Changing The Script: Understanding How Mental Schemas Delay Cloud Technology Adoption
Fans of the TV show Seinfeld know exactly what to expect. The effects of repeated episodes finds the viewer primed to expect laughter at Jerry’s cleverness, Kramer’s odd interpretations, George’s neuroticism, and Elaine’s adventures. The series is organized around a Peter Pan theme of a never-grow-up philosophy of life. The producers even made the finale a comedic success about the four friends being sentenced to prison. But what if they didn’t? What if the last show was presented as a tearjerker having the characters remorseful about their careless actions over the years? Of course this sudden deviation would not have computed well within the human brain as this turnabout would have went against the theme of the entire series.
The Software Schema
When a retail customer or an executive considers adopting the cloud they are breaking a mental script, known as a schema, that is nearly as difficult to imagine as crying over the Seinfeld crew’s jail sentence.
A schema is a psychological theory first proposed by the writer Jean Pigaet and later applied by Bartlett as a cognitive frame that serves as a foundation from which interpretations of events are automatically activated based on prior experience http://psychology.about.com/od/sindex/g/def_schema.htm
Cloud computing is a whole new way of thinking about how we use and store data making this strategy an affront to our mental schema of how we manage programs and data. To incorporate a new schema requires integrating new information, a difficult mental leap that requires positive experiences with new technology from the very beginning.
How Apple and Microsoft Got it Right
In a prior column I shared my adventure of buying a MacBook Air and how I had to overcome the bias of salesman to pursue a cloud solution. What happened within an hour of my purchase is a good example of how a schema works and how it can be overcome by new experiences.
After setting up my new Air I desperately needed to get Microsoft Word for Mac. At the retail outlet a panic gripped me as I realized I was buying media to insert into a slot I didn’t have on the Air. The tech told me, “I think you can download it online“. One the way home I had a sinking feeling I had made a terrible mistake and started vowing to never allow myself to be in this situation again.
This example speaks to how sensitive the customer can be at retail, how nervous the CIO can be at the corporate level, and how concerned the IT professional can feel about job security. New challenges to old schemas follow a difficult and winding path on the way to changing a person’s mind-set. When I got home the cloud was there for me and I was writing within 10 minutes. Make sure its there for the next user and another new schema will emerge, and another, and another…
By Don Cleveland