The Step To Give experiment was fun, engaging, and for me personally it was surprisingly rewarding. Big smile, very big.
Nine of us paid $10 each and worked together as a team for 21 days to meet the team total step count and therefore make a donation to the Alliance For a Healthier Generation – to help fight childhood obesity.
The total team commitment added up to just over 1.5 million steps and we ended up walking more than 1.8 million steps. That’s about 900 miles!! (read more about the mechanics of the Quest here, and have a look at the team tracking spreadsheet that I updated 3-4 times per day here)
While the donation was meaningful, the thing that surprised me was just how fun and engaging the social experience was. For me, as the ‘leader’ of the team – the one who pulled the team together, posted the regular progress reports multiple times throughout the day, and worked to keep everyone engaged – it was actually more than fun, it was rewarding. It felt good. I was not expecting that.
I approached this experiment from a technical perspective. It was an effort to validate an idea that a team quest like this could encourage continued engagement among fitness tracker users that had lost some interest in daily step count tracking. But I actually came out of this feeling “good” about what we did, and I want to do it again.
The feeling good part was not really because of the donation to the cause, it was because I had organized the effort for the 9 of us to work together every day for 3 straight weeks to help encourage each other to get out and walk and have fun socializing in the group chat app.
The team was very eclectic and geographically dispersed:
- 2 friends at my previous job who work out of the Honolulu office
- 2 from that same company who work out of the Palo Alto office here in Northern California
- A previous co-worker and friend who lives in the Seattle area
- An old friend who I have not seen in 20+ years and her husband who live in Southern California
- And my wife and I.
I was the only common connection among the whole group and except for those of us who live or work together, we never met in person during the Quest. Yet everybody enjoyed the experience and for the most part participated in the daily group texting, including posting pictures and links.
Everybody stayed engaged and worked together to meet the team goals. There was the misplaced Fitbit for a day, the unexpected business travel that meant lower step counts for a few days, the broken and then replaced Fitbit – but in all cases when one or more of us didn’t meet our personal daily commitment, others stepped up to walk extra. In the end we ended up beating the total goal by almost 20%.
Prior to the Step Quest, 7 of the 9 team members were not regularly using their Fitbits. And for most “not regularly” really meant not at all! Today, more than a month later, I see that just about everyone on the team is back to “not regularly” or “not at all” 🙂
Everyone filled out an exhaustive survey at the end of the experiment, I won’t bore you with the details other than to say that given the chance, everybody on the team would do it again – anywhere from 2-5 times per year to once a month!
There are some tweaks to be made to make it a bit more challenging and add some more friendly intra-team competition; round 2 coming up!
It also desperately needs to be better automated. The collection of team member step counts multiple times through out the day, and the regular progress report messaging can easily be automated using Fitbit and GroupMe public API’s. I’m working on that.
Thanks again to all the team members for playing along, donating to a worthy cause, staying engaged and filling out that long survey at the end!!!
Again, it felt good!! And that is the super power of a small group, relationship building, social experience: it is rewarding.
Our brains are wired to light up the reward center when we connect with others and help each other accomplish goals – that is how the human brain works (more on this in my next post).
And don’t forget – rewards are a key element to forming new habits (trigger, behavior, reward, craving)
Fitbit, Jawbone, Misfit, Basis, Nike – I hope you’re listening. These fitness trackers are not going to change the world and help with starting the movement to wellness that our country desperately needs unless they become viral and habitual. Making the experiences more social is the only way this will happen.