Sheep Tossing During an internal meeting the other day, my team was discussing the implementation of some of the ideas we have around blending the social with the professional to really help small businesses meet their needs. One of the main reasons I joined the Intuit Partner Platform team was because I really felt aligned to their vision around helping SMBs connect to any application required to succeed. The platform, itself, is -well- just a platform. There is a bigger need to have that platform as just a part of the customer experience (without even realizing there is a platform). There is an entire ecosystem available to small businesses, both inside and outside of Intuit that should be working together to achieve this.

So, my first order of business was to sit down and think about the experience purely from a customer point of view. I asked myself, "In the day-to-day operations of a business, what would be my needs?" The answer to this question led me to the Intuit Customer Community, where SMBs are highly active in both asking and answering questions, learning from one another and supporting the growth of their businesses. The platform makes a nice fit here, too, as the marriage covers the social and technical needs of the community members.

But there was still something missing. Something I couldn't quite put my finger on. Until the team meeting where we started to spec out how we would structure such a marriage. Everything seemed to be there: asking and answering, connecting, collaborating, sharing, trying apps, buying apps and recommending apps. Without even thinking about what I was about to say, I blurted out:

Where do we account for the ability to throw sheep in this plan?

There it was. The thing that was nagging me all along: when you are designing a user experience, how do you leave room for (or even encourage) the fun, seemingly non-productive behavior that users engage in. The stuff that encourages light interactions between community members. The stuff that includes throwing sheep, poking, giving virtual gifts and nudging. It is this fun stuff that helps community members break the ice, bridge and dabble with connections. It can be noticed by all or behind the scenes, but represents a fun and light interaction between two people that opens the door to deeper interactions. And it is as important in business as it is in social circles.

So, as you go through and design your product, website, community site, etc. ask yourself: "Where are we accounting for the ability to throw sheep in this plan?"