Category: behavior (Page 1 of 2)

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

 

 

 

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

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.

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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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!

Cognitive Load – What it is and why it’s important

Back in January we introduced you to the concept of integrating Behavioral Science into Graphic Design. If you did not have a chance to read, or for a recap, click here: http://blog.lanterngroup.com/behavioral-science-graphic-design

Today we will expand a bit more on the idea of “cognitive load”.
Not only is cognitive load a valuable resource to utilize in graphic design; but it is also extremely valuable in communications, speaking engagements, presentation’s and an all-around useful tool for improving understanding.

Let’s take a quick look back at what cognitive load is:
Cognitive load refers to the total amount of mental effort being used in working memory. Rationally, we would think that the more information that a person is given, the better informed they would be; therefore, they would make more sound decisions. However, this is not typically the case.

  • Too much info and the brain can become overloaded and confused.
  • Break it down to the essentials and things just might stick!

In short, quite often: Less is More.

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Behavioral Science & Graphic Design

By pure definition graphic design and behavioral science may seem like two very different areas of study with very little connection to each other.

  • Graphic design is defined as: The art and profession of visual communication that combines images, words, and ideas to convey information to an audience to produce a specific effect.
  • Behavioral science is defined as: The branches of science (such as psychology, sociology, economics or anthropology) that deals primarily with human action and often seeks to generalize human behavior in society.

However, by utilizing behavioral science principles when practicing graphic design, the result is a more cohesive, higher quality design.

Your design not only looks good, but can increase the impact of the message you are presenting and drive the behaviors of the audience. In fact, many marketing firms and advertising agencies are already utilizing these concepts in their designs to increase the effectiveness of everything from how you shop to what you buy, how you perceive a product or idea and much more. These trailblazing concepts are shaping the world around you and by utilizing them in your own designs you can drive the level of impact you are having when you communicate to the next level.

Here are two ways YOU can start using behavioral science RIGHT NOW to optimize the impact of your designs and join the growing list of professionals who are moving toward the new standard in design.


Reduce Cognitive Load

Let’s talk about cognitive load, the power of simplicity and how it can increase understanding.

Cognitive load refers to the total amount of mental effort being used in  working memory. Rationally, we would think that the more information that a person is given, the better informed they would be; therefore they would make more sound decisions. However, this is not typically the case.

People can become overloaded with information and it doesn’t always provide optimal outcomes.

For instance, if we are trying to present the high-level concept of the 4-Drive Model of Employee Motivation, let’s take a look at these two images:

cognitive-load-1cognitive-load-2

How long did it take you to understand the concept being presented in the first image? How about the second?

The simplicity of the second allows the brain to focus immediately on what’s important.

The first image is hectic, unorganized and does not allow you to focus in on the key concepts being presented. It is important to design so that you present the most important concepts and key takeaways in an easy to understand manner that does not get lost in the ‘fluff’.

In many cases, less really is more when it comes to making sure your audience interprets the message you are trying to convey.

Think of a billboard – you are cruising by at 65 mph (well probably 80 but I’m not supposed to be promoting speeding over here, let’s focus on design and the human brain)… you are cruising by at 65 mph, you glance up to see something that catches your eye but you have very little time to interpret the message.

With this in mind, the designer needs to ensure that the most important and key message jumps out and stays with you. Ask yourself when creating your design, what do I want my audience to understand IMMEDIATELY? Design around that intent and allow the rest of the design to compliment it without taking away from the main point.

So how can you reduce cognitive load in your designs and maximize the impact of the content and messaging? Remember:

key-callouts

Simplify and reduce.
Do you absolutely need to convey that information at this time?

White space is good
Fill the page with too much information and the brain can become overloaded.

callouts

Visuals.png

 

Visually represent your ideas.
Visually representing information in an info-graphic or diagram can significantly reduce cognitive load.

 


Build Consistency and a Strong Identity with The Power of Branding

Creating a consistent brand, look & feel and color pallet within your design helps the audience link to understanding. If your design is part of a larger project, communication or campaign, utilizing a brand throughout the individual pieces creates a mental stamp for the audience to connect the pieces within that campaign.

At the Lantern Group, we have done a significant amount of work in the area of incentive compensation communications. With every client and project that we work on we start with one thing: establishing a brand and a look and feel for the campaign that we will utilize throughout every part of the project.

What we are achieving by doing this is establishing the expectation with our audience that when they see that brand their brain automatically connects it to the content and concept.

branding-and-understanding

Additionally, this can drive increased understanding – seeing that brand can help the user (often subconsciously) trigger what they have already learned in previous communications. These cues and reminders help provide a more immediate understanding of what the content will be and can lay out much of the legwork to capture the audience for you.

Let’s go back to the highway – you are cruising along at 65 mph (I’m willing to bet you think this is a wisecrack about speeding before you even read it, why? Because it feels the same as the previous comment)…

Anyways, you see a large yellow “M” – the golden arches. There is a good chance you already know what the golden arches represent without even needing to see the name of the establishment. The brand is so ingrained in your mind that the link to what you are seeing and what it represents become automatic (a strong established brand).

This same concept can be applied to communications and graphic design!

Now let’s go even further, there is also a good chance that you can remember what that restaurant will look like, what is on the menu, how the ordering process works,  etc. The cue has been planted with the yellow “M” and your brain connects the pieces.

Now incentive communications may not be as exciting as a Big Mac, a milkshake, and some fries BUT we can create that same visual cue through a strong brand and increase the power of the information we are presenting.  We are allowing our incentive brand to initiate the understanding amongst our audience every time we send out a communication.

You too can have that same impact on your audience when communicating the information you need to get across, the advertisement you are creating, or the logo you are designing by establishing a strong brand.

We hope this has helped you begin to understand the benefits of applying behavioral science to your designs. Next time you begin a design start by establishing a strong brand and evaluating exactly what NEEDS to be portrayed to reduce cognitive load so you can redefine yourself as a behavioral graphic designer.

  • Behavioral graphic design is defined as: The profession of visual communication that applies scientific principles dealing primarily with human behavior to the art of combining images, words, and ideas to convey information to an audience and drive human behavior.

This has been just the tip of the iceberg, there are many more ways in which we can apply behavioral science to graphic design to optimize the impact is has. If you want more information on how those ideas are being used by the leading companies in the world, join us – click the links below to follow!

 

 

Don’t Be A Communications Relic – Using behavioral science to make communications more effective

Communication Relic - LGWant to make communications more effective – use behavioral science

Over the past few years, we have seen a shift in how organizations value their internal communications.  In the past, employee focused communications were often an afterthought.  Companies would spend significant time, effort and money on developing out their incentive plans, making sure they were designed to drive the right behaviors and performance, only to communicate it to the field in an e-mail with a 30-page, single-spaced legal contract attached.

Thankfully, this is starting to change.

Today, organizations realize that they need to invest time and resources into their internal communications to optimize their value and impact.  As companies make this investment we are seeing a significant improvement in the design and visual appeal of internal communications – from incentive compensation to benefits to operations; the production value of employee communications has risen.

However, merely making a communication look pretty and appealing isn’t sufficient in today’s hyper-competitive world.  Organizations need their communications not just to inform, but also to spur new behavior and actions.

When companies communicate about programs that require employee action, they often only see a small change in employee behaviors (or no change at all) – even when these actions have clear benefits for the employee (i.e., increasing their contribution to their 401K plan, using a flexible health care spending account, or changing their selling behavior to align with the new incentive plan to maximize their own earnings).

This is where behavioral science comes in.

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 to achieve similar results inside the company.

Read further to make sure that you’re not being left behind. 

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Moving Past Disappointment Peak

Disappointment Peak

In 1925, four climbers, led by Phil Smith, ventured north from Colorado to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to attempt to climb “The Grand Teton” mountain in the Teton Range.*  The Grand had been summited before, but these four climbers were coming at it from a different route, one that had not yet been explored.  From the valley floor of Jackson Hole it looked like they would have a relatively straight ascent to the peak.

The four climbers set out with high expectations of being the first to chart this new route.  As they progressed up the mountain, it looked like they were getting closer and closer to the summit.  One can imagine their feeling that this goal was within easy reach.  That is until they came up to the top of what they thought was a ridge.  To their dismay, instead of it being another ridge, it was the peak of an entirely different mountain.  The Grand was almost a mile away with a sheer 450-foot drop to the saddle between the peaks.  The four, not wanting to give up,  attempted to rappel down the face of the cliff.  They realized that it was too hard and too dangerous, so they gave up and headed back to Jackson Hole.

Before they left, they named this new summit point, Disappointment Peak.

It is not only climbers who run into disappointment peaks.  We often fall victim to this same dismay when we realize that the goal that we had set out to achieve is harder, will take longer, requires more resources or effort than we first envisioned.

Often, we too give up.

Our illusions

The four mountaineers had fallen victim to an optical illusion of the Grand.  When standing in the Jackson Hole valley if you look directly at the mountain, it seems as if Disappointment Peak is just part of the Grand.  The two peaks appear to be one and the same (see image).

Disappointment Peak

Cannot Discern Disappointment Peak Elevation 11,618

One of the elements of successful change is being able to anticipate how you are going to achieve that change.  We like to plot out the steps that we need to make in order to reach our goal.

The problem comes in when we encounter our own mental illusions – when we think that the goal is much closer or easier than it really is.

One thing that both psychology and behavioral economics have shown us is that as humans, we are really good at self-deception.  We have a number of innate biases that affect our belief formation and influence our thinking – from confirmation biases, base rate fallacies, availability heuristics, gambler’s fallacies, control illusion, and my favorite, the Dunning-Kruger effect (The tendency for unskilled individuals to overestimate their own ability).

Generally, we are overconfident in our abilities and underappreciate the difficulty that is required to achieve change.

These mental illusions set us up.

When our expectations of what this goal is going to cost us in terms of time, effort, energy, and resources does not match with reality and when we realize the summit is much further away than we thought – we become disappointed as well.

  • We are doing great on our diet and losing weight weekly until we hit that plateau and can’t seem to lose those last 15 pounds.
  • The first three chapters of the book flowed smoothly, but we now are encountering writers block and can’t even complete the first paragraph of the fourth chapter.
  • We stopped smoking for five weeks until that project at work stressed us out and we needed something to calm our nerves.
  • We had achieved our goal of making ten cold calls a day for the two weeks but felt dejected that we had not had one sale from those encounters.

Moreover, just like Phil Smith and his companions, we can see the peak in the distance, but can’t seem to rappel down that cliff that is between us and the summit.

Three things to do when you reach your disappointment peak

We cannot always find a way to keep trekking on and reach our goals, but here are a few things to try:

Step back and look for new routes.

Over the years we have conducted a team building event called the electronic maze (see 5 lessons from the maze).  Envision a giant chess board comprised of 54 squares, where some squares beep and others do not, and teams are trying to get from one side to the other stepping only on non-beeping squares. Maze Route

At one point in their journey through the maze, people tend to get stuck and keep running into beeping squares as they move forward to the other side.  The path goes backward here – but EVERY TEAM we have ever worked with has repeatedly stepped on one or more of the “beeping” squares that are in front of them.  Even after repeated failed attempts stepping on the same beeping squares over and over, they cannot fathom that if they just take a step backward, they will ultimately move forward.

Sometimes we just need to look around and see if there is a different path to our goal.

Find new tools/knowledge.

Do you have the right equipment to overcome your obstacles?  Phil and his team attempted to rappel down the cliff and felt it too dangerous.  Today, many climbers specifically go to climb and rappel down that very cliff.  The equipment and knowledge that people have today are much better than what they had 90 years ago.  Are there new or different tools that you could use to overcome your road block?  Would additional knowledge help you in continuing your journey?

Push on through.

Sometimes we just have to grit our teeth and power on through.  As Dory says, “Just keep swimming.  Just keep swimming.”  There are many times when we reach a point of dismay and our mental energy and enthusiasm collapse because it is going to be longer or harder than we thought.

If the goal is important, then sometimes the best solution is to continue to trudge on.  We can think of this as applying Newton’s first law of motion, “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” (NASA.com)  Our movement towards the goal has stopped, so we need to apply an unbalanced force upon it to get it moving again.

Plan ahead for obstacles.

Just because our mental illusions often trick us, does not mean that we will always be fooled by them.  Before beginning our journey, we can carefully map out the process and try to visualize what potential roadblocks we could encounter.  That process helps prepare us for when we do run into an issue.  In other words, we have primed ourselves and our expectations so that dismay will not fully knock us off our course.  Specifically, we should be asking ourselves:

  • What might happen that could derail the journey
  • What are external forces that could impact this process
  • What are internal forces that could affect this process
  • If we run into one of these obstacles, how will we approach it (“If ________ happens, then we will do __________.”)

We should also tap into our social networks and see if other people we know gone through this process or attempted this change.  These people can be our mentors and help work through with us some of the unforeseen obstacles that we had not thought about.  Their experience and knowledge can not only help identify potential barriers and how to overcome them but also might point us on a route that avoids those obstacles altogether.

Reexamine your goal.

Lastly, reexamine your goal.  Is it worth the effort, time and trouble that it will now take you to achieve?  If it is, keep going for it.  But don’t just blindly go on just because you started.  Climbers too often focus on reaching the summit at peril to their own lives.  Ed Viesturs, renowned mountaineer and bestselling author who’s summited Everest seven times says, “I’ve always had this motto that climbing has to be a round trip. I’ve always understood that getting off the mountain was more important than getting to the top…It’s OK. It’s not a failure…If you’re rushing, if you’re thinking it has to happen today, then you’re going to make bad decisions.” (Time.com) Sometimes it is ok to stop and say, not today.  I’ll try this some other time when conditions are better, or I’m in a better spot.

 

*A common mistake is for people to call the Teton Range “The Grand Tetons.” The Grand Teton is a single mountain while the mountain range’s proper name is “the Tetons” or “the Teton range.”

**Thanks to Michael Anschel for introducing me to the story of Disappointment Peak.

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