All Posts By

Astrid Groenewegen

What is Behavioural Design?

By | All, SUE Amsterdam & Behavioural Design Academy originals

This blog post is an extended introduction of 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
  2. Behavioural Design is a Method
  3. The ethical side of Behavioural Design
  4. Behavioural Design is about designing choices
  5. Behavioural Designers think ‘outside-in’.
  6. Behavioural Designers work with principles from the science of influence
  7. Behavioural Designers research, prototype and test
  8. Domains of Behavioural Design
  9. Start to learn more about Behavioural Design

 

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 personal 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, and 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 of children. You might want to influence your colleagues or managers. Some people want 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 ideation. First, designers come up with 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 to observe how the prototype succeed in influencing the targeted behaviour. Design Consultancy Ideo, the godfathers of Design Thinking uses this simple graphic to explain the process:

This image describes the process of design thinking

When you combine the method of Design Thinking with Behavioural Sciences, you will get Design Thinking on Steroids. 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 Design Thinking:

3. The ethical side 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 the application of it.  Think about how extreme-right populists exploit fear and uncertainty, or think about how technology companies exploit 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 potential of Behavioural Psychology to nudge people into positive choices 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 design products, services and experiences in such a way that they contribute to helping people to 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 with this mission. You can find more about this way of thinking below at “5. Outside-in Thinking“.

More about 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 design on multiple levels at the same time:

  1. The design of attention: How do you make sure something catches people’s attention?
  2. The triggering of curiosity: How do you get people to invest time and mental energy to learn more about what you want from them?
  3. The change of perception: how do you get something to stand out as the attractive option between other choices? How do you design the desired perception?
  4. The design of experience: How do you get someone to have a positive feeling? How can you reduce stress or uncertainty?
  5. The triggering of behaviour: How do you trigger the desired behaviour? How can you increase the chance of success that people act upon your trigger
  6. The change of 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 thinking about 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 98% 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 2% 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 on wealth, health and happiness.

Our hard-wired tendency to persuade

Our biggest fallacy, when it comes to our attempts to influence minds and shape behaviours, 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 are in line with how we already think about matters. You can only persuade someone who’s already convinced.

The real challenge is to make decision making extremely easy.

More about designing choices:

5. Behavioural Designers think ‘outside-in’.

The most common mistake we make when we try to influence minds and shape behaviour, is to think inside-out. We take the benefits our product or service as our point of departure, and we try to figure out how we could pitch those benefits in such a way that people would realize the value of what we have to offer.

Behavioural Designer 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 hold that stand in the way of embracing the desired behaviour, or which pains or frustrations we could solve for him.

The Influence Framework

We developed the 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 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 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 use a variety of principles, but the basic framework is this elegant and simple   formula of Prof. BJ Fogg:

B=MAT,
Behaviour = Motivation x Ability x Trigger.

bjfogg model uitgelegd

When we try to come up with ideas and interventions for behavioural change, we try to find answers to three simple questions:

  1. Trigger: What’s the perfect time and place to prompt a desired behaviour?
  2. Ability: How might we make the desired behaviour easier (or the undesired behaviour more difficult)?
  3. Motivation: How might we boost motivation for the desired behaviour?

The purpose of these three questions is to help system 1 to decide without having to think.

You could plot every known persuasion principle in the literature onto these three axes. The persuasion principles by Robert Cialdini (authority, scarcity, social proof, liking, reciprocity, commitment), can be understood as techniques to boost motivation. Lot’s of usability-principles are ability principles: default options, choice reduction, simplicity, affordance, all aim at making the desired behaviour easy.

More about principles from the science of influence:

7. Behavioural Designers research, prototype and test

The Psycho-logic is a different kind of logic

The more familiar you get with how the brain works and how influence works, the more you become aware of the fact that human behaviour obeys to 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 have a dramatic effect on how people perceive the meaning. When an English native speaker says he or she thinks something is “interesting”, it usually means precisely the opposite. Whereas a non-native Dutch audience would think they “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 actually projections of your limited world view onto the world of the target audience you want to influence.

Prototyping and testing is all about trying to find 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 come up with 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:

8. Domains of Behavioural Design

The number of applications for Behavioural Design Thinking 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 design 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:

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 masterclasses and learn the Behavioural Design Method step by step.
  3. Organize an in-company training for your team and learn the method while applying it to a critical business challenge for your organization.
  4. Hire SUE to run a Behavioural Design Sprint to research, prototype and test ideas to improve the success of your product or service
  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.

sue behavioural design

We Want You - Uncle Sam

The Behavioural Design of Applying for a Job

By | All, Self Improvement, SUE Amsterdam & Behavioural Design Academy originals

How do you apply for a job?

From a Behavioural Design point of view, this is a fascinating question. When you are applying for a job, there are several challenges you need to overcome. It’s a multi-level game in which you need to figure out how to reach level 3 or 4 with one single run.

  1. Trigger attention and curiosity
  2. Get invited
  3. Persuade that you are the one

A context of fierce competition for attention

First of all you have to be aware that most companies like ours get about 2-5 applications per day. In addition, those applications have to compete with about 50 other e-mails we have to try to process per day. That means you only get about 10-20 seconds to trigger my curiosity to invest more time in learning more about you. Don’t get me wrong, this has nothing to do with being an asshole. It has everything to do with having to figure out how to process the flood of information  – in my inbox alone – that is competing for my attention every single day. Add to this the daily requests by vendors who approach us by phone or e-mail to “have a coffee” and you must realize that time is incredibly scarce and valuable.

Applying for a job is a classic choice problem: With a very limited amount of information and a limited amount of time, we need to make a judgement of whether we want to invest more time in getting to know you.

How to trigger curiosity?

The best way to help us to make a decision is to offer us system 1 shortcuts. One of the core principles of the Behavioural Design Method, that we train at the Behavioural Design Academy is “Help people to make a decision without having to think”. What this means is that the more we have to use our rational brain to figure something out, the more we end up with not making a decision at all. Here are a couple of tips to create shortcuts when you’re applying for a job:

  1. Get introduced by someone we know and trust. If you can get someone to vouch for you, you make it a lot easier for us to get curious
  2. Never pull a stunt to grab our attention. Applying for a job is a delicate seduction process. You wouldn’t set up a surprise act on your first Tinder date, won’t you?
  3. Be intriguing: what are surprising things you’ve done in the past, both in your personal, as well as your private life, that proofs to us that you’re an interesting person? Past behaviour never lies.
  4. Signaling: There’s a lot of value that you communicate in the effort you put into reaching us. We once got a hand written love letter in which the candidate wrote why and when she fell in love with SUE. We hired her on the spot. She still works at SUE.
  5. Study the people to whom you are writing your application. It’s not that hard to find the founders on Twitter, Linkedin and Google. Try to find out what they write about and try to contribute something to the things they are passionate about.

Summary: Think outside-in

An application is like professional flirting. It might take a little more effort to go from Awareness to Interest to Desire and Action. Sometimes it even takes a couple of years. But just like with every every challenge to influence someones behaviour, you have to think outside-in: Try to figure out what the Job-to-be-Done is of the person you try to persuade, then take away their anxieties, then present yourself als the best solution to their pains and make them understand how hiring you would offer them gains that are incredibly valuable.
One more thing: At SUE we prefer to recruit within our network of Behavioural Design Academy alumni,or people who participated in one of our Behavioural Design Sprints.  The simple reason is that are already familiar with the Behavioral Design Method.
I hope this post inspired you to rethink the way you design your application process approach. Good luck!
Tom
growth hacking

Growth Hacking vs. Behavioural Design

By | Behavioural Science, Customer Behaviour

Growth Hacking vs. Behavioural Design

We often get questions on the difference between Behavioural Design and Growth Hacking. The short answer is that Behavioural Design is a method to come up with insights and ideas, while Growth Hacking is a process of rapid experimentation across digital marketing channels. Whereas Growth Hacking can provide you with the tactics, Behavioural Design provides you with the ideas and strategies to make the tactics work. Let’s explore this core idea a bit deeper.

Make growth hacking work with Behavioural Design

Master a proven method in just two days in our Behavioural Design Academy.

Behavioural design is about seduction and persuasion, while Growth Hacking is about conversion.

 

A couple of years ago, I attended a fascinating conference in Estonia called Digital Elite Camp. It was probably one of the most exciting conferences I have ever attended (ok maybe except for our Behavioural Design Fest). The conference brought together digital marketers from all over the world to get inspired by growth hacking. I loved every second of it. I immediately sensed that I was looking at the avant-garde in marketing.

Geeks were geeking out on landing page optimization, e-mail performance, search ranking, conversion rate optimization, etc. Everyone was obsessed with A/B testing and with building, measuring and learning. You could sense the joy of the desire to overthrow old school thinking on marketing, advertising and sales. This was where the future was happening.

Except for one thing.

I still vividly remember the crappy landing page design, the triviality of the incremental changes and the cheapness of the sales triggers with which they experimented. I felt that, although it looks incredibly cool to figure out how to get a conversion funnel right, it was too much conversion tactics and too little understanding of persuasion and seduction. They got lost in tools and tactics, while they didn’t care too much for how the bits and bolt of how seduction work.

Imagine what would happen if you would hand over the problem of seducing a girl to a computer scientist. His approach would make a lot of sense from a logical point of view, but chances that you’ll end up with a smack in the face are pretty high.

Imagine what would happen if you would hand over the problem of seducing a girl to a computer scientist. His approach would make a lot of sense from a logical point of view, but chances that you’ll end up with a smack in the face are pretty high.

Behavioural Design is about understanding how to create magic with the Growth Hackers toolbox

 

What I love about growth hacking is that it brought a bit of creativity to digital marketing. The problem with digital marketing is that to do it properly, you need to get a lot of things right. It’s not enough to know how to find audiences if you don’t know how to attract them. It’s not enough to attract if you don’t know how to convert them into qualified leads. It’s not enough to have qualified leads if you don’t know how to nurture them into trying out your products and services. And it’s not enough to sell to a customer if you don’t know how to turn them into excited, happy regular users.

Growth hackers looks at all these requirements in a more holistic way and try to figure out how to connect them in such a way that the tactics that are deployed actually lead to business growth.

You Suck At Photoshop

But learning ‘growth hacking’ is a bit like learning Photoshop. I can teach you all the tools and techniques to start working with Photoshop, but if you have no clue on how composition, perspective and aesthetic works, you’ll use the tools to create shit.

With the right tools and tactics, you can optimize for a local, but not for a global maximum. And the missing clue in growth hacking is insight in the human psychology of decision making. If you don’t understand how people make decision and why they do things or don’t do things, your growth hacking tactics are not going to to trigger the customer or user behaviour needed for growth.

If you don’t understand how people make decisions and why they do things or don’t do things, your growth hacking tactics are not going to trigger the customer or user behaviour needed for growth.

The Behavioural Design Method helps you to find radical new ways to connect with a user motivation or goal. It helps you to understand which barriers you need to address, how to make the desired outcome easy, how to add some motivational boosters to the mix and how to communicate the right series of triggers at the right time and place.

Case: Convert people for a Debt Relief Programme

Let me give you an example. In a project we did for an NGO that helps people to get into a free Debt Relief Programme, we discovered that the only way to break through people’s resistance and to turn audiences into leads, was to connect with them in three steps:

  1. Establish trust by connecting with their pain and frustrations
  2. Reduce uncertainty by claiming that all counsellors have been in debt too and know how you feel
  3. Motivate action by making it OK to have a get-to-know each other conversation first to see if it could work

Every other way of pitching the service was doomed to fail because people didn’t want to be framed as people who need help.

Imagine a growth hacker optimising both the website and the digital campaign, not knowing this crucial insight. He would optimize within the boundaries of a useless strategy.

Add the missing layer to make your growth happen

Join our Behavioural Design Academy and in just two days master the practical Behavioural Design skills to make growth hacking actually work. You’ll know how to influence behaviour and shape minds to boost your growth hacking tactics.

Short Summary: Behavioural Design versus Growth Hacking

  • What behavioural designers and growth hackers have in common is a methodology of creative experimentation to figure out what works and what doesn’t
  • Whereas Growth Hacking is about the tactics and the tools, Behavioural Design is about how to create meaning and magic with the tools
  • Behavioural Design is a method, and Growth Hacking is a process. It’s not because you have a process, that you know what you’re doing
  • Behavioural designers and growth hackers should have sex because they will make beautiful babies.

One more thing: Don’t call yourself a growth hacker (or a behavioural designer)

Growth hackers are first and foremost digital marketers. They use the creative method of growth hacking to come up with smarter ideas for digital marketing faster. A Growth Hacker without technical digital marketing skills is worthless. The same goes for Behavioural Design.

I’m not convinced we should call ourselves Behavioural Designers. We are product-, marketing-, sales- or UX-professionals who use the Behavioural Design Method to come up with better products, services, communication and policies. I think that’s a better way to put it. We have also created a post on the difference between Behavioural Design and Design Thinking. You can read it here.

Want to learn more?

If you want to master the science of influence yourself, you could consider enrolling in our two-day course Behavioural Design at our SUE | Behavioural Design Academy. You can download the Academy brochure.

Or maybe you currently have a challenge in which you want to influence choice or change behaviour. Please, take a look at our Behavioural Design Sprint. It might be the answer you’re looking for.

Or could be you just would like to get to know us a little better. We happily introduce ourselves here.

sue behavioural design

Without influence your customer won't do what's needed for growth

Join our Behavioural Design Academy and master the skills to shape minds and influence behaviour. We trained people over 30+ countries and have a 9,2 satisfaction rate. Check out our free brochure. Don’t miss out on making your growth a success.

sue behavioural design
how to influence the ones at power

How to influence those in power?

By | All, Citizen Behaviour, Government & Politics

How do you influence those in power? Have you seen the talk that Observer journalist Carole Cadwalladr did at the official TED2019 conference last week? Her performance became a viral sensation because she did what nobody dared to do before. In a conference, sponsored by Google and Facebook and with their high-priests Mark Zuckerberg, Sherryl Sandberg, Sergei Brin, Larry Page and Twitter-CEO-turned-mindfulness-hipster Jack Dorsey in the room, she named and shamed them in front of their peers and the whole world. For how their platforms are undermining democracy, and for how they keep refusing to look that dirty truth in the eyes.

Carole Cadwalladr speaking at TED2019

Carole Cadwalladr speaking at TED2019 – click for video

Influence 1: Public shaming works

Of all the efforts to get these leaders to take action for the havoc their platforms are causing to society, this might be the most powerful one. It reminded me of my favourite quote by the American philosopher Richard Rorty:

“We resent the idea that we shall have to wait for the strong to turn their piggy little eyes to the suffering of the weak, slowly open their dried-up little hearts. We desperately hope there is something stronger and more powerful that will hurt the strong if they do not do these things.”

Rorty argued that the only way to change the behaviour of the ruling elites is to persuade them that it’s in their interest to do the right thing. The robber barons agreed to more human labour laws, only when it became clear that the alternative was a revolution.

Influence 2: We’re suckers for social status

We, humans, are total suckers for social recognition. We’re continually signalling our desired social status to others through our cars, the house we live in, our job titles, our relentless attempts to build and maintain our personal brand on social media, etcetera.

Being wealthy and successful is the highest form of social status you can achieve in Western Society.  The problem is not “success” as such, but the cultural narratives that surround success. One of those dominant narratives is that both success or failure is your achievement. (It’s not, it’s your social background that determines the number of opportunities you will get).

Another one is that the State is bureaucratic and corrupt and you should outsmart the State by paying as little taxes as possible. Being successful is all about out-smarting the State. However, everything that contributes to opportunities and success (the availability of talent, infrastructure, business partners) is being paid for by taxes.

Influence 3: Villify and glorify

Lot’s of people thought it was an absolute disgrace how fast the super-rich in France pledged more than 1 billion (!) Euro for the restoration of the Notre Dame Cathedral. If it’s that easy for them to give away, then why not give all that money to societal and environmental problems, that are in part being caused by their greed? Their behaviour is obscene, and we should remind them of their obscenity.

If you want them to do the right thing, turn them into heroes for doing the right thing. Let’s not do this by applauding them for their philanthropy schemes, but for contributing to the general well-being by paying their taxes. The real heroes of society are all the entrepreneurs who create jobs, contribute to building thriving communities, try to come up with new business ideas to tackle the environmental challenges, etc.

I hope Zuckerberg, Sandberg, Brin and Page opened their piggy little eyes last week at TED19. I hope they are gradually starting to realise that society doesn’t think of them as heroes anymore,  but as the crooks who crippled democracy, just because it made their billionaire shareholders even richer.

Want to learn more?

If you want to master the science of influence yourself, you could consider enrolling in our two-day course Behavioural Design at our SUE | Behavioural Design Academy. You can download the Academy brochure.

Or maybe you currently have a challenge in which you want to influence choice or change behaviour. Please, take a look at our Behavioural Design Sprint. It might be the answer you’re looking for.

Or could be you just would like to get to know us a little better. We happily introduce ourselves here.

Design thinking

What is design thinking?

By | Behavioural Science

Excerpt: In this post, we will explain what design thinking is all about. Originating from the innovation arena, it has gained popularity in other business domains. Driven by the success of design thinking of radically focusing on the needs of the user. The how and why behind design thinking is explained in this article.

 

Design thinking explained

Everybody seems to be design thinking nowadays or has at least have heard of the term. But what is design thinking? Why has it gained so much popularity? Is it something that can help you and your business become more successful? In this article, we will give a short design thinking masterclass. So, you’ll know what everybody is talking about. And you can see for yourself if you want to start implementing design thinking in your own company. We’ll explain how and lead you to some of the best resources on the internet. To make your life a bit easier, we’ve divided the article into several subsections. Which you can jump to by clicking on the following links:

A new approach to innovation and problem solving
Design thinking implementing the process
The steps in the design thinking process
Design thinking tools and videos
Recap

A new approach to innovation and problem solving

Design thinking comes from the field of innovation and is a new approach, or process if you like, to solve problems taking the user as a focus point. The method has been described as far back as 1969 by Nobel laureate Herbert Simon. But it really made a lift when d.school of Stanford University came up with a five-step approach to design thinking. Which was given a boost by Tim Brown of IDEO, and explained in his bestselling book ‘Change by Design‘. In this article, we’ll describe their approach, as it is most commonly used nowadays, and very practical to implement yourself.

design thinking

It’s all about human understanding

Design thinking revolves around a deep interest in developing a deep human understanding of the people for whom we’re designing products or services. It helps you question and enables you to resist to act upon (often wrong) assumptions. Design thinking is extremely useful in tackling problems that are ill-defined or complex. By re-framing the question in human-centric ways. Design thinking is so successful because it focuses on the needs of the user. Understanding culture and context through observation and qualitative research (storytelling) diagnosing the right problem.

Okay, that sounds nice and all. But why do we need this? To put things short, we all think in patterns. We all have ways we are used to doing things. Our habits, what we get taught in school, by our parents, and in the business place. Which is fine, as it helps us deal with everyday situations. We can rely on these patterns of thinking.

Automatic behaviour

We need this automatic behaviour to survive. If we had to make every decision consciously. Or had to think about every behaviour rationally. Or had to learn to do everything from scratch over and over again our brains would crash. As we explained in our article about system 1 and 2 thinking of Kahneman. In short, we rely on doing every day – private and business – processes for the most part unconsciously. For example, when we get up in the morning, eat, brush our teeth, and get dressed. We don’t think about it; we do it how we are used to doing it.

There’s one downside to this patterned thinking. It makes it very difficult for us humans to challenge our assumptions of everyday knowledge. Especially when you’re expected to be a paid expert, it can be tough to start questioning your own experience . Also known as the expert fallacy or false authority. So, when we run into a problem that we haven’t faced before. Or that requires a new innovative solution, we often get stuck or come up with old answers that aren’t always the best.

Patterned thinking vs. innovative thinking

Often this difference between repetitive patterned thinking and innovative thinking (also commonly referred to as ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking’) is illustrated by the truck example. Have you heard of it? If not, let us tell you this story.

Some years ago, an incident occurred where a truck driver made a wrong judgment call and tried to pass under a low bridge. That turned out to be too low for his truck. His truck got so firmly lodged under the bridge, that the driver couldn’t manoeuvre the truck through it anymore. But also couldn’t reverse his vehicle. Which not only caused a problem for the truck, but also for the traffic that got stuck behind him. The story goes that the fire department, other truck drivers, road help, and other experts came over to negotiate how to tackle this problem.

Everyone was debating whether to dismantle parts of the truck or break down parts of the bridge. Each spoke of a solution which fitted within his or her respective level of expertise. And this went on for some time.

The story goes, a boy walked by, took a look a the truck and then said, “Why not just let the air out of the tires?”. Which took all specialists and experts by surprise, who were debating for hours trying to solve the problem.

 

design thinking truck

When the solution was tested, the truck was able to drive through quickly. The story symbolises the struggles we face where frequently the most obvious answers are the ones hardest to come by. Because of the thinking patterns we all have within. And it summarised what design thinking helps you realise: design thinking helps you to change the way you tackle problems. It encourages you to explore new alternatives. Creating options that didn’t exist before.

 

Design thinking implementing the process

In this next part, we want to give you a concise design thinking masterclass. It will explain the principles of user-centred design. The first advantage and characteristic of design thinking is that it encourages us to take an integrative approach to develop new strategies or ideas. Whereas in a lot of ideation processes the research department passes on insights to strategic planners. Who in their turn pass their insights on to the creatives. And then the ideas are handed over to production to be made. Design thinking sees insight, ideation, and implementation as three overlapping ‘cycles’. You will also come across to these spaces being called ‘understand’, ‘concept’ and ‘develop’.

Design thinkers don’t follow these three cycles in a strictly linear way. You could pass through every cycle more than once. Could be you have an idea, but after prototyping your idea with real users, you come to learn they don’t understand it. Or didn’t do what you hoped them to do. Then you have to adapt your ideas. So, you go back to the drawing board.

Build, test, and learn

We always like to say that strategy is nothing more than a hypothesis that you test, build, and learn. We are firm believers the best strategy is developed through ideation and prototyping. Sometimes the feedback you get in prototyping gives you such an extra insight into the consumer decision-making process. That you have to make a perception switch and come to a new understanding that will reshape your strategy. We like to call this process of including and being open to human psychology the concept of strategy development. As opposed to the more inside-out concept of strategic planning.

design thinking

Source: IDEO

The task of a design thinker is to bring all phases together as one harmonious solution. The cool thing – we think – is when you have the design thinkers mindset you break through silos. Whereas the researchers, the creatives, and the strategic thinkers often work in different departments. Now you get to go through all cycles yourself with a multidisciplinary team. Which not only makes your work more interesting but especially makes sure a lot of valuable insights aren’t lost in the process of handing things over to the next department. Design thinking is an integrative approach that adds value and fun. And which is a springboard for innovative, smart thinking that puts humans first.

 

 

The steps in design thinking

Let’s dive a bit deeper into the stages of the design thinking process. There are five steps in total:

  • Empathy

    The first step of the design thinking process is called empathy. You try to understand human psychology and try to find out why people make decisions. The goal is to gain an empathic understanding of the problem you are trying to solve. You could do this in several ways. One of the most reliable methods is observation. Watching what people do.

    Why this is a proven method is because a lot of what people do is sub-conscious. If you’d ask them, they wouldn’t be able you to give you a (correct) answer. But you could also consult experts, extreme users, or do qualitative research to gain a deeper personal understanding of people’s emotions, needs, desires and fears. Empathy is crucial to a human-centred design process as it allows to set aside your assumptions about the world or your target group. It is all about understanding behavioural psychology and identifying behavioural patterns.

  • Define

    In this stage, you put together the information you gathered during the empathy stage. This is where you will analyse your observations and refine and focus the problem you are trying to solve based on what you found while empathizing with your user. We often tend to define the problem inside-out. For example: “We need to gain 5% more market share in gym subscriptions by the end of next year”. But the whole point of design thinking is that you start thinking outside-in. So, your problem definition should also be human-centred. For example: “We need to help people to build the healthy habit of coming to the gym so fewer people will quit”.

  • Ideate

    This is the stage where you try to come up with as many as possible solutions to your problem. Several techniques have proven to be very useful like ‘brainwriting‘ or the ‘crazy eight‘. It is essential to get as many ideas or problem solutions as possible at the beginning of the ideation phase. Behavioural research done to research the effectiveness of teams have shown that individuals are best at coming up with as many diverse ideas as possible, whereas a group is best at picking the most promising ideas. A technique used for this is called dotmocracy. If you’re interested in unlocking more creative power from a group, you could read our post ‘3 techniques that will supercharge your team’s creativity“.

  • Prototype

    Prototyping is all about learning. Your job is now the make some inexpensive, scaled down versions of your idea that can be shared and tested with the actual users. There are several ways to prototype. You can write value propositions on a page; you can make a first landing page, you can create a storyboard or sketches. This is an experimental phase, so it’s not about making the perfect prototype. It’s about making a prototype that will help you gather valuable user feedback.

  • Test

    We go about the testing phase by doing qualitative interviews with our end users or potential target group we are trying to influence. Very important to remember to tell and not sell. You’re not at the stage of convincing someone yet; you are here to learn where your product, service, idea, etc. needs improvement. Which parts are unclear? What turns out to be the killer feature? All the test insights will be used to do an ideation round again to optimise the idea based on real user feedback.

 

design thinkingSource: IDEO

 

Design thinking tools and videos

There are a lot of tools and techniques to use to make every step of the design thinking process worthwhile. The masters of design thinking are the people of IDEO, and they did us all a massive favour by developing a design thinking toolkit that they’ve put online for all of us to use. Google has also put a great designsprintkit online. Just take a look in there, and see which tools you like.

One of the founders of IDEO, David Kelley, has given an hour long interview explaining his view on design thinking. You can watch it here:

IDEO has also made a series of videos explaining the mindsets design thinkers should have.

1. Iterate, iterate, iterate featuring Gaby Brink (1.16 min.)

2. Empathy (1.26 min.)

3. Creative Confidence featuring David Kelley (11.47 min.)

4. Embrace ambiguity featuring Patrice Martin (1.19 min.)

5. Learn from failure featuring Tim Brown.

 

 

6. Optimism featuring John Bielenburg (1.18 min.)

 

 

 

Recap

Design thinking is a process to come up with truly innovative ideas that are radically human-centred. The five-step approach of empathy, define, ideate, prototype and test help you to find solutions to problems with an outside-in view. Tapping into the consciousness and sub-conscious of your potential users. And helping you to validate your ideas before the money runs out.

Would you like to learn more?

If you want to master design thinking powered up with the science of influence yourself, you could consider enrolling in our two-day course Behavioural Design at our SUE | Behavioural Design Academy. You can download the Academy brochure. Or maybe you currently have a challenge in which you want to influence choice or change behaviour. Please, take a look at our Behavioural Design Sprint. It might be the answer you’re looking for.

Or could be you just would like to get to know us a little better. We happily introduce ourselves here.

Nudging explained

By | Behavioural Science

Excerpt: In this post, we will highlight the main concepts from the work of Nobel prize winner Richard Thaler as explained in his bestselling book ‘Nudge.’ We will explain what nudging is all about, how it related to behavioural economics and how you can use it to influence people and help them make better choices.

 

Nudging means

The term nudging seems to be popping up everywhere nowadays. People are being nudged, nudge units are set-up within governments, and nudging in marketing seems to pick up in popularity. But what is nudging all about? What does nudging mean? And from which underlying science does it derive? And especially how does it help people make better choices? Questions that will all be answered in this article. To make your reading life easier, we’ve divided the article into several subsections, which you can jump to easily:

Nudging Theory and Behavioural Economics
Making choices: Choice architecture
Making better and healthy choices
Recap

Nudging theory and Behavioural Economics

Nudging comes from the field of behavioural economics. Although behavioural economics is a science that is studied for almost forty years, it was the book ‘Nudge’ written by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein in 2008 that put nudging on the map. In Nudge, Thaler and Sunstein propose us a new take on decision making, one that takes our humanness and all the inconsistent decisions we make as a given.

nudging

Behavioural economists, as opposed to traditional economists, take human irrationality as a starting point. The basic assumptions of behavioural economics are that people are making choices with:

  • Limited rationality
  • Limited willpower
  • Bounded self-interest

Traditional economics vs. behavioural economics

Whereas traditional economics see people as rational beings, who make decisions and do cost/benefit analyses to make a choice that is always in their best interest not letting their emotions cloud their judgments, and always thinking about the future. Behavioural economists overthrow this, as it doesn’t fit the actual behaviour of people. You see people choose mortgages they shouldn’t be taking. You see people overspent on their credit cards. There are stock bubbles. Where’s the rationality in that? We are humans whose decisions are driven by cognitive bias and sub-conscious mental shortcuts, as we explain in this post on Daniel Kahneman whose research laid the foundation of all behavioural economics.

In the book ‘Nudge’ is also explained that being human, we all are susceptible to various biases that can lead us to blunder. Our mistakes make us poorer and less healthy; we often make bad decisions involving education, personal finance, health care, mortgages and credit cards, the family, and even the planet itself.

nudging

The main concept of the book is that if you know how people think, you can design choice environments that make it easier for people to choose what is best for themselves, their families, and their society. It’s all about choice architecture. An important concept that we’ll explain in the next paragraph.

But before we dive deeper into choice architecture, it’s good to know that there lies a very important concept underneath the nudging theory. A concept introduced in the book called Libertarian Paternalism.

  • Libertarian = An individual’s right to choose
  • Paternalism = Do what you can do to improve the welfare of people. Point people in the right direction.

Definition of a nudge

The idea is to apply the techniques of the psychology of decision making and behavioural economics to improve decisions without limited choices. Or easier put, help people make better choices for themselves without restricting their freedom of choice. But by nudging them. Which brings us to the definition of a nudge. As Thaler describes it himself a nudge is any small feature in the environment that attracts our attention and alters our behaviour.

You can nudge for good, or you can nudge for evil. Their book strongly focuses on the first, as the subtitle of their book states: improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness. And we as a company take a positive take on behavioural psychology ourselves as we strongly live by our mission to unlock the power of behavioural psychology to nudge people into making positive choices in work, life, and play. But how do you achieve this goal? That’s what the next section is all about: how to help people make better and healthy choices.

Making choices: choice architecture

If you want to help people making better decisions, you can achieve this with better choice architecture. But what is a choice architecture? Anyone who designs the environment in which people make choices is a choice architect. There’s choice architecture all around you. Think about menus, curriculums, or store layouts that decide how you walk inside a store (you probably all have been in an Ikea once, there it’s obvious how choice architects have designed the way you cruise the Scandinavian furniture epicenter).

A choice architect makes choices about how to present information or an environment for you.  Although nudging is all about maintaining people’s freedom of choice, choice architecture isn’t neutral. You can compare it to regular architecture; it’s not possible to design regular neutral architecture. Think about the design of the building you’re probably in right now: it’s not possible to have designed that building completely neutral. It had to have doors, stairs, etc.

Choice architecture is not neutral

The same goes for choice architecture, it affects how people make choices, and you have to make a choice yourself on how you present a choice. Richard Thaler often refers to the example of cafeteria meal planning. They found out that the way food was presented to kids in a school cafeteria effected what they would eat for lunch. The first choice presented to them was the prevalent choice. Someone responsible for the cafeteria then has several options:

  • Put the healthy options first, to promote more healthy eating behaviour
  • Start with the unhealthy options, to make kids more fat (could be he/she has a chubby kid and wants other kids to gain weight too, to stop the bullying)
  • Go for the most profitable as first option, to make the finance director happy
  • Present the food randomly, which is also a choice (confusing, but a choice)

The point is: you always have to make a choice. Choice architecture is not neutral. But some designs are better than others. Why not do it in a way that makes people feel better? That’s what nudging is all about, and which is the theme of the book ‘Nudge’ to help people towards making better choices.

Making better and healthy choices

In the book ‘Nudge’ they explain six principles of good choice architecture that will help people make better and healthy choices:

  • Incentives

    People make better decisions if you provide the right people with the right incentives. This goes beyond monetary and material incentives, but also includes psychological benefits (eg peace of mind).

  • Understand mappings

    A warm plea is made for more disclosure to help people make better decisions. In the book referred to as RECAP: Record, Evaluate, and Compare Alternative Prices. Make it easier for customers to compare what they are truly paying for, and ensure that all hidden fees are exposed.

  • Defaults

    Defaults what happens if we do nothing. Think about your screensaver. Even if you do nothing it will activate. Defaults are sticky, as inertia rules in all humans. We tend to stick to the automatic choice that’s made for us. We for example hardly ever change factory settings on our phone. In Nudge an example is given about joining a retirement savings plan. If the default is to join, most people do join. If you have to actively choose to join only 30% does so.

  • Give feedback

    A good way to help humans improve their decision making is to provide feedback. A good example is the Ambient Orb as developed by Clive Thompson that helped people save energy. Electricity isn’t visible, the ambient orb gives feedback on how well you’re doing by changing colour. Another example of giving feedback is paint that is pink when you apply it, but turns white within an hour. People often paint white ceilings white again, and it’s hard to see if you missed a spot. By making the paint pink, it gives you immediate feedback on what is left to paint.

ambient orb

nudging ambient orb

nudging paint

Magic white paint

  • Expect error

    Expect people to make mistakes and design for it. A very good example of libertarian paternalism that actually saves lives are the ‘look right’ signs in London streets. You can still watch the wrong way, but you’re directed to look the right way.

look right London

nudging look right

  • Structure complex choices
    When there’s an overload on choice, people tend to find ways to simplify them and break them down. Good choice architecture will find ways to make this more evident for people. An example cited was the choice of paint. Instead of using words like “Roasted Sesame Seed” or “Kansas Grain,” consider arranging similar colour themes next to each other. This could help people to choose the right shades and hues.

Recap

You could recap the Nudge theory like this:

  1. Humans are imperfect we can use all the help we can get
  2. It’s possible to improve choices without restricting options
  3. Don’t use bans and mandates, just nudge.

If you want to hear Richard Thaler explain the basic concept of nudging himself, take a look at this video. It’s 18 minutes.

Would you like to learn more?

If you want to master the science of influence yourself, you could consider enrolling in our two-day course Behavioural Design at our SUE | Behavioural Design Academy. You can download the Academy brochure. Or maybe you currently have a challenge in which you want to influence choice or change behaviour. Please, take a look at our Behavioural Design Sprint. It might be the answer you’re looking for.

Or could be you just would like to get to know us a little better. We happily introduce ourselves here.

mental models

Cialdini Influence in practice

By | Behavioural Science

Excerpt: In this post, we want to give some examples of how to use Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion in practice. Well, we won’t explain all the principles ourselves, but Cialdini will do so too. Some of the persuasion principles come with a video in which Dr. Cialdini explains the principle himself. If you want a more extensive explanation the work of Cialdini on the psychology of influence, please make sure to read this post that will give you a recap of his work as published in his bestselling book ‘Influence.’

 

6 Universal Principles of Persuasion

In his book, Robert Cialdini uncovered 6 Universal Principles of Persuasion. Shortcuts that our brain uses to make decisions, or in Cialdini’s words shortcuts that make people ‘say yes.’ What makes the work of Prof. Cialdini so interesting is that he shows influence at work. He translates scientific research in the area of behavioural design and human psychology into practical business applications. His widely acclaimed studies are highly instructive to those who want to be more influential.

The six universal principles of persuasion (POP), also called the principles of influence are:

  • Reciprocity
  • Scarcity
  • Authority
  • Consistency
  • Liking
  • Consensus or Social Proof

In this post, you’ll find a series of videos in which Robert Cialdini explains the persuasion principles himself on various business conferences. It’s, therefore, a showcase how broadly his thinking can be used in practice.

Persuasion Principle 1: Reciprocity

“People say yes to those who have given to them first.” In this short 3.16 minute video, Cialdini tells about the social norm that exists across cultures that explains why the reciprocity principle helps to influence people’s behaviour. Who would think that remembering someone’s birthday could be so important if you want people to remember yours? You’ll know after watching this video.

 

To summarize: give what you want to receive. If a colleague needs help, and you can ‘lend’ him one of your team members, you’ll get his help later.

 

Persuasion Principle 2: Scarcity

People want to have what is scarce. How can you use this in daily business? There have been several examples of the scarcity principle working simply by saying something will be limited. There’s been an example that when British Airways announced that they would no longer fly to London – New York twice a week with the Concorde as too little passengers were using the service, sales took off the next day. Nothing changed about the Concorde, it became scarce and therefore wanted.

You can also use the scarcity principle by using exclusive information to persuade. Influence and rivet key players’ attention by saying for example ‘just got this information today.’

 

Persuasion Principle 3: Authority

“People are very willing to follow the lead of an authority. Suppose you are that authority? The implication is that you need to your background, experience, and credentials in the minds of the people you want to influence before you begin the process of influence”. This is how Cialdini starts his explanation of the principle of persuasion called ‘authority’. To sum it up, the principle shows that if an expert says it, it must be true. You can watch the 3.20-minute video here:

 

Don’t assume your expertise is self-evident. Instead, establish your expertise before doing business with new team members or clients. In conversations before a meeting, describe how you solved a problem similar to the one on the agenda.

Persuasion Principle 4: Consistency

If you want to get the loyalty of people that don’t quite trust you yet, the best way is to make them commit to something. Use the foot in the door technique where a small request paves the way for compliance with larger subsequent requests. To fully use the long-lasting power of commitment and consistency:

  1. Make people commit to something small first, making it easier to follow-up with larger requests;
  2. Try to showcase their choices to the public, so that they’re now accountable to everyone else;
  3. Get them to put in as much effort as possible, so that they’ll perceive the results as more worthwhile.

Persuasion Principle 5: Liking

“The number one rule of sales is to get your customer to like you. That’s true, but I am going to give it the status of the number two rule of sales. Here’s the number one rule in my view. It is not to get your customer to like you; it’s come to like your customer”. This is how Cialdini starts his keynote speech on the Australasian Real Estate Conference. Watch this 4.46-minute video, and you’ll know exactly what Cialdini sees as the psychology of persuasion when talking about the persuasion principle ‘liking’ and how you can use it to boost sales.

How do you get to like your customer, client, patient or user? By using the same tools, you can use for them to like you. You try to discover similarities. If you find something about someone you truly admire, you are going to like that person more. It’s all about having empathy. The key skill every behavioural designer should have. But it has to be genuine. It has to be true. This is how you can make sure you’ll find a genuine reason to like your ‘public.’ Cialdini explains this in this 5.02-minute video.

In short: to influence people, win friends through similarity. Create any bonds with peers, bosses and direct reports by informally discovering interests. And praise: charm and disarm, make positive remarks about others.

 

Persuasion Principle 6: Consensus/Social Proof

People follow what those around them are doing. In this video, Cialdini explains the principle of social proof. He uses the case about reusing towels in hotels. What’s very interesting is that he makes a clear distinction between cooperation and social proof. Want to know why cooperation didn’t work, and social proof did? Watch this 6.01-minute video taken on a pharmaceutical conference in Las Vegas.

 

And to add on to this, a very short video (0.55 minutes) in which Cialdini explains the door hanger experiment, that showed how social proof could help people save energy.

How can you use social proof in another way? Use peer power. For example, ask an esteemed ‘old timer’ in your company to support your new initiative or plan.

 

Would you like to learn more?

Be sure to also check out our posts on the work of Kahneman and BJ Fogg. Two of the other significant scientists from the field of human-centered thinking and behavioural psychology.

If you want to master the science of influence yourself, you could consider enrolling in our two-day course Behavioural Design at our SUE | Behavioural Design Academy. You can download the Academy brochure. Or maybe you currently have a challenge in which you want to influence choice or change behaviour. Please, take a look at our Behavioural Design Sprint. It might be the answer you’re looking for.

Or could be you just would like to get to know us a little better. We happily introduce ourselves here.

Cialdini on persuasion

By | Behavioural Science

Excerpt: In this post, we will introduce you to the work of Dr. Robert Cialdini. Who is an expert on how to influence people. And in the psychology of persuasion. In his bestselling book, ‘Influence‘ Cialdini identifies six principles of persuasion. And explains the psychology of why people say “yes”.  And how to apply these understandings in real life.

However, this isn’t so much an article, more a reference post for anyone who wants a quick overview of Cialdini’s work on the persuasion principles. Or wants to reread one of them. That’s why we’ve have divided this post into sections. So you can easily jump to the subject of your interest.

6 Universal Principles of Influence
Reciprocity
Scarcity
Authority
Consistency
Liking
Consensus or Social Proof
How to use the Principles of Influence

6 Universal Principles of Influence

Robert Cialdini’s work can be considered as adding on to the work of Daniel Kahneman. Kahneman discovered what laid the foundation in all thinking about behavioural psychology and behavioural economics. We used to think that we are all rational thinking human-beings. Using information at hand to make a decision. But for the most part, we rely on emotional thinking. The majority of our choices are automatic and based on so-called shortcuts.

In his book Robert Cialdini uncovered six shortcuts that he calls ‘universals that guide human behaviour,’ they are:

  • Reciprocity
  • Scarcity
  • Authority
  • Consistency
  • Liking
  • Consensus or Social Proof

When using these shortcuts, Robert Cialdini states you can make people say ‘yes’ to about anything. Also called persuasion. The action or process of persuading someone or of being persuaded to do or believe something. That’s also the reason why he stresses to employ the persuasion principles an ethical manner.

Unlock the power of behavioural psychology for positive choices

Which is something we can only stress once more. Behavioural science is a powerful tool. If you know how people think, and how they make decisions, you can influence their behaviour. Our company mission is to unlock the power of behavioural psychology to nudge people into making more positive choices in work, life, and play. We help people grow through change. And true change is all about behaviour. You have to stop doing the things that hold you back. And you have to start doing the things that will propel you forward.

Why we love the work of Cialdini is that he brought the psychology of influence into practice. Like ethical sales, marketing, management, and business applications. He explains the psychology of why people say ‘yes’. And how to apply these understandings in daily life. Cialdini ‘s 6 Universal Principles of Influence were based on three “undercover” years. Applying for and training at used car dealerships, fund-raising organizations, and telemarketing firms to observe real-life situations of persuasion.

Reciprocity

The reciprocation rule essentially states that if someone gives something to us, we feel obligated to repay that debt. Could be we give back to others in the form of behaviour, a gift, or service. Key to using the Principle of Reciprocity is to be the first to give. And to ensure that what you give is personalized and unexpected.

In his book, Cialdini illustrates this principle with an example you have probably have experienced yourself. The fact you get candy or peppermint with your restaurant bill. They have done a series of experiments in restaurants. To see if this phenomenon of giving a little gift together with the bill had any effect in influencing the amount of tip given. To trigger the obligation to do something back. This is what happened.

The mint tipping example

When a single mint was given with the bill and the end of a meal, tipping amounts generally rose with 3%. Interestingly, if the gift is doubled and two mints are giving, tips didn’t double. They quadrupled to a 14% increase in tips. What turned out to be the most effective in influencing people using reciprocity? If the waiter gave just one mint, started to walk away from the table, but paused, and turned back. And said, “For you nice people, here’s an extra mint,”. Tips went through the roof. A 23% increase, influenced not by what was given, but how it was given. It feels personalized. And it’s unexpected.

You can imagine that using the principle of reciprocity can also improve sales effectiveness. Most of the times we’re not aware how the principles of influence work. But they drive how we make choices. And it once again shows the power of the subconscious mind Kahneman has illustrated so beautifully.

 

cialdini reciprocity

Scarcity

People want more of those things they can have less of. That’s why for example you see so many websites using cues that stress the scarcity of a product or service. Deal times that are running out. The number of rooms left. Only two days to go, etc. Time pressure enhances the feeling of scarcity. And it even increases the perceived value of things.

When it comes to effectively persuading others using the scarcity principle, it’s not enough to tell people about the benefits they’ll gain.  You’ll also need to be very clear about what is unique about your proposal. And what they stand to lose if they don’t buy your product or service.

cialdini scarcity

Authority

This is the idea that people follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts. What Cialdini tells us is that it’s important to signal to others what makes you a credible, knowledgeable authority. You have to do this before you make your influence attempt. That can be done in different ways. Diplomas on your wall help. Wearing a uniform also does the trick. And being introduced to someone as an expert does work too.

In his book, Cialdini discusses and example of authority on his website this that is very interesting (the example is directly taken from his website). A group of real estate agents was able to increase both the number of property appraisals and the number of contracts. By making sure the reception staff who answered customer phone calls to first mention their colleagues’ credentials and expertise.

So, people interested in letting a property were told “Lettings? Let me connect you with Sandra, who has over 15 years’ experience letting properties in this area.” Customers who wanted more information about selling properties were told “Speak to Peter, our head of sales. He has over 20 years’ experience selling properties. I’ll put you through now.” This is designing a customer experience that is actually behaviour driven design that can boost your sales.

cialdini authority

Consistency

People like to be consistent with the things they have previously said or done. If you did A, you are inclined to do A (and not B). This has to do with the fact that our brain is always looking to reduce our mental stress. And it’s less stressful for our brain to be consistent. Daniel Kahneman has explained in-depth how this works in our brain if you want to know more about this check out this post.

How can you use this in influence people? Get someone to do, preferably a public or written, commitment to something. Your chances of influencing that person raise dramatically. Easier said if you can make someone say ‘yes’ to something it works wonders. An example. People who are conducting street interviews. If they would stop someone on the street, and first ask them ‘Do you consider yourself to be a helpful person?”. And if people said ‘yes,’  they would ask them, would you mind filling in this questionnaire for me? Compliance rates rose from 27% to 70%. People wanted to be consistent with their first answer. In other words, you can change attitudes towards something by using this principle of consistency.

Cialdini gives another example of commitment in his book. In a study, they found out that the number of missed appointments at health centers was reduced by 18%. Simply by asking the patients themselves to write down appointment details on the appointment card. Instead of the doctor assistants who would normally do this.

 

cialdini consistency

Liking

People are more inclined to say ‘yes’ to people they like. But how can you increase motivation for people like you? How can you influence people’s thoughts and behaviour towards yourself? The science of persuasion gives three very clear answers to this. People tend to like you more if:

  1. You are similar to them
  2. Pay people compliments
  3. If you cooperate with them towards a mutual goals

In short, you can behavioural design the perception of yourself by using the principle of liking.

 

cialdini liking

Consensus or Social Proof

Social proof is a psychological and social phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behaviour in a given situation. Social proof is considered prominent in ambiguous social situations. Where people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behaviour. And is driven by the assumption that the surrounding people possess more knowledge about the current situation (Wikipedia).

In other words, as Dr. Cialdini puts it “Especially when people are uncertain, people will look to the actions and behaviours of others to determine their own”. Telling people the number of people that have already bought your product. Or the number of people that were happy with your service works. For example you can also design behaviour by referring to others who were in a similar situation as the person you are trying to influence. A well-known example is the research on towel re-usage in hotel rooms. By doing one small addition on the little information card that can be found in the hotel rooms. Stating that ‘75% of people staying in this room, reused their towels’ the towel re-usage rate increased with 33%.

 

cialdini social proof

 

To round things off, this is a short video explaining the six principles in a fun and easy to understand way. Made by Influence at Work and narrated by Dr. Robert Cialdini:

 

How to use the Principles of Influence

We’ve made an overview of the six universal principles of influence. And joined them with the way you could apply them. Hopefully giving you a bird’s eye view on how to use the principles to influence people. We use the principles in combination with BJ Fogg’s Behavior model to boost motivation and ability.

cialdini influence

We have also made an overview of the more practical usage of the principles in daily life and business.

Would you like to learn more?

If you want to master the science of influence yourself, you could consider enrolling in our two-day course Behavioural Design at our SUE | Behavioural Design Academy. You can download the Academy brochure. Or maybe you currently have a challenge in which you want to influence choice or change behaviour. Please, take a look at our Behavioural Design Sprint. It might be the answer you’re looking for.

Or could be you just would like to get to know us a little better. We happily introduce ourselves here.

 

Motivation: explained by BJ Fogg

By | Behavioural Science

Excerpt: In our post ‘BJ Fogg Model explained‘ we have given a concise explanation of the BJ Fogg Behavior Model, which is a persuasion knowledge model. This post is for those who want to dive a bit deeper into the motivation axes of the model. There are a lot of theories of motivation, and there is more than one motivation model. What is so interesting about BJ Fogg’s work is that he has developed a framework that takes human psychology and behavioural design as a starting point.

 

Motivation explained

In his Behavior Model motivation is one of the three elements – together with ability and trigger – that is needed to change behaviour. Should we love in a perfect world, your user or target group already is motivated to show the behaviour you’d like him or her to engage in. If that’s the case, your job is to make sure the desired behaviour gets easier to do (working on ability). And making sure someone is triggered to act. But if someone isn’t highly motivated, he probably won’t engage in the wanted behaviour.

If you want to understand behaviour from a human-centered point of view, you must understand, as BJ Fogg puts it, that “Motivation has one role in life, to help us so hard things. If it isn’t hard, you don’t need motivation.

BJ Fogg’s advice is to always start at making the desired behaviour easier. As our brains love simplicity and it takes away the burden of being motivated.

 

BJ Fogg

Image credit AZ Quotes

 

But you can also boost motivation and sometimes you simply have to. We use Cialdini’s persuasion principles to do so. But what is BJ Fogg talking about when he is talking about motivation? In short, he has identified three types of core motivators all with two sides to them. We’ll explain them here and finish off with insights from Dr. Fogg on when it is best to motivate someone.

 

Core motivator 1: Sensation

The first core motivator is called sensation and can be divided into two: pleasure and pain. What differentiates this motivator from those that follow is that the result of this motivator is immediate, or nearly so. There’s little thinking or anticipating. People are responding to what’s happening at the moment. Pleasure/pain is a primitive response, and it functions adaptively in hunger, sex, and other activities related to self-preservation and propagation.

 

Core motivator 2: Anticipation

The second core motivator is called anticipation and also has two sides to it: hope and fear. This dimension is characterized by anticipation of an outcome. Hope is the anticipation of something good happening. Fear is the anticipation of something bad, often the anticipation of loss. This dimension is at times more powerful than pleasure/pain, as is evidenced in everyday behaviour. For example, in some situations, people will accept pain (a flu shot) to overcome fear (anticipation of getting the flu).

 

Core motivator 3: Belonging

This dimension controls much of our social behaviour, from the clothes we wear to the language we use. It’s clear that people are motivated to do things that win them social acceptance. Perhaps even more dramatically, people are motivated to avoid being socially rejected.

 

How to motivate someone

Whether you need to work on consumer motivation behaviour or organization motivation behaviour, motivation works the same. The basis you have to start from is to be very specific about the behaviour you want people to do. Don’t say ‘Exercise more,’ but say ‘Do 20 minutes of exercise two times a week”. Don’t say “Eat healthy food,” but say something like “Eat one piece of fruit every day to finish off your lunch.”

This is where motivation comes in, select a specific behaviour that your customers already want to do or pick a behaviour that will help them achieve an outcome that they really want. For example. People may not want to exercise (behaviour), but the result they are looking for with the exercising is for example ‘fitting in their wedding dress’ (outcome). Finding the underlying motivation is also called Job-to-be-Done thinking as developed by Clayton Christensen at Harvard Business School.
Coming back to what BJ Fogg said that motivation has only one role, to make hard things easier, it’s not that motivation doesn’t matter. But you don’t simply layer motivation over something you want people to do. As BJ Fogg puts it, you have to be motivation matching. It needs to match what people already want to do. But sometimes you have cases in which you do have to insert motivation into the situation to get people to do something.

When to motivate someone

According to Dr. Fogg, the moment in which you ask someone to do the specific behaviour (trigger moment) is very important. We all have what he calls ‘motivation waves.’ We have all experienced this. Sometimes we get excited about something. It could be something positive, like you watching the Olympics on TV and you think I am going to go out do some exercising myself. Or you watch a family movie, and you think I am going to spend more time with my kid. Or it could be something negative such as a report of a traffic accident on the 8 o’clock news, and you think I have got to get an emergency kit in my car. During those situations, you go through a motivation wave.

Important to know is that as your motivation goes up, you are able to do harder things. When the wave comes back down as it does, you are less able to do hard things.

motivation wave

In short, there are temporary opportunities to make people (or yourself) do hard things. From a business perspective, this means when your customer, your member, your patient, your user is way up surfing the motivation wave that’s the perfect time to trigger them to do hard things.

And you need to do it quickly before the wave goes down, as it will. People are not constantly motivated to exercise or to spend more time with their kid. It will go away, just like a wave comes down. To link it to Kahneman’s work for those who are familiar with this. Motivation has a more cognitive, rational thinking side to it, as ability is all system 1. Smart ability interventions make people do things without thinking.

In this video BJ Fogg briefly explains the concept himself:

 

How motivation meets ability

If you don’t have to do hard things you don’t need much motivation. But let’s face it: some things are really hard to get started with. Let’s say exercising regularly or losing weight. If you want someone to show hard behaviour, their motivation has to be high. When motivation is low, they are simply not going to do it. If you want to persuade someone to do hard behaviour you have to wait for a motivation wave. That’s a hot trigger moment. So be ready for it.

 

But the wave is one thing. The most effective persuasion strategy is to be there at the peak of a motivation wave and get someone started down the path of achieving hard behaviour, step-by-step. Maybe you’ve heard of the concept of baby steps. It’s exactly this. As motivation doesn’t always stay up, what you need to do if you want to change behaviour is to get people to do hard things on the top of the motivation wave that will make future good behaviours easier to do.

 

Think about the exercising or living healthy example. When you are riding the motivation wave for example after seeing sports on TV, it is the best moment for you to go out to buy yourself a yoga mat, get a water bottle and buy fruit. All ability interventions. When your wave drops again, it doesn’t really matter. Your motivation then doesn’t have to be high to make a healthy choice, you have made the desired behaviour easier. You have your water bottle on your desk, fruit in front of you and your yoga mat at home. It’s simple to act more healthy in the future. It feels like a baby step rather than a big leap. And it helps create new routines and habits.

Competing behaviours and motivation

Sometimes you don’t lose motivation, but there is a competing behaviour. We all have several motivation waves at the time that require different behaviour. For example, we can be very motivated to go exercise, but when you get a call from school that your kid has the flu, you’ll be more highly motivated to get your son or daughter then going to the gym (I hope). We assess which behaviour is more important at the time, all the time. In short, we are all choosing between competing behaviours.
That makes it all the more important to make those baby steps, as you can still take the baby steps, the tiny small things even when something else is grabbing your attention.

 

Would you like to learn more?

If you want to master the science of influence yourself, you could consider enrolling in our two-day course Behavioural Design at our SUE | Behavioural Design Academy. You can download the Academy brochure. Or maybe you currently have a challenge in which you want to influence choice or change behaviour. Please, take a look at our Behavioural Design Sprint. It might be the answer you’re looking for.

Or could be you just would like to get to know us a little better. We happily introduce ourselves here.

BJ Fogg model explained

By | Behavioural Science

Excerpt: this is a reference page on which you can find an explanation of the Behavior Model as developed by professor BJ Fogg who founded the Standford Persuasive Tech Lab. His model shows that it takes three elements to be present at the same time: motivation, ability and a trigger to be able to change behaviour. It’s such an elegant and easy to understand model that we use it on a daily basis to come up with solutions that will lead to positive behaviour.

 

BJ Fogg model

On this page, we want to give you an introduction to  BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model. Professor Fogg is one of the grounding fathers of the scientifical research in behavioral psychology. Maybe you have heard of the concept persuasive technology or even persuasive design. The BJ Fogg Behaviour model is a smart and easy-to-use tool in this field of expertise. It explains which three buttons you need to push to be able to persuade someone into doing something. Or as BJ Fogg explains it himself three elements that have to be present at the same time to change behaviour: motivation, ability, and trigger.

Advocate in using behavioural psychology for the positive

Important side note to this is that BJ Fogg is a very strong advocate of using insights into human psychology for the positive. And so are we. Our founding mission is to unlock the power of behavioural psychology to nudge people into making positive choices in work, life, and play. Behavioral psychology or behavioural design is a very powerful tool for changing people’s behaviour, let’s all use it for helping people to engage in a better behaviour.

This isn’t so much an article, but more a reference page that you can consult whenever you want to know more or reread about the BJ Fogg model. To make your life a bit easier we have created page sections, so you can easily jump to a particular subject that is of particular interest to you. We also have included links into this page to more detailed information if you want to dive a bit deeper. The page sections:

BJ Fogg Behavior Model explained
Triggers
Motivation
Ability

BJ Fogg Behavior Model explained

We love working with the Behavior Model because of its elegance. There’s a lot of research on behavioural psychology, and there are a lot of models on behaviour change out there, but things can get pretty complicated. BJ Fogg has made understanding what triggers people to change behaviour very simple. This makes his model very easy to use on a daily basis. What does the model look like?

Bottom line is this: Behavior = motivation x ability x trigger. When the desired behaviour does not happen, at least one of those three elements is missing. The most important implication of this is that using the Fogg Behavior Model (FBM) as a guide; you can quickly identify what stops people from performing behaviours that you seek. Also known as the desired behaviour.

If a sufficient degree of motivation to perform a behaviour is matched with the ability to do that behavior, all that is then needed for the behaviour to occur is a trigger. Illustrated in the model as the activation threshold. Triggers placed on the right-hand side of the threshold will lead to behaviour change, triggers to the left will probably show no behaviour change.

Three simple questions to ask

What makes the model so easy to use in practice, is that anytime you want to understand better why a behaviour isn’t happening, all you have to do is ask yourself three simple questions to spot what is lacking for behaviour change to happen:

  1. Is someone motivated enough?
  2. Does someone have the capabilities of performing the desired behaviour?
  3. Did we remind them/ask them to perform the desired behaviour?

Let’s discuss an example. Think about quitting smoking. If someone doesn’t want to stop smoking (low motivation). You can trigger him all you want, but nothing will happen, as quitting smoking is very hard to do (low ability). You’ll end up on the lower right side of the model. If someone is very highly motivated to quit smoking. It is still very hard to do (low ability). So, you should think about how you could make it easier for this person (higher ability). An answer could be by thinking about baby steps. Making the desired behaviour easier by breaking up the desired behaviour in easier to perform steps.

For example putting a button (trigger) on a stop smoking website to easily order free ‘stop smoking patches’ (easy to do, or higher ability). Someone can quickly start with sticking on these patches. And from there on you can persuade him or her to do something harder (example reducing the number of cigarettes smoked on a day).

In the next sections, we will explain the separate elements of the model in some more depth, starting with triggers.

Fogg on Triggers

A trigger is easily put a cue or call to action that causes someone to perform a certain behaviour. A trigger should be noticeable and actionable. In other words, you should be able to spot the trigger (could be with one of all your senses), and you should know what to do when seeing the trigger. A very known trigger is a traffic light. You see it. We all know we have to stop when the light is turned red. And we know we can drive when the light is green.

Another trigger that probably sets yourself in action multiple times a day is that little red notification on your mobile. You see it, and you know what to do: check your email.

But if someone comes up to you and reaches out his hand to you, that’s a trigger too. You see it, and you know it is meant for you to shake his hand.

What’s important to remember is that if you want to change behaviour, you have to trigger the behaviour. Without a trigger, someone can be very motivated and have the ability to perform the behaviour, but there’s simply no call to action.

BJ Fogg has a beautiful expression; he says that our job as a behavioural designer is ‘to put hot triggers in the path of motivated people.’ Which brings us nicely to the next section: motivation.

 

Fogg on Motivation

There are a lot of theories of motivation out there, most of them explain how motivation is the key concept needed to change attitude, which then leads to behaviour change. What is so interesting about behavioural psychology is that it has unraveled the fact that it works the other way around. People tend to change their attitudes to be consistent with the behaviour they have performed. In other words, if you can trigger certain behaviour, you can change attitudes.

This has everything to do with our brains constantly working hard for us to lower our cognitive overload. And being consistent is one of the mechanisms that help us do that. If you’d like to get some more in-depth insights into the workings of our brain in decision making, make sure to check out our post about system 1 and 2 thinking of Kahneman.

When motivation is high, you can get people to do hard things

But let’s get back to motivation as used in the BJ Fogg model. Motivation in his model is also not about changing attitudes; it is all about changing behaviour. As a person, you can be highly motivated or low motivated. BJ Fogg has identified three core motivators. But the key idea to remember for now is that when motivation is high, you can get people to do hard things. But once motivation drops then people will only do easy things.

Just think about a situation you might have found yourself in. Have you ever had the intention to eat all day healthily? You’re highly motivated to do so. And then it is 4 pm. You start to get hungry. Someone comes in a puts a bowl of potato chips just within your arm’s reach, and your motivation starts to drop. Before you know it you catch yourself eating the chips. It was made so easy; you have performed the behaviour without you even discussing it with your motivation anymore. But the same goes if someone had put a bowl of cucumber slices near you. You would have eaten the cucumber. Nothing to do with your motivation, but with easy to do things.

Start with ability

Dr. Fogg himself recommends to always start with making the desired behaviour easier instead of starting at motivation. Our brain prefers simplicity, which brings us to ability. But do you want to really grasp the concept of motivation? In this post, we tell you all about motivation as researched by BJ Fogg. We use Cialdini’s persuasion principles to boost ability.

Fogg on Ability

To perform the desired behaviour, a person must have the ability to do so. That seems obvious, of course. But designers of persuasive experiences sometimes assume people have more ability than they do.

There are two paths to increasing ability. You can train people, giving them more skills, more ability to do the target behaviour. That’s the hard path. The better path is to make the target behaviour easier to do. BJ Fogg calls this simplicity. In his model, he sometimes replaces ability with simplicity. By focusing on simplicity of the target behaviour, you increase ability. There are six simplicity factors:

1. Time

If a target behaviour requires time and we don’t have time available, then the behaviour is not simple.

2. Money

For people with limited financial resources, a target behaviour that costs money is not simple. That link in the simplicity chain will break easily. For wealthy people, this link in the chain rarely breaks. In fact, some people will simplify their lives by using the money to save time.

3. Physical effort

Behaviours that require physical effort may not be simple.

4. Brain cycles

If performing a target behaviour causes us to think hard, that might not be simple. This is especially true if our minds are consumed with other issues. We all are busy trying to lower our cognitive overload as explained by Kahneman. We generally overestimate how much everyday people want to think.

5. Social deviance

What is meant by social deviance is going against the norm, breaking the rules of society. If a target behaviour requires you to be socially deviant, then that behaviour is no longer simple.

6. Non-routine

People tend to find behaviours simple if they are routine, activities they do over and over again. Also referred to as habits or the autopilot. When people face a behaviour that is not routine, then they may not find it simple. In seeking simplicity, people will often stick to their routine or habits, like buying groceries at the same supermarket, even if it costs more money or time than other options.

300 million button story

One of the most known examples of an ability intervention is the 300 million dollar button story. The story is about Amazon.com. In the early days of the launch of their online shopping platform, they used to have a check-out form that consisted of two fields (email address and password), two buttons (login and register) and one link (forgot password). You would say this is simplicity.

But it turned out this form was preventing customers from buying products. They found out that new customers didn’t want to register right away, and returning customers often forgot their inlog and/or password and gave up after several failed login attempts.

Proceed to check-out

What did they do? They did an ability intervention. They took away the register button and replaced it with a button that said ‘continue’ accompanied with a simple message: “You do not need to create an account to make purchases on our site. Simply click continue to proceed to checkout. To make your future purchases even faster, you can create an account during checkout.” The story goes making the desired behaviour easier simply by changing the button, boosted sales with 45% ($ 300.000.000) in the first year.

 

To sum Fogg up

The BJ Fogg Behavior Model is a very useful model that derives from human psychology and is very recommendable to use for everyone who is involved in human-centered design or persuasive design. If you want to change behaviour three elements have to happen at the same time: motivation, ability, trigger. Also known as B=MAT. Advice is to start at ability. Making the desired behaviour easier to do, or the undesired behaviour harder to do.

We have looked at all three elements of the model; BJ Fogg explains the Behavior Model himself in this 2 and half minute video if you’d like to do a quick recap:

 

Would you like to learn more?

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