On most corporate email systems, not to mention social networks, there’s usually the opportunity to upload a photo of yourself. The photos that people put into these things tend to fall into one of four categories: nothing; a face shot; a picture other than just a portrait; and a photo of something else – varying from kids to cars to landscapes.
I’m just coming to the end of Dan Pink’s new book To Sell is Human, a set of thinking about what selling means in the first part of the 21st century. In the section on making things personal, he recounts research done by radiologist Yehonatan Turner in Jerusalem. Turner was trying to understand how radiologists work could be improved, and experimented with bringing photographs of patients up on screen alongside the X-Ray images that the consultants were focused on examining. The results were that personalising the otherwise de-humanized images in this way had a dramatically positive impact on the quality of the work the radiologists were performing, both in terms of the task at hand, but also in their spotting of other ailments that were the primary reason for the X-rays being taken in the first place.
Which got me thinking about inboxes and photos: whilst before I’ve seen the advantage of having your face in systems like email as being of recognition when you go to meet someone in person, I know realise through Turner’s work that having your picture is likely to lead to better outcomes even with people you’ll never meet in the flesh. By personalising your communication with them they are, if Turner’s work is anything to go by, more likely to pay attention and deliver better results than if you have no picture at all, or a picture of your car.