Editor’s note: The following guest blog has been contributed by Steven Saunders (bio at bottom of page).

Habit formation has been a hot topic recently.  For example, here is a sampling of recently or soon to be released books on the topic:

  • The Power of Habit, CharlesDuhigg
  • The Willpower Instinct, Kelly McGonigal
  • Making Habits, Breaking Habits, Jeremy Dean
  • Hooked, Nir Eyal

The entrepreneurial world is taking an especially keen interest.  Why? Have a look at the following, and the answer becomes clear:


Who: Founders are Kevin Systrom (29) and Mike Krieger (27)

What: Online photo and video sharing social networking service


  • March 5, 2010: $500,000 seed funding raised
  • February 2, 2011: $7 million series A funding raised (Instagram valued at $25 million)
  • April 3: 2012: $50 million venture funding raised (Instagram valued at $500 million)
  • April 12: 100 million active users, Facebook acquires Instagram for $1 billion in cash & stock
  • Kevin Systrom nets ~$400 million

Wow, from concept to 100 million users in 2 years, how did that happen?  Instagram tapped into core human drivers in a way that lead their users to WANT to come back to their platform again and again.  They couldn’t help themselves.

My latest quest (read obsession) has been trying to discover the psychology behind personal change.  One of the most interesting characters that I have run into during my recent wanderings is Nir Eyal.  Nir immigrated to the US in 1981, has started and sold 2 companies and now is focusing his efforts on Behavior Design and Habit Formation.  I love his story, I love his enthusiasm, and I love his sincerity.

Nir’s work focuses directly on the question above: “From concept to 100 million users in 2 years, how did that happen?”.  Nir’s short answer would be something like “purposeful user habit formation”.  To give you a feel for his work, here is an excerpt from his soon to be released book “Hooked”:

  • Habits are defined as behaviors done with little or no conscious thought.
  • Customer habits are a source of competitive advantage.
  • The convergence of access, data, and speed are making the world a more habit-forming place.
  • The Hook Model describes an experience designed to connect a solution to the user’s problem frequently enough to form a habit.
  • Through consecutive hook cycles, product experiences create unprompted user engagement.

I attended one of Nir’s workshops in San Francisco.  The room was filled with young kids (relative to me anyway), all knowing that there are going to change the world.  You could feel it.  That’s Silicon Valley for you.

The workshop focuses on the psychology and processes behind habit formation, and how an understanding of these things can help companies design habit forming experiences.  Things like:

  • Understanding core human needs and designing an experience that serves them
  • Identifying and cultivating internal and external triggers that shift the mind into a state that is anxious to take an action (think about the last time you heard your text chime)
  • The factors that determine whether or not a trigger will lead to an action (the preferable action being to user your product of course)
  • How to reward the action in such a way that it becomes habitual.

The workshop was excellent and I decided that I would like for my business partners to benefit from the same insights.  After discussing this with Nir, we decided to hold a workshop in Colorado.

*(unabashed promotion alert!)*

Nir’s workshop is an interactive, hands on affair, and you will have the chance to take your own product ideas through his habit formation processes.  The workshop is being hosted by the Anschutz Wellness Center (one of the great health facilities in the US), in Aurora on December 18 from 6-9pm, and dinner is provided.  The official blurb is at the bottom of this post.

I know that late December is a tough time of year, but I think that you would find your time and money to be well spent.  Please consider helping me fill the place by attending 🙂 You can register for the workshop here.

Nir Eyal, a two-time Silicon Valley entrepreneur and regular contributor to TechCrunch, Forbes, and Psychology Today, has constructed a framework for designing habit-forming products called “the Hook Model.” The framework gives product designers a new way for thinking of the necessary components of creating user behavior. Nir will share the tactics companies like Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter use to drive engagement.

This workshop will provide attendees with a powerful toolkit and framework for creating better products and likely change the way they see the world.

Participants will learn:

– The common design patterns of habit-forming products.

– The stages of habit formation and how to optimize for user retention.

– An in-depth look at the psychology behind what drives user behavior and how to build products to

cater to core human needs.

– Practical steps for leading a habit design process to ensure your product is used regularly.

Who should attend:

This seminar is for anyone seeking to understand habit-forming product design. No previous background is required. The workshop is tailored to entrepreneurs, product managers, or designers working in companies large or small. Attendees are encouraged to come to the workshop with a product or business idea in mind.

About the facilitator:

Nir Eyal writes, consults, and teaches about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business. Nir founded and sold two companies since 2003 and has taught the “Using Neuroscience to Influence Human Behavior” course as a Lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Nir is also an advisor to several Bay Area start-ups and incubators. Nir’s last company received venture funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and was acquired in 2011. In addition to blogging at NirAndFar.com, Nir is a contributing writer for Forbes, TechCrunch, Business Insider, and Psychology Today.


About the Guest Blogger: Steven Saunders has a BS in Mechanical Engineering.  The first 15 years of his career were spent passionately submersed in software development and architecture.  He next spent about 5 years at CableLabs learning the ins and outs of the cable television industry.  He has founded two profitable businesses: neurotoys.com, and Sentosa Technology Consultants.  His current business (Sentosa) is a software development consulting company focused on digital video and entertainment, is about 20 folks, and has been operating for 6 years.

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