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Tom de Bruyne

The SUE Influence Framework© Explained

The SUE Influence Framework© explained

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

The SUE | Influence Framework© is a powerful mental model we developed at SUE to analyse the forces that shape behaviour systematically. The framework will provide you with all the human insights you need to develop ideas for behavioural change. A deeper understanding of the forces that prevent people from change or boost behavioural change is essential to influence minds and shape behaviour. In this blog post, we explain the model step-by-step and illustrate it with lots of examples.

 

1. How does influence work?

For a complete overview of the essence of behavioural design, I want to urge you to read our blog “What is behavioural design“. For this blogpost, it suffices to understand that you need three ingredients for successful behavioural change: 

  1. Understand how people think and how they make decisions. (cognitive psychology)
  2. Know how you can analyse the forces that shape people’s behaviour (SUE | Influence Framework©)
  3. Learn how you can come up with ideas for behavioural change 

One of the biggest misconceptions of behavioural design is that it’s limited to this third ingredient. Think about all the persuasion techniques in the field of interface design and UX to boost online sales. Booking.com has turned these techniques into an art form

However, if you don’t consider what happens inside the human mind you try to influence, you can use as many persuasion tactics as you want; you’re not going to be successful. 

Let me illustrate this with an example: You can use all the scarcity, authority, social proof in the world to persuade me to make my next city trip with Flixbus. But as long as you haven’t addressed my (probably irrational) prejudice that travelling by bus coach will be a social nightmare, full of annoying people, my brain will stay locked for every attempt to change my behaviour.

Flixbus

 

2. The forces that shape behaviour

The best way to think of the SUE | Influence Framework© is to think of it as a tool that brings the dynamic forces to the surface that shape behaviour. With this framework:

 

You will understand why people do the things they do and what prevents them from changing their behaviour.

Understanding these forces helps you to spot opportunities for behavioural change. Only when you have armed yourself with these opportunities you can start to come up with ideas. 

To illustrate this with the example from above. Only when you consider that I have anxieties, doubts and prejudices that prevent me from travelling by coach will you have the proper insight to come up with ideas to influence my decision-making. You will ask yourself how we might take away the prejudice that cheap coach travel equals a social nightmare. 

If you want to design a successful strategy for behavioural change, you will have to work outside-in. You start with learning what happens inside people’s minds, and you adapt your intervention to this understanding. 

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

Feel free to contact us. We are happy to tell you more about our consultancy or academy. Helping you innovate, transform or grow levering insights from behavioural science in practice.

Contact us

No worries, no strings attached!

The SUE | Influence Framework© has three parts, with a total of seven elements. We will delve into these three parts below.

  1. Part 1: Current and Desired Behaviour 
  2. Part 2: The Job-to-be-Done
  3. Part 3: Pains, Gains, Comforts and Anxieties

3. Current and Desired Behaviour 

The best way to think of behavioural change is that you need to have someone (or yourself) switch from a current to desired behaviour. This sounds obvious but is actually quite challenging. Because people need to stop doing the things they do and start doing something new. Stopping is hard because your current behaviour is full of comforts. You don’t need to think about it, and your behaviour is more than often driven by habits that are difficult to control. 

Furthermore, there are several difficulties associated with new behaviour too: Am I able to do this? Do I want it? Do I trust it? Do I get it? Can I afford it? What will others think of me? 

You immediately sense that, if you want to get someone from A to B, you will have to deal with several forces at work that lock us in our current behaviour and prevent us from switching to the desired behaviour. The SUE | Influence Framework© is nothing more or less than a tool to uncover these forces.  

4. The Job-to-be-Done

If you want to understand why people do the things they do, then the Job-to-be-done framework by Clayton Christensen is essential. In a famous Harvard Business Review paper, Christensen argues that people “hire products and services” for a job that arises in their life. Understanding the “job” or “task” is the key to understanding what motivate people to do the things they do. If you want to know how to get more people to buy milkshakes in a fast-food restaurant, you need to understand the job-to-be-done for which people would come in and “hire” a milkshake. In the famous lecture below, Christensen argues that most people who buy milkshakes at a fast-food restaurant buy them because they have a long and tedious drive to work. They want something to fill their stomach while keeping the commute interesting. The milkshake does this job better than any other product. It keeps you busy for at least 10 minutes, it doesn’t crumble all over you, and you can easily keep it in your hand while steering the car. 

 

Job-to-be-Done thinking unlocks a deeper understanding of the human behind the customer.

A while ago, we discovered in a Behavioural Design Sprint we did for a health tech company that the real Job-to-be-done for people with diabetes is to live everyday life. They want to be reminded as little as possible by their disease. People with diabetes look at every product and service through the prism of this Job-to-be-done. The unconscious question they ask themselves is: Does this product help me to approach my Job-to-be-Done to live a care-free life in which I am bothered as little as possible by my disease? This insight was crucial because, until that point, our client always communicated to people as patients.

Case: Zoku Amsterdam

The founders of Zoku Amsterdam had given themselves more than two years to figure out how they could design the ultimate hospitality experience for people who needed to stay longer in a city because of their job.

 

Zoku Amsterdam - Hotel Room

 

The Job-to-be-done that Zoku took as the critical opportunity for their prototyping is that people want to feel at home. They want to feel part of the community of the city. And this experience is precisely what most hotels don’t offer you. Every hotel reminds you in everything of the fact that you’re just a passenger. Zoku designed the room with this Job-to-be-done in mind. The centrepiece of the room is a dining/working table, not the bed. Lunch and dinner at Zoku are to be consumed at a long communal table. You can invite your customers for meetings, and they have daily activities in which you can participate. More about Job-to-be-Done:

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5. The forces diagram

We already argued above that the biggest challenge with designing for behavioural change is that people need to stop doing things. Furthermore, they have all kinds of insecurities and discomfort about the new behaviour we want them to perform. We have also argued that the best way to motivate them to embrace new behaviour is to connect with their deeper goals in their life (called Jobs-to-be-done). 

The third and final component of the SUE | Influence Framework© is four dynamic forces that push people towards or pull people away from the desired behaviour. The Influence Framework works with these four forces: 

  1. Pains of the current behaviour
  2. Gains of the desired behaviour
  3. Anxieties, doubts, and other barriers to the desired behaviour 
  4. Comforts of the current behaviour

Force 1: Pains

Pains are what people experience as shortcomings and frustrations related to their current behaviour.

Pains are often the problems to which a behavioural designer designs a solution. Pain and frustration trigger a propensity or willingness for change. The better you can connect with people’s pain, the higher the eagerness to change their behaviour.

In our behavioural design sprints, we often discover that they reward you with their trust if you can articulate people’s pain quite well. They appreciate that you understand their world. Every populist in the world knows that people are not interested in what you want to do. They want to feel instead that you get their pain. It’s a meme in every sales training that the best salesmen sell pain.


Force 2: Gains 

Gains are the positive consequences that people will experience when they perform the new desired behaviour.

Whenever I stay at Zoku, I can at least work in my room if I want. I can eat healthy without having to go out. I can enjoy hanging around in the big co-working living room with my laptop. I can impress my clients with the view, etcetera. These are all gains you will experience if you book at Zoku. 

However, these gains only make sense relative to the Job-to-be-Done. You appreciate the Gain of the design of your room, the shared breakfast table, the healthy food kitchen and the co-working living room because they all contribute to the Job-to-be-done of feeling at home in the city you have to stay in for work. 

Important to remember: Always connect the Pains and Gains with the Job -to-be-done

 

Case: Pains and Gains and travelling by train 

I often need to travel between Amsterdam and Belgium. I have stopped taking the car, and I only go by train these days. My Job-to-be-done is to spend my time as purposeful as possible. The Pain of driving my car is obvious: I can’t answer e-mails, write blogs, or finish reports. I’m utterly exhausted after a six-hour drive, of which I regularly spend two hours in traffic jams (Belgium is a traffic jam inferno). The Gain of travelling by train is also apparent: Travel time equals working time. I can read, write, or answer e-mails. For travellers like me, a power socket and a little table for my laptop are worth a lot.


Force 3: Comforts

Comforts are the routines and habits that get people to stick to their current undesired behaviour.

It’s not that I wouldn’t like to work out more often. And if I’m honest with myself, I do have the time to go to the gym in the morning. My only problem is that I have too many bad habits that stand in the way: I want to wake up slowly. I need to have breakfast. I need to bring my toddler to school (and she adores not cooperating). By the time I dropped her at school, my window of opportunity to go to the gym is closed. It’s already late, my stomach is full, and my mind is already at work. 

You could argue that everything is in place for me to start working out. I desire to have more energy and lose a couple of kilos (my JTBD). I feel the pain of not being fit. I know how much I enjoy the feeling of being healthy (gain), and I only have to walk 200 meters to my gym, so I can’t blame it on an inability to get there. As the co-founder of SUE, I’m pretty free to decide how I run my schedule (no anxieties). I can’t break through my comforts/ habits. What works for me is that my gym organises a 10-minute abs workout every hour. If I can make it in time to join this 10-minute class, I will probably stay a bit longer.


Force 4: Anxieties 

Anxieties are fears, doubts, prejudices and other barriers to the desired behaviour.

Anxieties could be all the things that prevent you from changing behaviour Anxieties could be related to: 

  • The desired behaviour: Too complicated, too hard, too socially uncomfortable, etc. 
  • The supplier: can I trust this supplier? 
  • My own capability: I’m not sure if I can do this or if it matches with my self-image. 
  • My environment: I don’t know what my significant others will think of this behaviour

Taking away Anxieties are often underestimated in a strategy for behavioural change. However, they form a crucial piece of the puzzle. Sometimes taking away anxiety is the last puzzle piece needed to turn an intervention into a success. Like in the Flixbus example I wrote about earlier: taking away my fears and prejudices towards coach travel and address the most critical force between me and the desired behaviour. 

Case: De Porsche Pitch

In The Perfect Pitch, a book by advertising legend Jon Steel about the art of pitching, the author shares the story of a pitch his agency won for the Porsche account. The killer insight that got them to win the agency competition was that advertising doesn’t need to persuade Porsche drivers. It needs te to convince non-drivers that Porsche drivers are not cars for men with a middle-crisis. They called it the “asshole factor” of a Porsche driver. Taking away these anxieties and prejudices towards the Porsche driver became the most genius advertising strategy ever for the brand.

Want to shape behaviour and decisions?

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6. Working with the SUE | Influence Framework©

 The Influence Framework helps you to build empathy for your target audience. Our Behavioural Design Sprints always kick off with five or six interviews. If you interview five or six people from the target audience, you will be able to fill in your Influence Framework©. For a proper Behavioural Design interview, there’s only one simple rule of thumb:   

Past behaviour never lies

When we conduct interviews, we always try to map human journeys. What we’re looking for is how real humans think, feel and behave. How does a successful journey look like? What about a failed journey? Why did people fail? What made them feel uncertain or uncomfortable? Why didn’t they do the things they wanted to do?  

In 5 or 6 interviews, you’ll get a clear idea about the Jobs-to-be-Done, the Pains and Comforts of their current behaviour and the Gains en Anxieties of the desired behaviour. It can also be gratifying to interview extreme users. Experienced people can tell you a lot about Jobs-to-be-Dones and gains. People who are struggling can teach you a lot about pains, comforts and anxieties. When you have mapped out these forces, you can spot opportunities for behavioural change by asking yourself these five questions: 

  • How might we help people to achieve their goals? (Jobs-to-be-Done)
  • Can we come up with solutions that solve pains or frustrations that people experience (Pain) 
  • Can we break into an existing habit? Or do we need to change a problematic habit? (Comfort)
  • Which anxieties, doubts, prejudices, and other barriers do we need to take away? (Anxiety)
  • What could be the psychological value that we can create for people (Gain)

More about this topic: 

 

7. Examples

  • The best way to think about the success of Uber and Lyft – aside from a nearly unlimited supply of cheap investor capital – is that they successfully eliminated all the pain from the taxi experience. Not knowing when your car is going to arrive, not being confident about whether the cabbie will rip you off or having to negotiate about the price. They brilliantly help you to achieve your job-to-be-done to experience the city. An Uber-Gain is that you never have to worry when you go out: You order an Uber when you leave the club, and within 5 minutes, you’re back on your way home.
  • Airbnb is a much more gratifying way to experience new places. This is the ultimate traveller Job-to-be-done. The pain that is associated with hotels is that they’re anonymous. They make you feel like an outsider-tourist. The Gain of AirBnB on an emotional level is that you can feel at home abroad. This feeling gets even strengthened on a functional level: Since you do your cooking and supermarket shopping, you can feel what it is to live like a local. There are some anxieties Airbnb needs to take away, like whether the place is as good as advertised (that’s why they always demand professional pictures). A relatively new anxiety is the worry that the neighbourhood might be sick and tired of Airbnb tourists.

7. The ethics of Behavioural Design

We have argued above that a successful behavioural design strategy consists of three ingredients:

  1. A deeper understanding of human decision-making.
  2. Understanding the forces that shape behaviour.
  3. Using principles from the science of influence to come up with ideas and interventions for positive behavioural change.

The SUE | Influence Framework© is a powerful mental model for understanding why people do what they do and what prevents them from changing their behaviour. It is also the best guarantee that a strategy for behavioural change will be human-centered.

Behavioural Designers always ask themselves what they can do to help people become more successful at what they do or help them overcome their anxieties or help them break bad habits.

Suppose you take your time to build empathy with your target audience, and you use the Influence Framework to analyse their behaviour. In that case, you will always spot opportunities to design positive choices. 

PS: The mission of SUE is to unlock the potential of behavioural science to help people make better decisions in work, life and play. We use this mission as our guiding principle for everything we do. We’re very conscious that behavioural design can be a ‘dark wisdom’ and that those who master it are often the ones with the worst intentions. We don’t want to be naive that people will abuse this knowledge to manipulate people. Still, we firmly believe that the world would be much better off if we can inspire more people with a better understanding of how influence works and do positive things with this knowledge. Please check out our Behavioural Design Ethics Toolkit here.

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How do you do. Our name is SUE.

Do you want to learn more?

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

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

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

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

sue behavioural design

Selfishness is going to save the world

By All, Behavioural Science Insights, Employee behaviour

We see selfishness as a bad character trait. We should think of each other, the climate and be more sustainable for the greater good right? Wrong! Selfishness can be a good thing to promote difficult to change behaviour. Read more about it below. 

I once had a discussion with the marketing boss of a Dutch NGO. We had provided him with a framing strategy to convince the Netherlands that development aid is actually good for the country. The strategy was to provide insight into how the absence of war, famine and dictatorships in the world around us is incredibly good for a trading country like the Netherlands. It was a perfect and strong counterpoint to the popular right-wing frame that development aid is a “leftist hobby”.

However, he shrugged off this. His words were literally,

If I have to convince people to donate to us in this way, I don’t need them as donors.

I remember very well how shocked I was by so much offensive leftist moral exaltation.

I believe in the reverse approach. If you want to convince people of difficult behaviour change, then the last thing you should do is ask them if they will do it to make the world a better place. Nor by selling them fear and damnation. That is the great tragedy of why do-gooders just can’t get the majority right on their side.
Their recipes suck.

What you have to sell is nothing less than selfishness and gratification.

Would you like to leverage behavioural science to crack your transformation challenges?

You can do this in our fast-paced and evidence-based Behavioural Design Sprint. We have created a brochure telling you all about the details of this approach. Such as the added value, the deliverables, the set up, and more. Should you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us. We are happy to help!

Download the brochure

Go ahead, there are no strings attached!

Sell selfishness and gratification.

What do you care if a multimillionaire will finance your hospital if it’s named after him? What do you care if that arrogant colleague rides up Alpe D’Huez five times for to raise money for the Cancer Fund KWF purely for his own ego? What do you care if electric Porsche drivers are primarily driven by signalling their social status. Are you annoyed by all those rich tourists who flood South African parks and act like colonials? It is precisely because there is super lucrative tourism business model that those parks exist and are not converted into farmland.

We need to stop giving selfishness a bad name.

And leftists also need to embrace it much more blatantly. Do we want a more just society with more consideration for the weakest of the weak? Then ask how multinational corporations and the super-rich can get much more appreciation and social status for their contributions.

Do you want us entrepreneurs to start accelerating the sustainable transition? Gladly! But then, in return for our effort, give us other levers to make our lives easier. If you are a trading union that wants to stand up for workers, then for God’s sake, make heroes out of the employers instead of dragging them through the mud. Even when you are right, you make it incredibly difficult for employers to give in.

In conclusion

We need to stop asking people to do something for the world outside them. Look at how much the sustainable transition is accelerating under the impetus of nicer electric cars, cheap energy bills from solar panels, incredibly delicious plant-based food, or the increased quality of life from hybrid work.

Long live selfishness.

One day it will save the world.

Tom De Bruyne 

How do you do. Our name is SUE.

Do you want to learn more?

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

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

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

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

sue behavioural design

5 problems with traditional user research and how Behavioural Design solves them

By All, Behavioural Science Insights, Customer Behaviour

Product, Service and Experience Designers often complain that they lack killer insights into their users. They often feel flooded with insights to the extent that they have no idea where to start. They complain that the insights often don’t inspire strategy and creativity. 

I regularly get the question about what really differentiates the Behavioural Design Method from other ways of gathering user insights. The Behavioural Design Method integrates user research, strategizing, creative exploration, and prototyping and testing in a single sprint process. We deliberately designed this process to solve some of the problems with traditional user research.

I think there are five problems with more traditional research approaches:

1. The quality and depth of the insights

The problem with traditional market research is that people have no idea what they want; they have a profoundly biased understanding of the drivers of their behaviour. Furthermore, their intentions are highly unpredictable. And yet, our surveys and focus groups rely heavily on what they tell us about themselves and what they think they will do in the future.

Behavioural Design experts take a radically different approach. Instead of asking them what people think or feel, we ask them to explore with us their past behaviour. Because past behaviour never lies. We ask them to share successful journeys and failed journeys. We often do in-depth interviews of more than 1,5 hours. During these interviews, we’re not looking for customer journeys but ‘human journeys’. In a human journey, we look for the struggles, obstacles, beliefs, prejudices, anxieties, hot triggers, habits, social pressure, seductions, and many other psychological forces that shape or sabotage the desired behaviour.

2. The switching cost between research, strategy, and design

The problem with separating research from strategy, and strategy from design, is that a great deal of value gets wasted in the handover between each stage. Every stage produces a summary, and the next team uses that summary as the new point of departure. After the insights turned into strategy and strategy turned into the design, the original insights into the users have often been watered down or were carefully selected to post-rationalize the creative idea that everyone loved.

The Behavioural Design Method is an integrated process for strategizing through prototyping. A single team of two Behavioural Design experts interview the users, analyze their behaviour, explore solutions, design and prototype interventions and test these interventions with the users. This highly structured process eliminates switching costs and puts deep human understanding at the heart of the design process.

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

Feel free to contact us. We are happy to tell you more about our consultancy or academy. Helping you innovate, transform or grow levering insights from behavioural science in practice.

Send us an email

No worries, no strings attached!

3. The disconnect of the strategy and design team from the user

The most powerful benefit of running a Behavioural Design Sprint is that we bring the psychology of the user into the design process. We always insist that our clients attend at least two in-depth interviews and a full day of prototype testing. This active engagement allows them to experience the humans they designed for: What words do they use to describe their behaviours? What are their frustrations and problems? Which barriers stand in the way of success? Which prejudices do they have about themselves or the product, service or solution? How do they describe success? Etcetera. Going through this empathy phase is an enormous source of inspiration for the team, and it gives them a deep understanding of the psychological forces they need to take into account.

The key is to make them fall in love with the user’s problems. They need to appreciate their irrationality, their difficulty sticking to habits, and their deep desire for help or intelligent support to help them to overcome temptation and laziness. Teams with a deeply human understanding of their users find it much easier to design solutions to solve these problems or help them overcome these obstacles.

4. Expert biases, groupthink and cherry-picking the insights that match our beliefs 

When user insights are summarized in a report or abstract user personas, experts often cherry-pick or bend the meaning of the insights to match their beliefs and prejudices. We tend to project our own beliefs, values and experiences onto the user, or we are overly confident that something that worked in one context will transfer to a new context.

Bringing the human into the design process and prototyping and testing our interventions eliminates expert bias. Prototyping and testing take experts out of their judgement mode by treating every idea as a hypothesis. This way of working generates a context of psychological safety for exploring fresh and unconventional ideas.

Would you like to leverage behavioural science to crack your thorny strategic challenges?

You can do this in our fast-paced and evidence-based Behavioural Design Sprint. We have created a brochure telling you all about the details of this approach. Such as the added value, the deliverables, the set up, and more. Should you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us. We are happy to help!

Download the brochure

Go ahead, there are no strings attached!

5. User personas that don’t inspire strategy and creativity

The power of the Behavioural Design Method is that we think of influence as a set of Behavioural forces. In between current and desired behaviours stand:

  • Pains we can solve
  • Gains we can generate
  • Anxieties we need to take away
  • Comforts we need to replace
  • Jobs-to-be-Done we need to fulfill

In conclusion

By plotting our understanding of the user onto the two-dimensional Influence Framework, you’ll get a much deeper understanding of the psychological forces that shape the users’ beliefs, perceptions, and behaviours.

This two-dimensional model generates a much clearer shared problem experience than traditional user personas. Personas tend to become simple narratives of people’s personalities deprived of deeper meaning. Personas become useless as a source of inspiration when everyone can project their own beliefs and preferences onto them.

 

Tom De Bruyne 

How do you do. Our name is SUE.

Do you want to learn more?

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

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

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

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

sue behavioural design

We’re addicted to hope

By All, Behavioural Science Insights


A gambler’s addiction to hope

There’s a brilliant line by the comedian Norm Macdonald. He talked about the gambling addiction he had suffered from all his life. His psychiatrist told him he was gambling to escape life. But he argued that this is a lame explanation. Because everything is an escape from life. He also declined that he was addicted to winning. Most of the time, gambling is incredibly frustrating. What he really was addicted to was hope:

“As long as the red dice are in the air, the gambler has hope. And hope is a wonderful thing to be addicted to”.

The Chief Marketing Officer responsible for Dove allegedly once said that he’s not in the business of selling soap, but selling hope. Hope that people recognize real beauty beyond the superficial idea of beauty that is promoted in ads and women’s magazines.

Hope is a powerful tool in elections

Donald Trump was a brilliant merchant of hope. Trump is a great salesman. He perfectly understood that there was a gigantic untapped reservoir of frustration and humiliation in rural America. Trump sold hope to these people. He promised them revenge, respect, jobs and excitement. He sold them the hope that someone would finally look after them again.

The poor person who buys a lottery ticket buys the hope for a simple shortcut to escape the grim prospect of becoming wealthy through hard work.

Are you hoping for new business interventions that work?

In our Behavioural Ideation Sprint we search for new interventions to create behavioural change. With our method, you don't have to rely on hope because you use real insights to tackle the desired behaviour in the right way.

Download the brochure

Go ahead, there are no strings attached!

Companies are selling hope

Every time someone buys a subscription to the gym, they’re buying hope. They hope for more self-confidence, more sexual admiration, or more success. And they buy into the hope that they’ll build a workout habit and stick to it this time.

Every boardroom that hires a top-level consultancy is buying hope. They hope McKinsey can solve their problems and get them unstuck. They hope that the external forces might persuade them to get stakeholders finally aligned and that success will follow. They also buy into the hope that their peers will look at them as intelligent, responsible leaders for bringing in the best of the best.

In conclusion

Every company is selling hope or a dream. And of all the things we’re selling, hope might actually be the strongest emotion – the thing we are addicted to.

Tom De Bruyne

PS: Want to learn more about the power of behavioural science to create better products, services and policies? Join our two-day certification course Behavioural Design Fundamentals, or contact us for an in-company training

How do you do. Our name is SUE.

Do you want to learn more?

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

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

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

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

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Perspective is everything

By Citizen Behaviour, Personal Behaviour

My Belgian mother called. She was a bit worried about her son who lives in the Netherlands. Dickpics, hard lockdowns, COVID-riots, armed hostage situation, far-right creeps in parliament,… What the hell is wrong with the Netherlands?

The perspective of someone living in The Netherlands

I replied that nothing could be further from the truth.

I myself have experienced several miracles in the past weekends alone. I flew from Amsterdam to Berlin for less than € 200 in less than an hour on a plane that weighs 150 tons. I told her that to get to the airport, all I needed to do was to open an app on my phone, and less than 3 minutes later, a private driver in a new Tesla was in front of our apartment who took us to Schiphol Airport.

I said that we live in a time where science had discovered a vaccine for a pandemic in less than a year. And after two years, we had vaccinated almost the entire country 2 or 3 times. We have now actually reached a point where we don’t even have to force vaccine-hesitant people into vaccination anymore. How cool is that?


Disobedient protest or voicing concerns?

I added that here in Amsterdam, the nightclubs have decided to engage in public disobedience. They opened up the clubs again and called it a protest. I live in a country where they can just do that without the army or police closing their clubs. You should have seen those happy faces from all those young people in town.

I live in a country that was hyper-polarized five years ago on the issue of Black Pete, but where the vast majority now shrugs their shoulders, thinking, “Yeah sure, charcoal sweeps, chimneys, logical, right?”. And that we will probably experience exactly the same with dickpic-gate and “The Voice”-gate. Within a couple of years, we will all have a much better understanding of what is acceptable and unacceptable. Think of this era as the learning track for society to learn and internalize social norms around how men interact with women
When society revolts here in the Netherlands on moral issues, the debate won’t stop, and peace will only return until something has really changed.

 

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It is all about perspective

I hastened to add that I live in a country where the supermarket around the corner has everything, really everything fresh and affordable on the shelves, so I get an amazing dinner from my love every night. And that if we don’t feel like cooking, we can get a warm meal delivered by a nice person on an electric bike, from every cuisine we can imagine in less than half an hour after ordering it.

We live in an extraordinary time, surrounded by magic and miracles.
You only need to allow yourself to see them.
The story above reminds me of this brilliant rant by Louis CK: Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy.

How do you do. Our name is SUE.

Do you want to learn more?

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

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

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

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

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How successful organisations apply Behavioural Design

By Behavioural Science Insights, Customer Behaviour, Employee behaviour

With “Start With The End”, Matt Wallaert wrote a great book on how companies could benefit from behavioural science. In the book, he evangelised the idea of the Chief Behavioural Officer (CBO), a senior executive role who manages a Behavioural Science Expert Team. Last year, I interviewed Matt at Behavioural Design Fest and asked him if he still thinks organisations need a Chief Behavioural Officer. He was in a great place to answer that question because he recently resigned as CBO himself at his former employer Clover Health. He admitted that a separate behavioural expert team led by a CBO isn’t the only or even the best approach.

Science as a process, behaviour as an outcome

What’s more important, according to Matt, is “Science as a process. and behaviour as an outcome”. Organisations that benefit from behavioural science have found a way to leverage the scientific method of the social and behavioural sciences to create better outcomes. It doesn’t matter if your job is to design products, services, customer experiences, policies or campaigns. Everything you do aims to influence people’s decisions and get them to do something. Understanding the hidden forces that affect your target group’s thoughts and decisions is critical to improving your offering.

You can’t get someone to vote for you unless you know how you can connect with their deepest fears and desires. You can’t get someone to stick to their workout unless you help them deal with all the obstacles preventing them from coming to the gym. You can’t get someone to change the way they eat unless you can change the choice architecture of what’s available. The examples are endless of how deep human understanding can make or break products, services, programs, or policies.

 

So, what is Behavioural Design?

The simple definition of Behavioural Design is that it’s a process and a method. Behavioural Design is a method for finding human insights, coming up with ideas and figuring out how to make them work. The underlying process is Design Thinking, a fancy word for the typical steps a designer would take to solve a problem: empathise with the user, define opportunities, design solutions, prototype and test the most promising ideas, and refine the design.

Read more about this in our most popular blog, “What is behavioural design”.

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Two ways to set up behavioural design in an organisation

There are two approaches to how organisations try to benefit from the power of behavioural design:

  1. Decentralised: A Behavioral design Guild
  2. Centralised: A Behavioural Design Lab

The centralised approach: Behavioural Design Lab

The Behavioural Design Lab was Matt Wallaert’s setup in mind when he wrote the book “Start with the End”. The idea is to set up a separate lab with a small group of behavioural experts that would work independently of the business units. The mission of a lab is usually to generate best practices by tinkering with landing pages, letters, communication and services. They are commissioned to set up experiments to generate evidence of how a nudge here and a reframing there can make a huge difference.

This setup’s advantage is its most significant disadvantage: Knowledge and know-how remain siloed. Furthermore, the successes the labs generate are often incremental and highly tactical. You always hear the same little success stories like the written post-its on a questionnaire (reciprocity) or the social proof cues on the payment reminder.

We believe that there’s a much more powerful way to harness the power of behavioural design in organisations.

 

The decentralised approach: Behavioural Design Guild. 

The opposite approach is to form a guild or chapter of Behavioural Design Leads. The Behavioural Design Experts are part of the multidisciplinary business teams in this approach. In addition to roles like Product Owner, Scrum Master, and UX expert, you would also have a Behavioural Design Lead. They would be responsible for gathering human insights, defining behavioural outcomes, setting up workshops to come up with ideas, and organising prototype testing. They would work on every step of the insight, design and implementation process to add behavioural intelligence.

A guild is a group of experts who share the same interest but don’t work in the same teams. They get together regularly to share ideas, learn from each other’s best practices, and deepen their skills.

There are two significant advantages to this approach. First of all, it’s being applied to the things that matter: actual products, services and communication with the customer. When used successfully, its effects can directly be measured by the KPI’s that matter to the organisation: acquisition, activation, retention, revenue, cost-saving, and profit.

Secondly, everyone in the team gets to experience how taking the irrationality of the customer into perspective can be incredibly interesting, fun and rewarding. In turn, this will fuel overall excitement to do more with behavioural design.

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So what to do next?

The first step is to train yourself in Behavioural Design. You can do that at our Behavioural Design Academy or at training programs that our competitors offer. Don’t study too hard on the science, but check the practice instead. In other words: you don’t need to know or learn every scientific principle or discovery. You need to understand how to use those principles in practice to analyse behaviour and develop ideas for interventions.

The second step is forming a guild and learning from each other through peer-to-peer coaching. Again, you can hire SUE to help with this practice or hire a coach.

Do a Behavioural Design Sprint

We have created a brochure telling you all about the details of the Behavioural Design Sprint. Such as the set-up, the investment, the time commitment, and more. Please, feel free to contact us any time should you have any further questions. We are happy to help!

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How do you do. Our name is SUE.

Do you want to learn more?

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

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

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

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

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Eight wicked opportunities for Behavioural Designers

By All, Behavioural Science Insights

There are many fascinating areas that could greatly benefit from Behavioural Design Thinking. Because in every field, understanding human behaviour provides opportunities for behaviour change. Here are 8 domains where behavioural designers can make a profound mark in 2022.

Behavioural Design Domains

The other day someone asked me for a proper definition of Behavioural Design. This is the best one I could come up with:

Behavioural Design is a structured method for turning deep human understanding into experiments for behavioural change. 

You can apply this method to basically every domain involving humans: customer behaviour, citizen behaviour, company behaviour, employee behaviour, market behaviour, family behaviour, etc…

If there’s one thing that 2021 taught us, it would be the total underappreciated importance of  understanding behavioural change. Governments around the globe have been struggling to find the right interventions to motivate their citizens into collective action to beat the virus. So many well-intended measures to ban COVID are being met with deep hostility or sheer indifference.

The behavioural design challenge of triggering collective action to beat the virus is the biggest behavioural design challenge of the year. But there are many more fascinating areas that could benefit greatly from Behavioural Design Thinking. Here is our list of 8 domains where behavioural designers can make a profound mark in 2022. In random order:

Challenge 1: Redesign Policy-Making and policy implementation.

The goal of policy-making is to influence the behaviour of stakeholders in society, from companies to citizens. However, the problem with many policies is that they are based on a poor understanding of how people actually behave. Quite often, bad policies are born out of moral judgements (e.g. ‘unemployed people are lazy’, or ‘deregulate companies and leave everything to the job creators’, or ‘you are guilty unless you can prove otherwise’ ).

Behavioural Design could both help in the design process of policies, as well as in the implementation phase. In the design phase, behavioural designers could advise policy-makers which interventions they should choose. More importantly, they can reveal both the intended and unintended consequences of each intervention and the perverse incentives that are often invisible to the policy-maker. In the implementation phase, behavioural designers could set up multiple pilots to determine which combination of interventions yields the highest results.

Challenge 2: Redesign Housing

We’re in the midst of a housing crisis. Abundant access to cheap capital, combined with high demand and tight rules for building, sparked a perfect storm on the housing market. Add to this the growing need for migrant workers and the resistance in many communities to build houses for them.

One of the biggest solutions is to think outside of the box: How can we re-think the way we build communities? How can we design flexible housing concepts that offer not only a roof and a bed, but also a sense of belonging and community? We urgently need to re-think the idea of home and inspire people to embrace these new ideas.

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Challenge 3: Redesign Marketing and Sales

I think there are two major opportunities for behavioural designers in marketing and sales. The first one is to challenge the “customer-centric” mantra and replace it with “human-centred” thinking. Companies that aim to innovate in a customer-centric way could greatly benefit from Behavioural Design Thinking for having a far more granular understanding of the goals, barriers and problems of the user.

The second opportunity is to improve digital marketing. Digital marketing is obsessed with tactics and not with psychology. A better understanding of how the psychology of influence works could dramatically improve the quality of digital marketing.

Challenge 4: Productivity and Creativity

The Behavioural Design Method is a highly structured creative process to facilitate the seamless transition from insight to strategy to execution. By integrating research, strategizing, prototyping and testing in a step-by-step process, we are able to make meaningful processes at speeds that most teams are unfamiliar with. The Behavioural Design Sprint yields a 10x faster and 10x better result than a regular innovation process, where research, strategy, concepting and execution are seperate processes. Furthermore, the Behavioural Design Sprint contains rules and tactics that are deliberately designed to yield the highest levels of creative output from of a group.

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Challenge 5: Redesign Finance

Regulators put more and more pressure on financial companies to use behavioural science for helping their clients make better financial decisions. Behavioural Science applied to finance is hot. Both our saving and our investing behaviours are deeply flawed and biased. And, by simply looking at the crypto ads at sports events, exploiting our irrational desires for easy money is a great business model. The business model of banks are also under attack by new digital disruptors. This fuels a lot their appetite for behavioural intelligence on how to attract and retain customer. 

Challenge 6: Redesign Healthcare:

Healthcare is booming. Parallel with radical innovation in biotech; we are also witnessing a boom in preventive healthcare. Helping people build exercise habits, healthy eating habits, losing weight habits, mindfulness habits, and the list of smart apps and services that promise salvation are endless. The holy grail of design and innovation in healthcare is to figure out how to help people overcome bad habits. And the number one behavioural challenge is to help them stick to the new routine. 

Challenge 7: Redesign Sustainability & Climate Action

We have been writing a lot about this topic lately. We all want to live on a healthy, sustainable, green planet. We all feel we need to do something, but we collectively don’t change our behaviour for the simple reason that we look around and don’t see other people changing theirs. This is what behavioural scientists call a coordination problem. There are many opportunities for behavioural designers to develop ways to nudge people into positive green choices. And to frame the sustainable option is the most attractive one. Our favorite example is the Beyond Burger. It doesn’t say: “We are a vegetarian hamburger”. It says: “We have created the juiciest burger ever. It’s beyond meat. Oh and by the way: It’s plant-based”.  

Challenge 8. Redesign Personal Wellbeing and Happiness 

We suck at doing the things that actually make us happy. We think we will get happiness from buying stuff, fulfilling our dreams and desires, and achieving success. But the science of happiness reveals something different. We increase our overall happiness levels from things like learning and experimenting, from having deep and meaningful relationships, from being surrounded by people who challenge us to become better, and from getting genuinely good at something. Happiness is mainly the effect of behaviour and context. We get happier by pursuing our curiosity. We get happier from surrounding ourselves with the right people. The science of happiness holds many promises for Behavioural Designers to set up experiments to explore and re-ignite their curiosity.

Summary

As you can see there are many opportunities to apply Behavioural Design. In this blog we have only covered 8 wicked opportunities. But there are many more! Which opportunity are you going to use in 2022?

Tom De Bruyne

How do you do. Our name is SUE.

Do you want to learn more?

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

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

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

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

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Behavioural Finance: how to get wealthy in 2022?

By All, Behavioural Science Insights

First and foremost, I wish you and your family a prosperous 2022, free of worries. We tend to wish each other happiness and luck in the new year. However, the effect of the absence of stress and anxiety – the other side of the happiness medal – will have a much more profound impact on your overall wellbeing. 

 

One of the best ways to achieve a worry-free state of mind is not having to worry about whether you’d be able to take care of yourself and your loved ones. There’s strong scientific evidence that poor people tend to make things worse for themselves. They consistently make irrational and impulsive decisions because of the stress levels they experience. 

 

So in this blog, I want to explore some of the key lessons from the world of behavioural finance on how to make better financial decisions, build up wealth and achieve financial peace of mind. I want to explore which simple behaviours and habits could profoundly impact your economic wellbeing.

Wealth and status signaling

It’s always interesting to start our search for insights by looking at the behaviour of “extreme users“. Extreme users are people on both ends of the spectrum: One exciting category is people with modest incomes who became financially independent at age 32. An opposite group of extreme users are the investment bankers, with huge salaries who personally went bankrupt only two months after losing their jobs.

There’s only a slight correlation between how much you earn and how wealthy you can become.

So what differentiates the wealthy people from the poor ones, even though many poor people look rich at first sight? A law in behavioural science called Parkinson’s Law describes the phenomenon that ‘expenses always tend to match income‘. No matter how much more revenue we get, we will start spending more and end up with precisely the same amount of money to set aside. Which, in the end, turns out to be way too little to support the lifestyle.

A big chunk of these increased expenses has to do with status signaling. We love to signal to others and ourselves that we’re climbing the social ladder. So we invest heavily in brands, hobbies, and the stuff that allow us to signal that status to others. Investment bankers during the financial crisis of 2008 – the self-proclaimed masters of the universe – went bankrupt in a matter of months because after losing their jobs, they realised that the private schools, the big house, and the two Maserati’s drained the little financial reserves they had.

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Being rich is not the same as being wealthy.

One of Morgan Housel’s pearls of wisdom in the book “The Psychology of Money” is that the difference between being rich and being wealthy is that you don’t see wealth. Rich people drive expensive cars. Wealthy people have put that money in investment funds, so the money starts working for themselves.

One of the fascinating communities on the internet is the FIRE movement. FIRE stands for Financially Independent / Retire Early. They apply a geek and hacker mindset to create financial independence for themselves. One of the fascinating people in this community is Mr Moneymoustache, a Canadian guy who retired at 30. He lives off the interests of his financial decisions and lives a pretty wealthy lifestyle. Check out the video below to listen to his story.

 

Five behaviours that differentiate wealthy people from others. 

1. Spend less on stuff.

“Spend less on stuff” might sound trivial, but the number one behaviour that leads to financial independence is to take the money you spend on stuff you don’t need – and that doesn’t make you happy – on stuff that makes money for you, like stocks, bonds, a business or a house you can rent out. Once you understand the dynamics of status signalling and how much of your income you waste on stuff that has no other purpose than to signal your prosperity, you’d be surprised how much more you will end up saving at the end of the month.

It reminds me of the brilliant quote that is attributed to many different people:

“We buy things you don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like.”

Owning stuff doesn’t make you happy. The direct route to serotonin, the gateway hormone for wellbeing and happiness, is the feeling of achievement and self-importance you gain from learning, creating and mastering things. We wrote about this in a previous blog.

2. Don’t try to beat the market. Instead, follow the market. Invest in index funds

Morgan Housel refers to a fascinating study in his book. About 85% of all professional stockbrokers didn’t beat the market over a decade ending in 2019. Let this sink in for a moment. We trust our money to people we pay hefty fees that have no better qualities in predicting the market than dart-throwing monkeys.

Warren Buffett, the most successful investor on the planet, recently said that he would put all his money in Index Funds if he did it again. These funds spread their money in the 500 best-performing companies on the stock exchange. If you do this, you will always win.

The enormous psychological trick is to resist selling in a panic when the stock exchange is performing poorly or when a bubble bursts and a crisis occurs. If you zoom in on today versus yesterday, your money will sometimes take a blow. However, if you zoom out over decades, the stock exchange follows a spectacular growth curve.

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3. They understand compound interest. 

Albert Einstein once called compound interest the Eighth Wonder of the World. It’s pretty hard for people to understand the magic of compound interest. Still, the simple idea is that if you wait long enough, the accumulated interest on your interest grows exponentially. If you put 100 dollars per month on your investment account at an average of 5% interest and do this for five years, you will have invested 6000 dollars, but the compound interest would be 7573 dollars on top of that 6000 dollars.

That’s why having money in your savings account is such a terrible idea. Inflation decreases the value of that money over time, while low-interest rates don’t get the compounding effects to kick in. The most intelligent strategy is to maintain a savings account for unnecessary expenses and put everything you don’t need today in a long term investment fund.

4. They understand the power of default options.

Most people – like me – hate to think about money or get to deal with cash. Smart people set rules that would directly transfer the money they have left at the end of the month into their investment fund. This way, they don’t need to spend the mental energy to do the right thing. If the money’s there, it will be invested. If you had spent more money on other things, your investment contribution would be lower for a month.

5. They are hyper-rational in times of stress.

Being hyper-rational means, you will have to learn to get comfortable with loss. Morgan Housel from ‘The Psychology of Money” wrote:

The S&P 500 increased 119-fold in the 50 years ending 2018. All you had to do was sit back and let your money compound. But of course, successful investing looks easy when you’re not the one doing it.

“Hold stocks for the long run,” you’ll hear. It’s good advice. But do you know how hard it is to maintain a long-term outlook when stocks are collapsing? Like everything else worthwhile, successful investing demands a price. But its currency is not dollars and cents. It’s volatility, doubt, uncertainty, and regret – all of which are easy to overlook until you’re dealing with them in real-time.

The market is performing lower than a previous all-time high peak most of the time. In that period, you are losing money. But if you wait long enough, you will have outlived enough market peaks to make a great return. All you need to do is to keep your nerves and stay patient.

One of the worst ideas is to look at the performance daily through all these new apps. They will make you nervous, and you’ll be inclined to act and make terrible financial decisions.

Tom De Bruyne

Cover visual by Executium on Unsplash

How do you do. Our name is SUE.

Do you want to learn more?

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

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

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

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

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How To Convince More People To Get Vaccinated

How to debunk false claims about climate change?

By All, Citizen Behaviour

This is a talk I gave at the EuropCom Conference, organized by the European Institutions. I was asked to talk about how to debunk misinformation and false claims about climate change. My take on this subject is that we shouln’t fight facts with facts. Instead we should make climate action more desireable. Here’s the transcript of my talk.


Confirmation bias

In this brief talk I want to make the argument that facts don’t matter when it comes to influencing minds and changing behaviour. Our brain is hardwired to actively search the facts that match with our beliefs about ourselves and the world, as much as it’s hardwired to reject the facts that don’t match with our beliefs, our identity, or our tribe. In the behavioural science this phenomenon is called confirmation bias. We have written about Confirmation Bias before.

I want to argue instead that the challenge is not to fight biased facts, but to re-frame climate action and turn it into something people feel they are part of.

The problem with the current climate narrative 

The climate narrative, as being told by environmentalists and people on the green-left political spectrum is full of ingredients that people love to reject:

  1. It’s a story of guilt: according to activists, it is all our fault, and we are doing everything wrong. Consumerism has doomed us, and we should be ashamed we don’t take action to preserve the earth.
  2. It’s a story of fear: We are being bombared with climate panic, through a never ending stream of stories about melting ice caps, rising sea levels, high temperatures, natural disasters, and so on. Fear freezes action.
  3. It’s a story of sacrifice: the message is quite clear. If we want to reverse the effects of climate change, we all need to sacrifice some of our comforts: Leaving the car at home, taking the bike more often, separating our waste,…

 

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How our brain works

Everything about this climate narrative is  threatening. Our brain has a simple and brilliant strategy to deal with facts that don’t match with how we think about ourselves and the world: it rejects them. We have many techniques at our disposal to do just that:

  • We vilify the bringers of the facts we don’t like: Most people think Greta Thunberg is a child that needs psychological treatment. Same thing with Green Parties. They have become the favorite object of far-right bullying.
  • We eagerly shop for narratives that provide us with arguments to keep living our lives the way we do. The right and far-right frame climate action as bonkers, leftist-eco fundamentalism by people who are rich enough to by a Tesla. They claim that the costs for ‘climate panic’ be imposed on the poor hardworking class, who’s already working day and night to be able to make ends meet.

The solution: Stop persuading, start seducing

We should stop persuading people into climate action and start seducing them instead. Once people have the feeling that climate action is something that will improve their lives and their communities, they will start to embrace the facts that match with these believes.

Here are a couple of ideas:

  1. We should stop selling dystopias, and start selling green utopias instead. The images of climate apocalypse don’t motivate action at all. Why can’t we use our imagination to dream up green cities, vibrant communities, delicious food, spectacular landscapes, etc.
  2. Make the sustainable option the most desirable. People don’t buy Tesla’s because of the environment, but because they’re the coolest cars around. People don’t buy a Beyond Burger because it’s plant based, but because it’s the most delicious and juiciest burger out there. People don’t take the night train to Vienna because of flight shaming, but because it’s a magical experience. What if we sell new houses with solar panels on the roof and tell people they will drive their electric cars for free forever with the electricity that they produced themselves from their own roof?

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Summary

What I have tried to argue is that all information is biased. We only embrace the information that matches with our identity and our tribe and reject the truths that are associated with the beliefs of other tribes.

So instead of worrying about the biased information, let’s instead make the ideas, beliefs, missions, and visions about the outcomes of climate action more desirable.

Just like you can’t (and shouldn’t) persuade someone into having sex with you, you shouldn’t try to persuade someone into changing their beliefs about climate.

One more thing:

If Covid has thaught us one thing, it’s that in the face of existential threat, humanity can join forces at unprecedented scale and create breakthrough after breakthrough. Despite everything that went wrong, it was optimism and ingenuity that got us out of this crisis.

How do you do. Our name is SUE.

Do you want to learn more?

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

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

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

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The Forces That Shape Behaviour Change

The forces that shape behaviour change

By All, Behavioural Science Insights

In this blog, I want to explore the different forces that shape behaviour change. Whenever you want to design a strategy that aims at changing behaviour, you have to ask yourself three questions: 

  • Macro-forces: What are the trends I can tap into?
  • Meso-forces: What are the needs I can tap into?
  • Micro-forces: What are the biases I can tap into?

1. The macro forces: What are the trends I can tap into?

The world is changing at an accelerating speed. It took only 66 years between the first flight of the Wright brothers and Neil Armstrong, setting the first step on the moon in 1969. It only took 30 years for China to transform from a developing country into the biggest economy in the world. The iPhone is only 14 years old, kickstarting an era of ubiquitous access to knowledge, services, social capital and radical new ideas for commerce, creating companies like Uber, Netflix and Amazon.com. Over the past few decades, China alone has lifted hundreds of millions of citizens to become part of the middle class. And middle-class people want stability and want to consume, travel and be entertained. 

These macro forces have an enormous impact on behaviour change.

If you want to introduce an innovative offering into the market, it matters a lot if you’re able to tap into these trends.

If you are Carsharing company Sharenow, it matters a lot if you can tap into a big inner-city market of people who don’t own a car and feel perfectly comfortable hiring and unlocking one with their smartphone. What seemed unfamiliar five years makes perfect sense today. We’ve seen an interesting trend in the Netherlands during COVID of families leaving the metropolitan cities and moving into the countryside or smaller communities. This trend is an exciting opportunity to tap into e-bikes and electric cars. Another emerging trend that COVID accelerates is that every entrepreneur is thinking hard about designing the optimal environment for combining physical presence with distributed working. 

When you think about introducing a new product or service into the market, it’s vital to understand the trends. Successful innovators understand that demographic, technological, cultural and economic trends generate new opportunities.  

2. Meso-Forces: What are the needs I can tap into?

The second category of forces that shape behaviour are needs and motivations. They drive behaviour in unconscious yet essential ways. All of us have deeply rooted desires: The desire for love, recognition, competence, social status, belonging, adventure, purpose, protection and excitement. Every brand in the world taps into these deeper needs: 

  • BMW taps into the desire to project masculinity and social status
  • Volvo taps into the desire for security and protection
  • Beer brands all tap into the desire for friendship and connection
  • Business schools tap into the desire for competence and social status.

There’s a saying in Silicon valley that every successful tech company taps into one of the seven deadly sins. Understanding these drivers, motivations or Jobs-to-be-Done is essential for designing interventions for behavioural change. If you can’t tap into an existing desire, your intervention will probably fail. The Behavioural Design Canvas is a great tool to uncover these forces. 

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3. Micro-Forces: What are the biases I can tap into? 

The third category of behavioural forces is micro-forces. Let’s suppose you uncovered a behavioural trend (say: middle classes flock to cities in hordes and can’t afford a car). You also crafted a proposition that taps into a deep desire (e.g. you offer luxury electric vans to go on weekend trips in the countryside to fulfil the desire for adventure and social status).

The big question from a behavioural change perspective is now: How do I trigger people to buy what I’m offering?

To become successful, you will need to find ways to get people to see the message, boost the motivation to try it, reduce doubts and uncertainties and make it as easy and frictionless as possible to order it. In the case of our electric van, you will boost motivation through social proof, reduce anxiety by demonstrating the comfort of sleeping in the vehicle in a demo video or guaranteeing 24/7 support, including insurance. You might want to look for hot trigger moments and advertise on billboards near busy roads, where traffic jams increase people’s motivation for escapism.

For this layer, a great tool to think about designing interventions is our SWAC-tool. In the SWAC-model you will find many principles from the science of influence to spark behaviour (S), to boost the desire to want (W) something, to help people to be able, so they can do it (C), and make them do it again and again (A).

Summary

Designing a strategy for behavioural change requires you to think in three layers. True innovators tap into emerging trends. They see where the puck is going. They also understand the psychological needs that drive behavioural change. And they take great detail in figuring out the details to get people actually to change their behaviour. 

Tom De Bruyne

Cover visual by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.

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Especially for you we've created a free eBook 'How to convince someone who believes the opposite'. For you to keep at hand, so you can start using the insights from this blog post whenever you want—it is a little gift from us to you.

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How do you do. Our name is SUE.

Do you want to learn more?

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

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

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

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

sue behavioural design
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