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It Has to be Easy – the Relative Value of Information

April 04, 2011

I was working with an executive team recently and one individual,
kept interrupting the conversation with an insisting statement of,
It has to be easy or no one will do it” when referring to using a new
software application.  What was he really saying?  Why the resistance?

Wanting it to be easy, is usually a back-door reference to time, e.g. this
better not take much of my time because I’m busy, but it can also mean:

1. I’ve already rejected it, and am just giving you my preferred reason
for not learning a new system, and the rejection can be based on a wide
range of beliefs.  Beliefs such as, this level of getting it done & documented
right will take too much of my time and may expose me and/or others
in the process.

2. It can also mean, I don’t think there’s any problem with how we work
currently, so unless this is all automated and requires almost no effort,
I’m not interested.

It got me wondering, if you think “It has to be easy or I”m not going to do it,”
what are you saying about the value you have placed on the
activity of information management

You might be simply indicating that there’s already a technology to
manage the task easily, so if a new application doesn’t match that level
of ease-of-use, you need to switch technologies.

But I don’t think that’s it.  You don’t buy that either, do you???

My experience is that when most people say, usually emphatically,
It has to be easy,” they are saying they have more valuable things
to do
, so if this isn’t easy, and given that it is relatively not that important,
it won’t get their attention.

It’s funny, but one of the fantasies that quickly follows, is the wish
for the new technology to talk to each of the existing technologies being used,
so that the person can avoid the frustration or nemesis of duplicative entry.

It’s always interesting to me, that the same people who are concerned
about duplicative entry, don’t seem to have a problem ccing and reading
cc’d emails, even though that represents a duplicative daily task.  When
pushed further, the duplicative entry time in a management system like
is often less than an hour or two a month… so why the emphasis,
the concern?

I think it’s a red herring.  So, let’s go over the concern again, and then let
me pull something from recent brain research to explain.

So the concerns, actually more like road blocks, that get pushed up when
deploying an information management system that an entire business
team is supposed to use, as opposed to just the finance department, or the
analysts, are usually:
1. It has to be easy, meaning not involve much of my time
2. It can’t require any duplication of effort.

From one vantage point, these concerns simply disclose the individual’s
relative (low) value placed upon managing information better, as it is applied
to improved visibility, coordination, planning, etc.  This position might be
better voiced as, “Who needs to manage information better, aren’t we doing
just fine with meetings and email”?

After all, from this perspective, it’s experience, who you know, gut instinct,
personal power, etc… that determines the outcome, not using information
to generate better decisions, quicker response time, less errors and mis-
directs, exposure of avoidable losses and ineffective strategies and practices.

When you look at this way, it sort of makes sense.  Why manage information
better, if you are convinced your relationship practices, and notes to your
self, are doing the job just fine?  On the other hand, when you operate
from this vantage point, you never know how much you are losing by
not using better tools… because you’re going off of gut, not data.


This response, also reflects something about how you use your brain, or
literally don’t.    When you manage exposure to new ideas and habits,
including managing information, with a defense of your existing habits
and over-emphasis on concerns and fears of one sort or another, current
neuro-science indicates you are operating out of the deep interior of
your brain, known as the basil ganglia.    This is your center that controls
movement, drives and habits, among other things, and
is particular sensitive to motives of threat and fear.

Our habit center is easy to follow.  No new thinking required.  It can
be deceptively reinforcing when we follow our habits and good things
happen… even if they aren’t actually linked.   In fact unless you
actively work to build new habits (improve), most people don’t get
out of their habits until something bad comes along, and even then,
a surprisingly low percentage of us respond proactively.

So when we say, “It has to be easy” we’re usually saying we want to
stay in the habit center of our brain. Not only are we not engaging
in activities which require new learning, it also unfortunately means we
not making good use of our prefrontal cortex which does a much
better job of thinking ahead, planning, correctly analyzing what
drives what, etc.

The challenge of managing information better requires a higher order
of thinking than the basil ganglia provides.  It requires the involvement
of the prefrontal cortex which supports both planning and making decision
based upon data (versus habit or comfort).  There’s a great article by
Schwartz, Gaito & Lennic
that covers this if you are interested in knowing more.

Bottom Line:
Adopting new systems to use information for better management outcomes
regularly encounters resistance.  Often voiced as, “It has to be
easy or I’m not doing it,” it is accompanied by strong concerns about
time involved and little interest in exploring the value or
.  That resistance reveals an interesting disclosure of the value
, and which part of the brain is being emphasized, by those
struggling with the perceived work of developing new information
management habits.

The good news is that you control the habit center that pushes back on
new behaviors, not the other way around, it just requires some time
and work to replace the old habits and reach a new equilibrium.
So beware when you hear yourself saying “it has to be easy”, that’s
likely your habit center talking, and it doesn’t do a great job of
planning for the future or adapting to change.

9 Comments. Leave new

Michelle DeMarco
April 12, 2011 1:37 am

Great article. I wish more of my clients realized that simple changes in habit can transform their lives.

Project Manager Software
May 26, 2011 12:42 pm

Insightful post. Changing habits requires work and dedication, which as you write, directly conflicts with our attitudes about adopting new software.


I like your breakdown of the hidden messages behind the easy objection. You’re absolutely right, when people want easy, it means they don’t want to invest their precious time into a learning curve. I tend to reject new software, especially if I am satisfied with the performance of the current program – unless I can perceive the benefits of a different or upgraded version of the current software. Unless that is crystal clear to me, I usually stay with what has worked for the same reasons that I would rather spend my time on other things.


From my experience if something is to easy it most likely doesn’t work. The way I see it is like exercising, if your work out is too easy you are not going to meet your weight loss or muscle gain goals. So if this is the old “if it’s not easy I’m not doing it just beware you might get what you ask for.


I think what they could have meant by “it has to be easy or they won’t do it could have been a reference to user friendliness. I know in my company we had an old software that was really user friendly and then they came up with this new one that upper management came up with that they thought would be so much better functionality wise. But when they implemented it no one wanted to use it because it was difficult to use and it was never really set up for a manufacturing business it was more for an accounting business. So when you are shopping for a software not only does it have to be user friendly (ie: EASY) but make sure it is based on the kind of work you do.


That’s very astute of Rodney Brim to uncover the real reasons behind the objections he hears from project participants. That is just as important for a project manager to recognize as it is for sales persons to uncover the real reasons behind buyer resistance in order to overcome each objection on the way to closing the deal. I might have been left befuddled by the basil ganglia explanation (LOL) if it weren’t for Rodney’s way of illustrating it in a real world business scenario. It’s interesting how much there are hidden reasons behind people’s reaction to new habits.


I was seduced by the big Easy red button to click on it, but all that happened was an isolated view of the graphic image. I bet if you were to send each member of a complex project an email with a big red easy button like the one depicted in this article, and told them that the button automates each task and finishes the project, and then tracked the click statistics, you would find that most, if not all of the team members clicked on it. You could attribute some of those clicks to mere curiosity, but you could also attribute it to their desire for simplicity and ease of use. That Is, as the author says, what everyone wants and expects.

Whistler Accommodations
October 28, 2011 9:18 am

I liked the way you bring this up. I enjoyed reading it. Best of luck!


I have subscribed to your feed which should do the trick! Possess a nice evening!


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