What a 2-Year-Old Can Teach You About User Adoption

We can learn a lot from young kids if we just pay attention.? Here is an example that can help you increase the adoption of your software and performance of your team.


See if you can relate to this one.? This morning we were rushing around trying to get everyone ready and out the door to start another week.? My wife had been playing with the kids (or so she thought) so that I was free to get everything together and out the door. It was great fun to witness the exchange that happened next.

Two-year-old: “Mom, play with me.”

Mom: “OK” and picks up a stuffed animal to start playing.

Two-year-old: “No! Don’t touch it.”

Mom: “Well, it is hard to play with you if you won’t let me touch any of your toys.”

Two-year-old: “Mom, play with me.”

Mom: Slightly frustrated, rolls eyes.

Dad: “What do you want her to do? How should she play with you?”

Two-year-old: “Make a pile with the pillows.”

Mom: “OK, here you go.” Makes a pile of pillows and smiles.

Two-year-old: Smiles and laughs.

Applying the ARC method

In a previous blog article, we cover the Action – Reflection – Change (ARC) method for increasing your software adoption learning curve. Let’s use this approach to analyze this exchange.


Lesson 1: Don’t assume people know what you want.

In this example, the two year old was very clear that he wanted mom to play. However, it was not clear to mom exactly what that meant.? She tried to honor his initial request and started to play in a way that made sense to her at the time. However, it was clearly not what the two-year old wanted.

How often, when implementing software, do you ask people to “use the system” or “put it in the system”? I bet quite a bit. Yet, how often do you explain exactly what that means? Probably not too often. The lesson here is that “use the system” can mean a lot of things to different people in different contexts.

Lesson 2: Ask for the behavior you want.

When I asked our son how he wanted his mother to play, he had a very clear, specific answer. He wanted her to make a pile. Once given this clear guidance, she happily made a pillow pile, and everyone laughed and had fun.

When you are rolling out a new system, how often do you identify and request the specific behaviors that you want people to demonstrate? Do you make it explicit that you want them to do things like, “Enter all of your existing contacts, phone, email, address, and job title into the system by 1:00 pm on this Friday”? Or do you simply say, “Use the system” or “Enter your contacts.”


One of the most powerful shifts you can make is from just deploying a system and expecting people to use it to define very clear, specific measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) behaviors that you expect managers and users to demonstrate.? If you want people to use a specific piece of system functionality, or enter key pieces of data by a certain date, then ask for that specific behavior.

  • If you are an executive or manager, don’t do the equivalent of saying, “play with me” – you will only be frustrated and disappointed in the results.
  • If you are a staff member expected to use the system, ask your manager or executive to clarify the behavior they want you to demonstrate.? Ask your manager, “what specific things do you want me to do in the system, and by when, so that you get the results you want?”

Need help?

Do you want fast results in your company? Contact Success Chain today to learn how we can help you quickly and easily accelerate the adoption of your systems.