Behavioral Grooves – Coming to a City Near You

For those of you who don’t know, The Behavioral Grooves is both a meetup and a podcast – sort of like a breakfast cereal and an energy drink at the same time.

Kurt Nelson, PhD and Tim Houlihan, Behavioral Alchemist founded the Behavioral Grooves as a non-profit organization to share their enthusiasm for the application of behavioral sciences with a wider audience.

Read along for a brief overview by Tim as he takes us on a ride through the experience:

Day 1: The Minneapolis Meetup

The first iteration of the Behavioral Grooves was the Minneapolis meetup. We gathered 25 people in a pub in Minneapolis to have a little social/networking time, an 18-minute presentation by a speaker, and about 45 minutes of table discussions based on cues from the speaker.

It went well. Really well, to be honest. Everyone walked away invigorated and asking for more. So, we did it again. And again. And again. At this writing, we have held a Behavioral Grooves meetup on the Third Thursday of almost every month since we launched in August 2017.

Day 2: The Podcast

We soon realized that a once-a-month meetup in Minneapolis was not enough. The list of academics and practitioners that we wanted to have in front of our group was stretching out into the year 2029 at this rate. We needed an alternative means of sharing ideas. The podcast was born.

The Behavioral Grooves podcast was launched in December 2017 and we already have listeners in 54 countries! We’ve interviewed guests across the United States, India, Sweden, England, Denmark and Kenya. We also have plans to interview practitioners and academics from Australia in the coming weeks.

The podcast is a long-form informal discussion that comprises of three key parts:

  1. The introduction. Kurt and I tee up the podcast with an introduction of our speaker and highlight key elements of the interview. This is just a couple of minutes.
  2. The interview. As much as is technically possible, we try to ensure that our podcast interviews are published uncut an unedited. The interviews last between 20 and 40 minutes.
  3. The grooving session. Following the interview, Kurt and I groove on the key points that struck us during the interview. We might ramble a bit here or explore rabbit holes that, at the moment, feel like they need to be explored. Our grooving session lasts about 10 – 20 minutes.

Day 3: The World

The podcast opened up all sorts of questions about personal appearances, the Behavioral Grooves Meetup is going on the road.

In April, we held a Behavioral Grooves Meetup in St. Louis at Cortex, the technology barn in the heart of the city’s innovation centers between St. Louis University and Washington University.

In May, we’re holding a meetup in Dallas to coincide with Kurt’s and my presentation at World at Work. (Date = May 22nd, Time = 5:30pm, Location = Del Rio Room at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, Texas)

In June, we’re headed to Chicago – date and location TBD.

What’s Next?

Want to get involved? Interested in hosting or sponsoring a meetup in your town? Give us a shout – we’d be happy to have a conversation about it.

The Behavioral Science of Socks!

Socks – really?

No, this isn’t one of those government studies where you wonder how it ever got approved (i.e., how long can shrimp run on a treadmill or does playing FarmVille on Facebook help people to make friends and keep them?*).

Socks and behavioral science. The two do not seem to fit together, yet I consistently use my socks as a personal behavioral modification tool.

Here’s how.

I have a penchant for different types of imaginative socks.  It started 11 years ago, when one of our Au Pairs from Poland gave me a pair of very colorful, bright blue and green striped socks for Christmas.  Before that, I was a bland brown and black sock kind of guy.

But I liked wearing the colorful socks she gave me – I always seemed to smile when I put them on in the morning.

As the years went by my colorful sock collection grew, both through my own purchases and through gifts from family and friends.  As I collected more socks, they began to go beyond wild colors. They started to have pictures and statements –  I had green socks with little footballs on them, red socks from Canada with drawings of little beavers on them.  My kids even got me a pair of “I’m kind of a big Dill” socks with a picture of a large dill pickle on them. I often can’t distinguish my Thomas Jefferson socks with my “the Thinker” socks (that have an outline of the Rodin’s famous thinker) when they are folded up in my sock drawer.

As my collection grew, there were three pairs that have led to my belief that something as simple as socks can be used as a powerful behavioral hack.

The first are my Einstein socks.  These black socks feature colorful caricatures of Einstein with wild colored hair.

The second are my blue socks – punctuated by menacing sharks.   

The final pair are my unicorn/ narwhal socks, emblazoned with unicorns battling narwhals horn-to-horn.   

I’m not sure when it started, but over time I realized that I was wearing each of these socks on specific days to help build and sustain a mindset for myself.

Mindset and Socks

On days when I thought that I needed to be particularly smart, I would put on my Einstein socks.  If I was giving a presentation, needing to do an analysis of research data or brainstorm ideas with a client, I would purposefully put these on in the morning.  They framed the day, acting as a gentle reminder. Whenever I looked at them that I was smart and ready to refocus my energy.

The shark socks were worn on days when I needed to be tough and direct.  If I was working on a contract or in need of a tough conversation with a client or employee, I would pull out the shark socks.

Finally, the unicorn/narwhal socks were used when I thought I needed a little bit of magic in my life.  When I needed to feel lucky -the days I had a meeting with a new potential client or when I was flying.

The interesting thing is that each day I wore the different socks, I had a different attitude., I exhibited different behaviors.

I started to wonder:  was this just me, or if was there something more to this?

Research

So, I looked for some research.

Alas, there was no research on “socks’ impact on behavior” that I could find (if anybody knows of any, please let me know).

However, there was plenty of research on the effects of attentional selection, pre-loaded associations, influence cues, and priming.  These psychological components have been shown to influence our behaviors – often without us being aware of their influence.

Robert Cialdini, one of the preeminent researchers on influence, says this in his book Pre-suasion, “…exposure either to simple words or simple images can have a pre-suasive impact on later actions that are merely associated with the words or images.”  He uses an example where fundraisers who were raising funds for a local university were placed into one of two groups.  Before their shift, each group was given a sheet of paper with information “designed to help them communicate the value of contributing to the cause.”  The only difference was that one group received the information on a plain sheet of paper while the other group got the information on a piece of paper with a watermarked photo of a runner winning a race.   

We would think that this difference would have no or little impact on performance, the information is the same for both, yet those with the picture had 60% more donations than their non-picture counterparts.

Another example, this one that shows how priming can influence behavior was done by Bargh, Chen, and Burrows (1996).  In their study, Bargh et al., primed people with words that were related to being old.  When they subsequently measured their walking speed, the people primed with old age words walked slower than those who had not.

Dijksterhuis and van Knippernberg, two Dutch researchers did an experiment similar, but this time, using a quiz and priming people either to think of the attributes of “professors” or “soccer hooligans.”  They found that those participants primed to think about the attributes of a professor answered more general knowledge questions correctly (mean score of 23.4 out of 42) than the soccer hooligan primed participants (mean score of 17.9 out of 42).**

Back to socks

In essence, the socks I wear prime my behavior.

Because I have a pre-association of Einstein with “smart” or sharks with “mean” – they have primed my mind to respond in this way.  They also act as a vivid reminder of my intentions, refocusing my thoughts throughout the day whenever I catch sight of them.

Now does this mean that I’m a completely different person when I wear different socks?

No.  I’m not a completely different person.  My behavior is going to typically fluctuate around some behavioral norm that is my baseline.  This norm is based on a number of factors that impact me including things such as the weather, how well I slept, what others in the room are doing, how I feel, etc.

But at some level, the socks I choose are having an influence on me.  They nudge me to behave in a manner based on the association that I have with them.  It may be a slight change in my behavior, but that slight change could have large impacts on the overall outcome of my day.

A word of caution, you better be careful if you are playing a game of trivial pursuit with me and I am wearing my new Einstein socks.  You’ve been warned!

References:

Bargh JA, Chen M, Burrows L (1996) Automaticity of social behavior: direct effects of trait construct and stereotype-activation on action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 71: 230–244.

Cialdini, R. B., (2016) Pre-fluence: a revolutionary way to influence and persuade.  Simon & Shuster, New York, NY.

Dijksterhuis, A., & Knippenberg, A.V. (1998). The relation between perception and behavior, or how to win a game of trivial pursuit. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(4), 865-877.

Other stuff

*I think that these studies get a bad wrap because the researchers do a horrible job of explaining what their study is about.  For instance, the shrimp treadmill study looked at how long shrimp would move on the treadmill in different water pollution conditions – trying to understand the impact that pollution had on their ability to flee predators and thus help predict how this would impact shrimp farmers in the future.  

**Many priming studies, like a lot of psychological studies, have a hard time being replicated.  The studies listed here have a mixed bag in the replication world – with some replication studies finding the priming effect and others not.  As with all research, we need to be careful in how we interpret their findings and how we apply those findings – often, the specific nature of the research isn’t easily generalized to other situations.  Unless we are talking about socks with images on them – then we know the applications hold true

 

 

 

Engaging Your Sales Force With Direct Mail

In today’s hyperconnected technology-driven world, it can be easy to overlook the simple time-tested solutions of the past. This holds true for communicating with and motivating your sales force.

With the consistent advent of new communications, new sciences, and new methodologies – shaking things up with a new (old) method can be a refreshing way to tap into your teams’ motivators.

Let’s take a little step back in time and talk about direct mail. Simple, well designed, customized mailers that tap into key behavioral insights can be just as effective as the newest technologies or communication tools when utilized correctly.

Think about it, we are flooded with messaging all day every day – both personal and business. With each organizational department trying to get their message out on top of that, it can be hard to manage all of the information. Technology can get lost in the fray, but unexpected personalized direct mail can disrupt the norm and grab back that attention. Combine this with behavioral science and you have a simple yet powerful tool.

Let’s take a look at an example, a postcard series we designed to help top achievers keep achieving and to nudge bottom achievers to end the plan period on a high note.

One customized to a high performer:

And one customized to a moderate performer:

While these may seem simple, there are some key behavioral insights that are being strategically targeted to drive performance.

In both versions we utilize:

  • Idiosyncratic Fit: We have higher motivation if we think that a program is customized to us. By adding the employee’s name, stats, and a customized message to help them improve we tap into this drive. Each message is framed for the greatest impact based on their performance and adding the physical component of the postcard further personalizes it.
  • Social Proof: We look to others to see how we should behave. There are two elements at play here. One: the messaging addresses the performance of their peers, pushing them to stay with or ahead of the pack. Two: this can be shared with a spouse, partner, or family member who can provide an additional level of support – for example, the reminder of a chance to partake in an awards trip with a partner can be very impactful.

Now, note that in the high performer card we tap into:

  • Loss Aversion: The pain of loss is greater than the pleasure of a similar gain. For high performers, the idea of having something valuable and then losing it is far more motivating than a “carrot” on a string.

And in the average performer card we use:

  • Gain Messaging: Framing the statement to focus on what can be gained from increased performance. With the moderate performers, where the perception is that there is more to be gained than lost, the gain messaging can drive a higher participation rate.

Try this with your sales force or reach out now for help customizing and implementing this simple, effective technique within your team!

 

 

 

Behavioral Grooves

Back in September,  I partnered with Tim Houlihan to start “a monthly gathering of curious minds” which we called Behavioral Grooves.  We thought it would be interesting to get like-minded people together to talk about applying behavioral science to life and work.

We had no idea if others would be interested in this…

We announced the meetup and were hoping to get at least a few of the friends that we had contacted to show up.  We ended up with 24 people for that first session where we talked about habits – how they are formed and what people can do to improve them.

We were thrilled!

From there, it took off.  We have over 180 members signed up to our meetup group and it is growing fast.  We have had three monthly sessions as of early January 2018 and our fourth is lined up for two weeks from today.  We have over 20 people who have made it to two or more of the sessions.

I guess we struck a nerve.

For our second session, we invited Professor James Heyman to speak and thought, hey, since he’s here, why don’t we interview him and make a podcast out of it.  Thus, our Behavioral Grooves podcast was born.  Tim and I both loved that so much that we decided that we didn’t want to wait for the next Behavioral Grooves session to record our next one – so we started to invite people and interview them – both live and over the internet.

To date, we have seven interviews recorded and three more in the works.  These podcasts mirror the Behavioral Grooves sessions in that they are conversational in nature where we geek out over behavioral science and how we can apply behavioral science insights into our daily work and lives.

They have been a blast!

In reflecting on this, it appears to me that these two outlets provide us with a way of both learning and sharing.  We want to be advocates for good, ethical use of behavioral science.  We believe that there is much to learn and we can improve our work and lives by understanding and by applying these principles in a thoughtful and deliberate manner.

We also realized that we love the community that this is creating.  A community of curious minds who are interested in science and the application of that science.  A community of people that we can bounce ideas off of.  A community of people that can push us to think about things from new perspectives.

This is ultimately what we have been building and hope that it grows and provides a place and outlet for others, as well as ourselves.

If you are ever in Minneapolis on the third Thursday of the month – please come and join us at our meetup (find out more info here) and if you can’t make that, please listen in to our podcasts (click here to find the latest).

Come and join our community of curious minds!

Thanks!

Kurt

IC Managers – was your 2018 plan launch effective?

As an IC Director or an IC Manager, a lot of responsibility falls on your shoulders to drive performance, build motivation, and clearly communicate the new IC plan. 

So, you just finalized and launched your 2018 IC plans, but its not over yet! With the first plan period kicking off and the second just around the corner, it’s time to see how they were received by the field, if the communications used to deliver them were effective and if they are driving the right behaviors amongst your sales force.

With over 20 years of successfully communicating incentive plans, we have learned a lot.

One of the most valuable lessons has been that a plan is only as good as the communications used to deliver it. If your sales team does not understand their plan then they are less likely to accept it, less like to trust it, and less likely to leverage its power to drive sales. This can lead to diminished performance and frustrations amongst the field.

Now is a valuable time to ask yourself:

  • Are your 2018 incentives driving the right behaviors in your sales force?
  • Were they communicated in a way that drives understanding, buy-in, and value?

Think of it this way: you can design the best performance jet in the world but if people don’t understand how to fly it, that jet isn’t going to get them anywhere.

It’s not too late to ensure your 2018 plans are understood. Every plan period is a new opportunity to dial your plans in towards field buy-in and increased sales. In fact – now is the ideal time to conduct an audit and see what is and is not working.

So how do you ensure that your plans are understood and that they drive the behaviors that mean success for your sales team, your organization, and yourself?

Leverage behavioral science!

Behavioral sciences such as psychology, sociology, and behavioral economics help improve organizational communication and drive both action and behavior change. These cutting-edge scientific concepts are currently being used heavily in consumer marketing with positive results – and now they are being implemented by many companies as part of their internal employee communications. Behavioral science can help you communicate your plan to drive greater buy-in, increase motivation, and get your sales representatives to change their behaviors.

At the Lantern Group, we conduct field audits to understand what the sales force thinks of the plan and how well they understand it. We also combine modern graphic design with behavioral science to help you craft IC communications that get results.  We have designed communications for thousands of incentive plans and helped many companies achieve success. Let us help you!

Email us at behavior@lanterngroup.com with the subject “Free IC Webinar” and we will set up a free 1-hour workshop personalized to you and your plans!

We will also include a free white paper that dives deeper into how behavioral science can optimize the power of your communications. Click to learn more or reach out now!

IC Directors – Make APRIL Count!

As an IC Directors, a lot of responsibility falls on your shoulders to drive performance, build motivation, and clearly communicate the new IC plan. 

While many companies have already launched their 2018 IC plans, you are heading full force into the bulk of the busy season. With April around the corner, it’s time to finalize your 2018 Incentive Plans and figure out how you will effectively communicate them to the field.

With over 20 years of successfully communicating incentive plans, we have learned a lot.

One of the most valuable lessons has been that a plan is only as good as the communications used to deliver it. If your sales team does not understand their plan then they are less likely to accept it, less like to trust it, and less likely to leverage its power to drive sales. This can lead to diminished performance and frustrations amongst the field.

Now is a valuable time to ask yourself:

  • When you launch in April, will your FY18 incentives be driving the right behaviors in your sales force?
  • Will they be communicated in a way that drives understanding, buy-in, and value?

Think of it this way: you can design the best performance jet in the world but if people don’t understand how to fly it, that jet isn’t going to get them anywhere.

So how do you ensure that your plans are understood and that they drive the behaviors that mean success for your sales team, your organization, and yourself?

Leverage behavioral science!

Behavioral sciences such as psychology, sociology, and behavioral economics help improve organizational communication and drive both action and behavior change. These cutting-edge scientific concepts are currently being used heavily in consumer marketing with positive results – and now they are being implemented by many companies as part of their internal employee communications. Behavioral science can help you communicate your plan to drive greater buy-in, increase motivation, and get your sales representatives to change their behaviors.

At the Lantern Group, we combine modern graphic design with behavioral science to help companies craft communications that get them results.  We have designed communications for thousands of incentive plans and helped many companies achieve success. Let us help you!

Email us at behavior@lanterngroup.com with the subject “Free IC Webinar” and we will set up a free 1-hour workshop personalized to you and your plans!

We will also include a free white paper that dives deeper into how behavioral science can optimize the power of your communications. Click to learn more or reach out now!

Behavioral Observations from the Road: Denver Airport

Humans are interesting, they are quirky, they are irrational.

We think we know what is best for us. Often, we even assume that we KNOW what is best for us.

The funny thing is – our behaviors do not always align with what’s best. I recently observed an interesting example of the irrationality of human behavior while traveling through Denver International Airport on the way to meet a client.

Before we get into that though, let’s start with 2 quick questions:

  • If you see two lines moving at a similar pace between you and your destination, one long and one short, which do you jump into? I would get in the short, as I am betting you would too. Who wants to waste time waiting in line?
  • Let’s throw a wrench in the gears – the longer line is the VIP line. You paid $180 to be in it and it’s the line you jump right into every time you get here. You also get to avoid one quick and simple task that your counterparts in the short line must do. Keep in mind, the short line will still get you to your destination in less time – perhaps as much as two times quicker. Which line do you get in now?

So now let’s explore that funny little scenario I observed.

Typically, upon arriving at the airport I run into a decent line to get through security. It’s the annoying but unavoidable ritual of travel that stands between me and the pre-flight beer that will make my middle seat less miserable. Admittedly, yes, I should have woken up at 3:25 am to check in, but at the time my seat choice did not seem as valuable as sleep. I am a victim of my own time discounting. Our present-self fails to accurately predict the preferences of our future self and we at times value the ‘here and now’ over the future – even if it’s not worth more.

Usually, when I am standing in line I glance up from my ‘boredom social media surfing’ and see a smaller group of people whisking past security: no wait. I make a mental note to sign up for TSA pre-check, global entry, or CLEAR (the fast-track, pay to pass security programs). Inevitably I forget to act on it and end up in the same spot a few weeks later, lamenting my negligence.

As I walk into the airport for this trip, however, I am confronted with a far different experience. The line for the CLEAR program is long. Rounding the corner, I dread the security line I am about to see. To my pleasant surprise, I find that it is almost non-existent. Surely, I must be tired and mixing up my lines?

So here I stand, looking at an almost empty security line and a significantly backed up CLEAR line. I can’t help but wonder “why”?

I have never used CLEAR but from my research it appears that you are still required to go through regular security (e.g. remove shoes, laptops etc.). The difference appears to be that instead of waiting in line for the in-person ID and ticket check, you simply go through a fingerprint scan and then jump the line directly into the TSA screening (editor’s note – please reach out and correct me if you are a member and my understanding is incorrect).

So, with that said, why would one wait in a longer line so they can “jump” the shorter line? Here are my conjectures:

1. The Endowment Effect

We ascribe greater value to things that we own.

CLEAR is a program that you pay for, it costs $179 per year to become a member – this purchase prescribes ownership. Subconsciously there is an “I paid for it, I need to use it” attitude that drives the behavior of jumping into the longer line.

Because of this; the user neglects to weigh the ACTUAL value of the investment with the time that would be saved by hopping into the regular line. This leads to my next point.

2. We have an innate inability to value time accurately.

We easily prescribe value to things, but we have a difficult time accurately examining that same value in everyday time (unless of course we are billing and invoicing).

Imagine the CLEAR line is primarily made up of frequent business travelers. If the line for CLEAR is 20 minutes and the normal line is 5 minutes, then that makes a difference of 15 minutes (or .25 hours). let’s look at a few scenarios:

 

  • Traveler A is an Architect who bills their time at $100/hr
    • .25 X $100 = $25
  • Traveler B is a Management Consultant who bills their time at $200/hr
    • .25 X $200 = $50
  • Traveler C is a Lawyer who bills their time at $300/hr
    • .25 X $300 = $75

Typically, professionals bill by the quarter hour, so the above numbers are the value that each of them would prescribe for that additional 15 minutes of time waiting in the CLEAR line in a billable environment. For the Lawyer, if that happens 2.4 times per year, then that time is the equivalent of what they paid for the program to begin with.

3. Habits

We are habitual creatures. Charles Duhigg introduced us to the idea of the habit loop “Cue -> Routine -> Reward”. The idea is that when we come upon a specific cue, our brain automatically reverts to a routine that then provides a reward. This inevitably feeds the process, validating the cue and routine for the next go around. This loop clouds our ability to reassess that routine and break the cycle or act differently upon encountering that cue.

Could the CLEAR line be this routine?

The cue is entering the airport: the user sees the CLEAR sign, automatically walks up and enters the line, engaging in the routine. The user neglects to even assess that the normal security line is shorter because the habit takes over. The user goes through the line, is rewarded by the CLEAR agent who escorts them to the front of the screening area and is blissfully satisfied without ever recognizing that, in this case, they would have benefited from breaking that habit. Every time they get to this fork in the road they step into it without thinking. It’s automatic.

Agree, disagree? Reach out or comment with your thoughts, conjectures, or input!!

Sources:
1. Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit. Random House Trade, 2014.

4 Key Behaviors to Consider for Internal Branding

In Behavioral Science & Graphic Design we talked about the value of internal branding.

This focused on the power of branding as a tool to make your communications immediately identifiable and reduce the mental load required to process them. An equally powerful tool is embedding powerful insights into your brand design to drive the behaviors of your audience. This can be through imagery, color, and carefully thought out themes, copy and reinforcement components.

Carefully think about what you are trying to accomplish within your department, what motivations you want to ignite within your employees, and what behaviors you wish to see from them.

Here are 4 (of many) key behavioral insights we tap into when creating an internal brand for our clients and why.

  1. Priming – Utilizing subconscious cues to initiate certain behaviors or choices. Define what impact you want your brand to have on your audience and design your brand to initiate their thoughts on those behaviors the moment they see it (this can be achieved with strong messaging, powerful imagery, or subtle cues). Think of it like stereotypes – a preconceived view can impact someone’s perspective even before they even meet someone. In the case of priming, you can use that power for a positive outcome.
  2. Self-schemas – Our views of ourselves and how we should behave in certain circumstances. Engaging your audience’s positive self-schemas can be used to engage the motivations of your audience, prime positive behaviors, and increase their performance.
  3. Ziegarnik Effect – Tasks in process & incomplete tasks employ more mental focus than tasks completed. Use the Ziegarnik effect when you are trying to drive urgency and immediate actions. Use copy and imagery to get your audience to think about what they need to complete ASAP – this is a powerful tool in sales communications.
  4. Idiosyncratic fit – When we feel that we have a unique advantage in a program or that a program is tailored specifically to us we are more motivated to engage and prosper in the program. Make it personal, let them know that you are building programs with their specifics needs in mind and that their opinions matter. Don’t be afraid to ask for something in return!

Every brand is unique and not every concept should be used in every campaign. In fact – many times it’s as important to know which ones NOT to use. The right combination of these insights and more can determine the success of your brand.

Let us help you integrate these into your brand today! Email us now with some issues you are having within your department at behavior@lanterngroup.com.

Cover photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash

Behavioral Observations: “On the Road Reflections” from the Hindu Kush 

Here at the Lantern Group, we specialize in applying behavioral science insights to drive organizational performance and change employee behavior.

For this article, however, I am going to take you on a journey to the other side of the world. Right now, you are wondering: “what could the Hindu Kush possibly have to do with behavioral science!?

Well, as we have been telling you, it’s everywhere!

So, bear with me and let’s have some fun while we talk about behavioral insights in action; observed from a recent adventure in northern Pakistan.

Read More

The Future of Employee Communications

We live in an ever-shifting world. The corporate environment is not immune to this evolution, nor should it be. As such; the processes and strategies that impact the human element of all organizations, it’s employees, must ebb and flow with this shifting tide.

Progress and improvement come from change and adaptation to change. There are speed bumps, there are steps backward: these are all part of the process.

Embedded throughout these organizational processes are employee communications. Employee communications must stay current and ahead of the curve.

Read More

Page 1 of 33

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén