How Far is 6 Feet? Oh, it’s 182 Chickpeas.

I saw this sign at a restaurant yesterday and I found it remarkable:

182 chickpeas of distance! It caught me by surprise and got my attention.

This is a simple and great example of clever system design.

It highlights an often overlooked truth that people can have a hard time comprehending numbers. What is 6 feet distance? If the sign maker wants to increase the chances customers follow the rules, they benefit by providing some assistance.

Before Covid, how often was I using “6 foot distance” as an expression? It certainly wasn’t frequent enough that I’m fluent with it. It requires attention and mental effort to identify 2 objects and do the head math to measure a line between them.

It’s not that this task is difficult, but it requires effort. And when you’re moving about the world at the pace that we do today it’s understandable that the mundane calculation of 6 feet can get easily forgotten.

If you are building a system and care about the outcomes, then it’s your responsibility to create the conditions for your users to succeed.

And so this restaurant did something I’d say quite clever. They got my attention with a surprising message and a bit of humor. I’ve been told about 6 feet distance countless times the past few months, but this time I’m told about 182 chickpeas! It simply cut through the noise and woke me up from my otherwise automatic habits of fast casual dining: First I pay for my meal and then I sit down to eat it. The purpose of the sign was to stop me from sitting down at this table. And it worked.

Of course, the humor of the sign lies in the absurdity that it would be easier to grasp the meaning of 6 feet if it were measured in equivalent distance of 182 chickpeas. Because chickpeas we are all certainly fluent in!

The tongue-in-cheek sign is additionally clever because it preemptively de-escalates potential conflict should a customer begin to sit down at this off-limits table out of habit. They planned ahead, anticipated a contentious event with its inherent emotions and lightened the mood in advance.

No matter what system you’re designing — whether it’s a restaurant or Salesforce for your company operations — it’s often the little things that influence how users respond, how they feel about the experience, and ultimately if the system works.

I’m particularly attuned to user behavior when building out Salesforce systems because user adoption is absolutely critical! Your employees are human and need to be provided tools to accommodate the way real humans behave.

FYI — Some books that influence my thinking on these topics if you’re interested to read more:

Thinking Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman

Switch – How to Change when Change is Hard – Chip and Dan Heath

Decoding the Why – Nate Andorksy

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