Feasibility of Changing Minds, Changing Habits

There are so many products labeled ergonomic; why is that?

There are so many products but none have really taken off. Why is that?

People sitting on balls as their main chair is newsworthy; why is that?

The answer to these questions reminds me of pre-organic food. Well, not “pre” like “prehistoric” but the time right before it became seriously mainstream for people to eat organic. Organic lines and grocery stores were far between or crammed into hard to notice corners, battling (and losing) to the traditional food stuffs-companies and products. People who ate organic were (eccentric) hippies or super liberal, commune types (read as hippies). So, hippies or hippies and/or hippies ate organic. Period.

Now, it’s completely different. If you went into any organic store (or isle), you’d be hard pressed to find the hippies among the soccer moms and computer geeks. Everyone eats organic (if they can afford it). It’s a given. Whole Foods’ stock price and Safeway’s Organics are good examples of the success and rapid growth in this market. Eight years ago (hell four years ago), if you’d said you were going to buy some organic food, people would have thought you were crazy. What’s the point? All the food is equally good.

It’s truly amazing how changing the underlying principles of people’s beliefs created a change in their behavior.

But, James, what does this have to do with ergonomics?

Well, I’ll tell you!

Ergonomics seem relegated to the eccentric side of consumerism. It’s something that only a few “crazies” think and obsess about. Who uses the standup mouse or the walk while you work anyway?

I’d call this group hippies but they’re a bit too computer savvy to be considered hippies. What should I call them, understanding that I am probably a member of the group? 😉

I think it’s pretty mainstream knowledge (don’t shoot me on this) that staying at a computer all day is really bad for the body. Sitting in a chair, hunched over, tapping away on little plastic keys while you (try to) stare down the monitor is in no way a good thing for your muscle structure. Hence the investment of extremely creative energies into solving what is probably among the modern world’s most difficult of engineering challenges: getting the human body to conform comfortably to the hyper-connected, Internet-based world we’ve created for ourselves.

What I find perverse is there’s such a prevalence of ergonomically engineered products but nobody uses them! Companies just keep on buying the same damn keyboard and mouse from Dell and Microsoft, the same stupid chairs, and the same confining cubicles, etc, etc. Is this a lack of sales force? Marketing know-how on the part of the engineers. I wouldn’t be surprised because engineers tend to think (and this is really just based on personal experience working with them) that if it’s built the best, people will find it and automatically make a switch. Like the calls for product orders are just going to roll in. It’s very strange that the engineering side would think things like that. I guess they don’t spend too much time outside their equations, designs, and algorithms to notice what the non-engineers are doing. Does this mean they question me taking a pay check home?

My point is that until we reach a critical mass of users in the right positions (people capable of making the culture changes through policy or purchase) as well as a willingness to change (adopt, use, purchase, ect), ergonomics is going to be for “computer hippies” and only for computer hippies. Period.

One of the major barriers to this movement, as I see it at least, is the weirdness factor. The ergonomic products that are coming out are so different from their traditional counterparts that this may be a barrier to adoption. People, myself included, love the status quo. It’s what makes them comfortable at night and vote for the safe candidate (however that may be defined). Nader’s run for president three out of the last three elections. He’s not reached 5% of the popular vote. And, it is not because people don’t know his name or what he stands for; he’s a radical and wants to rock the status quo. That’s a tough sell and I work in sales! (I voted Nader; I’m a bit of a radical…just to be honest with y’all). (talk about playing for the losing team: stats.)

Any ideas for making a change? Do we need to launch ergonomic campaigns at our works? Be bold and tell them that we need better tools to increase productivity?

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