“Thinking is to humans as swimming is to cats”.
We can do it, but we would rather not!
I listened to a fascinating podcast today and I was reminded of this great quote from the psychologist Daniel Kahneman whose book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” is a must read for anyone trying to change anything! Even your shoes . .
This Deloitte podcast “What’s the secret to changing behaviours?” is oriented to ESG thinking, but is highly relevant in whatever field of change you are involved in. It is an interesting discussion between Richard Shotton, Stuart West, Ethan Worth and Lizzie Elston. They discuss why humans dislike change, and simple ways to make it easier.
Anyone that has ever tried to implement an improvement in a process, procedure, policy, or roll out a new system in a business will have experienced the frustration of the sheer time it takes to change habits and behaviours to make the “new world” work.
The 16th century writings of Niccolo Machiavelli are as true today as ever. “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things”.
It seems we humans are ”cognitive misers”!
Behavioural psychologists describe how people use a mental shorthand to stereotype others based on preconceived notions. We do this because our evolution has trained us (like some AI model) to prefer speed of thought over quality of thought, so we don’t waste valuable energy.
Rather than facts and statistics, we prefer habits and heuristics, judgmental tools that are very rough intuitive equivalents.
We spend our days reacting, responding, pivoting. To the latest trends, headlines and/or that urgent email in your inbox. It’s how we’re wired.
But understanding why we all behave the way we do is incredibly powerful. It allows us to align with our purpose and make things happen!
There are a few behavioural science hacks, shared on the podcast, that resonated with me.
- Professionals tend to believe they are smart. But we all suffer the same behavioural myopia. Never ask a “smart person” what they think will change behaviour. Work out hypotheses and test alternatives indepedently. Prioritize observations over claims!
- We are social animals by evolution, and we should focus on inspiring change through “social proof” and stories, not statistics and evidence. Psychological nudges are powerful. Red Bull reputedly benefitted from a guerrilla marketing campaign whereby hundreds of empty cans of Red Bull were strewn around the street near a nightclub entrance, giving the impression that “everyone was drinking it”. The sales results were impressive.
- The A/B test done at an upmarket hotel. Half the guests were asked “Would you like to opt-out of the daily change of bathroom towels? It helps the environment”. The other half were asked ““Would you like to opt-out of the daily change of bathroom towels? Most of our guests take this option”. “Everyone else is doing it” may be something you have used with your kids to encourage a desired behaviour, but it seems it is just as effective with adults!
- We like the easy life. Remove every ounce of friction that gets in the way of the desired behaviour. Small improvements in the ease of use of the process, or journey, have an asymmetric benefit. “Customer experience” really is key!
You can listen to “What’s the secret to changing behaviours?” here . . . .
There are some good takeaways here that we can all consider in communications around driving positive change and transformation.
Thanks for reading . . .