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Employee behaviour

The Behavioural Design of a Great Team

By All, Employee behaviour

I wrote this blog post on why personal coaching is rather pointless, a little while ago. I tried to argue that it’s much more important to put the effort in the coaching of a team, than to coach individuals. Great teams have figured out ways to harness the collective creativity and intelligence of a group. But a team can only transform into a great team if the individuals in the group have sufficiently overcome their need for security, recognition and belonging.

The team is more important than the individual

In the fascinating Project Aristotle, Google discovered that two behaviours that separate great teams from mediocre teams were psychological safety (the ability to take risk and feel safe with eachother) and dependability (the shared feeling that the team depends on each other to meet the high standards of the company).

The role of the leader is to coach the team. I had the privilege to work for such a leader in the last three days. She defines her role as a leader as serving her team.  She does mentor the individual members of the group but only to the extent that they can become better team players. It’s so fascinating to see this at work.

More on the Behavioural Design Blog:
How Jeff Bezos designs team behaviour
How to design an innovation habit?

Speaking of which, I usually wouldn’t waste an evening watching football on the TV, but I’m always happy to make an exception when Liverpool FC is playing. Watching the Liverpool team play is the closest football can get to art. The way this team transcends the individual qualities of its players is beyond anything I’ve ever seen in the game. The secret behind their success is the German coach Jurgen Klopp and his Dutch assistant Pepijn Lijnders. They have injected a shared passion for outperformance into this group. They managed to get even the biggest ego’s in the team to subject themselves to the importance of the team. This group has become so incredibly good that even their B-team can compete with the best teams in the Premier League. Fascinating stuff.

How to receive feedback like a boss.

Feedback can be hard and painful. But they are at the same time a precious gift. This is a list of behaviours on getting better at receiving feedback, we shared with our alumni:

Prime yourself for positivity.
Frame getting feedback as a gift, not as a criticism. How often do you have the opportunity that someone cares enough and is brave enough to teach you something about yourself?

Block your first reaction.
Never explain or defend. When you’re doing that, you’re not accepting the feedback. Digest it.

Always thank the person for giving feedback.
Every opportunity to learn and to improve is awesome.

Ask questions to deconstruct or clarify their feedback.
Don’t assume you understand too early.

Always try to reverse engineer it to specific behaviours.
“It was because you said x or did y, that it made me feel z”. Past behaviour never lies.

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Culture: you are what you repeatedly do.

We think of Company Culture as a set of behaviours that shape the way that people think, feel and behave in the long run. If you can trigger feedback behaviour in a team and turn it into a habit, then you will eventually create a feedback culture. If you can find ways to trigger criticism in a team to force them to make better arguments, you will develop a culture of excellence. A great example is a re-team blue team set-up. The red team is instructed to come up with the arguments against going on with the project. This set-up – or behavioural design intervention, if you will –  triggers the proponents to come up with better arguments. The point I’m trying to make: Transforming a company culture is very abstract.

If you can succeed in triggering specific behaviours, and if you can build simple habits, a cultural transformation will follow. You are what you repeatedly do.

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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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Jeff Bezos' famous rules for high output Team Behaviour

How Jeff Bezos designs Team Behaviour

By All, Employee behaviour

The number one question for every organization in the knowledge economy is to figure out how to get the highest level of creative, intellectual and productive power from their teams. This is a classic wicked Behavioural Design challenge: How do you design the ultimate high-output team? And how can you trigger team behaviour that leads to high output? Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has got some fascinating answers to this problem.

Jeff Bezos' famous rules for high output Team Behaviour

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is famous for his unorthodox management ideas to get the most out of a group of talented people. At Amazon they cultivate certain behavioural design principles that are designed to challenge group-think and promote excellence. The Atlantic published a fascinating long read about Bezos in which a couple of these ideas are covered.

The two-pizza team

The most famous rule is the “two-pizza teams”-rule: Every team should be able to be fed with no more than two pizza’s. The idea is that the small teams instil a sense of ownership over projects. The downside of this design is that “employees placed on such small teams can also experience a greater fear of failure because there’s no larger group in which to hide or to more widely distribute blame” (Quote from The Atlantic).

The 6-page memo

Another rule I learned about is the 6-page memo. Quoting the Atlantic again:

Amazon has a raft of procedures to guide its disparate teams. Bezos insists that plans be pitched in six-page memos, written in full sentences, a form he describes as “narrative.” This practice emerged from a sense that PowerPoint had become a tool for disguising fuzzy thinking. Writing, Bezos surmised, demands a more linear type of reasoning. As John Rossman, an alumnus of the company who wrote a book called Think Like Amazon, described it, “If you can’t write it out, then you’re not ready to defend it.

The six-pagers are consumed at the beginning of meetings in what Bezos has called a “study hall” atmosphere. This ensures that the audience isn’t faking its way through the meeting either. Only after the silent digestion of the memo—which can be an anxiety-inducing stretch for its authors—can the group ask questions about the document”.

What a fascinating intervention to design high performance team behaviour! By simply asking people to pitch their plans in a 6-page narrative, they are forced to think very clearly about the problem and the solution. And by setting up this “study hall”-ritual at the beginning of the meeting, you know that your text will be read thoroughly and that you will be shredded if you didn’t think things through.

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Has reading the Behavioural Research inspired you to see how you can make Behavioural Design power up your organisation? Please check out what we can do to shape employee behaviour.

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Culture is not about values, but about behaviour

How often have you been in a session in which you are asked to think about core values that define the culture of the organisation? I think this exercise is total crap. The whole idea that a team can cough up core values based on a brainstorm is insane. Values, beliefs and cultures are shaped by how the team interacts.

How a team interacts is by large determined by how the little rules, rituals of habits they installed to shape their interactions.

If a team is committed to a daily check-in, a proper check-out of every meeting and a weekly retrospective in which they share a round of constructive feedback, they will think of themselves as totally committed to growing and learning. They will think of honesty and feedback as something they simply do as a team.

Organisational design is about designing decision-making

There was another passage in the longread about Jeff Bezos that I thought was fascinating:

“What is Amazon, aside from a listing on Nasdaq? This is a flummoxing question. The company is named for the world’s most voluminous river, but it also has tributaries shooting out in all directions. Retailer hardly captures the company now that it’s also a movie studio, an artificial-intelligence developer, a device manufacturer, and a web-services provider. But to describe it as a conglomerate isn’t quite right either, given that so many of its businesses are tightly integrated or eventually will be. When I posed the question to Amazonians, I got the sense that they considered the company to be a paradigm—a distinctive approach to making decisions, a set of values, the Jeff Bezos view of the world extended through some 600,000 employees. This description, of course, means that the company’s expansion has no natural boundary; no sector of the economy inherently lies beyond its core competencies”.

Amazon is a paradigm, a distinctive approach to making decisions. That’s what makes the company so dangerous. The reason why they win in nearly every market is that they figured ways to analyse customer preferences and needs, build technology to cater to those needs and most of all: they know how to quickly turn this into success because they have a set of rules that allows them to make winning decisions much faster than their competitors.

More blogs about Organisational Design:

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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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How to design an innovation habit?

By All, Employee behaviour

This blog post touches upon the organisational habits that boost innovation and growth. Why are some companies more innovative than others? I want to argue that they have habits in place that produce more ideas and habits to get those ideas shipped. As Steve Jobs once famously said (paraphrasing William Gibson) : “Real artists ship”. In this blogpost I want to explore this innovation habit, based on our 8 year experience with collaborating with teams.

 

The habits that kill innovation.

Dozens of books have been written about this subject, but from our own experiences on running behavioural design sprints, these were the most common habits that kill innovation:

 

No research culture / a crisis of curiosity.
The bigger a company gets, the more out of touch it becomes with how real users think, feel and behave. Managers rely on abstract data, like market shares, sales volumes, etc. The more detached they become from the real customer, the less probable they will spot exciting opportunities.

 

No ideation culture / a crisis of imagination.
Once an organisation outgrew its startup phase and entered its scale-up phase, the whole mindset of the organisation is focused on growing the business. Most businesses organise their process around building the existing product offering. Moreover, to achieve this growth mindset, a specialisation of roles is required. Everyone is expected to perform in their specific domain, from the product manager to marketing manager, digital manager, UX-er, and communication manager. This results in a decreased capability of the organisation to think out-of-the-box and to think outside-in. Nearly always, the exciting opportunity for innovation transcends the boundaries of the specific discipline.

 

No prototyping culture / a crisis of experimentation.
The more an organisation specialises, the more we expect those specialists to know what they are doing. This expert fallacy is a well-known organisational problem: Because we are expected to be experts, we are more inclined to act like experts. The more we think we know, the less alienated we become from discovering the truth. Not knowing is perceived as a weakness in these companies, while every successful startup knows that aggressive experimentation is one secret ingredient to growth.

 

Conflicting incentives / a crisis of management.
In most organisations, the problem with innovation is that everyone, including management, is hired to execute the strategy. Not only are they hired, but they’re also reviewed based on the execution of the strategy. When your promotion depends on hitting the targets, everything related to new ideas will be perceived as a distraction.

 

The net effect of these habits is total inertia.
Even in the context of declining market share, missing targets and aggressive competition, all the forces in the organisation seem to pull people towards repeating the same strategies repeatedly. The habit of keeping doing what we always do is just too strong.

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The habits that boost innovation.

Innovation is not a goal as such. Innovation is always a function of growth. Some organisations are far better than others to spot opportunities, come up with ideas, test them and succeed in actually shipping them. Whether they improve the product, marketing, process or campaign, the value of new ideas is that they succeed in contributing to growth.That’s why we need to study the innovative power of an organisation as a habit problem.

Innovative companies have habits in place that trigger more curiosity, ideation, and experimentation. Continuous improvement is their default mode.

We have facilitated sprints with many teams. Most of them don’t call themselves “innovation teams”. They’re product teams, or growth teams, or customer experience teams. The biggest challenge they all face is to improve their output to generate growth for the business. There are four team habits we came across that strongly correlated with the creative and innovative power of a team:

 

A deep love-relationship with customer problems.
Innovative teams are in love with the problem of the customer. They relentlessly talk to customers or observe them in the real world and try to spot opportunities for helping customer to overcome pains, break bad habits, take away barriers and achieve goals. They are always asking themselves the question: How might we help our customers to be more successful

 

A fast process for generating ideas.
Innovative teams have proper ideation sessions. They follow the core principles for group creativity (like brainwriting and dotmocracy) and treat every idea as an interesting hypothesis. In a well designed creative process, the individuals come up with as many ideas as possible and the group decides upon which ideas are worth experimenting.

 

A process and tools in place to prototype and ship.
Great teams have a maker-mentality. They always try to figure out ways to prototype their ideas and test them in the real world. This allows them to increase their learning curve and their success rate rapidly. An essential condition for allowing this to happen is to have an infrastructure that allows experimentation.

 

A cultural shift that promotes, rewards and celebrates braveness.
This is by far the most important habit. Very often, the problem is cultural. If the organisation is number-driven, then you’ll always end up with all kinds of triggers that incline people to believe that following the rules and reaching targets is what the organisation expects of them. However, if you want to create a culture of experimentation, then you’ll have to embrace failure, promote and rewards braveness. People need to experience that experimentation is being expected of them.

Incremental versus radical innovation

In the literature on innovation, quite often the distinction is made between radical and incremental innovation. Incremental innovation is the optimisation of the existing products and services, whereas disruptive innovation is the more radical ideas to transform the business.

To be honest: I think this distinction is a bit artificial. If you think about the innovation habits we described above, then they are about being radically customer-centred, about having a maker-mentality, and a culture of experimentation. Out of this habit, both incremental, as well as radical ideas can emerge. The only thing an organisation needs to have in place is a fund to invest in the rapid prototyping and testing of some of the more radical ideas.

What this means for innovation leadership.

When approaching the problem of innovation in organisations from this perspective, I think

The role of an innovation leader in a company should be to help to build the innovation habit.

I don’t believe an innovation department – as the place where innovation is happening -is the solution. An innovation leader / or innovation tribe should be a group of people that facilitate and train teams to install the innovation habit. If new radical ideas come out of this process, they should be able to invest money in them to be able to hire a team to design, build, prototype and test the idea in the real world. If this experiment turned out to be successful, then it’s their job to convince the board to invest in the concept with ambition.

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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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A cliche image of coaching

Personal coaching is pointless: four reasons

By All, Employee behaviour, Personal Behaviour

The lie at the heart of the coaching and Leadership-Industry

I’m fully aware that I will probably get hate-mail for this. But I honestly think personal coaching is a gigantic waste of time and money. Personal coaching is based on the assumption that changing the individual will lead to a change in the behaviour of the group and will benefit the company. A multi-billion dollar leadership-industry even emerged around this assumption. “If only I would become a better leader, my company would grow and my team would flourish”.

I think this assumption is complete nonsense, because of these four reasons

1. There’s a very weak relationship between knowledge and habits.

Most smokers know smoking is bad for them. Most smokers know they should quit. But with every crave for relaxation or fighting boredom, they can’t help themselves and light up a cigarette.

The same goes for coaching. Learning a lot about yourself is one thing. Being able to break your automatic interaction patterns with your environment is a whole different subject. You and your environment can’t help but repeating the same patterns over and over again. And the moment you try to change, your environment will push back hard to get you in line with what they expect you to be.

2. Individuals are overrated when it comes to making a difference

Only collaborations create breakthrough innovations. The central storyline of Michael Lewis biography of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky is how these two Isreali psychologists, basically re-wrote the rules of psychology through their collaboration. which had all the characteristics of a creative-intellectual love affair. They could never tell who initiated a breakthrough insight or idea. It was the creative-intellectual tango between both of them, that generated idea after idea. Interestingly, their intellectual productivity dried up, when they got separated in the eighties.

By the same standards: There would be no Steve Jobs, without Steve Wozniak or Johny Ive. No Warren Buffet without Charlie Munger. Even the archetype of the lone genius, Albert Einstein, turned out to rely heavily on the genie of his wife Mileva Maric. I think it was Aristotle who said: “knowledge is dialogue”. So instead of looking inside for “unlocking hidden truths about yourself”, find yourself a creative partner and start playing.

In his new book “Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell”, Google’s former chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt brings a homage to Bill Campbell, who both coached the Apple and Google Board at the same moment. Bill was famous for coaching the team, not the individuals of the team. As Schmidt puts it:

“You hear all the day that “I need a mentor.” Well, by the way, you need a mentor and I need a mentor; mentors are great. That’s not what Bill was. Bill was a coach and more importantly, he was the best coach of teams ever. And why do you need a team? Because a company is not an individual, it’s a team of individuals who need coaching to achieve their objective”.

 

3. You are the average of the five people you hang around with.

This is what Tim Ferris would write, if he would be given the chance to write copy on a public billboard.

The answer to becoming a better person is by surrounding yourself in your daily life with people better than yourself in different ways. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a mentor. But I do think that most of your uncertainties, flaws, ego-problems, bad habits and lack of energy can be attributed to the simple fact that you’re not surrounded by enough people, who push you to become the best possible version of yourself.

4. Change is about behaviour

Most of our limitations are the effect of the ecosystem we’re part of. As entrepreneurs, there was a time we worked day and night and frustrated our team because we couldn’t let go. The only way to solve this problem was to step out of this ecosystem for a while. This forced everyone in our team to step up and it provided an amazing opportunity for personal growth, and this includes Astrid and I. What changed us was an intervention that liberated everyone from a pattern we got locked into. No personal coaching could have solved this problem.

 

The Behavioural Design of Personal Growth

How does this relate to Behavioural Design? At SUE we think of Behavioral Design as a set of methods and principles to change behaviour, through the design of interventions that nudge people’s choices in a desired way. The more we work on big themes like happiness, excitement, creativity, productivity, etc… the more we discover that you can’t search for those values within yourself. They are the effect of the behaviour you are nudged into.

By the same standard we think of professional growth as just another Behavioural Design Briefing. If you want to grow as a person, simply create a context in which you are triggered into behaviors that lead to growth. The best way to achieve this is to come up with interventions that force a group to give more feedback. to engage in continuous learning and to experiment aggressively. Our Behavioural Design Sprintis an example of how the design of the process forces the group into these positive behaviours.

Want to learn more?

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

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

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How to create Excitement for a Design Sprint?

By All, Employee behaviour

A Design Sprint is a thrilling experience. You get to collaborate with your clients on trying to crack problems that deeply concerns them. However, a Design Sprint also requires a big leap of faith. What you ask them is to agree on a process, much more than an outcome. That’s not a small thing to ask. You will need to take away a couple of anxieties first. Not only to reassure them, but also to give them the ammunition to persuade their stakeholders. I want to share five insights we’ve learned over the last couple of years.

Tip 1: Address process anxiety at the start of the sprint.

I always begin my sprints with a “trust the process” slide. I acknowledge that their will be times when they will become a bit impatient, or that they will become worried about where the outcome is heading. I warn them that a design sprint is a systematic creative approach to turn profound insights on how their customers think and behave into innovative solutions. The best way to come up with new answers to solving problems is to be patient and to resist the urge to come up with ideas and solutions too fast. When you address this at the start of your sprint, you can come back to it easily whenever friction arises.

Tip 2: Explain why research and prototyping is so valuable

Whether the goal of the sprint is to create new value propositions or service and product innovations, the underlying promise is that the Sprint will provide them with a systematic approach to solve customer problems. The beauty of a (behavioural) design sprint is that its setup forces the participants to approach the problem with a rigor they haven’t probably experienced before: The sprint method forces them to get a better understanding the problem. It forces them to formulate hypotheses on how to solve those problems. It forces them to prototype multiple solutions, and finally, it forces them to learn which prototype works and why it works. By going through these steps, the (Behavioural) Design Sprint protects client teams against their own biases, and it protects them from the HIPPO in the room. The HIPPO is the Highest Paid Person in the Organization, who believes he/she is being paid to know best what the right strategy is. This alone already makes a sprint incredibly valuable.

Tip 3: Take away budget anxieties by anchoring the alternative

A Behavioural Design Sprint requires a considerable investment of time and money. You can’t do a sprint properly if you haven’t got a full-time dedication from your clients. Moreover, a Sprint with experienced Sprint Facilitators also requires a financial commitment. However, look at it this way: First of all, there’s a huge hidden cost of not developing a strategy through rapid prototyping. Imagine you come up with a strategy yourself and you ask your advertising/digital/design agency to execute it. Only to find out that you acted on the wrong assumptions after you produced the whole campaign or designed the product innovation. A (Behavioural) Design Sprint – and the act of prototyping and testing – at the start of your process minimizes this risk and maximizes the chances that you will be doing the right things and doing them right.

“There’s no such thing as a smooth waterfall from research to strategy to creativity to production. In every step of the process, everyone always wants to reinvent the wheel all over again”.

Another way to look at the cost of a behavioural Design Sprint is to compare it with how things are usually done. First clients pay a research agency to do the research. Then they hire a strategy consultancy to help with the strategy. Then they hire a design or advertising agency to bring the strategy to life. Not only do they need to pay three different agencies, but the level of noise and the loss of insights that this process produces is just gigantic. There’s no such thing as a smooth waterfall from research to strategy to creativity to production. In every step of the process, everyone always wants to reinvent the wheel all over again.

Tip 4: Make your client fall in love with the customer problem

A design sprint is a highly structured process to explore new answers for critical marketing or business problems. One of the first things you realize when you start with your customer interviews is that the briefing nearly always is asking the wrong question. The question we tend to ask is the question of how to improve our products and services to get people to buy them. After a couple of customer interviews, you always realize you’re asking the wrong question. You will come up with more intriguing answers when you turn the question outside-in:

“How might we help people to achieve their goals, dreams, and desires in the best possible way?”

Once the sprint team falls in love with the Job-To-Be-Done of the target audience at the offset of the sprint, the sprint becomes way more interesting. (Check out this 4 minute video in which we explain Job-to-be-Done thinking)

Tip 5: Create a shared language

I always found that once the sprint team embraces a shared language to look at the sprint goal, to define the real customer problem and to ask the right questions in the ideation round, magic starts to happen. For us, this is one of the most powerful benefits of our Behavioral Design Method. However, this applies to every human-centric framework you will use. When everyone is trying to answer the same customer-centric questions like “Are we really solving the customer’s Job-To-Be-Done, or “Is this a real customer pain?” or “Are we sufficiently taking away anxieties and other barriers” or “What can we do to make the desired behaviour easier?”, you will witness that you have created a group that is will dedicate itself to solve the problem together.

More on this topic:

Three Cardinal Sins against Customer Centricity in Finance

Three Techniques that will Supercharge your team’s creativity

Video: The Influence Framework: A magical tool to turn human understanding into ideas for Behavioural Change.

Why research is too important to leave it to market research agencies (Dutch)

De onzin van het opsplitsen van onderzoek, strategie, creatie en productie


Learn more about SUE’s Behavioural Design Sprint, a five-day sprint to solve critical marketing and business problems. We combine the method of Design Thinking with principles from Behavioural Psychology to discover human insights, come up with solutions that change behaviour and test them right away with the target audience to learn what works and why.

How can we help with your Challenges?

1. Get inspired, Subscribe for free to our popular bi-weekly mail on Behavioural Design skills.
2. Get answers, Do a Behavioural Design Sprint with us and come up with proven strategies to change behaviour.
3. Get skills, Book a seat at a two-day masterclass to become a certified Behavioural Designer.

 

 

 

3 techniques that will supercharge your team’s creativity

By All, Employee behaviour

This blog post shows you three super-effective techniques rooted in behavioural science to supercharge the creativity of your team. It does require to kill off one creativity habit we all use: the brainstorm. But trust us, the techniques we propose instead are much more effective and fun!

One habit we need to shake: brainstorming

Before we get to the goods of supercharging your team’s creativity, there’s one thing that needs to be taken care of first: we need to say goodbye to the good old brainstorm. For good. Maybe it sounds a bit harsh, but sorry, there’s no pardoning act. Brainstorms should die. The ‘inventor’ of the brainstorm Alex F. Osborn gave birth to brainstorms in 1939. So, it’s about time for a makeover. But let’s not question his intentions. According to Wikipedia Mr. Osborn “Was frustrated by employees’ inability to develop creative ideas individually for ad campaigns, in response, he began hosting group-thinking sessions.” And it still holds true: Solitary creative processes have an entirely different dynamic and output than a process in which great minds collide.

But why, oh why, are we then all still trapped in those everlasting flip-over led sessions that feel like such a waste of time and resources and where great minds tend to collapse instead of connecting?

Looking at brainstorms from a human psychology perspective, there’s a quite simple explanation. When a group engages in a group think process, the leader of the pack prevails. It is just nature. The one who is the loudest is heard the most. And the highest in rank at the table is often followed. The real problem with this is that a group only delivers a fraction of the possible number of ideas in a brainstorm.

 

How to supercharge the creative capital of a group

But there’s an upside to this: Research shows that teams are terrible in coming up with ideas but great in selecting ideas. So, if we fix the ideation part of the process, we can create magic. In fact, three simple behavioural design techniques can have a massive impact on the creative output of a group. They will help you to unlock the creative potential of a group, even of presumed non-creatives.

Research shows that teams are terrible in coming up with ideas but great in selecting ideas.

 

Boosting creativity: How Might We Questions

The first technique has to do with a human psychology principle that’s called the Framing Effect: How information is presented shapes our opinions about it. In this case, it is the question from which you jump-start your creative thinking. You can drive creative output by designing the problem using these three magic words: “How Might We?” Feel how the “Might” instantly liberates you: It urges you to go ahead and explore, to free your mind, be boundary-less, an explorer or pioneer even. Compared to its tight ass brother ‘Can’ it makes a world of difference. Just feel what it does to you when you frame the question as ‘How Can We?”. The ‘Can’ immediately forces you to think about the possibilities and even worse the impossibilities; practicalities also, harshly limiting the number of ideas already at the start of the process.

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Boosting creativity: brainwriting

When getting to the ideation part of the creative process we’ve to keep a few human psychology principles in mind. The first is social proof: People tend to follow the lead of others. Sometimes this manifest itself in the social bias of Authority: We have a strong tendency to comply with authority figures. Or we adjust our behaviour to reflect positively on how peers see us: The Reputation bias. The job to be done in the ideation phase is to reduce the biases that could potentially reduce the creative output and install a free-flowing non-judgmental exchange and ideation process that sparks everyone’s creative fire.

You’ll be amazed by the number and diversity of ideas you as a group will come up with in such limited time. From everyone. The bold and the timid. The upper rankers and the climbing uppers. The creatives and the presumed non-creatives.

A technique to do so is Brainwriting. Instead of coming up with ideas as a group, you start by thinking about ideas as an individual. The method is simple. Determine a ‘How Might We Question’. Give every person a stack of post-its. Set a timer for a brief period, somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes, and then as an individual write down as many ideas as possible, no talking, just go wild by yourself. Write down every idea that pops into your mind on a separate post-it. After time’s up, everyone shares his/her ideas with the group. Stick them on a large piece of paper. Describe them if necessary. But don’t comment on each other’s ideas just yet. All you do is grouping the ideas that seem similar. You’ll be amazed by the number and diversity of ideas you as a group will come up with in such limited time. From everyone. The bold and the timid. The upper rankers and the climbing uppers. The creatives and the presumed non-creatives. Then use the third technique to select the ideas.

 

Boosting creativity: dotmocracy

A fundamental concept in behavioural psychology is making target behaviour easier to do. A well-known psychological phenomenon in groups is social compliance. It’s very challenging for an individual to go against the norm, breaking the rules, to think differently. Social deviance is a hard behaviour to show, as it triggers another psychological principle: Loss Aversion. Humans prefer eliminating the risks of loss over increasing the odds of winning. And the most significant loss in a group process is rubbing against the hairs of the highest ranked person in the group and dealing with the personal retributions. But it’s precisely that kind of social deviance of going up against the top-ranked person in the group that helps to select the best ideas. A simple technique to eliminate this pressure and to fight compliance is called dotmocracy.

Loss aversion: Humans prefer eliminating the risks of loss over increasing the odds of winning.

 

The technique is simple: Everyone gets two same colored dots. Everyone groups around the paper with all ideas and at the same moment, you stick a dot on your two favorite ideas. Could be two dots at the same idea, could be dots on your ideas, could be dots on two different ideas. Just pick the ideas that you think have the most potential. Nobody can follow the lead of others, and you instantly get a clear overview of the best ideas. Usually, as a group, you discuss the selected ideas with two dots or more where people are asked to elaborate on the reason for picking the idea. After the explanation, the second round of dotmocracy should be done, placing dots on the ideas that came out as best in the first round. Although sometimes sticking dots at the same time is sometimes impossible (the best group size is therefore 5/6 people), the process shows people authority is not an issue. Everyone’s vote has the same weight. There are no larger dots. No different colored dots. No order of placing the dots.

 

If you only have 30 seconds, read this:

  • Three techniques rooted in behaviorual science can help you to boost the quality and diversity of your creative output;
  • It can help you make your creative output more qualitative as you can involve stakeholders from very different backgrounds, making your ideas more multi-layered and distinct;
  • It offers you a method to come up with ideas on your own without being distracted or disturbed, but at the same time the process involves interaction with others to make ideas better;
  • Instead of working for days on ideas, you come up with ideas fast, and you already get feedback after 15 minutes. Enabling you to make your ideas better or to kill the ideas that appeared not to be as good as you thought at first;
  • It offers new established multidisciplinary teams, such as scrum teams, easy to apply techniques to come up with creative output.

Cover image by BntOman ♥ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ✿ under Creative Commons license.

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How To Make an Agile Team Customer-Centric?

By All, Employee behaviour

Digital Transformation, Agile Transformation, and Customer Centricity are the three major challenges that are causing sleep deprivation of managers nowadays.

You could summarise that Digital Transformation is meant to be the driving force to be able to help a client faster, smarter and cheaper. Agile Transformation should give teams the speed and agility to catch up with this ever rapidly changing the client. And Customer-Centric Transformation should enable you to develop better product and services based on better client insights.

Recent research of FD (Financial Daily) and Vlerick Business school exposes all pains of digital and agile transformation projects. And basically, it all comes down to one thing: Where agile, digital and customer-centric transformation are initially started to gain a competitive advantage by becoming truly customer-centered, they turned out to be organizational oriented pitfalls.

Where agile, digital and customer-centric transformation are initially started to gain a competitive advantage by becoming truly customer-centered, they turned out to be organizational oriented pitfalls.

Chief Digital Officers complain they feel sabotaged by the traditional oriented management; managers complain that after investing in expensive SCRUM training, their teams keep doing what that have done before, but mask this by performing some SCRUM rituals; and teams complain that the bi-weekly SCRUM sprints deprive them of time to talk to consumers.

The only way out of this impasse is when you rigorously put the customer first in your Digital, Agile or Customer-Centric transformation.

The only way out of this impasse is when you rigorously put the customer first in your Digital, Agile or Customer-Centric transformation. If you make quantitative and qualitative insights into customer behaviour the starting point of the SCRUM team projects, of the digital innovations and the management team decisions, you’ll put the focus back on the actual purpose of the transformations: Gaining a competitive advantage by becoming customer-centric.

But unfortunately, that’s where things again tend to go sour, as organizations have outsourced this pivotal competence of gaining deep human insights to research agencies and marketing consultancies. The result being nobody in the team is still – literally – in touch with the client. It’s all secondhand information.

Adding a Customer Insight Lead to teams shifts the pain of organizational transformation to getting to knowing the pains of the consumer.

But one intervention could be the solution to all problems. Every SCRUM team, every Digital Transformation team, every Management Team or Board of Directors should get a Customer Insight Lead. Someone who’s responsible for delivering insights into customer behaviour on a continuous basis. This single intervention would shift the pain of organizational transformation to a focus on getting to know the pains of the consumer. Something people can comply with much easier.

Tom

 

 


You might also like to read:

How to create change by design

Lose weight using behavioural design

 


 

Tom is the founder of SUE Amsterdam and The Behavioural Design Academy. Our mission is to unlock the power of behavioural psychology to nudge people into making positive choices in work, life, and play.

In two days of high-end master classes, we train people in unlocking the powerful principles of behavioural psychology and teach them our Behavioural Design Method™ that translates this knowledge into actionable skills to influence personal behaviour or the behaviour of customers, employees, family members or the general public.

Cover image by Birger Kühnel under Creative Commons license.

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