All Posts By

Astrid Groenewegen

How to fight your mobile phone addiction

By All, Behavioural Science Insights

In this week’s video, Astrid Groenewegen gives you 2 practical tips from behavioral science to fight addiction to your phone. How often and how long you spend on your phone has everything to do with behaviour. Therefore, a behavioral intervention is exactly what you need to reduce this.

Beat your phone addiction

Do you sometimes have trouble focusing on your work? Your phone is one of the most disruptive signals that distracts your attention from a task at hand. It has even been investigated that the development of smartphones has gone so fast that we have not had time to adjust our behavior accordingly. So we literally do not know how to deal with all the distractions and information flows.

That is why you need a Behavioral Design intervention to change your behavior. I want to show you how to regain focus. The most important advice I have for you is to make the unwanted behavior as difficult as possible. For this I have two concrete tips that you can use right away.

1. Turn off all your app notifications: They are little dopamine shots you constantly get that you don’t need. You become addicted to constantly checking what is new on your screen.

2. Install a pomodoro app: This is a timer that prompts you to get to work. It helps you to work periods of 25 minutes. Your phone transforms into a countdown clock, without seeing all the other distracting apps and messages. It’s a nudge to stick to your pre-set time that you wanted to work.

So remember, the best way to stop certain behaviors is to make the unwanted behavior as difficult as possible to perform.

Good luck beating your mobile addiction. With the help of Behavioral Design you will be cured in no time.

Watch more on YouTube

Check out the whole series on YouTube. If you like the videos, it would mean a great deal to me if you could give them a thumbs up or subscribe to my channel.

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Learn how to influence minds and shape behaviour.

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Three ways you are persuaded to buy a product

By All, Behavioural Science Insights, Customer Behaviour

In this weeks video, Astrid Groenewegen explains 3 ways you are being persuaded to buy a product or service. It is all about how you present the prices of your products. With the knowledge of these Behavioural Design tactics you can apply them in practice immediately to boost your own sales. 

Price estimation by anchors 

Do you want to convince someone to buy your products or services? Then knowledge of Behavioural Science is exactly what you need. The first step to get started with this is to look at your prices. No, not how much you products actually cost, but how you present them to your customers.

Did you know that we as humans are quite price clueless. We often have no idea what something should cost or what something is worth. The way our brain forms an opinion about pricing is taking cues from the environment in which the product or service is presented. A signal that gives you a reference point to base your estimation of the price of the product on is called an anchor.

“A reference point that we use to base our opinion on to buy something”

On a daily basis you are being influenced by anchors. This occurs unconsciously, so you don’t even notice it is happening to you to! This is why it is such a great tactic to use when we want to influence customers behaviour to buy our product.

Three ways you are persuaded to buy a product. 

I want to show you three ways you are being influenced by an anchor that makes you buy something.

1. The decoy effect: When there are two items for sale, the decoy item is priced in a way to make the other item (the one the manufacturer really wants to sell) seem more attractive.

Let’s say you are shopping for a coffee machine. If you are presented with two options, of which one is significantly more expensive then the other, you are probably dealing with a decoy. This tactic makes it more easy for you to choose because you probably want to cheaper version (if the quality is the same). You can use this principle to make your products more attractive. Just add another product for a much higher price to your shop so people are more attracted to your original, and now cheaper, product.

2. Presented with 3 options: People tend to choose the option in the middle.

What you need to know is that when people are presented with more than two options another phenomenon occurs. The center-stage effect: when we make decisions we tend to gravitate to the middle. You often see this in pricing plans. You are offered three options: small – medium – large. A small package might seem too little but a large package might seem too much. So our unconscious decision making brain will pick the middle option. It is important to know that you might have made a different assessment of the packages when there were only two options. You can use this to by presenting your products or services in three options. Make sure you present the most desired option for you as the middle option.

3. Shown the old price: The original high price is crossed out and replaced with the lower new price.

This final tactic you see a lot. Our unconscious brain uses the original price as an anchor. The new price will be compared to this anchor and will be perceived as a bargain. This happens automatically. We don’t stop and wonder if the new price actually is a bargain for that specific product.

So here is a tip: when you buy a product of service, be aware of anchors that increase the attractiveness of a product or service.

Watch more on YouTube

Check out the whole series on YouTube. If you like the videos, it would mean a great deal to me if you could give them a thumbs up or subscribe to my channel.

Or check out the most popular videos here

Or book a training

Learn how to influence minds and shape behaviour.

Join our most popular training the Behavioural Design Fundamentals Course. You will learn the latest insights from behavioural science and you'll master an easy-to-use method to help apply behavioural science in practice right away!

Download the brochure

Go ahead, it’s completely free of charge!

Behavioural Science for Daily Life

By All, Behavioural Science Insights

Our mission is to help as many people as possible to leverage the power of behavioural science to make better decisions that will help them improve their work, private life and living environment. This is why Astrid Groenewegen, co-founder of SUE | Behavioural Design, has created a video series called ‘Behavioural Science for Daily Life’, showing you how you can make the breakthrough and unmissable insights from behavioural psychology work for you in practice.

Behavioural Science for Daily Life: introduction

Hi, my name is Astrid Groenewegen. This video series will help you unlock the power of behavioural science to help you make better decisions in work, life, and play. Why do people do things? Or don’t they? Why do so many of our good intentions of changing our behaviour fail? How can we shape positive behaviours or help people make better decisions for themselves or the planet we live on? I will debunk the myths about motivation, shed light on the hidden psychology of human decision-making, and foremost, show you how to apply the groundbreaking insights from behavioural science to shape desired behaviours yourself. My goal is to make science practical and show you that some basic understanding of human psychology will give you far more control over successful outcomes than you might have ever thought. So, join me on a journey to learn what most of us didn’t get taught in school. Welcome to Behavioural Science for Daily Life!

Watch more on YouTube

Check out the whole series on YouTube. If you like the videos, it would mean a great deal to me if you could give them a thumbs up or subscribe to my channel.

Or check out the most popular videos here

Or book a training

Learn how to influence minds and shape behaviour.

Join our most popular training the Behavioural Design Fundamentals Course. You will learn the latest insights from behavioural science and you'll master an easy-to-use method to help apply behavioural science in practice right away!

Download the brochure

Go ahead, it’s completely free of charge!

werken bij SUE

Werken bij SUE

By All

(Aanstaande) gedragsontwerpers opgelet,

Even snel een appje sturen achter het stuur? Financieel stress ervaren terwijl je eigenlijk best genoeg verdient? Weer fanatiek beginnen aan de sportschool voor een weekje of drie? Milieu staat eindelijk op onze agenda, en nu?  Heel wat initiatieven stranden omdat ze geen rekening houden met hoe mensen zich echt gedragen. Daarom doen organisaties beroep op SUE. We helpen ze succesvolle gedragsinterventies te maken op basis van gedragspsychologie. En wij zoeken nu versterking van ons team. Dus ben je geïnteresseerd, lees dan snel verder.

Wat zoeken we?

Bij SUE | Behavioural Design bundelen we de competenties van psychologen en ontwerpers om nèt die interventies te maken die de samenleving vandaag nodig heeft. Het is fijn om te zien dat tegenwoordig het inzetten van gedragsontwerpers een algemeen erkend onderdeel van slimme oplossingen is geworden. En waar de vraag naar Behavioural Design groeit, groeit SUE mee.

Wij zijn op zoek naar twee kanonnen van gedragsontwerpers; oftewel Behavioural Design Consultants met een creatief randje. Moet je daarvoor vandaag al een volleerd gedragsexpert zijn? Nee, we kunnen je een hoop leren. Maar om dit werk aan te kunnen moet je wel echt enthousiast worden van onderstaande bezigheden:

  • Kort, maar diepgaand gedragsonderzoek doen
  • Het ontcijferen van gedrag; analytische denken
  • Het bloot leggen van uitdagingen en kansen
  • Slimme ideeën ontwikkelen die gedrag kunnen veranderen
  • Ideeën razendsnel vertalen in concrete prototypes
  • Alles wat we geleerd hebben samenbrengen tot een meeslepende eindpresentatie
  • Nauw samenwerken met verschillende expertises vanuit klantzijde om je klant groter te maken

 

Wie zoeken we?

We hebben iemand nodig met een flinke dosis empathie, naar de klant én naar de doelgroep. Je hebt oprecht interesse in mensen in hun gedrag. Je bent altijd op zoek naar hoe het beter kan maar durft ook gewoon te proberen, want het ergste wat je kan overkomen is een goede lading feedback (and champions eat feedback for breakfast).

Oh ja! Je Nederlands is vlekkeloos en je spreekt en schrijft ook een aardig woordje Engels. Kortom je hebt aanleg, of liever nog, ervaring in het uiteenzetten van een heldere analyse, strategie, bent comfortabel met het snel concreet vormgeven van een idee, bent techvaardig en hebt geen plankenkoorts. Verder kan je er niet tegen als er details niet kloppen.

Het is een absolute pré als je kan designen in programma’s als Adobe en Figma, zo niet dan wil je je daar graag in vastbijten. En ook mensen met kennis / ervaring in kwantitatief onderzoek spreken we graag, want daar willen we zelf nog in groeien. Een ander bijzonder maar relevant talent of andere unieke achtergrond? We zijn altijd nieuwsgierig naar mensen die een aanvulling zijn op wat we al in huis hebben (want we leren graag van onze collega’s).

  • Wat je mag verwachten van een baan bij SUE
  • Een gedreven team dat jou steunt en coacht
  • Dat je persoonlijk opleidt tot een gedragexpert en proces facilitator
  • Een grote variëteit aan opdrachten
  • Nationale & internationale opdrachtgevers
  • Een groeibedrijf met een warme sfeer, her en der een spontane borrel, potje pingpong en als het straks weer kan de mogelijkheid samen te ontbijten en lunchen

Interesse? Bezorg ons je CV en een korte introductie over jezelf (heb je een referentie van iemand die wij goed kennen, vergeet die dan zeker niet mee te sturen) en wie weet tot snel! Je kunt dit alles mailen naar yves@sueamsterdam.com

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SUE Behavioural Design Consultancy
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SUE | SWAC Tool© Explained

SUE | SWAC Tool© explained

By All, Behavioural Science Insights

Changing behaviour is challenging but certainly not impossible. With the right tools in your Behavioural Design toolbox, you can leverage the power of behavioural science to shape positive behaviours and influence better decisions. This blog post introduces you to the SUE | SWAC Tool©. An easy-to-use tool to develop interventions that will change behaviour predictably. It is part of our SUE | Behavioural Design Method© and the second step after unlocking human insights with our SUE | Influence Framework©. The SWAC Tool© will turn insights into tangible ideas to develop better products, services, policies, campaigns or living environments.

How to design behaviour: Moments that Matter

Behavioural Design is all about creating a context to trigger people to make a decision or take action towards their goals. So, what is needed at this point is knowing what makes up for this context.

The key in creating an influential context is timing: designing for the moments that matter.

When you want to influence choice and shape behaviour you are designing for moments that matter. When is someone most susceptible to change? Or what are the moments we have to make sure someone gets triggered into action? These can be existing moments or moments that we have to create. You will have gained valuable insight into these moments from the Influence Framework©.  But there is another way you have to look at moments that is related to the timeframe needed for behaviour to occur. This has to do with the type of behaviour you are designing for.

It is important to realise that not all behaviour is created equal. Sometimes you need someone to engage in entirely new behaviour (could be going on a sugar-free diet after being diagnosed for diabetics or doing banking online for the first time) and sometimes you need someone to pick up abandoned behaviour they were already familiar with, but somehow stopped doing (could be exercising or going to dentist appointments). Sometimes you need someone to do something once in a one-off behaviour (sign-up for organ donation, apply for university, register online on your website) but often we want someone to engage in the repeat behaviour (showing up at doctor’s appointments on time, not using their phone in traffic, buying multiple products or services from you, making donations). To make things somewhat simpler again, the best starting point is to separate two types of behaviours:

– One-off behaviour (such as registering for organ donation)
– Repeat behaviour (such as a healthy eating habit)

You can imagine if you want someone to only do something once you have less convincing to do and it most probably can be done in a shorter timeframe. On the other hand, routine behaviour takes some more effort and you need to be at someone’s side a bit longer. So, you need to know which one of the two behaviours you are dealing with in the first place.

What about the new and abandoned behaviour then? Well, the fact is, if you want someone to show different behaviour (the whole point of coming up with interventions is causing a behaviour shift) it means he or she has to stop what he or she is doing now. Therefore, you have to consider all desired behaviour as a new behaviour. Even if the behaviour is obvious to someone (such as going to school) or someone knows he/she has to do it (such as paying taxes). But what about the abandoned behaviour then? This is actually a very important notion to consider.

A key in successful Behavioural Design is the acceptance that people will have moments of weakness or forgetfulness and slip into old behaviours again.

So, to get back to routine behaviours just a bit. I know a lot has been written and said about building habits and routines. Some tell you to stick to behaviour for 21 days, others claim that 30 or 90 days are needed to create routine behaviour. I am not sure what is the magic number. The only thing I am sure of (or have experienced myself) is that:

There is a dark side to goals, plans and habits: they are very fragile and therefore you need to be prepared for failure.

Failure seems to hit us time and again. That’s why I love Buster Benson’s ‘Chaos Monkey’ approach to life: don’t ignore the fact that we are vulnerable to having our goals, plans and habits being disrupted by ‘the first rainy day, sick day, vacation day, holiday, grumpy day, low-energy day, or otherwise non-standard day’. The Chaos Monkey comes and disrupts us time and again. If you are designing choice and behaviour, you also have to do this with the Chaos Monkey in mind. People will trip despite their good intentions and slip back into old behaviours. You need to be there at the tripping points, aka (yes you know what’s coming) moments that matter.

Change doesn’t happen overnight for any behaviour.

That’s why you should integrate multiple moments that matter into your intervention strategy. We always like to think about ‘onboarding’ someone. Making sure you stick by someone multiple times, especially in the beginning, and design for those moments that someone will find it hard to show the desired behaviour.

Let me wrap this up by giving you an example about designing an intervention strategy for one of our clients, a national fitness chain. From the membership data, we learned that people continued coming to the gym once they exercised a minimum of two times a week for three months. This is the point that they would actually come to the gym on a regular basis (members have to check in with their membership card at every visit, this is how the data is collected) and renew their memberships. Therefore, we knew we were designing for routine behaviour. We also knew them that the three-month timespan was needed to turn exercising into a habit instead of a strenuous to-do. We looked within that timespan for the moments that matter. Some came from our research. For instance, we found out that making sure you pack your sporting bag the evening before highly correlates with actually going to the gym the next day. But other moments we had to create. The real job of the gym was to keep onboarding people who failed to build up a routine.

You have to design a series of specific, new behaviours for any new behaviour to become a routine.

That’s why we came up with interventions that not only helped someone pack their sporting bag, but we looked into the entire three-month timespan and made sure we designed interventions to help someone make it through successfully. We helped someone book a personal trainer intake, we phoned them after a few weeks, we helped them join classes, we helped them exercise at home, just to name a few. The interesting insight for our client was that they were not in the business of gyms, but they are in the business of building an exercise routine. This opened up a world of different interventions (and new business ideas as a matter of fact).

Want to learn how to shape behaviour and decisions?

Then our two-day Fundamentals Course is the perfect training for you. You will learn the latest insights from behavioural science and we'll teach you how to use tools such as the SWAC Tool© to apply the best of behavioural science in practice right away!

Download the brochure

Go ahead, it’s completely free of charge!

How to design behaviour: SWAC

A lot of very interesting research has been done in the behavioural change field of expertise. And it can get quite complicated. That’s why we simplified it again. Without further ado let’s take a look at the SUE | SWAC Tool©. It is foremost a very easy-to-use tool. It explains which four pieces of the puzzle you need to solve to create a context that will persuade someone into doing something and to have them keep doing it. What makes the tool so easy to use in practice, is that anytime you want to design for behavioural change, all you have to do is ask yourself four simple questions:

When the new behaviour does not happen, at least one of those four elements is missing. The most important implication of this is that by using the SUE | SWAC Tool© as a guide you can quickly identify what stops people from performing the behaviours that you seek.

If a sufficient degree of capability (CAN) to perform a behaviour is matched with the willingness (WANT) to engage in that behaviour, all that is then needed for the behaviour to occur is to set someone into action (SPARK) at the Moments that Matter.

Maybe you notice that in the tool it says moments that matter. Not one moment, but moments. As we learned, behavioural change doesn’t happen overnight. Most of the time someone needs to be reminded of the desired behaviour more than once for it to happen in the first place. Furthermore, behaviour becomes easier when repeated. Therefore, we have to make sure we SPARK someone AGAIN and again to activate the desired behaviour. So, you need to design several interventions at multiple moments that matter. In practice your intervention strategy will look something like this:

The objective of most intervention strategies is not only to change behaviour but to change this new behaviour into a routine behaviour (a habit), so the new behaviour will stick.

Remember, your desired behaviour is new behaviour for people and that’s why it is important to spark behaviour AGAIN and again. Only then the behaviour will take place, as illustrated above as the BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE THRESHOLD. When your objective is to design repeat behaviour, it almost goes without saying that you have to make sure the desired behaviour is performed repeatedly. If you can make someone perform new behaviour over and over AGAIN, it can become automatic.

The result being that someone doesn’t have to think about the new behaviour anymore, he or she simply does it. This way it can become habitual. Illustrated above model as the HABIT THRESHOLD. As Aristotle already stated:

We are what we repeatedly do.

He added ‘Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit’. To sum it up: The more often you do something, the easier it gets. So, there you have it: the four elements you need to change behaviour.

Aristotle quote, ancient Greek philosopher, scientist and physician, 384 BC-322 BC, no original source known.

 

How to design behaviour: Capability

Before we start working with the tool, let’s go back one little bit.  As Behavioural Designers our outset is to design for someone’s system 1.

Our job is to help people make better decisions without them having to think.

This is the foundation of this model. When you look at willingness (WANT) and capability (CAN) there is something very interesting and important going on. We are all so used (and trained) to have the best arguments, deals, offers, rewards or promises to convince someone (or ourselves). Historically, we are all shaped around motivation (WANT). If we need to sell something, we are hardwired to try to create willingness to buy. If a personal resolution fails, our first (conditioned) conclusion is that we must not have wanted it badly enough to keep up the self-discipline.

 

What if I tell you that making sure someone wants something often isn’t the most powerful starting point to change behaviour? Making someone WANTs to perform the desired behaviour is just one side of the medal in getting things done. In fact, it even isn’t the shiniest side of the medal. Here’s why. There is something particular going on with people’s willingness to change; It goes up and down. When relating this to our fundamental know-how on human decision-making this makes perfect sense, as:

Willingness to change requires cognitive action.

It is a system 2 activity like self-control and focus. You cognitively decide you want something. You decide this consciously. I want to lose weight, I want to save money, I want to recycle, I want to spend more time with my kids. We have learned that our system 2 has only limited bandwidth. Therefore, your willingness to change falters, it goes up and down in waves. This is the reason why most new year’s resolutions fail. On January 1st you WANT to lose weight, or you WANT to stop drinking or you WANT to go to the gym. And then comes along your best friend’s birthday. Or you’ve pulled a whole-nighter because that precious offspring of yours refused to sleep. And now you don’t WANT to exercise and not drink anymore. You want to vegetate on the couch (sleep deprivation isn’t a walk in the park) or have a blast (hey your friend only turns 40 once). You feel so deserving (your system 2 post-rationalisation working full speed for you) and so you will start next month. You simply CANnot do it today. Your willingness to change behaviour has dropped like a mic on an empty stage. This is perfectly human, but something we have to take into account when designing for behaviour change. Chaos Monkey Galore!

Luckily, as Behavioural Designer, you have an ace up your sleeve by making behaviour very simple. Our brain LOVES simple. Bonus is that when things are simple, we are able to do things without needing that much willingness. That’s why we always start with thinking about possible CAN interventions. This is designing for system 1. The best behavioural change ideas are in their core capability ideas.

Making something very easy to do is something that requires little or no cognitive action from someone.

Let me illustrate how this can work with a real-life example. Most people WANT to save money, but many of find it hard to do (CAN). You could design saving behaviour without having to really stress the willingness to save too much but by focusing on making saving behaviour easier instead. This is exactly what Bank of America did. Their human insight was that people wanted to save money, but never did especially making regular contributions was very hard. They have introduced a program called ‘Keep the Change’. What it boils down to is that every time a client pays with his or her debit card for daily purchases like buying coffee, going to the dry cleaners and so on, they round up their purchase to the nearest dollar amount and transfer the change from someone’s checking account to their savings account — or to their child’s savings account.

From a JTBD point of view, I find the last brilliant by the way: a lot of parents want to save money to for their children to have a little money in the bank once they go to college or need some extra funds otherwise. So, let’s say you have to pay something of $ 4,60 then $ 0,40 is automatically transferred. You don’t have to think about it, it just has been made very simple for you. The result of this behavioural design intervention has been very impactful. Ever since the program launched in September of 2005, more than 12.3 million customers have enrolled, saving a total of more than 2 billion dollars. Of all new customers, 60% enrol in the program and Bank of America reported that 99% of the people who signed-up with the program have stayed with it.

Would you like to power up your team with Behavioural Design?

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PS. We've trained many teams already! From leadership to project teams.

Designing behaviour: Willingness

But mind you, the behavioural change medal still has two sides. One cannot live without the other. If you WANT to perform a behaviour, but you CAN’T nothing will happen for sure. If you CAN perform the behaviour, but you don’t WANT to, well that’s a tough battle to fight too. So, the best chance for successful outcomes is when capability and willingness are sparked at the same time. There should always be both willingness and capability, but you do not need to always maximise the two. There are two simple guidelines:

  1. When someone’s really WANTS to change, someone CAN perform even hard behaviour
  2. When someone CAN easily perform the behaviour, someone doesn’t have to WANT it so badly

I have a system 1 cue for you to remember these four blocks of behavioural change: To design someone’s behaviour you need to have SWAC. Sounds like swag (which is a bonus), but it stands for this easy to remember formula:

Behavioural Change = Spark * Want * Again * Can

If you want to make somewhat of an impression on someone you can always tell them SWAC stands for sparking willingness again and capability. Whatever works for you, as long as it helps you remember what four elements you need to include in your ideation for lasting behavioural change.

Let’s showcase how this interplay of the four elements works by discussing an example. Think about quitting smoking. If someone doesn’t WANT to stop smoking. You can SPARK them him all you want, but nothing will happen, as quitting smoking is very hard to do (CAN). You could try to boost his or her willingness to quit, but this will only have an effect if you make the quitting as easy as possible for them at the moments, they are most seduced to light up that cigarette (Moment that Matters). The same goes for someone who does WANT to stop smoking. You might not have to work as much on their willingness to quit, but even then, they will have indecisive moments in which they will struggle to keep their back straight to withstand temptation.

Think about that Friday drink when you have that glass of alcohol in hand. Helping someone to quit smoking is a typical example of helping someone change behaviour that CAN be very hard to change. So, you need to make sure you continuously help them by making quitting smoking as easy as possible. You have to make sure you are by their side at those moments of weakness AGAIN and again. Make it easy to resist temptation. For example, vapors/e-cigarettes or nicotine gum can provide an alternative to smoking at the moments that matter. And the longer you can help someone fight the urge to light up that real cigarette by using SWAC, the more that person becomes a non-smoker and passes the habit threshold. That new habit becomes not smoking instead of smoking.

This shows that, by adding repetition to the mix (AGAIN), yes you probably know what is coming, you hardly have to think about the behaviour anymore and it becomes a system 1 activity. Task accomplished! We designed for system 1 and helped people make better decisions without them having to think. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?

Working on capability (CAN) is designing for system 1.

Designing behaviour: Behaviour has to be sparked

Let me wrap up with the sparks. A spark is easily put a cue or call to action that drives desired behaviour. Roughly there are three kinds of sparks:

  1. Reminders: you can remind someone of the desired behaviour
  2. Obstructions: you can pause the undesired behaviour
  3. Interruptions: you can interfere with automatic behaviour

Without a spark, someone may WANT and CAN perform the behaviour but there’s simply no call to action.

A very good example of this is that little optic in your car dashboard that shows you how much full you have left. I think none of us WANTS to run out of fuel and we all CAN fill up our gas tank quite easily (on European motorways we have gas stations everywhere). But if we didn’t have the SPARK, that little red light flashing up when it is really time to pull over and fill up your tank, I guess a lot more people would be needing to call road assistance.

 

Summary: Designing behaviour is a matter of having SWAC

When you want to develop interventions that shape decisions and influence behaviour the SUE | SWAC Tool© is a very helpful tool. It brings down designing behaviour to asking the right questions:
  • CAN: can someone perform the behaviour?
  • WANT: does someone want to perform the behaviour?
  • SPARK: is someone set into action at the right moment?
  • AGAIN: more than once?

However, understanding is one thing, making it work is another. We had to design behaviour in practice, we had clients who came to us with real behavioural challenges that needed real answers. So, we wanted (and needed) more. We wanted to know how you can boost willingness to change or how to grow capability using the power of behavioural science. How we do this is the subject of the blog post that will come up the blog soon.

 

Astrid Groenewegen

BONUS: free cheat card 'The SUE | Influence Framework© explained'

Especially for you we've created a free 'SUE | Influence Framework©' cheat card. For you to keep at hand, so you can start using our insights from whenever you want—it is a little gift from us to you.

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How do you do. Our name is SUE.

Do you want to learn more?

Suppose you want to learn more about how influence works. In that case, you might want to consider joining our Behavioural Design Academy, our officially accredited educational institution that already trained 2500+ people from 45+ countries in applied Behavioural Design. Or book an in-company training or one-day workshop for your team. In our top-notch training, we teach the Behavioural Design Method© and the Influence Framework©. Two powerful tools to make behavioural change happen in practice.

You can also hire SUE to help you to bring an innovative perspective on your product, service, policy or marketing. In a Behavioural Design Sprint, we help you shape choice and desired behaviours using a mix of behavioural psychology and creativity.

You can download the Behavioural Design Fundamentals Course brochure, contact us here or subscribe to our Behavioural Design Digest. This is our weekly newsletter in which we deconstruct how influence works in work, life and society.

Or maybe, you’re just curious about SUE | Behavioural Design. Here’s where you can read our backstory.

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What Is Behavioural Design

What is Behavioural Design

By All, Behavioural Science Insights, Citizen Behaviour, Customer Behaviour, Employee behaviour, Personal Behaviour

This blog post is an extended introduction to Behavioural Design. You will get a clear idea about what it is, how you can use it in your professional and personal life to influence minds and shape behaviour, and what you could do to learn more about it. Moreover, this blog post is the perfect entry to most other blogposts we published on the SUE Behavioural Design website.

 

1. Behavioural Design is about influence

How do you influence minds and shape behaviours? How do you change other people’s, as well as your behaviours? How do you help people to make better decisions? Isn’t it strange that the majority of all of our behaviours and communication aims at influencing other people? Yet, at the same time, we have no clue about the principles and laws that govern influence?

 

Behavioural Design is a systematic understanding of how people think and how they make decisions. This understanding forms the basis of thinking about interventions that lead to behavioural change. Maybe you want to influence the behaviour of your partner or children. You might want to influence your colleagues or managers. Some people like to develop a healthy habit for themselves or want to live a more sustainable life. Maybe you want to influence customer behaviour or win elections. No matter what the subject is, you can all think of them as a behavioural design challenge.

 

So what is Behavioural Design? The most pragmatic definition of Behavioural Design we came up with so far is the following:

 

Behavioural Designers combine Psychology, Design, Technology, and Creative Methods to find out why people do the things they do and to figure out through experimentation how to activate them to change their behaviour.

 

2. Behavioural Design is a method

The best way to think about Behavioural Design is to think of it as the combination of Design Thinking with the Science of Influence. Design Thinking is the method through which designers solve problems. Designers start with empathy. Through interviews and observations, they try to “fall in love with the problem”: Why do people do what they do and where could we spot opportunities for improvement? This insight phase forms the groundwork for creativity. First, designers develop as many ideas as possible, and then they prototype the most promising ones. They take the prototypes back to the real world and test them with real people to learn and observe how the prototype influences the targeted behaviour. Design Consultancy Ideo, the godfathers of Design Thinking, explain the process like this:

When you combine the method of design thinking with behavioural science, you will get design thinking on steroids or Behavioural Design Thinking. Because a better understanding of human psychology you will get:

1) Better insights into why people do what they do;
2) Better ideas on where to look for solutions;
3) Better prototypes, because you will have a much sharper understanding of what specific behavioural outcome you’re designing for.

At SUE the essence of what we do is to train the Behavioural Design Method© at our Behavioural Design Academy and at in-company training and we run the Behavioural Design Method© in Behavioural Design Sprints together with our clients.

More about Behavioural Design as method:

Would you like to power up your team or project with behavioural intelligence?

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3. The ethics of Behavioural Design

Behavioural Design is dark wisdom. The difference between positive influence and manipulation is a very fragile line. In the end, we have to be aware that Behavioural Design is about using deliberate action and techniques to influence the behaviour of the other in the direction you want.

The problem is that those who want to design for good quite often feel bad about using dark forces. Whereas those who use this dark wisdom to manipulate and mislead are usually much more motivated, advanced, and have fewer scruples about its application. Think about how extreme-right populists exploit fear and uncertainty, or think about how technology companies use our vanities and our desire for social recognition and belonging to the extent that it leads to (social media) addiction.

The world of interaction design is full of “dark patterns“, which are manipulative ways to present choices to us in such a way that they manipulate us into making a specific decision, whether we want it or not.

 

Doctor Evil

At SUE, we are very sensitive to this ethical component. We even encoded it in our mission. The SUE mission is “to unlock the power of behavioural psychology to help people make better decisions in work, life and play”. Our point of departure for designing interventions for behavioural change always starts with the question, “How might we help people to make better choices? Moreover, how could we create products, services, and experiences to contribute to helping people achieve their goals or dreams? Our commitment to this mission is sacred, even to the point that we refuse to accept work that doesn’t match this mission. You can find more about this way of thinking below at “5. Outside-in Thinking“.

More on the ethical side of Behavioural Design:

4. Behavioural Design is about designing choices

Multiple levels of influence
In a certain sense, the term ‘Behavioural Design’ is a little bit misleading. Behavioural change is the outcome we aim for when we design an intervention. When we want to achieve this outcome, we need to create interventions on multiple levels at the same time:

  1. Design attention: How do you make sure something catches people’s attention?
  2. Trigger curiosity: How do you get people to invest time and mental energy to learn more about what you want from them?
  3. Change the perception: how do you get something to stand out as the attractive option between other choices? How do you design the desired perception?
  4. Design the experience: How do you get someone to have a positive feeling? How can you reduce stress or uncertainty?
  5. Trigger the behaviour: How do you trigger the desired behaviour? How can you increase the chance of success that people act upon your trigger?
  6. Change habits: How can you get people to sustain the behaviour? Most behaviours require much more than a one-time action. Think about saving, living healthy, exercising, recycling, collaborating, etc.

Thinking fast and slow

This simple list of influence levels teaches us that:

Behavioural Design is all about how we design choices and how we present those choices.

Behavioural Design has everything to do with human decision-making and how the brain works. The cornerstone of human decision-making is the masterpiece “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Kahneman and Tversky. This book – awarded with the Noble Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2002 – is the fascinating journey of the collaboration between two Israeli psychologists and their discoveries of how the mind works. This book is the ultimate work on thinking about thinking.

Kahneman and Tversky discovered that about 96% of our thinking is automatic and unconscious. Our brain is making most of the decisions for us by taking shortcuts – which they call heuristics -, with the goal of not having to invoke the 4% bandwidth of our slow, rational brain. In a way:

Influencing behaviour comes down to helping people to decide without having to think. Because the more we need to think about something, the more stress we get, the less we end up making choices.

Since 2018, we now have a second psychologist in the ranks of noble prize winners. Richard Thaler built upon the work of Kahneman and Tversky and zoomed in on how to make use of System 1-System2 thinking to nudge people into better decision-making in wealth, health, and happiness.

 

Our hard-wired tendency to persuade

When it comes to our attempts to influence minds and shape behaviours, our biggest fallacy is that we always tend to persuade the other with rational arguments. The problem with persuasion is two-fold:

  1. Persuasion evokes system 2-thinking, and we don’t like that. When you try to persuade someone, you want them to think about your argument. Thinking complicates things.
  2. System 2 is the little slave of system 1: we only accept rational arguments or facts when they align with how we already think about matters. You can only persuade someone who’s already convinced.

The real challenge is to make a decision making extremely easy. More about designing choices:

Want to learn how to design behaviour?

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5. Behavioural Designers think ‘outside-in’

When we try to influence minds and shape behaviour, the most common mistake we make is to think inside-out. We take the benefits of our product or service as our point of departure, and we try to figure out how we could pitch those benefits so that people would realize the value of what we have to offer. Behavioural Designers work the other way around.

We take the human behind the customer as our focal point, and we try to figure out what this human needs to be successful.

Which anxieties, doubts, prejudices or bad habits he holds stand in the way of embracing the desired behaviour or which pains or frustrations we could solve for him.

The SUE | Influence Framework©

We developed the SUE | Influence Framework© as a tool to do outside-in thinking systematically,. This model brings all the forces to the surface that influence the behaviour of the people for whom we need to design interventions. The Influence Framework© consists of five questions we need to answer to understand why people do what they do and how to get them to act:

  1. Job-To-Be-Done: What is the underlying goal for which people would have to embrace the new behaviour? How might we align the desired behaviour with goals that matter to them?
  2. Pains: What are possible frustrations and pains in their current behaviour, for which we need to come up with a solution?
  3. Gains: What are the benefits we have, compared with their current solutions?
  4. Anxieties: What are anxieties, doubts, prejudices or other barriers that prevent someone from embracing the new behaviour?
  5. Habits: Which habits keep them locked in their current behaviour?

Finding the answers to these questions will provide you with a blueprint of where to spot opportunities for behavioural change. In this video, you can find a brief explainer of the SUE | Influence Framework©.

 

More about outside-in thinking:

6. Behavioural Designers work with principles from the science of influence

The next step in the Behavioural Design Method© is about turning a deep understanding of the forces that explain people’s behaviours, into ideas for behavioural change.  These are two different games. Whereas the SUE | Influence Framework© uncovers the unconsciousness of people, is this part about applying principles from the science of influence to come up with solutions on how to change behaviour. We have developed a helpful tool for this: the SUE | SWAC Tool©:

It is foremost a very easy-to-use tool. It explains which four pieces of the puzzle you need to solve to create a context that will persuade someone into doing something and to have them keep doing it. What makes the tool so easy to use in practice, is that anytime you want to design for behavioural change, all you have to do is ask yourself four simple questions:

  1. How can we make sure someone WANTS to perform the new behaviour?
  2. How can we make sure someone CAN perform the new behaviour?
  3. How can we SPARK new behaviour at the moments that matter?
  4. How can we activate this new behaviour AGAIN and again?

 

When the new behaviour does not happen, at least one of those four elements is missing. The most important implication of this is that by using the SUE | SWAC Tool© as a guide you can quickly identify what stops people from performing the behaviours that you seek.

If a sufficient degree of capability (CAN) to perform a behaviour is matched with the willingness (WANT) to engage in that behaviour, all that is then needed for the behaviour to occur is to set someone into action (SPARK) at the Moments that Matter.

Maybe you notice that in the tool it says moments that matter. Not one moment, but moments. As we learned, behavioural change doesn’t happen overnight. Most of the times someone needs to be reminded of the desired behaviour more than once for it to happen in the first place. Furthermore, behaviour becomes easier when repeated. Therefore, we have to make sure we SPARK someone AGAIN and again to activate the desired behaviour. So, you need to design several interventions at multiple moments that matter. In practice your intervention strategy will look something like this:

The objective of most intervention strategies is to not only to change behaviour, but to change this new behaviour into a routine behaviour (a habit), so the new behaviour will stick.

Often your desired behaviour is new behaviour for people and that’s why it is important to spark behaviour AGAIN and again. Only then the behaviour will take place, as illustrated above as the BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE THRESHOLD. When your objective is to design repeat behaviour, it almost goes without saying that you have to make sure the desired behaviour is performed repeatedly. If you can make someone perform new behaviour over and over AGAIN, it can become automatic.

7. Behavioural Designers research, prototype, test

The more familiar you get with how the brain works and how influence works, the more you become aware that human behaviour obeys a different kind of logic than formal logic. Rory Sutherland calls this “psycho-logic” in his brilliant book Alchemy.

The way people make decisions is highly context-sensitive. These decisions are full of stories they tell themselves and full of irrational beliefs they hold. Furthermore, even the slightest difference in how something is framed can dramatically affect how people perceive the meaning. When an English native speaker says they think something is “interesting”, it usually means precisely the opposite. Whereas a non-native Dutch audience would think “interesting” means what they think it means.

The importance of doing the research yourself

That’s why research and prototyping are so important. Before you come up with an idea for behavioural change, you first need to fall in love with the problem. You observe or interview humans and try to put yourself in their shoes. You’ll be surprised about how many thoughts and beliefs you hold are projections of your limited worldview onto the world of the target audience you want to influence.

Prototyping and testing are all about finding out which variation of your intervention has the highest potential to design perception, attention, curiosity, experience, behaviour or habit. Even with the clearest of insights, you can still develop an intervention that ultimately misses its desired effect. What you thought your intervention was supposed to trigger sometimes triggers the exact opposite.

More about prototyping and testing:

Want to shape behaviour and decisions?

Then our two-day Fundamentals Course is the perfect training for you. You will learn the latest insights from behavioural science and get easy-to-use tools and templates to apply these in practice right away!

Download the brochure

Go ahead, it’s completely free of charge!

8. Domains of Behavioural Design

The number of applications for Behavioural Design is endless. Because in the end, most of the things we do as humans aim at influencing the behaviour of others. You can apply it from managing teams to the design of products. Or from getting people to buy products to changing the way they perceive a service or experience. And from the creation of financial habits, personal habits and healthy habits till the raising of children. At SUE, we’re particularly fascinated by six specific domains for behavioural change:

  • customer behaviour (product, marketing, sales)
  • citizen behaviour (government/society)
  • financial behaviour (financial independence)
  • voter behaviour (politics and government)
  • self-improvement (personal development)
  • team-behaviour (organisational design)

Most of our blogs and our weekly newsletter “Behavioural Design Digest” is about one of these topics.

 

9. Start to learn more about Behavioural Design

Now you have a deeper understanding about what Behavioural Design and how you can apply the Behavioural Design Method to influence minds and shape behaviour, there’s a couple of next steps you can take to learn more about the method:

  1. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter Behavioural Design Digest, in which we take a closer look at how influence works in daily life.
  2. Subscribe to one of the upcoming editions of our Behavioural Design Academy courses and master the SUE | Behavioural Design Method© to create next-generation, people-centred products, services, campaigns or policies.
  3. Book in-company training for your team and learn the method while applying it to a critical business challenge for your organisation.
  4. Hire SUE to run a Behavioural Design Sprint to fast-track your innovation, transformation or growth by leveraging behavioural science to develop people-centred products, services, campaign or policies with an evidence-based approach.
  5. Book SUE for a keynote or workshop (contact us).
  6. Check or frequently asked questions and discover answers to questions you didn’t even know you had.

How do you do. Our name is SUE.

Do you want to learn more?

Suppose you want to learn more about how influence works. In that case, you might want to consider joining our Behavioural Design Academy, our officially accredited educational institution that already trained 2500+ people from 45+ countries in applied Behavioural Design. Or book an in-company training or one-day workshop for your team. In our top-notch training, we teach the Behavioural Design Method© and the Influence Framework©. Two powerful tools to make behavioural change happen in practice.

You can also hire SUE to help you to bring an innovative perspective on your product, service, policy or marketing. In a Behavioural Design Sprint, we help you shape choice and desired behaviours using a mix of behavioural psychology and creativity.

You can download the Behavioural Design Fundamentals Course brochure, contact us here or subscribe to our Behavioural Design Digest. This is our weekly newsletter in which we deconstruct how influence works in work, life and society.

Or maybe, you’re just curious about SUE | Behavioural Design. Here’s where you can read our backstory.

sue behavioural design
Behavioural Design Week: Matt Wallaert

Behavioural Design Week: Matt Wallaert

By All, Employee behaviour

Our final keynote speaker at Behavioural Design Week 2021 was Baptiste Tougeron. As a Google Research Manager, he is responsible for ad effectiveness. During his session, he presented the most read whitepaper of Google worldwide: Decoding decisions. He talked about the messy decision process and how behavioural science can supercharge the attractiveness of brands. A must-see if you work in branding, marketing and advertising.

Behavioural Design Week: Matt Wallaert

Behavioural Design Week: Matt Wallaert

The first speaker on Behavioural Design Week was most certainly not the least. If you are looking for an hour filled with inspiration on applying behavioural science within your organisation, this is the keynote you don’t want to miss. In a wave of unstoppable energy, Matt shares the four steps needed for running a successful behavioural change project. He shares the don’t and don’ts combined with lots of humour—Matt shares how you can genuinely apply behavioural science. Learn from Matt’s experiences and get practical guidelines to get into the action yourself.

How to set-up a Behavioural Change Project
Behavioural Design Week 2021

Matt Wallaert: Our key take-aways

Matt explains there are four steps in a behavioural change project:

Behavioural strategy
What is the desired behaviour? What do you want people to do? Translate this into a Behavioural Statement with clear OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), so you can make people accountable; it is not one person’s task to run a successful behavioural change project. Everyone’s job is behaviour; everything can be linked to behaviour.

Behavioural Insight
Our job is to build a bridge between a world that is and a world that isn’t. We need to understand which bridge to build. Why is this a desirable outcome? Why don’t we already have this outcome (bottlenecks)? You need to look for emerging patterns and need cross-validation. I see this in qualitative research; do you also see this through your quantitative lens.

Behavioural Design
We start imagining interventions. All we do is changing the pressures or the environment and making behaviour easier or harder to do.

Behavioural Impact Evaluation
You need to measure the impact of your interventions. However, we are in applied behavioural science, not academic, behavioural science. You have to have some basic fluidity about the probability. In academia, p can be less than .5. This holds not true in business. If we can find a solution that can save some people’s lives, well, that’s a win. Maybe not scientifically significant, but essential.

Matt Wallaert: Quotes to remember

Science is a process, behaviour is an outcome.

Everyone’s job is behaviour, everything can be linked to behaviour.

Accountability allows for autonomy.

Our job is to build a a bridge between a world that is and a world that isn’t.

You need cross validation. Take a qualitative belief and validate it quantative.

We are not in academic behavioural science but in applied behavioural science.

Matt Wallaert: Further reading

If Matt’s talk inspired you, please make sure to pick up his book ‘Start at the End: How to build products that create change’. We finished reading it in one fellow swoop, and it has become one of our favourite readings.

Hungry for more Behavioural Design Fest?

Please make sure to check out our other videos of other 2021 Keynote speakers on Behavioural Design Week: Tim Versnel on designing behaviour for sustainability and Baptiste Tougeron on using behavioural science for more effective advertising.

Or, check out our upcoming edition of Behavioural Design Fest.

Also, you can find all the videos of the keynotes of Behavioural Design Fest 2018 and Behavioural Design Fest 2019; watch and re-watch here to upgrade your Behavioural Design know-how and boost your inspiration.

Want to shape behaviour and decisions?

Then our two-day Fundamentals Course is the perfect training for you. You will learn the latest insights from behavioural science and get easy-to-use tools and templates to apply these in practice right away!

Download the brochure

Go ahead, it’s completely free of charge!

How do you do. Our name is SUE.

Do you want to learn more?

Suppose you want to learn more about how influence works. In that case, you might want to consider joining our Behavioural Design Academy, our officially accredited educational institution that already trained 2500+ people from 45+ countries in applied Behavioural Design. Or book an in-company training or one-day workshop for your team. In our top-notch training, we teach the Behavioural Design Method© and the Influence Framework©. Two powerful tools to make behavioural change happen in practice.

You can also hire SUE to help you to bring an innovative perspective on your product, service, policy or marketing. In a Behavioural Design Sprint, we help you shape choice and desired behaviours using a mix of behavioural psychology and creativity.

You can download the Behavioural Design Fundamentals Course brochure, contact us here or subscribe to our Behavioural Design Digest. This is our weekly newsletter in which we deconstruct how influence works in work, life and society.

Or maybe, you’re just curious about SUE | Behavioural Design. Here’s where you can read our backstory.

sue behavioural design
Behavioural Design Week: Baptiste Tougeron

Behavioural Design Week: Baptiste Tougeron

By All, Customer Behaviour

Our final keynote speaker at Behavioural Design Week 2021 was Baptiste Tougeron. As a Google Research Manager, he is responsible for ad effectiveness. During his session, he presented the most read whitepaper of Google worldwide: Decoding decisions. He talked about the messy decision process and how behavioural science can supercharge the attractiveness of brands. A must-see if you work in branding, marketing and advertising.

Behavioural Design Week: Baptiste Tougeron

Behavioural Design Week: Baptiste Tougeron

Purchase decision-making is not a linear process. Between the purchase trigger and the purchase, customers are exposed to much information, like reviews or social media. The Google research team tried to uncover how customers process all this information and make decisions between the purchase trigger and the purchase itself. The call it “The messy middle”.

Behavioural Design for Advertising Effectiveness
Behavioural Design Week 2021

Baptiste Tougeron: Our key take-aways

Key-take away 1: Organise the messy middle:
Between the purchase trigger and the purchase, we can identify two ’mental modes’. The Exploration Mode and the Evaluation Mode.

While the Exploration Mode expands our consideration set, the Evaluation Mode narrows down our options. People oscillate through these two mental modes, repeating them as often as they need to make a purchase decision. These two mental processes can run simultaneously or apart, but they are two distinctive processes.

Key Take-Away 2: Supercharge the brand with cognitive biases
Now that there is some order in the messy middle, we need to know how shoppers process the information. During the process of Exploration and Evaluation, cognitive biases shape their behaviour and influence their choice. In the research, six cognitive biases are prioritised:

  1. The Power of Free
  2. Social Norms
  3. Authority Bias
  4. The Power of Now
  5. Category Heuristics
  6. Security Bias 

Important conclusions to keep in mind:

  • Ensure brand presence, simply showing up can impact customer decision making when they are exploring and evaluating. (This is called the Mere Exposure Effect)
  • Intelligently (and responsibly) employ behavioural science principles to influence the decision-making process
  • Close the gap between trigger and purchase.

Baptiste Tougeron: Quotes to remember

“Purchase decision-making is not a linear process”.

“I would like to think of the messy middle as a big spaghetti plate”.

“The cool thing about behavioural science, if you put the theory into practice in different countries, the brain remains to work very similarly.”

“We are not done. We still have to explore ‘exposure’ and ‘experience’, so lookout for new research and results in 2022”.

“Playing with the six cognitive biases is not easy. You cannot choose to supercharge your brand just like that. Some biases you can influence yourself, others need to be acquired”.

Baptiste Tougeron: Further reading

Want to know more about untangling the messy middle? Make sure to read the white paper by Google, which can be found here.

 

Hungry for more Behavioural Design Fest?

Please make sure to check out our other videos of other 2021 Keynote speakers on Behavioural Design Week: Tim Versnel on designing behaviour for sustainability and Matt Wallaert who shares his experience in setting up a Behavioural Change Project within an organisation.

Or, check out our upcoming edition of Behavioural Design Fest.

Also, you can find all the videos of the keynotes of Behavioural Design Fest 2018 and Behavioural Design Fest 2019; watch and re-watch here to upgrade your Behavioural Design know-how and boost your inspiration.

Want to shape behaviour and decisions?

Then our two-day Fundamentals Course is the perfect training for you. You will learn the latest insights from behavioural science and get easy-to-use tools and templates to apply these in practice right away!

Download the brochure

Go ahead, it’s completely free of charge!

How do you do. Our name is SUE.

Do you want to learn more?

Suppose you want to learn more about how influence works. In that case, you might want to consider joining our Behavioural Design Academy, our officially accredited educational institution that already trained 2500+ people from 45+ countries in applied Behavioural Design. Or book an in-company training or one-day workshop for your team. In our top-notch training, we teach the Behavioural Design Method© and the Influence Framework©. Two powerful tools to make behavioural change happen in practice.

You can also hire SUE to help you to bring an innovative perspective on your product, service, policy or marketing. In a Behavioural Design Sprint, we help you shape choice and desired behaviours using a mix of behavioural psychology and creativity.

You can download the Behavioural Design Fundamentals Course brochure, contact us here or subscribe to our Behavioural Design Digest. This is our weekly newsletter in which we deconstruct how influence works in work, life and society.

Or maybe, you’re just curious about SUE | Behavioural Design. Here’s where you can read our backstory.

sue behavioural design
Six Rules For Designing Your Happiness

Six rules for designing your happiness

By All, Employee behaviour, Personal Behaviour

If there is one thing we as humans all want more control over, it is our own happiness. Thousands of self-help books have been written, bought and earmarked. Maybe one of the pieces of advice you have come across is this quote: ‘You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with’. From a behavioural science point of view, this is intriguing, as behaviour is strongly influenced by context. We all act and react to what happens around us. Can we learn from behavioural science what kind of people we must surround ourselves with? How can we influence our context to trigger behaviours that make us flourish as human beings? Or to go beyond this: How do these insights transfer to a business context? Can it help create better performing teams and more motivated talent? This blog post will give some answers from a Behavioural Design point of view.

Happiness: The five people you hang around with

You probably have heard or read it before that we as humans are hard-wired as social animals. When we grow up, we learn the values, norms, and desired behaviours by looking at others and adapting to them. We feel better when we fit in a group. We prefer inertia, but one of the key motivators for us to spring into action is when our group is threatened by another group. That’s why the ‘creating an enemy’ tactic is so vital in getting people on your side in, for instance, winning political votes. At one point or another, we all have been influenced by social proof to buy, book or belief something. From a happiness point of view, this also has a strong effect on us. You could say that:

Our quality of life equals our quality of relationships.

However, there is this interesting paradox. At the same time, we all live in an identity economy. We are constantly searching to answer that one question: ‘Who am I?’ and we repeatedly do and say things to establish our identity. This is not surprising as most of us were raised for autonomy. It is a merit to be independent, make our own decisions, have self-motivation, and have high expectations of our ability to direct our own lives. Happiness isn’t an option anymore; it is a mandate or almost a right to be.

You probably have been looking for ways to be happy yourself once or twice. If that’s the case, I better put it to you straight: behavioural research has shown that looking for happiness has no use at all. Reading all those self-help books, turning inwards, and searching for your inner purpose: Won’t do the trick. This doesn’t mean we cannot be happy; we simply must first understand ourselves a bit better. We need to understand the psychology of happiness.

Designing happiness: predicting our happiness

If we want to be happy, one of the first things we need to look into is our ability to predict what makes us happy. Let me ask you a question: Suppose you won a lottery, and 1 million euros are transferred to your checking account. Now imagine a completely different scenario. This time you had the unfortunate experience to be involved in a traffic accident that made you paralysed from the hips down. After a year, if I ask you what is your level of happiness? Is it the same in both scenarios or is one higher than the other? I suppose, you think your happiness level will look something like this: as a fortunate lottery winner you picture yourself being far happier than as a unfortunate paraplegic.

What if I tell you these are the wrong data? Daniel Gilbert PhD, professor at the Harvard Department of Psychology, researched this, and these were the correct data:

There was hardly any difference in happiness levels after a year. This was a profound insight into the psychology of happiness. Daniel Gilbert discovered that we all have a psychological immune system that helps us handle setbacks and prevents our happiness from being negatively influenced. It shelters us from the worst effects of misfortune.

This is important as this study has shown that we are not good at forecasting our responses to emotional incidents. We typically overestimate how long we will be unhappy after a negative incident, which, in turn, affects our behaviour and decision-making. According to Daniel Gilbert, PhD:

We underestimate how quickly our feelings are going to change in part because we underestimate our ability to change them; this can lead us to make decisions that don’t maximise our potential for satisfaction.

You can see how this may affect our happiness, or as Daniel Kahneman, PhD, who conducts research on decision-making and wellbeing, said:

What people tend to do is either avoid decisions, or they build in securities by over-relying on freedom of choice. If you have more options, this gives us the feeling of having more room to escape. However, behavioural research has also shown that having more options tends to have adverse effects on the quality of our decision-making. We often tend to pay more for more options, but this is a waste of money from a happiness point of view.

Designing happiness: what makes us happy?

But there is more. We now know that we are not good at predicting our happiness, but that doesn’t tell us what makes us happy. Behavioural science has something fascinating to say about this, too, as we have another psychological mechanism know as hedonic adaptation, also known as the hedonic treadmill. It refers to the human inclination to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.

You can compare it to a treadmill as even if a runner is running, he (or she) stays at the same place. If you do something you love or like the joy you get from it levels out. We all return to our happiness baseline. The mechanism helps us cope with unpleasant experiences but it also is a killer for joy. Happiness doesn’t last.

Maybe, you are now a bit discouraged if you can indeed design a happy life. You can. If there is one element that drives our happiness that researchers found repeatedly, it is curiosity. When we are open to new experiences, when we cherish the unknown, when we are inquisitive, it has been shown that we tend to hover above the happiness baseline for a more extended period. We can even shift our baseline a bit upwards.

Designing happiness: the freedom security paradox

This brings us back to the paradox we started out with our innate need to be socially connected and independent. This paradox starts to make sense when we want to design our happiness. Esther Perel once said we all have two human needs: security and freedom. You could say we all balance between change and stability all the time. You need your freedom as it drives that so much needed imagination, playfulness, curiosity. However, it is much easier to change if you can jump of a stable foundation of people who are committed to your wellbeing.

It is also much easier to be curious if you are inspired by interesting people. In fact, if we get disconnected from people, we can experience all forms of stress: despair, sadness, exhaustion, confusion. Just think back at the Covid lockdown; these were all emotions people have genuinely experienced and suffered from. This leads up to a fascinating Behavioural Design challenge:

How can we design behaviour that makes us feel connected, curious, and playful?

This is also where our personal happiness and work happiness come together: the same behavioural interventions can work for both. In both situations, you are a human in a relationship with other humans. Losing the other is losing yourself.

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Designing happiness advice 1:
Create an interdependent context.

Maybe the most critical shift we need to make is a shift in our context. We need to design a context that is shaped for inter-reliance or inter-dependence. Make it okay to be dependent on each other. You can be playful and imaginative if you are not afraid that you will be judged. If you can rely on each other this creates collective resilience sparking the willingness to try new things. To accomplish this, you need to design for psychological safety. This is a shared belief held by team members (or partners) that it is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.

Research has shown that this builds team efficacy, learning and performance. But psychological safety also helps to establish stable relationships. It creates the courage to speak up no matter how you feel about yourself, you will open up about your struggles, and it helps you take a step toward what you want. It also helps you propose new plans and experiment together. Some tangible behaviours that lead up to psychological safety:

  • Be understanding: Summarise, use language like ‘Do I understand it correctly that you want.
  • Avoid blaming: Don’t say: ‘Why did this happen?’ or ‘Why did you do this?’, but ‘How can we make sure to make this better next time?’
  • Avoid negative: Don’t use negative words; it creates an interpersonal culture of rejection.
  • Manage speaking time: Making sure everyone can speak in an equal amount.
  • Explain decisions: you don’t need to have a democracy in everything, but it helps to explain a decision.
  • Be engaged: Make eye contact, don’t use phones in conversations, be present.

Designing happiness advice 2:
Surround yourself with complementarity.

This is where the five people that you surround yourself comes in. If you look back at the first intervention, you can imagine that:

Interdepend roles create strength.

So, look around those five people. Are they different from you? Do they complete you? Do you get energy from them, or do they suck the living daylights out of you? It maybe feels safer to hang out with like-minded people, but it can be very inspirational to talk and meet with people with different experiences and opinions. Some tangible behaviours:

  • Plan a meeting with someone who has a different opinion.
  • Make a list of the five people who could compliment you and schedule meetings with them.

Designing happiness advice 3:
Have a prototyping mindset.

What holds us back from being curious is the lack of courage to do new things. We know from behavioural science that it is crucial to believe in yourself. If you don’t have confidence, you struggle in your relationships, and you don’t feel very happy at work, you don’t cope well with stress, which causes you to lack motivation or energy. On the other hand, research has shown that having confidence can help you set boundaries, find balance in your work and private life, improve performance at work through better concentration and commitment to tasks.

This again affects whether we dare to engage in experiences that might feel uncertain or can be risky. Expectations of personal efficacy determine whether coping behaviour will be initiated, how much effort will be expended, and how long it will be sustained in the face of obstacles and aversive experiences. A great behavioural design intervention is to build confidence is to establish a prototyping mindset.

If you look at everything you do as an experiment, you cannot fail only learn.

Everything new is not likely to give us courage but approaching life, and new ventures as one big experiment builds trust in yourself. It’s the fuel for our curiosity engine.

Designing happiness advice 4:
Build respect and recognition.

Most relationships start to fail, both in your work and private life when you don’t feel valued anymore. We all have an innate need for respect and recognition. When we have the feeling we are not valued anymore, we cut ourselves loose. There is a straightforward behavioural intervention to make people feel valued. It is giving compliments.

There is more to it: a study from 2012 suggests that receiving praise helps our brain remember and repeat the skill when we try out a new skill. One-third of participants received compliments for their own performance, one third received for another participant’s performance, and the others received no compliments. The next day, the group that received praise for their own performance performed better on the task than the others.

Another benefit of giving compliments is that it can affirm desired behaviours, which can be helpful not only in your work but also in maintaining stable friendships or romantic relationships.

Designing happiness advice 5:
Be as pleasant at home as you are with your clients.

 

It may seem like an open door but be honest, have you have ever caught yourself changing your behaviour as soon as you got home? Whereas you could be interested, caring and curious in client conversations at home, you stop asking genuine questions to find out how your life partner is doing. You probably have heard about the seven-year itch. Well, in fact, research has shown you are actually dealing with a three-year itch. After three years, we think we know everything about our partner: what he she/likes, what he she/does. But do you? You’re not together for the most part of the day, so your partner does have new experiences, thoughts and dreams, perhaps. A simple behavioural intervention is to keep asking questions. Be interested. Do you have your phone in your hand when you’re talking to an important client or your boss? No. Treat your life partner or teammate with the same respect.

Designing happiness advice 6:
Leave your devices behind.

 

This makes an easy cross-over to this behavioural intervention. If you want to build a meaningful relationship with someone, both at work and at home, make sure you are engaged. Make eye contact, turn off that phone, don’t look at your laptop when you are in a conversation. This builds trust and respect that is needed to get playful, curious and experimental. Looking to improving your sex life? Leave the communication devices out of the bedroom!

Want to shape behaviour and decisions?

Then our two-day Fundamentals Course is the perfect training for you. You will learn the latest insights from behavioural science and get easy-to-use tools and templates to apply these in practice right away!

Download the brochure

Go ahead, it’s completely free of charge!

Summary: How to design happiness

Pursuing happiness is not an abstract matter and, most of all, not a matter of heavy, introspective labour. By using behavioural science, we can carefully design a context that balances our need for freedom and security. Both essential ingredients for a happy life. Our job is to make sure that the pendulum between the two doesn’t snap. We thrive and feel alive in social connection that sparks curiosity. These are the main drivers of our happiness. We need to rely more on each other. If we can stay connected, curious and playful, all our relationships will thrive. Some very simple behavioural interventions can help us design a context that helps us do so. And remember, you cannot always be happy, but you can always be curious.

Astrid Groenewegen

BONUS: free ebook 'Six Rules for Designing your Happiness'

Especially for you we've created a free eBook 'Designing Happiness'. For you to to easily keep the insights in this blog post at hand and use them at will—a little gift from us to you.

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How do you do. Our name is SUE.

Do you want to learn more?

Suppose you want to learn more about how influence works. In that case, you might want to consider joining our Behavioural Design Academy, our officially accredited educational institution that already trained 2500+ people from 45+ countries in applied Behavioural Design. Or book an in-company training or one-day workshop for your team. In our top-notch training, we teach the Behavioural Design Method© and the Influence Framework©. Two powerful tools to make behavioural change happen in practice.

You can also hire SUE to help you to bring an innovative perspective on your product, service, policy or marketing. In a Behavioural Design Sprint, we help you shape choice and desired behaviours using a mix of behavioural psychology and creativity.

You can download the Behavioural Design Fundamentals Course brochure, contact us here or subscribe to our Behavioural Design Digest. This is our weekly newsletter in which we deconstruct how influence works in work, life and society.

Or maybe, you’re just curious about SUE | Behavioural Design. Here’s where you can read our backstory.

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Behavioural Economics 101: We’re Only Human.

Behavioural economics 101: We’re only human.

By All, Behavioural Science Insights

Behavioural economics, maybe you have asked yourself once or twice, what’s all the fuss about? Why is everybody talking about us not being rational and capable of making good decisions all of a sudden? Is Behavioural Design something you should add to your competence gamma, and if yes, why so? This is a short introduction to behavioural economics. Meant to bring you up-to-speed with what everybody seems to be talking about right now in a simple way. In fact, I could summarise what’s in it for you in one sentence: 

If you want more control over successful outcomes, you have to understand you are dealing with humans, not econs. 

 

behavioural Design

The difference between economics and behavioural economics

Okay, I admit this sounds vague without any background. Basically, it comes down to a difference in paradigm on decision-making between economists and psychologists that gave birth to a beautiful cross-over between the two: behavioural economics (also known as behavioural psychology). What is it all about?

Let’s start with a problem we have probably all faced. Many new products, ventures, policies or innovations of any kind fail because they don’t take a deep understanding of human decision-making into account. They are inside-out, not inside-in driven. Therefore, innovations are often technological high-end, make things more cost-effective or offer different unique selling points, but they don’t start at the end. How do people choose for your offering? What psychological effects does pricing have? What’s, is the impact of social influence? Does the way we display products or frame policies affect decision-making? Which unconscious psychological forces influence our decision-making? Do those forces make objective sense?

According to an economist, the answer is:

  • Decision-making is rational.
  • People make a cost-benefit analysis.
  • The utility is a critical driver of any choice we make.

However, if you have ever had any regret after purchase or not making a purchase, you know that economist rule out one crucial factor: emotion. Emotions from within and emotions attached to what we think others think or expect from us. We are not 100% rational (or econs); we are filled with emotions and sometimes make decisions that are a far cry from most optimal for ourselves or our future.

Behavioural economics put emotions into the economic equation.

Bounded rationality: critical concept of behavioural economics

Furthermore, economists propose people always have all information at hand to make informed decisions. But is that true? First of all, we are bombarded with information all day long via multiple channels and media. No sane person can process all this rationally. Secondly, do we truly have all information to make informed decisions, for example, about our future? This is where we really have to make crucial decisions, after all. Buying an ice cream is not so hard but deciding upon your mortgage or pension plan is a whole different ballgame. Do you have all the information at hand to make a 100% rational decision here?

For example, do you know exactly your income level in 5, 10 or 15 years? Do you know what the inflation ratio will be in the same periods? Do you know what your health level will be like? Will you be able to work full-time, part-time or be out of work?

Rationality requires completeness of information, computational abilities, consistency in decision-making and cognitive skills (ability to think through a problem unemotionally). No human scores 100% on all these factors. So, what do we do when faced with a decision? We rely on short-cuts and social cues in our context and past experiences. We are only human, after all.

Taking the human, so-called bounded-rational part of us into the decision equation is what behavioural economics is all about.

Behavioural economists have researched and unlocked these human tendencies for years. Behavioural Designers take this behavioural science to design environments that help shape positive behaviours and choices of people. In fact, by using the exact science and combining it with design and creativity, we can create tangible products, services, policies, or organisations that help people make better decisions for their health, wealth and happiness.

Behavioral Design is applied behavioural economics.

Want to shape behaviour and decisions?

Then our two-day Fundamentals Course is the perfect training for you. You will learn the latest insights from behavioural science and get easy-to-use tools and templates to apply these in practice right away!

Download the brochure

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Behavioural economics: a game of choice architecture

One final note: How can we design environments that shape positive behaviours and better choices? Often, we think we need disclosure. Make sure you provide people with all the required information to help them make their informed decision. Unfortunately, that again is an econ approach to matters. Even if you help people with the information they need for a particular decision, we as humans often don’t use it. Most of the times, we know what is good for us but don’t act upon it.

For example, we all know exercising is good for us, and I guess we have all made a plan to do some form of exercise one day or the other, but most of us either started and stopped or are still procrastinating. This is known as the planning-action gap or intention-action gap. This is not new, of course, as we see in general three tools being applied to get humans into action:

  1. Restrictions (you cannot buy alcohol under the age of 18)
  2. Incentives (if your child attends school five days a week, you will get more child support)
  3. Selling (convincing people by telling them about benefits or USPs)

Behavioural Designers use another tool: choice architecture. We take humans and a deep understanding of their decision-making processes as a starting point to design a context that triggers better choices and behaviours. We do it using our SUE | Behavioural Design Method©, a highly structured, practical approach to turn human insights into strategies and ideas that influence better choices and shape positive behaviours. Basically, turning the breakthrough science of human behaviour into practical applications. What this results in, you can check out on our success stories page.

Summary: What’s behavioural economics all about

For now, I just want to wrap it up with the three things to remember when designing better choices and behaviours:

  1. You are dealing with humans, not econs
  2. Humans use cues in their context to make decisions
  3. You need to be aware of the intention-action gap

Taking these three principles as starting point already jumpstarts you in thinking as a behavioural designer. And understanding what all the fuss about behavioural economics is about (and how important it is to get a grip on success).

 

Astrid Groenewegen

 

Cover visual by Red with the Red Hat on Unsplash.

BONUS: free ebook 'Behavioural Economics: the Basics'

Especially for you we've created a free eBook 'Behavioural Economics: the basics'. For you to keep at hand, so you can start using the insights from this blog post whenever you want—it is a little gift from us to you.

Download ebook

Go ahead, it’s completely free of charge!

How do you do. Our name is SUE.

Do you want to learn more?

Suppose you want to learn more about how influence works. In that case, you might want to consider joining our Behavioural Design Academy, our officially accredited educational institution that already trained 2500+ people from 45+ countries in applied Behavioural Design. Or book an in-company training or one-day workshop for your team. In our top-notch training, we teach the Behavioural Design Method© and the Influence Framework©. Two powerful tools to make behavioural change happen in practice.

You can also hire SUE to help you to bring an innovative perspective on your product, service, policy or marketing. In a Behavioural Design Sprint, we help you shape choice and desired behaviours using a mix of behavioural psychology and creativity.

You can download the Behavioural Design Fundamentals Course brochure, contact us here or subscribe to our Behavioural Design Digest. This is our weekly newsletter in which we deconstruct how influence works in work, life and society.

Or maybe, you’re just curious about SUE | Behavioural Design. Here’s where you can read our backstory.

sue behavioural design
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