Behavior Matters!

Harnessing the power of behavioral science to improve how organizations, leaders, and people work

Author: bengranlund (Page 1 of 2)

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.

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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.

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5 Tips to HR on Effective Communication

Earlier this year we attended the IPMI Institute HR conference in Miami. We sat down with 10 HR executives from various industries and exchanged insights on what is going on in their world and how behavioral science can help.

The following overarching themes kept coming up: organizations are finding cultural change hard, they have not had significant success at engaging their employees, and they don’t have the bandwidth to prioritize employee communications—although they know doing so is important.

Some insight from our behavioral and communication teams: if you can dial in communication, you can make change easier and increase employee engagement.

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Framing – Gains, Losses, & Certainty vs Uncertainty

  • By reading this blog post, you will find valuable information that will help you out.
  • If you don’t read this blog post you are missing out on valuable information that will benefit you.

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Introducing the Change Beast


The Beast Sleeps

We can think about change as a little monster in our head who overpowers our desires to stay with the status quo. Most of the time, our change monster is asleep.  It is in hibernation when it isn’t needed but wakes up when we start to realize that we need some change.


The Beast Awakens
Monsters are scary so we try to keep our change monster at bay most of the time, not wanting to wake it up.   Or often if it starts to stir we stop what we are doing so that it quiets itself and goes back to sleep.  When our change beasts do wake up, we often try to build walls around them to try to keep the monster contained.


The Beast Fights Back
But the monster doesn’t like being contained and will always try to break those walls down or go around them or even dig underneath them.  If none of that works, the monster can hurl things over the wall trying to disrupt our lives.


We Lock up the Beast
When our change monsters do this, we often try to build bigger walls or add new walls outside the old walls.  Containment is the key.  Sometimes, we can keep the monster contained for a very long time without ever achieving any of our change.


The Beast Escapes
But the monster feeds on our need to change and grows bigger the greater that need gets.  If the monster gets big enough, it breaks through our walls and drives us to change.  We know that when the monster shows up when we need to do something.


The Beast Attacks
Our beast stands over us with a mean face and makes sure that are focusing on our change process.   It romps up and down, banging its feet against our brain.  It growls and roars when we turn away from our task.  All of this is so that we focus on our change task.


We Befriend the Beast
And, after a while, we have made progress on our change, and the monster calms down a bit.  We realize that the monster isn’t so scary anymore – we’ve grown accustomed to it.  That big ugly face is now kind of sweet.  The actions that the beast had to scare us to do before have become habit or routine, and we do them willingly.


The Beast Rests
The monster doesn’t need to show up to scare us as much anymore – and starts to shrink back down to being small.  Finally, when our change has become the status quo, the monster goes back to sleep, and we go on peacefully with our lives trying not to wake up the sleeping beast.

 

Why Graphics Matter (Part 2 of 2)

Why Graphics Matter – Part 2

Last month we introduced you to the importance of graphics in communications.

To recap or catch up check it out here here:
Why Graphics Matter (Part 1 of 2)

Be sure to follow us to stay informed!

Now that we have shown you how graphics can be used to increase engagement, reinforce ideas and improve understanding, lets dive deeper into the subject using a simple graphic concept we use in everyday life – the emoji. With this concept we will show you how graphics can be used to clarify tone & interpretation, as well as reduce cognitive load.

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Why Graphics Matter – Part 1 (of 2)

Why Graphics Matter – Part 1 (of 2)

So far in our design series of blogs, we have touched upon the concept of applying behavioral science to graphic design, and how reducing cognitive load can increase understanding, reduce myopic focus and drive home the key points you want your audience to grasp.

To catch up, check them out here:

Be sure to follow us to stay informed!

Today we are going to dive deeper into the visual element and explore “why graphics matter.” We utilize the concepts we will lay out in our employee communications, but the value does not stop there. Whether you are in communications, marketing, advertising, or trying to engage employees through internal Communications, this will apply to you. So, sit back, relax, and absorb.

Graphics are fun, graphics are pretty (well some are, beauty is in the eye of the beholder), graphics make information less boring – but there is far more to graphics than one might expect. When properly used graphics:

(read more on cognitive load here)

People are visual, and we experience things through this medium. Let’s get into these benefits in a little more depth:

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Change is hard

So how hard is it to change?

Be prepared, the following statistics are not going to leave you with a whole lot of confidence in our ability to change as humans.  This is not the warm fuzzy blog telling you how easy it is to change.  It is, however, important to look at the world empirically and without rose colored glasses.   We need to understand the reality that we face when we are trying to change or achieve a goal.

So here we go…some change statistics:

  • On average, addicts need to go through treatment four times before the stay sober
  • According to a study by the University of Scranton, only 9% of New Year’s resolutions are achieved, which means that 91% of people fail at achieving those resolutions. Most New Year’s resolutions don’t last more than two-weeks (i.e., January 15th).
  • In a large study with patients with a severe cardiovascular trauma, patients were informed by their doctors that they needed to alter their eating, exercise, stress and alcohol habits or face continuing issues or possibly even death. After 2 years, only 11% of patients fully complied with their doctor’s recommendations.
  • It is often reported that 95% of dieters regain the weight they lost over a five-year period. This comes from a 1959 study by Dr. Albert Stunkard and Mavis McLaren-Hume.  More recent studies show a more favorable outcome, but not by much.  Kraschnewski et. al., found that only 17.6% of obese dieters were able to maintain a 10% weight loss after one year.
  • 90% of Americans don’t have written goals.
  • 94% of teen drivers acknowledge the dangers of texting and driving, but 35% admitted to doing it anyway.  How many teens text and just didn’t admit it?
  • Medicine adherence – only 70% of all prescriptions are filled, and only 30% are ever refilled.

The statistics do not paint a convincing picture about our ability to change.  It appears that we fail more than we succeed.

Yet, we keep trying.  Why?

I believe that it is because, within each of these figures, there is some hope; there are some people who do succeed.

We see the success stories.

We hear about them.

From time to time, we’ve been them.

Change, either purposeful or not purposeful, does happen.

Dan Gilbert of Harvard talks about how when you look back at who you were 10 years ago, you see how much you’ve changed.   He states that for most people that change is significant, regardless of your age.  We change the things we do, where we go, who we hang out with, what we work on and what we care about.  We tend to think that once we reach a certain age that we’ve stopped changing or growing.  Dr. Gilbert’s research shows that while we realize the change that takes place in the short-term when we look back long enough, we realize that we have changed a ton.

Take a moment to think about yourself 10 years ago – and then think about all the things in your life that have changed and how you’ve changed with them.

See, change is possible. I would argue that it is inevitable.  We are changing all the time.  It is just a matter of influencing how we approach that change and making sure that you are changing in ways that you want.

You should be the director of your life.

You determine where you want to go and how you are going to achieve it.  Change that is left up to chance or the whims of the universe can sometimes be great, but often, we are left worse for the wear.   Change that is directed by you can help you achieve your dreams.

It might not be easy, but change does happen.

So go for it!

Take the time to work on who you are and your goals.  Figure out what you need to change to achieve them.  It might be hard, but you can do it.

  •  Make sure that you enable your emotions for the change and embrace the need for change beyond just your rational self.
  • Take time to think about how you will overcome the obstacles that stand in your way.
  • Figure out how to harness the habits that you will need to sustain the change.
  • Enable your environment to make staying on course is easier.
  • Enlist support from your social network and use that power to help keep you on task.
  • Make sure that you plot your progress so that you can celebrate the milestones along your change journey.

Change might be hard…but that makes it all the sweeter when you achieve it!

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