of new products. If you look back at what they do, they give five drinks a day consistently, they release new products seasonally when people expect new products and combine surprise to a points system so people know when to expect a surprise and roughly what that surprise will be.

New ideas to try

When transferred to hybrid workplace communities, I’m sure you’ve faced issues around novelty like getting people back together and communicating change. People are fear driven and/or risk averse, this includes fear of missing out, fear of failing and fear of loneliness because these things are largely undesirable. In workplace communities, there are ways you can incentivise people to engage in your community, I’ve included three new ideas below.

  1. Use surprises in the office to increase togetherness. If you’re having trouble getting people into the office, encourage people to come in on certain days and have ‘surprises’ planned during those days (free lunch, free breakfast, etc.)

  2. Use known changes in time to announce change. For example like changing of seasons, financial quarters or months to introduce new announcements.

  3. Combine surprises and gamification to increase word of mouth. Create an internal rewards system for employees. Have it be points based so they know when to expect a reward, but keep the reward a surprise so they have something to talk about to colleagues. What the reward is can be tied to your objectives. For example, if you need mentors or volunteers, assign these tasks points. If you need more people in office, assign points to attendance

Hopefully this article surprised you and helped you better understand the need to balance the new with the familiar, and how novelty can be used to improve your hybrid workplace communities.

Next week we’ll be exploring how to use Peak-End coding to improve your workplace community engagement. If you liked this, make sure to follow me on Linkedin to learn more about interesting topics I’ve been inspired by.

Thanks to Denise Hampson for writing original blog posts on memory design and to Sympa Future of HR event for inspiring me to look into workplace communities in the first place.


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