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Behavioural Design Week: Tim Versnel

By | All, behavioural design week, Behavioural Science, Sustainability

Tim Versnel is not only a senior Behaviour Design Lead and trainer at SUE, but foremost he is genuinely driven to unlock the powers of behavioural science to make this world a better place. Especially, designing behaviours for a sustainable future is what makes his heart tick, with an energetic and uplifting beat, that is. It’s a breath of fresh air to listen to Tim’s positive take on what we as humankind can achieve in changing the behaviours to secure a sustainable future. It simply needs a different approach which he explains in his Keynote. You will end with the idea that sustainability will make our lives better instead of worse. Be ready for a change, in point-of-views and your future!

Behavioural Design Week: Tim Versnel

Are you are worried about climate change but are overwhelmed by the apocalyptic future scenarios that tend to stifle your behaviour instead of boosting behaviour change? Well, fasten your seatbelts for an hour in which Tim’s talks about sustainability optimistically and confidently. And not just talks about it but showcases how behavioural science can open up a new way of thinking that will get sustainability done. He makes a solid case why the shock and awe tactic isn’t working but foremost proposes an alternative that will make us proud of what we can do to save this precious planet we all call home.

Tim Versnel: Our key take-aways

Tim showcases how behavioural science can get sustainability done. It simply needs a pivot. According to Tim, it takes three things:

  1. Talk about sustainability in an optimistic and confident way
  2. Help create products and services that are sustainable and make life better
  3. Use your social reward powers to encourage positive choices

Why what we are doing now is not working
He makes a case that we are currently acting on an implicit assumption that doesn’t hold:

Realisation of severity -> sense of guilt/shame/fear -> motivation to change behaviour -> change of behaviour

This shock and awe tactic is just a motivation strategy. There is a big gap between what we intend to do and what we do. We also see this in sustainability. The motivation to change behaviour translating into behaviour is doubtful at best. Especially, evoking negative emotions is not an effective strategy to motivate change. It may encourage you to act once, but research has shown that it decreases the chance of more sustainable behavioural change.

What can lead to behaviour change promoting sustainabilty
Tim makes a plea that we need to change the direction of our collective imagination. Let’s start harnessing that one force of nature we know so well; humans’ drive to make their own life better right now.

The core of our approach should be innovation-driven by empathy. People will sell climate action to themselves if we make them better products that help them fulfil their jobs-to-be-done. For most of us, that is not living a sustainable life. But for example, eating great food or driving somewhere fast. That’s why beyond burger is such a success: It is not fulfilling the wish to live sustainably; it fulfils our need to eat great food and reap the benefits of not eating meat such as meat sweats.

A different perspective on climate change
How might we make life even more incredible is a much more exciting design briefing than how might we stop life from being disastrous? Let’s get used to the idea that sustainability will make our life better, not worse. Not eventually, but right now.



Tim Versnel: Quotes to remember

The shock and awe tactic is not working. If we need to change the behaviour of billions of people we need a different approach that isn’t driven by guilt.

Let’s stop saying we have to stop climate change. Let’s start saying we get to be the generation that gets sustainability done.

The core of our work should be innovation driven by empathy.

For most people sustainability isn’t a critical job-to-be-done and that’s ok. By innovating with empathy at its core we can design products and services that are sustainable and solve annoying pains of current offers.

People will sell climate action to themselves if we make them better products that help them fulfill their jobs-to-be-done.

Let’s get used to the idea that sustainability will make our life better not worse. Not eventually, but right now.

Tim Versnel: Masterclass How to make sustainability simple

Want to truly learn how to apply behavioural science to shape choices and behaviours promoting sustainability? Tim will be teaching an exclusive online one-day masterclass ‘How to make sustainability simple’ on the 9th July 2021. Seats are limited (16); if you are interested in joining, you can reserve a spot for two weeks before turning it into a booking. If you want to do so, send us an email, and you’re on the list. Booking has been opened 1st May, and spots are running out. Here is some more information on the masterclass: UK version and Dutch version (direct download).

Tim will teach the masterclass in English in MS Teams unless we have all Dutch speaking participants. Do you want to enrol a group of 8 or more people in this masterclass? Then the masterlcass can also be taught in Dutch. Please contact us, if you want more information on this (in-company) edition of the masterclass.

Tim Versnel: Book as Keynote speaker

Would you like Tim to give this Keynote for your own team or at your own event. You can book him as Keynote speaker at a fee of € 1500, excluding VAT and travel expenses. Want to know more about the possibilies or customisation of the Keynote, please contact us.


Tim Versnel: Further reading

As said, Tim is truly passionate about unlocking the powers of Behavioural Design to design behaviours that promote a sustainable future. he has written a very interesting blog post on the subject, explaining why motivating people for climate change is problematic. He will be writing a blog post series, so be sure to subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of the page to not miss out on his fascinating thoughts.

Furthermore, Tim is city counseller at the city of Rotterdam representing the Dutch Liberal Party. Together with the former campaign leader of the Dutch Liberal Party (VVD), home secretary, Minister and chairman of the Dutch liberals in the cabinet, Klaas Dijkhoff, he co-authored the book ‘Alles komt Goed‘ (everything will be fine). A conversation in a book well worth reading (only Dutch).



Hungry for more Behavioural Design Week?

Please make sure to check out our other videos of other 2021 Keynote speakers on Behavioural Design Week: Matt Wallaert on running behavioural change projects within organisations and Baptiste Tougeron on using behavioural science for more effective advertising.

Also, you can find all the videos of the keynotes of Behavioural Design Fest 2018 and Behavioural Design Fest 2019; watch and re-watched here to upgrade your Behavioural Design knowhow and to boost your inspiration.


Want to learn how to apply behavioural science yourself?

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 1500+ people from 45+ countries in applied Behavioural Design. Or book an in-company program or workshop for your team. In our top-notch training, we teach the Behavioural Design Method© and the Influence Framework©. Two powerful frames 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 Academy brochure here, contact us here or subscribe to Behavioural Design Digest at the bottom of this page. 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 Norway nudges its citizens to drive electric

By | Citizen Behaviour, Government & Politics

The surprising story behind
Norways spectacular rise in EV’s

Did you know that in Norway more than 60% of all newly bought cars are electric? Here’s the surprising story of how they used smart Behavioural Design Thinking to fight climate change and achieve their aggressive CO2-zero ambitions. They came up with a couple of interventions that provide people with daily reminders of how awesome it is to drive electric.

Principle 1: Trigger selfish motives

The Norwegian Government doesn’t want to turn you into an eco-fanatic. Neither don’t try to convince you to make the transition because of the environment. They just make it much more attractive for you to drive electric. The brilliant part of their strategy is that they didn’t stop at your typical tax cuts – although they are enormous. They turned the benefit in something far more system 1: Electric cars get a free passage at the Toll Gates, get free parking in a lot of municipalities and get permission to drive on the bus lane. In other words: they get to experience the benefits every day.

This brings me to the second principle.

Principle 2: feedback

A driver of an electric car gets constant positive feedback on their behaviours. Every time they use the bus lane to skip traffic jam, or every time they pass a toll gate for free, they get a chance to look at all those combustine engine suckers. They get visual reminders on a daily basis of how stupid one must be to drive the old school way.

The opposite is also true: Every time you get stuck in a traffic jam, and you see a Tesla or an electric Kia legally using the bus lane to cut you off, you get a painful reminder that your not part of the priviledged class of the country.

Principle 3: Take away barriers

The big challenge is still to tackle “range anxiety”. More than often, people in Norway buy an electric car for their second car, with which they commute to work. For the long distances, they still don’t feel secure enough that they could travel comfortably without having to freak out about finding a re-charge station on time. Norway is investing rapidly in charging infrastructure. Ability is not a detail.

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What can we learn: Re-think incentives

First and foremost, we can’t compare apples with pears. Norway can issue this enormous tax cut because the country can afford it. The state – ironically – lives of the export of oil. Furthermore: they have – unlike most other countries – a heavy taxation in place on imported cars. A tax cut on the imported electric car quickly makes a significant financial difference.

But what we can learn is that there are far more clever strategies to get people to switch to electric driving. Instead of using the traditional taxation-stick, we could come up with benefits that have a much higher psychological value:

  1. Legalize autonomous-driving asap: Last week I saw a guy driving his Tesla while reading his newspaper. I realized I just saw the future. And it looked frikking cool.
  2. Give visual priviliges in traffic: To be allowed to cut traffic Jams by using the emergency lane, especially in a country like the Netherlands, will give you a guaranteed daily dopamine rush to the brain.
  3. Replace most parking spots in big cities like Amsterdam with parking spots that are exclusive for electric vehicles. Having to park your diesel on the outskirts of town, while having to take public transport to the city centre, meanwhile having to watch Electric Vehicle owners parking their car next to the canals for free: priceless.

The green revolution is coming.

We’re only using the wrong incentives to make it attractive.

Update: This post is the first in a series of a posts on how to use Behavioural Design thinking to tink about the climate crisis.

Want to learn more?

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

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

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

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