Friday, June 26, 2009

The Hawthorne Effect

About a year ago Jeremy Thiel ran a boot camp on the Rowing Dock. On one particularly steamy day in August he paced the wooden boards of the dock listening to the chatter of the all female group. They talked about clothes, getting fit, losing weight, what they were going to have for breakfast, etc. Thiel paused, leaned forward, and asked "Wanna know the fastest way to lose 10 pounds in a month?" The women's ears perked up, mine included. They looked at him slightly puzzled - no response needed - of course we want to know! He scanned the women's anticipation, "Log your food!"

It's the age-old Hawthorne effect. You will perform better when you know someone is watching. If a coach is checking your food log daily you're probably going to put down the ice cream and pick up the apple.

This month's issue of Wired Magazine published an article by Mark McClusy called Living By Numbers, How the Shoe Giant unleashed the power of personal metrics - and changed the game. This article weaves The Hawthorne effect into the introduction of the Nike+. If you're wearing a shoe containing a sensor which sends your run information to the ipod on your arm you are more likely to perform better, track your results, and make progress. Not only can you track your run data, but you can keep your food log, set goals for everyone to see, and join run challenges with people around the world.

A cool new gadget that takes the endurance community to the next level in the digital open source era? Or something that has been done before by Garmin and the likes?

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