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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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Experience the Hackathon with your own eyes

By All, Behavioural Science Insights

Five teams of Behavioural Design Academy alumni spend an afternoon trying to change behaviour to make the world a better place. That is the SUE Hackathon. The challenge for the first edition came from the City of Rotterdam: Get Rotterdammers to replace garden tiles with pieces of greenery. 


The issue

The question of the City of Rotterdam sounds simple but turns out to be very difficult. There are a lot of human peculiarities involved in the design of a garden. Everyone’s garden is different. What is common is that gardens are seen as an essential addition to the interior of your home. It has to be beautiful for most people, but above all, it has to be easy on the eye. When it comes to the greenery in the garden, people often think: the more green, the more hassle. And that isn’t good for the quality of life and biodiversity.

How did we proceed?

The teams received a kick-off from Vincent Karremans, alderman of the City of Rotterdam. During the kick-off, the City of Rotterdam shared the insights they had already gained in the past. The teams were extremely enthusiastic. With the insights from the kick-off, the teams could get to work. They pulled out all the stops by carrying out a rapid behavioural analysis on their own initiative. They phoned various people who have a garden to ask them about their motivations for garden design.

Insights

A great deal of resistance was discovered. For example, there is a lack of knowledge about maintaining greenery and what kind of greenery can replace tiles. People are also afraid that it will result in dirty shoes. And if people have to choose, they would rather have a slightly more boring garden with tiles than a poorly maintained green garden. Many teams came to the sobering realisation that tremendous help is needed for a large-scale change. Tossing a few tiles seems easy, but the deeper you delve into the issue, the more complex the solutions prove to be. For Alderman Karremans, was this a clear realisation as well: on a large scale, a lot of money, time and effort will have to be put into this issue.

Get more detailed information.

Download our Behavioural design Sprint brochure telling you all about the ins and outs of the sprint in detail. Please feel free to contact us suppose you would like some more information. We gladly tell you all about the possibilities.

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Great ideas

In six hours, the teams managed to present interesting ideas at various levels. One of the ideas was to stimulate façade gardens by indicating with lines where façade gardens are allowed. And… the houses with visible lines do not yet contribute to a greener climate – a good form of social pressure. Interesting ideas also emerged for market parties, such as designing pieces of greenery in the dimensions of garden tiles. In that way, you can easily remove your tile and replace it with something green. Or adapt your garden to who you are, such as incorporating a typical cultural symbol in your garden. The winning team came up with a very original idea, with which you can place what you like to identify within your garden. What this is exactly, remains a surprise. The City of Rotterdam is in the process of actually implementing this idea. So keep a close eye on the news from the City of Rotterdam.

Yes, it works!

The participants had fun, but they also sweated. At one point, we even heard the team that had emerged as the winner say: “Are we even going to make it?” The lesson? Behavioural Design is never easy, but something special always comes out of it if you follow the steps carefully. The stress balls, stress-control deodorant and energy bars also helped, of course!

Challenge yourself in Behavioural Design

Would you like to challenge yourself more in Behavioural Design? Then take a look at the Behavioural Design Academy. Here you will learn the basics of Behavioural Design within two days so that next time you will be able to participate in the Hackathon.
Have you already followed the Behavioural Design Academy, and are you ready for a further step? In the Advanced Course, we will train you to become an accredited Behavioural Designer. You learn from A to Z how to set up and lead a Behavioural Design project while working on your own case. This enables you to work as a Behavioural Designer in your own organisation on complex issues concerning behavioural change. Reserve your spot here.

In conclusion

We could not be happier with the results of our first Hackathon. We will repeat this event every year to give our alumni’s the chance to keep their knowledge up-to-date and work on a solution to a real-life problem!

Vice mayor Vincent Karremans was also very impressed by the results the candidates made in such a short time.

“Although many of the ideas need further work in order to be successfully guided through the decision-making process of the city government, the breadth and cleverness of the yield of these mere five hours were fantastic.”

See you next year!

Tim Versnel

 

Impression of the Hackathon

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,…

 

(more below the banner)

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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.

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

sue behavioural design
The

Our first Behavioural Design Hackathon

By All, Behavioural Science Insights

If we put five teams of Behavioural Design Academy alumni in a room together for five hours, could they create a solution for a problem that governments have been struggling with for years? That was the question on our mind when we kicked off our very first Behavioural Design Hackathon, last Friday. We’ll have to wait for the real results, but we’re convinced they got remarkably far.


Flip those tiles

Here is the problem, which was provided to us by the great City of Rotterdam.

“how do we get people to replace concrete tiles in their garden with grass or plants, to support climate adaptation and biodiversity in the city?”

Sounds straightforward, but the solution, the city has learned, is not. But it’s not for lack of trying. The City of Rotterdam has been really active. They’re providing one-off subsidies, there’s a ‘Tile-taxi’ to help people get rid of their discarded tiles, and there’s even a Dutch tile lifting championship, pitting the cities of Rotterdam and Amsterdam against each other. Not bad at all! Although there certainly has been a lot of progress, the city needs more acceleration to meet critical policy goals.

 

Solve it efficiently while you can

Big organisations such as governments can let problems like these float around for years. They are stuck in limbo between doing some good actions to tackle the problem but not going all-in and deliberately designing and executing a strategy to solve it.

It’s basically waiting for either a lucky eureka-moment by an involved professional or a sudden boost of urgency caused by some external event. To make matters worse, this usually results in an inefficient solution because it is only put into action to signal to angry voters (or customers) that it is being taken seriously. This results in spending an amount of money on an issue proportionate to the inflated problem perception.

So why wait till this external event shakes up the public and causes a rushed and inefficient solution? It is way smarter to deliberately design effective and efficient strategies while you can. We want to stay ahead of everybody else and tackle this problem right now.

The
New Formats

At SUE, we’re constantly experimenting with new ways to use our SUE | Behavioural Design Method© for the best way to effectively and efficiently solve wicked behavioural challenges. In many cases, that’s one of our Sprint propositions. Still, we’re increasingly discovering the potential of smaller formats such as a hackathon to serve as an accelerator of ongoing innovation processes. We’re getting great feedback on it from alumni of the Behavioural Design Academy who are experimenting with it in their organisations as well. 

Getting it done

We firmly believe that being a behavioural designer is about a lot more than understanding the scientific theory and models that describe human behaviour – although that is an essential part of it. It is about developing the practical know-how to be able to navigate the reality of your organisation or business and design real-world interventions to real-world problems. It is about not just knowing what should be done, but about being able to actually get it done. Designing and leading the right process is a key part of that. 

Get more detailed information.

Download our Behavioural design Sprint brochure telling you all about the ins and outs of the sprint in detail. Please feel free to contact us suppose you would like some more information. We gladly tell you all about the possibilities.

Download the brochure

Go ahead, it’s completely free of charge!

Little time, big yield

During the hackathon, the five teams were each able to very positively surprise the vice-mayor of Rotterdam Vincent Karremans. He took part as a jury member to judge how well the solutions could be applied in practice. With their solid analysis of the human perspective of the desired behaviour and the truly human-centered solutions they were able to come up with, each group did a great job presenting their behavioural design solution.

In conclusion

We could not be happier with the results of our first Hackathon. We will repeat this event every year to give our alumni’s the chance to keep their knowledge up-to-date and work on a solution to a real-life problem!

Vice mayor Vincent Karremans was also very impressed by the results the candidates made in such a short time.

“Although many of the ideas need further work in order to be successfully guided through the decision-making process of the city government, the breadth and cleverness of the yield of these mere five hours were fantastic.”

See you next year!

 

Tim Versnel

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

How to double hand washing in the office and stay friends

By All, Behavioural Science Insights

If there would be an easy and friendly way to significantly improve how well people in your office wash their hands between touching all of the common surfaces such as doorknobs, the coffee machine, and the fridge, would you want to have it? Then right on and get it. With compliments of the Dutch government.

The rules are back

You’ve heard it: the basic hygiene rules have been reintroduced by the government to suppress the spread of the virus. Two years ago people would’ve laughed uncomfortably at such a sentence. Right now, we all know what it means. Get tested and stay at home if you have symptoms, work from home if you can, wear a face mask in public places, keep your distance, cough in your elbow, and wash your hands. We can dream it, and the vast majority of us support and will conform to these norms – mostly.

Saying isn’t doing

Throughout the pandemic, the Dutch public health institute RIVM has kept track of public support of and compliance with the various norms. Its insightful dashboard shows that for most norms, support and compliance have differed significantly. For instance, 84 percent supports staying at home when having symptoms, but only 55 percent reports actually doing it. That’s a noteworthy difference, yet for behavioural designers, such a gap between intention and action would have been expected.

There’s one such disparity on the dashboard, however, that will take even the most experienced old fox among you by surprise.

“83 percent support washing hands in accordance with the guidelines, and a mere 32 percent actually do it.”

They just don’t

What makes this even more remarkable, is that none of the explanations which typically help us understand intent-action gaps are applicable. There are no obvious conflicting motivations, like when social jobs-to-be-done supersede the intention to stay at home with symptoms. There are no overwhelming practical problems: hands can be washed in every bathroom, toilet or pantry at no cost to the individual involved. And it doesn’t really involve resisting any kind of conflicting temptation.

People support it. They want to do it. They can do it. But they just don’t.

So – how do we change that?

The challenge

This is the challenge we were approached with by Majka van Doorn (who by the way happens to be an alumnus of our Behavioural Design Academy) and her team at DGSC-19, a Rijksoverheid-directorate focused on medium-term measures to suppress the spread of the virus, together with the RIVM. Hand washing is incredibly effective in reducing the spread of pathogens and is particularly important in office environments, where people touch many of the same surfaces. Whether elevator buttons, doorknobs, phones, coffee machines, fridges, food in the cafeteria, or copy machines; they’re all great for the spread of viruses when hand washing discipline is low. It’s obvious why the government would want to come up with an effective intervention, especially now more and more people have begun working at the office again. And boy, did we deliver.

In a custom Sprint that was set up to start creating and testing and get practical as quick as possible, we first rapidly worked our way through a truckload of reports on attempts in other countries to tackle the same behavioural challenge, dived in the available data on the Dutch situation, and filled up the Behavioural Design Canvas. In two creative sessions we then designed five intervention strategies that we thought should work, and with our partners from the Rijksoverheid we selected three of them to prototype with the target group. With some adjustments, the combination of the three appeared to be a comprehensive intervention strategy, and merited a full-scale field test to measure real effect on behaviour.   

Download the SUE hand washing guide

The name SUE comes from the song 'a boy named SUE'. Sing the song while washing your hands the correct way!

Behavioural interventions

1. Reframing. The first element is to reframe hand washing. The framing that occurs naturally through the current public discourse is that hand washing is something you do to prevent becoming ill or spreading illness. If you’re not fearful of that, you might still consciously support the measure in general, but you won’t subconsciously be triggered to wash hands enough throughout a day yourself. And as most behaviour occurs automatic, this then simply won’t.

Using a tool that’s great to instantly test framing effects, we designed a set of thirteen posters that in a friendly way reframe hand washing and connect it with food and other peoples’ hands, and the simple message: nicer with clean hands. Each poster visualises a specific situation and should be placed contextually relevant.

2. Visual cues. The second element is to provide simple and clear visual cues, in the form of colourful stickers, that toilets are not just a place where you relieve yourself, but where you can also wash hands. If motivation and ability are high enough, then sometimes all that’s needed is a well designed and placed spark.

Morover, with another set of visual interventions we attempted to insert hand washing into the arriving-at-the-office sequence that for most people is very habitual. When you’re in the pantry to get coffee, first wash your hands. You’re there anyway.

Astoundingly effective

The field-test, which we set up in partnership with our partners from DGSC-19 and RIVM, in a government office building in Rotterdam consisted of a weeklong measurement before interventions were placed, and then a weeklong measurement within four testing conditions. Soap usage was used as a proxy for hand washing. And the results were astounding: hand washing increased with up to 165 percent, going from an average of 2,8 times hand washing per day to 7,4 times a day. And what’s more: test persons did not experience the interventions as annoying. In fact they found them very useful for other people. Great!

Get more detailed information.

Download our Behavioural design Sprint brochure telling you all about the ins and outs of the sprint in detail. Please feel free to contact us suppose you would like some more information. We gladly tell you all about the possibilities.

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Go ahead, it’s completely free of charge!

In conclusion

These interventions clearly make a huge difference, and that just goes to show that don’t always need a big flashy campaign to change behaviour. You just need to find and hit the right nerve as simple as you can. And here’s the best thing: you’ll have to print ‘m yourself, but the posters and stickers are free for you to use.

One last thing: do make sure that there’s enough soap available. Your colleagues are gonna want it.

Tim Versnel

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

Conspiracy theories and the human psyche

By All, Behavioural Science Insights

Conspiracy theories are a puzzling testimony to several peculiarities of our brain and the inner workings of the human psyche. However, they are omnipresent and have accompanied us throughout history. Whether it is 9/11, moon landings, the murder of Kennedy, or Covid-19, key societal events have rarely escaped a certain ‘conspiracy appeal’. Although they have been around for centuries, the ease with which we can share them today has given conspiracy theories incredible traction. So, what makes conspiracy theories so appealing to some, why do people believe them, and is there a way to protect us from their potentially detrimental effects?

Misinformation or conspiracy? 

Let’s clarify first, conspiracy theories might easily -but wrongly- be equated with misinformation. This however is not the same thing. Believing a Covid vaccine doesn’t work isn’t a conspiracy theory. It’s just being misinformed. For something to be a conspiracy there need to be two things. First, there need to be two or more people involved (conspirators) and second, they need to have a secret or hidden plot (the conspiracy). For instance, stating the Chinese government launched the covid-19 virus to be able to inject bio trackers in the population or claiming that the CIA was directly involved in the murder of Kennedy ‘is’ a conspiracy theory.

Such theories trigger numerous questions. Where do they come from, who benefits, which people are prone to fall for them and why do they do so? And even more importantly, how should we deal with these theories and their followers.

Evolution made us skeptical

Before we go into the psychology of conspiracy theories let’s look at this phenomenon through the lens of evolution theory. Evolution hardwired us to be at least a bit skeptic and doubtful. There is a very logical explanation for this: it is called natural selection. During our evolution as a species, we were confronted with many dangers. Now consider the effects of a false negative versus a false positive assessment. Imagine I wrongfully think there is a predator (false positive): in that case, my prudence wasn’t really needed but it didn’t do any harm either. Now consider the reverse situation. A false negative, thinking there wasn’t any danger, while there was a predator: this imprudent assessment got you killed. It therefore seems fair to presume that an overly naïve community that always gave it the benefit of the doubt would be rapidly decimated.

“As a species it seems, a certain level of distrust and skepticism pays off.”

It translates into an ongoing inclination to be on the lookout for hidden dangers or plots.  It seems, at least biologically, sound. In addition, there HAVE been many exposed conspiracies. The abundant proof throughout history of conspiracy ploys adds support to the notion that the ‘idea’ IS plausible. After all, didn’t we learn afterwards that America had a weapon deal with Iran, that the Belgian government did impose false testimony on its journalists during the Chernobyl disaster or that Nixon did commit the Watergate fraud? History shows some skepticism is merited.

BONUS: free ebook 'Confirmation Bias: how to convince someone who believes the opposite'

Especially for you we've created a free eBook 'Confirmation Bias: 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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Three forces that drive conspiracy theories

1. Cognitive bias

To complicate matters further our human psyche adds three additional forces that trigger us to take conspiracies seriously. The first component has to do with our desire -but limited abilityto understand the world we live in. We have developed several psychological short cuts to help us makes some sense of the world around us, but these mechanisms can bias our reasoning too. Some of our shortcuts lead us to fall far conspiracy ploys.

For instance, our proportionality bias makes us believe that big events need to have big causes. And our intentionality bias leads us to look for cause, meaning, and intent, also when it isn’t there.

To make things worse, our species is particularly tuned to look for patterns: it’s all connected, man! This desire to understand, pushes us towards narratives that provide meaning. An interesting narrative that satisfies our inner need to grasp the complexity of our lives is too attractive to ignore.

2. Group psychology

Group psychology adds another layer of appeal. Having something interesting to share within the in-group makes a person more valued and prominent. This attention-seeking behavior has been linked with an inclination towards narcissism (both on the individual as on collective levels). Clearly, social motives play a big part in the distribution of conspiracy ploys: remember for instance the appeal of the (false) proposition that there weren’t any Jews killed in the 9/11 attacks, a conspiracy rationale that was particularly prominent in Muslim communities.

3. The need to belong

And finally, several existential anxieties drive people to believe conspiracy ploys. We have a strong need to belong and feel at home. We define the world in terms of similarities and differences, in-crowds, and foreigners. Low-status groups tend to believe their position is a direct consequence of conspiracies of other groups. They regularly attribute their lesser position to a master plan of the outgroup to keep them oppressed.

“People that feel disconnected from society or experience a lack of agency and power, therefore, tend to be particularly sensitive for conspiracy thinking.”

In that respect, it is likely that the Qanon followers and the ‘deplorables’ that voted on Trump all shared a sense of loss of control over their lives and prosperity. Conspiracy theories have therefore also been called ‘the theories of the losers’ and it is indeed the case that many conspiracy theories focus on the ‘adversaries’ that happen to be in power.

How to debunk conspiracies?

Having now established that we have existential, social, complex, historical, and biological reasons to at least consider conspiracies it is no wonder they are so difficult to deal with. In fact, we still haven’t figured out how to counter them successfully. For now, we must satisfice with understanding what doesn’t work.

A route that has been often tried and failed, is the route of confrontational counter-argumentation. This route can even be counterproductive. For the believers, it only strengthens their belief in cover-ups. They only see the conspiracy at work. To make things worse their doubt and skepticism gets widened public coverage and exposure which more likely fuels the appeal of the group even more as well as that it serves as an ego-booster for (narcissistic) members that smelled a stage and fifteen seconds of fame. The public domain is the perfect yeast for a conspiracy theory and counter-argumentation in the public debate will prove of little avail.

It, therefore, seems better to tackle the problem from within. To debate and question the proof and facts within the believers’ community, to join their platforms, and to debate on their ground. That isn’t so easy. It requires at least a minimal amount of empathy for the conspiracy believers and a genuine interest in their facts, data, and rationale.

Want to learn how to apply behavioural science in practice?

Then the Fundamentals Course is perfect for you! You'll catch up on the latest behavioural science insights and will be handed tools and templates to translate these to your daily work right away. Learning by doing. We have created a brochure that explains all the ins and outs of the Fundamentals Course; feel free to download it here.

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In conclusion

Clearly, it will not be a route with fast results. But in my opinion, it is one of a few feasible routes that have some chance of success. Meet them on their ground, empathize with their case and gradually probe and question their facts. You might even be surprised! Sometimes, as history has proven, … they could be right…!

Yves Plees

As managing director of Sue Behavioural Design, it is my firm belief that solutions for the world’s challenges can’t solely come from technological innovation but need to take human psychology and social behaviors into account. With my work and writings, I hope to contribute to this view.

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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werken bij SUE

Werken bij SUE

By All

(Aanstaande) gedragsontwerpers opgelet,

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

Wat zoeken we?

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

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

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

 

Wie zoeken we?

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

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

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

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

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

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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. 

Want to shape behaviour and decisions?

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

Download the brochure

Go ahead, it’s completely free of charge!

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.

BONUS: free ebook 'How to convince someone who believes the opposite'

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.

Download ebook

Go ahead, it’s completely free of charge!

How do you do. Our name is SUE.

Do you want to learn more?

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

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

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

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

sue behavioural design
SUE | SWAC Tool© Explained

SUE | SWAC Tool© explained

By All, Behavioural Science Insights

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

How to design behaviour: Moments that Matter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Change doesn’t happen overnight for any behaviour.

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

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

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

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

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How to design behaviour: SWAC

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

We are what we repeatedly do.

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

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

 

How to design behaviour: Capability

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

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

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

 

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

Willingness to change requires cognitive action.

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

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

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

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

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

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Designing behaviour: Willingness

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

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

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

Behavioural Change = Spark * Want * Again * Can

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

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

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

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

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

Designing behaviour: Behaviour has to be sparked

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

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

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

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

 

Summary: Designing behaviour is a matter of having SWAC

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

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

 

Astrid Groenewegen

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