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Organisational behaviour

What to do when people don't see the need to change

A lot of times people don’t see the need to change. Even if they intellectually understand that change is required, rarely does it materialize. We mean haven’t you ever faced a situation where you have made a powerful case via a powerpoint presentation filled with charts and graphs and inspiring quotes, and everyone in the room understood exactly what you meant and even noded their heads with enthusiasm, but nothing really happened after that? No? Then you must be so damn good looking! For the rest of us, things needn’t be this hard. There can be a better way as described by the following two examples.

Jon Stegner worked for a large manufacturing company and figured there was an opportunity to cut purchasing costs that would result in savings of $1 billion over five years. But to reap these savings, a big process shift would be required and for that to happen the bosses would need to believe in the opportunity and for the most part, they didn’t.

Let’s face it, if you were in his place the natural and most likely thing you would have done is make a presentation with all the savings data, the cost-cutting protocols, a recommendation for supplier consolidation and the logic for central purchasing.

But instead, Stegner hired a summer intern and asked him to identify all the types of gloves used in all the company’s factories and find out what the company was paying for it. They found that the factories were purchasing 424 kinds of gloves, using different suppliers, and all were negotiating their own prices. The same pair of gloves that cost $5 at one factory cost $17 at another.

Stegner piled and tagged each of the 424 kinds of gloves and invited all division presidents to visit the Glove Shrine. The presidents were like, “We really buy all these different kinds of gloves?” “This is crazy” “We’re crazy”. “We’ve got to fix this”. The company changed its purchasing process and saved a lot of money. (Source: The Heart of Change by John Kotter and Dan Cohen)

Another example is of Robyn Waters who worked at Target as a Trend Manager at a time when Target was a ‘discounter’ and was lagging the trends and not starting them. That was Robyn Waters’s mandate. But the merchandizers in various departments were traditionally copycats.

For a time in retail, trendy clothing was neutral in color. Everything was gray, white, khaki, tan or black. Then, one season color exploded in the retailers in London and Paris. So Waters needed to get her merchants excited about color. But Target had an analytical, numbers driven culture and the merchants would review the past few year’s sales and see that the color hadn’t sold.

So she poured a bag full of bright colored M&Ms on the glass table creating cascades of turquoise and hot pink and lime green. Merchants went “Wow” and she’d say, “See, look at your reaction to color”. (Source: Interview of Robyn Waters by Chip Heath)

In both cases, the change agent was a single employee with not much resource. Both created the change by dramatizing the need for change in a tangible way.

Consumer and Employee behaviour (Bajaj Finance)

Last week we spoke at Bajaj Finance on applying behavioural science to improve sales conversions, new product adoption, product portfolio, choice architecture, pricing strategies, employee behaviour change, productivity, performance management systems, learning and team collaboration.

One of the questions asked during the Q&A was what’s the difference between data science and behavioural science and what’s the role of both in business. We answered the question with the example of Uber. To make sure you can hire an Uber within couple of minutes of booking one and to make sure the cab arrives at the exact location around the time promised, Uber must be applying incredible amount of data science – matching user’s data with driver’s data and of course so much more we don’t understand as behavioural scientists. When Uber would use surge-pricing too, they would apply data science to incentivise drivers to reduce customer’s waiting time. But it didn’t go down well with anyone. So Uber changed its tactic from surge-pricing (1.8x) to upfront-pricing (Rs. 167). With upfront-pricing customers no longer feel its unfair because they are informed about the exact fare at the time of booking prior to the trip, which is a certain fixed amount and that puts customers at ease, even though in peak times Uber indicates that fares are higher due to higher demand. On the other hand, surge-pricing (1.8x) pinched people a lot more. But now with upfront-pricing, Uber is still able to charge a surcharge, but without pinching people as much, thereby improving customer experience. Uber’s upfront-pricing is an example of Behavioural Design.

How a surgeon made breast cancer treatment patient-friendly

If you have been through breast cancer or have accompanied someone’s struggle you may like this story. As all stories on this blog, this story has something to do with behaviour, in this case its about patient behaviour, organizational behaviour change, breast cancer treatment and the change brought about by a surgeon – Laura Esserman.

Let’s first start with the typical process of breast care diagnosis and treatment. The woman first notices a lump on her breast. Anxiously she calls a doctor and meets him/her after a few days by taking an appointment. The doctor confirms that the lump should be examined, so the patient is referred to a radiologist to get a mammogram. Getting the results takes few more agonizing days. The mammogram shows something suspicious, so she is referred to a surgeon who she meets after a few more days spent anxiously. The surgeon verifies that the lump is present, gets a biopsy done at a pathology lab to determine whether the lump contains cancerous cells. Meanwhile the woman is waiting for an answer. If cancer is detected, depending upon the stage, she undergoes treatment, which may involve radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, in whatever order recommended by the surgeon. Different departments of a hospital conduct radiation and chemotherapy typically with different booking procedures and delays. The sequence takes weeks and weeks to unfold, while the woman is wondering, “Am I going to live through this?”

This anxiety-filled process appalled surgeon Laura Esserman. She had a vision of a Breast Care Center where a woman could walk in at the beginning of the day and walk out at the end with an answer. But as an associate professor at University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) at that time she had few resources at her disposal. Plus, radiation oncologists reported to medical oncology, surgeons to School of Medicine, nurses to medical center, psychologists to someone else. So you can imagine the organizational challenge to bring them together. Even if she could start a breast care clinic, she would never be able to hire such talent at such salaries.

Like all big changes, Esserman started small. She set up the Breast Care Center for only four hours one day per week. She would see the patients in the morning, send them off for a break and ask them to come back at 1pm. During that time, she would go to radiology, look through all the images with the radiologist and decide the next steps. In the second year, she expanded to two days per week and soon enough the snowball began. Eventually the Breast Care Center got an entire floor. The number of patients skyrocketed and the Center became a major source of revenue for UCSF. Today when the patient walks into the Breast Care Center, Esserman can look at her films, do a biopsy, and consult a gynecologist, psychologist, and genetic counselor in the same place. “For the first time,” said Esserman, “we put the woman at the center.”

Source: Victoria Chang and Jeffrey Pfeffer 2003, Laura Esserman, Stanford Graduate School of Business Case Study OB-42A and Chip Heath’s interview of Laura Esserman in May 2009.

Behavioural Design interview on Radio One 94.3 – Part 3

Why Behavioural Design is more effective than Advertising at changing behaviour

Advertising is useful for creating awareness of the the brand and making the brand likable through a story. However its too much to expect that viewers would choose that same brand or product when they are actually in ‘buy’ mode. Because today consumers are subjected to thousands of associations everyday and the human brain cannot be expected to revive the desired brand connection at point of purchase or consumption. Behavioural Design, on the other hand, works at this moment of truth and is far more effective at making people act in the desired way. Let us give you an example.

Suppose we wanted to encourage students to drink alcohol in limits and not go overboard. And say we chose advertising as a way to influence them to reduce their drinking. And say we even use the proven persuasive technique of using social norms – people are motivated to behave in line with perceived social norms. So we advertise that 85% of students drink 2 or lesser than 2 drinks when they party. The thinking is that when students know that their peers don’t drink much, it will reduce the amount that they’ll want to drink when they party. And we advertise via posters in colleges in prominent places so that the students would surely notice them.

Though the technique of social norm is persuasive, by the time the students get to the pubs, clubs, parties, wherever drinking occurs, they forget about that piece of persuasive messaging. The disparity between where the students see the persuasive message and where they are when they drink means that the distant voice of the message is likely to be drowned by the here-and-now sounds of cheers, fast music, laughter and an ambience created to shed inhibitions.

It’s unlikely that the same message would work if placed inside the pubs or clubs, especially if students see other students drinking more than 2 drinks. But what if the pubs put playful ‘light cubes’ in students’ drinks. Light cubes that are LED lights enclosed in plastic, emitting flashes of blue and white light, making the drink look like it were flashing the police car lights (blue, white and red in US). That could subliminally remind the students of the presence of cops around and restrict them from going overboard and getting into trouble. That’s why Behavioural Design is more powerful at changing behaviour.

Know the basics of creating habits

This is the story of Claude Hopkins, who helped establish tooth brushing as a daily habit. Yup there was a time when tooth brushing wasn’t a habit .

So how did Hopkins get people to brush? He found a cue, a reward and a craving for that reward.

Faced with the task of selling Pepsodent, he sat down with a pile of dental textbooks. Dry reading, much of what we do to keep the blog stories interesting. That’s when he chanced upon mucin plaques on teeth. It’s the film that builds up on teeth regardless of what you eat or how often you brush. The film is a naturally occurring membrane that you can get rid of by eating an apple, running your finger over your teeth, brushing or vigorously swirling liquid in your mouth. Toothpaste didn’t do anything to help remove the film. But that didn’t stop Hopkins from exploiting his discovery. He decided to use this film that was universal and impossible to ignore, as the cue to trigger the habit of brushing.

Moreover the reward was enticing – a prettier smile making you look beautiful. All it took to get rid of the film and look beautiful was to brush with Pepsodent.

But countless studies, including famous ones of the brains of monkeys by Wolfram Schultz, neuroscientist at University of Cambridge, have shown that a cue and a reward, on their own, aren’t enough for a new habit to last. Only when your brain starts anticipating the reward, will it become automatic. The habit only emerges when in Schultz’s experiments the monkey began craving the juice upon seeing the cue or when a smoker’s brain starts anticipating a hit of nicotine upon seeing the pack of his/her favourite cigarette brand or when your brain starts anticipating the momentary distraction of checking your cell when it vibrates or lights up with a new message.

Likewise, Pepsodent had created a craving. Unlike other pastes of its period, Pepsodent contained citric acid and mint oil that created a cool, tingling sensation on the tongue and gums. Once people craved that cooling, tingling sensation – once they equated it with cleanliness – brushing became a habit. The tingling doesn’t make the toothpaste work any better. It just convinces people its doing its job. Two weeks after the campaign launched the demand exploded.

Many product categories can get kicking, if only they get back to the basics – cue, reward and craving for the reward.

Source: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

What's the best chance of breaking a brand's loyalty?

All along marketers have believed that satisfied customers are loyal customers. All along marketers have believed that loyal customers mean profits for companies. But data by behavioural scientists are making us revisit established theories of consumer behavior and marketing.

For example, research by Reichheld and Teal has revealed that between 65% – 85% of people who switch brands are either satisfied or very satisfied. If satisfaction was the key to keeping customers loyal, why are satisfied people switching brands?

Another research by Szymanski and Henard reveals that on its own, satisfaction predicts very little of people’s behavior, perhaps as little as one-quarter.

This actually makes sense. As we have seen by recent previous posts ‘Think you can predict your own behavior?’ and its Part II, strong habits rule over intentions. In the face of a strong habit, we sometimes don’t buy the things we intend to. Instead, we buy what we bought before.

Says Jeremy Dean of PsyBlog when the initial choice is made to buy a product and subsequently made again and again, in the same context, then it’s likely to become a habit. Meaning we make the same choice without considering the options, because deliberation hurts the brain.

Habits can be so strong that according to research by Lal and Bell, habitual shoppers often don’t respond very strongly to incentives like special offers. Which makes creating shopping habits an even more profitable activity especially for brands.

So what is the best chance a brands got at breaking another brand’s loyalty?

The answer is – major life events. Consumer behavior expert Alan Andreasen was one of the first to point out that there are particular moments in people’s lives when their consuming habits are most ready to change. He figured the more major life events people experienced, like changing employer, getting married, moving house or the biggest of them all, having a kid, the more they had changed brands. Major life changes mean change in situations, change in environment, which means old habits get disrupted and the opportunity to break in increases.

Sources: F.F. Reichheld and T. Teal – The loyalty effect: The hidden force behind growth, profits, and lasting value – Cambirdge, MA: Harvard Business Press, 2001

D.M. Szymanski and D.H. Henard – Customer Satisfaction: A meta-analysis of the empirical evidence– Journal of the academy of marketing science 29, no.1 (2001): 16-35

R. Lal and D.E. Bell – The impact of frequent shopper programs in grocery retailing – Quantitative marketing and economics 1, no. 2 (2003): 179-202

Psyblog – www.psyblog.co.uk 

If you want something to happen, write it down

Hopefully by now you are beginning to appreciate how a seemingly small design intervention can make a huge difference in behaviour change. Here’s one more story that illustrates this point.

British psychologistsPaschal Sheeran and Sheina Orbell conducted an experiment in two of Scotland’s busiest orthopaedic hospitals. The participants were elderly patients from low and middle class households, who had undergone hip or knee replacement surgeries.

Recovering from a hip or knee surgery is incredibly arduous. While recovering the smallest movements can be excruciating. But it is essential that patients begin exercising almost as soon as they wake from surgery, even before the muscles and skin have healed, or the tissues will clog the joint, destroying its flexibility. But exercising is so painful that many patients skip out on rehab sessions, especially the elderly ones.

So the patients were each given a booklet after their surgeries that detailed their rehab schedule, and in the back were thirteen additional pages – one for each week – with instructions: My goals for this week are _________________? Write down exactly what you are going to do. For example, if you are going to walk this week, write down where and when you are going to walk.

Three months passed. The patients who had written exact plans in their booklets had started walking twice as fast as the ones who had not, as well as, getting in and out of their chairs, putting on their shoes, doing laundry, all of it much faster, than the ones who had not written anything in the booklet. Why did that happen?

The psychologists examined the booklets of those who had filled it and found it filled with specific detailed plans about the most mundane aspects of recovery. Like one patient wrote that he would walk to the bus stop on a particular day to meet his wife coming back from work at 3:30pm and the time he would leave, the route he would walk, what he would wear and which pills he would take if the pain became too much. Someone else who would exercise each time she would go to the bathroom, wrote that she would automatically take the first step right away after standing up from the couch, so that she wouldn’t be tempted to sit down again.

All focused on how they would handle a specific moment of anticipated pain. They built plans around inflection points when they knew their pain – and their temptation to quit – would be strongest.

Patients who didn’t write out any plans were at a significant disadvantage, because they never thought ahead about how to deal with pain. They didn’t deliberately design their habits. So their resolve abandoned them when they confronted the first few steps.

So if you want something to happen, write all the steps down.

Source: Paschal Sheeran and Sheina Orbell – Implementation intentions and repeated behaviour: augmenting the predictive validity of the theory of planned behaviour – European Journal of Social Psychology Volume 29, Issue 2-3, pages 349–369, March – May 1999

We learn better from failure than success

I’m sure you’ve been through many training programs or ‘workshops’ as they are commonly called if you’ve been part of corporate culture, no matter which part of the world you are from. Besides these workshops being much-wanted breaks from regular work, we have doubts about how many translate to improving real productivity. Most of the training programs focus exclusively on the positive – on learning how to make good decisions via successful cases, but behavioural science shows that there is a better way of training.

Behavioural scientists Wendy Joung, Beryl Hesketh and Andrew Neal chose a group of firefighters as participants because their decisions carried important consequences. Training and development sessions were conducted amongst two groups of participants that included several case studies. One group learned from case studies that described real-life situations in which firefighters made poor decisions that led to negative consequences (error-based training). The other group learned from case studies in which firefighters avoided negative consequences through good decision-making (success-based training). Researchers found that firefighters who underwent error-based training showed improved judgment and were able to think more adaptively than those who underwent success-based training.

The reason for the efficacy of error-based training is that it increases attention of participants during training and makes the training a more memorable experience. The discussions after each case study in the error-based group were much more animated, with participants eager to find better ways to have resolved a problem and avoid mistakes, while the success-based groups were more subdued in their conversations and otherwise indicated that they were less engaged overall. Engaged trainees are going to learn more and retain more than their less-engaged colleagues.

So the next time you think of conducting a workshop you could benefit by having case studies, videos and anonymous testimonials of mistakes followed by a discussion of what actions would have been appropriate to take in those similar situations.

Source: Wendy Joung, B. Hesketh, A. Neal – Using war stories to train for adaptive performance: Is it better to learn from error or success? Applied Psychology: An International Review: 55, 282-302 (2006)

Behavioural Design on comedy show Cyrus Says

Human behaviour is funny. That’s why popular comedian Cyrus Broacha invited us to understand what Behavioural Design is all about.

We spoke about why Indian men stare at cleavages, touch inappropriately, spit in public, why we honk indiscriminately, don’t allow pedestrians to cross in India, why we behave irrationally in general and what can be done about it. We spoke about how men look at women’s bodies and how women look at men’s bodies, how to reduce smoking, how to avoid over-eating, why its time for the Indian Government to begin applying behavioural science like the US and UK governments are applying. We spoke about behavioural science principles like social proof and overconfidence and our projects Bleep and People Power. Download Saavn to hear the non-sense – http://www.saavn.com/s/show/Cyrus-Says/2/2mYLF,EZgkk_

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