Posted by Clint Davis | 25 Jan
Intuitive Design: Colour, Science, and Product Development
In his book Blink: the Power of Thinking without Thinking, author Malcolm Gladwell popularised the term “thin-slicing.” This refers to the psychological phenomenon of the brain’s capacity to form “snap judgements,” as Gladwell calls them, by processing massive amounts of raw data in a short span of time. This in turn forms a reasonable and conscious conclusion within a time frame of about two seconds.
In some circles, these snap judgements have been likened to a form of intuition based on the fact that the data is processed subconsciously and subsequently introduces an idea, or understanding, to the conscious mind after the fact. Intuition, by its very definition, is a direct perception of truth independent of any reasoning process.
Gladwell provides a number of examples of how this subconscious process is constantly at work throughout our everyday lives. In my view, the most agreeable and understandable example given by the author is when he describes a man standing in the middle of the street amongst busy traffic conditions. The man turns his head and notices that there is a truck bearing down on him. Only seconds remain until the truck inevitably ploughs the man down.
With the man’s impending doom fast approaching there is not enough time for the conscious mind to evaluate the situation, weigh up the various options available, and ultimately conclude with the most viable option to avoid harm. In contrast, the subconscious mind has already begun quantifying the data available in order to create a conscious decision that will see the man avoid harm. This is more commonly known as the classic “fight, flight, or freeze” concept. The subconscious mind translates the data into a conscious decision whereby the mind communicates the command to the muscles of the body to move out of the trajectory of the truck, and the man’s life is saved.
During the research and development stages of the product development initiative, the team at Incredo had a mind to incorporate this psychological concept into the Incredo Analytics product. I recall the meeting fondly where the question was asked: “how can the principle of thin-slicing be used to benefit our clients and their customers?”
The answer: auto-decisioning.
This industry term refers to making information available to a lender to enable them to determine a customer’s suitability for a credit contract automatically, in accordance with their particular lending criteria, without having to engage in great measures of inquiry. This is not to say that the product has been developed entirely to incorporate an auto-decisioning module. Indeed, auto-decision making processes can be harmful to a lender and a consumer alike from a regulatory perspective. However, our team were able to include certain simplistic features to the product which can greatly assist the lender in assessing a customer’s credit worthiness.
So, how did we do it?
We used colour to associate data with a level of suitability, or unsuitability. It was the perfect solution for us, because so much of our society already uses this principle in the development of infrastructure. Take traffic lights for example: can you guess why the colour green was selected to represent the means of approving the movement of traffic? It was because as our species evolved the human eye became more sensitive to green frequencies than any other colour. In Australia, this is the same reason that EXIT signs are also coloured green – so that in the event that smoke blinds us, these green illuminated signs will remain easily visible.
Our Product Development Manager considered that our product could also incorporate a colour scheme to assist lenders in making their assessment. For example, the colour red was selected to represent a range of unsuitability. If a particular lender has a policy of not providing loans to customers who earn less than $1,200 per month, the widget that illustrates the customer’s monthly average income will be coloured red if their income figure is equal to, or less than, this amount.
This also greatly benefits the customer as it saves them a great deal of time and effort during the application process. If a lender is able to notify an applicant they are unsuitable for a credit contract or lease within just a few short minutes by visually analysing the Incredo Analytics report, then the customer is able to proceed with seeking an alternative for credit.
Malcom Gladwell’s book Blink: the Power of Thinking without Thinking, is available for purchase at Amazon. Follow the link: https://goo.gl/K5mJ2u.
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