1,5 Minutes on Influence: Forget Benefits and Knowing Which Books to Read

Happy 1,5 Minutes on Influence!

Here is your weekly dose of applying the psychology of influence
to positively impact choices and behaviours.

Looking forward to sharing insights with you!

Warm regards,



I wanted to share a thought that hit me while looking back at all the problems we’ve solved at SUE and studying other projects in behavioural design.

We often think the best way to persuade people is to show them the good things they’ll get if they change their behaviour. We do this by highlighting the benefits or pointing out the unique selling points.

However, I’ve realized that influencing people effectively goes beyond just showcasing the benefits. It’s crucial to remove the barriers to change.

Let me explain with an example from our work. During the Covid pandemic, a local health service sought our help to increase flu vaccination rates among healthcare workers. They were worried about a Covid surge happening at the same time as the flu season, and they wanted healthcare workers to be as protected as possible (to be clear, this initiative was about protection, not obligation or coercion).

When we talked to the healthcare workers, Most healthcare workers understood the flu vaccination’s benefits. They even said it would help them keep working, which was their main goal during the tough Covid times. They wanted to stay healthy for their patients and colleagues, who were all under a lot of stress.

However, the very motivation to be a stable contributor to the workforce faced a significant barrier— an obstacle that hindered the desired behaviour of getting a flu shot, which needed to be addressed.

The obstacle to vaccination wasn’t doubt about the flu vaccine’s benefits, but the inconvenience of accessing it. Many healthcare workers hesitated to leave their busy workplaces and colleagues to get vaccinated.

We tripled the number of healthcare workers getting the flu shot by directly addressing this barrier: introducing mobile vaccination teams to their workplaces. This straightforward and effective strategy eliminated the hassle of getting vaccinated,

This experience underscored a crucial lesson:  before you start talking about the good things that come with a behaviour change, first think about what might be stopping people from making that change.

With this insight, what steps can you take on your own? To boost your success in behavioural change, reflect on these four categories of potential obstacles in your projects:

·  Barriers from within: These are internal anxieties such as a lack of self-confidence, misalignment with one’s self-image or beliefs, feelings of insecurity, or simply not seeing oneself as the type of person who engages in the desired behaviour.

·  Barriers from others: This category includes anxieties about what others will think, the perception that the majority are not engaging in the behaviour, or that it contradicts what one has been taught by others.

·  Barriers from you: Anxieties can also stem from a lack of trust in the person or organization advocating for the change, not liking them, or not knowing them well enough.

·  Barriers from the desired behaviour itself: Doubts about one’s ability to perform the new behaviour, previous failures, disbelief in its effectiveness, or concerns about affordability are also significant sources of anxiety

Remember, making things easy for people is often more effective than trying to boost their motivation. Capability to change eats willingness to change for breakfast!

Further learning:

More about identifying and removing obstacles to change in my book ‘The Art of Designing Behaviour’ or ‘De Kunst van Gedrag Ontwerpen‘.

Are you interested in mastering the skill of pinpointing psychological barriers to change and selecting the right interventions to effectively overcome them? Join our two-day Behavioural Design Fundamentals Course and we will teach you (Dutch and English editions).


Do you also have so many books you still want to read? But don’t find the time to do it? I read this great insight from Thoreau about books that really resonated with me that will get you reading but also will help you select the books worth reading.

The ‘what to read’ selection is basically quite simple. Sometimes you have books that might as well could have transferred the main ideas into a blog post. So, ask yourself why delve into hundreds of pages when a brief article could summarize the book’s main ideas?

However, there are books out there that are more than mere conveyors of information; they are tools for thinking with new ideas. And yes, it may strike some as a drag the time it takes to engage with the ideas that are put forward. But hold on, it makes sense to do so. To paraphrase Thoreau,

Every tool has its challenges: The time given to working through new ideas, adopting and adapting, developing or discarding, changes our minds, changes us. This process of thinking, changing our minds, or even saying no to some ideas, really helps us grow. The true worth isn’t just in what we learn, but in the understanding we grow by thinking deeply about these ideas.

This really opened my eyes to which books I own and actually want to read. I hope it does the same for you.

Further reading:
My book ‘The Art of Designing Behaviour’ was meant to be a tool for you. To kickstart your growth in Behavioural Design you can download the first part here for free (scroll down a bit on the page). Dutch or English.

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Until next week,

Astrid Groenewegen

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