Forced to mingle

There was a recent company event. It was organised for the IT departments. It’s usually referred to as a dinner-and-dance or D & D (not to be confused with Dungeons and Dragons). We usually just do the first D (the dinner, not the dungeons). Everyone seems too tired at the end to do the second D.

My colleagues in my department are close-knit. There aren’t many of us anyway. So we assumed we’d be put together in the same table.

When we arrived at the event, we found that we’d been separated. 2 of us in that table, 3 of us in this table, and another 3 in another table. We were a bit miffed of course.

It’s not so much that we were separated. It’s that we were seated with people we don’t know. We were forced to mingle with people from other departments and teams. There’s nothing wrong with mingling. We just weren’t prepared to mingle.

So we went into the event room, sat down at our respective tables and started making small talk with the people at our own tables. Well, at least I made small talk with the person next to me.

Then something happened. People started changing seats. People found out where their friends were seated and a mass migration happened swiftly and quietly. It was kind of fun. So together with the 2 “known” colleagues from my table, we changed tables. The “new” table has *shock* everyone from our known clique!

I don’t know what the organisers had in mind when they rearranged everyone’s seating plans at the last minute. From what I knew, we were in the same table originally. It just shows how humans can behave when forced along some rule or restriction. Given a chance, we will find a way to rectify the situation.

So here’s a question for you to think about. When you design and write an application, do you force your users to be in an uncomfortable situation? Maybe a button that doesn’t make sense, but they have to click on it anyway. Maybe the flow of entering information doesn’t make sense, but they follow your flow because they have no choice.