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Employee performance and happiness talk (Gartner)

Our latest talk was on applying behavioural science for improving employee performance and happiness at the Gartner Symposium ITXPO, Goa for India’s Top 300 CIOs.

Behavioural science experiments on employee performance and happiness show that businesses often operate in ways that are not aligned to principles of human psychology, leading to engagement and motivation levels that are disappointing.
For example, when performance appraisals are done annually, employees are also given feedback on improvement and learning. But behavioural science shows that the focus of employees at that stage is on earning, while learning shuts down. Companies can benefit to a great extent if the ‘scope of improvement’ conversation is done as a separate exercise at a separate time than the performance review and appraisal.
The talk covered behavioural science findings on rewards, recognition, incentives – monetary, non-monetary, experiential; performance appraisal, feedback, teams, collaboration, workplace design, change management, productivity, culture and core values.
Like we always do, the talk focussed on simple but innovative and practical Behavioural Design nudges that could make a big difference in employee performance and happiness.

 

Comedian Cyrus Broacha interviews us on funny behaviours and Behavioural Design.

Cyrus’s nonsense makes a lot of sense.

Super witty and sharp Cyrus knows more about Behavioural Design than anyone who has interviewed us.

Part 5 of Behavioural Design interview with Hrishi K of 94.3 Radio One (last one in the series).

 

Emotions hugely affect decision-making

We’ve all experienced how we like to shop when we’re feeling down. While that says a lot about our buying behaviour, we never imagined that emotions played a huge role in our selling behaviour as well. This phenomenon is explained by an interesting study below.

Behavioural scientist Jennifer Lerner and her colleagues induced either sadness or no emotion in participants by having them view different film clips. Those assigned to the sadness-inducing condition watched a movie clip from The Champ, which featured the death of a boy’s mentor; following that, they were asked to write a brief paragraph about how they’d feel if they’d been in the situation themselves. Those in the no-emotion condition watched an emotionally neutral film clip featuring fish and then wrote about their day-to-day activities. Afterward, half the participants were asked to set a price to sell some highlighters and the other half were asked to set a price to buy the same highlighters.

Turned out that sad buyers were willing to purchase the item for around 30% more than emotionally neutral buyers. Here’s the interesting part. Sad sellers were willing to part with the item for around 33% less than emotionally neutral sellers! Researchers also found that the participants had no idea that they had been so deeply affected by the residual feelings of sadness.

Behavioural scientists Christopher Hsee and Yuval Rottenstrich argue further that in emotionally charged situations we become less sensitive to the magnitude of numbers – we are more likely to pay attention to the simple presence or absence of an event. We get persuaded by offers when we shouldn’t be. Like when we’re got our eyes set on a new beauty (car) and if the difference between the price of the car and what we’re willing to pay for it is say Rs. 3 lakh – a good salesperson will manage to persuade us by throwing in one or two additional items free like a mirror lock or steering lock, whose value is realistically nowhere near Rs. 3 lakhs.

Lesson for negotiations, buying and selling decisions – examine how you feel and put off the decision until you’re feeling emotionally neutral.

Source: Lerner, A. Small and G. Lowenstein – Heart strings and purse strings: carryover effects of emotions on economic decisions – Psychological Science, 15:337-41 (2004)

How the world's best marketer got it wrong, but eventually got it right

The world’s best marketer – P&G launched a brand called Febreze in the US in 1996 as a spray that could remove bad smells from almost any fabric. The spray had been created when one of the P&G scientists was working with a substance called hydroxypropyl beta cyclodextrin (HPBCD). Apparently he was a smoker and one day when he got back from work his wife asked, “Did you quit smoking?” “No”, he said looking suspiciously. “You don’t smell like smoke”, she said.

P&G sensing a big opportunity spent millions perfecting the formula, producing colorless, odorless liquid that could make any stinky couch or jacket scentless. The marketing team decided that they should position Febreze as something that would allow people to rid themselves of embarrassing smells. They created two television commercials. The first showed a woman talking about how her jacket smell of cigarettes when she eats in the smoking section of a restaurant and the other, had a woman speak about her furniture smelling like her dog. In both cases Febreze eliminated the bad smells.

Febreze bombed.

P&G hired behavioural experts to help them figure out the problem and the new solution. When they visited a woman’s home, they observed that though her house was clean and organized, it stinked of her nine cats. The smell was overpowering but the woman couldn’t notice any smell. They figured that even the strongest scent fades with constant exposure. People who needed Febreze the most simply couldn’t detect bad smells in the first place!

They met hundreds of consumers looking for clues how to make Febreze a regular part of their lives. One day they met a woman, who used Febreze everyday. She used to spray Febreze whenever she would finish cleaning a room. Like in the bedroom, she vacuumed, made the bed, plumped the pillows, tightened the bed sheet’s corners, smiled with a sense of accomplishment and then took a Febreze bottle and sprayed it as a final touch. They saw the same pattern across thousands of hours of videotapes of people cleaning their homes.

That was it. The team decided to make Febreze a fun part of cleaning, at the end of the cleaning routine. They added more perfume, so that instead of merely neutralizing odors, Febreze had its own distinct smell. Febreze was repositioned as the nice smell that occurs at the end of the cleaning routine. Instead of eliminating scents, it became an air freshener, used as the finishing touch.  Febreze was relaunched in 1998. Housewives started craving the Febreze scent and the desire to make everything smell as nice as it looked. Within two months sales doubled. Now Febreze sales are more than $1 billion per year and products include candles, laundry detergents, kitchen spays, etc. P&G learned the lesson – no one craves scentlessness.

Source: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Hear the full story from Charles Duhigg here.

Mirroring others behaviour can get you likes

Often during a meeting or a negotiation we subconsciously mirror our colleagues’ or negotiators’ posture. The typical response is to change our posture, as if there were something wrong with being influenced by the other. However the following research suggests the exact opposite: Mirroring behaviour results in better outcomes for both.

Researcher William Maddux and colleagues conducted an experiment wherein MBA students were instructed to subtly mirror their partner during negotiation (e.g. lean back if the other person does) or not asked to mirror their partner. When one party was instructed to mirror the other, the two parties reached a deal 67% of the time. When they weren’t told to mirror the other, the parties reached a deal only 12.5% of the time.

Based on additional data from the research, they concluded that mirroring behaviour led to increased trust, and that increased trust typically led one negotiator to feel comfortable disclosing details that were ultimately necessary to break a stalemate and create a win-win situation for both parties.

Another research by Rick van Baaren and colleagues found that waiters at a restaurant increased their tip size by nearly 70% simply by matching their customers’ verbalizations, repeating back word for word the customer’s order, as opposed to saying “okay” or merely nodding.

Social psychologists Tanya Chartrand and John Barg say that matching behaviour of others creates feelings of liking and strengthens bonds between two people. It makes us say “yes” and do nice things for people we like.

At the same time, you don’t want your interaction to come across as mocking the other person. So the key is subtlety.

Sources: William Maddux, Elizabeth Mullen and Adam Galinsky – Chameleons bake bigger pies and take bigger pieces: Strategic behavioral mimicry facilitates negotiations outcomes – Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 44, no. 2: 461-68 (March 2008)

Rick van Baaren, Rob Holland, Brejge Steenart, Ad van Knippenberg – Mimicry for money: Behavioral consequences of Imitation – Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 39, no. 4:393-98 (July 2003)

Tanya Chatrand and John Bargh – The chameleon effect: The perception-behavior link and social interaction – Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 76, no. 6: 893-910 (June 1999)

Haath laga ke dekh

Hello from New York. We’re here to attend MakerCon and MakerFaire and meet interesting people like authors, professors, makers, inventors, innovators, chip designers, product designers, design thinkers and of course behavioural scientists. More on that later.

Continuing with the blogpost, translated in English ‘Haath laga ke dekh’ means ‘Try touching me’, used here in a challenging tone and manner. You’ll hear a lot of it at crowded places like railway stations, bus stops, inside trains and buses where people jostle for space and there’s an invariable brushing of elbows and shoulders. Leading to mock fights of the ‘Hungama’ Bollywood movie-type, where men challenge one another saying ‘Haath laga ke dekh’.

But in this post we’ll be focusing on the positive aspect of touching. How and why touching can sub-consciously lead to positive outcomes. By touching we mean, a gentle brief touch to the forearm, for example, not the touchy-feely kinds.

In the study ‘The Effect of Touch on Women’s Behaviour’ by N. Gueguen, French men randomly approached 240 young women by saying, “Hello. My name is Antoine. I just want to say that I think you’re really pretty – I need to go to work now – but if you’d give me your number – I’ll call you later – and we could have a drink together someplace.” If the women refused, they’d say, “Its not my day. Have a good evening.” If they got her number, they’d tell her it was just a study, and the women would laugh. With half the women, the young men added a light one-second touch to the woman’s forearm. The other half were not touched. I know what you are thinking – what would happen if it were India? But stay with me on this one. I’ll give you other examples to illustrate the point too.

Outcome: When the young men didn’t touch, their success rate was 10% and when they touched, it was 20%. Why did it happen? Women didn’t think like Antoine is such a good toucher. It happened because on a sub-conscious level, touch imparts a subliminal sense of caring and connection. Social neuroscientist pioneer Ralph Adolphs says that nerve fibers especially in the face and arm are directly connected to areas of the brain such as the insular cortex, which is associated with emotion.

Subtle touching, like briefly on the arm, has provided a positive outcome in many researches and experiments – from increasing tips for servers in restaurants and bars, to the servers suggestion to order a particular dish being accepted more often, to the increase in percentage of shoppers in a supermarket purchasing the food they sampled, to the proportion of shoppers in a mall willing to answer a survey, to a 2010 study of Basketball in Berkeley that found that the number of high fives, chest bumps, hugs, etc. correlated significantly with the degree of cooperation among teammates and wins.

Haath laga ke dekh. Try touching, this time used in a persuasive manner 🙂

Smoking - the toughest habit can be broken

We’re non-smokers, but we empathize with those who want to quit after years of smoking. It’s not easy. People try lots of things to quit smoking – nicotine patches, cold turkey, replacing the cigarette with something to keep them busy, avoiding the spots where smokers congregate, making new year resolutions, promising their kids/wives/girlfriends, what not. Few succeed, most fail.

We’ve chanced upon something that has proved to be more successful than any other way to quit smoking. CARES – Committed Action to Reduce and End Smoking – is a savings program offered by the Green Bank of Caraga in Mindanao, Philippines. Here’s how the savings program works. The smoker opens an account with a minimum balance of $1. For 6 months, the smoker deposits the amount of money he (includes ‘she’) would otherwise spend on cigarettes into the account. After 6 months, the client takes a urine test to confirm that he has not smoked. If he passes the test, he gets his money back. If he fails the test, the account is closed and the money is donated to charity.

Results of this program have been evaluated by MIT’s Poverty Action Lab and look better than other anti-smoking tactics. Opening an account makes those who want to quit 53% more likely to achieve their goal. In a study done by Xavier Gine, Dean Karlan and Jonathan Zinman, those who were offered CARES, including those who turned it down, were about 45% more likely to pass the nicotine test than the control group. Would smokers relapse once the 6 months were over and the pressure was off? After another six months of the 6-month program, researchers found that customers who took up CARES and even those who were offered but didn’t enroll, did markedly better than the control group.

If you wish to quit smoking in the same manner by depositing money with us, email us at anand@brief-case.co  Seriously, no kidding. We’ll do a test after around 6 months. We can agree to donate to a charity you don’t like. So that adds to your motivation to quit. And, if you want to commit to any other self-improvement, we’re open provided it can be verified whether you have achieved it or not.

Source: Xavier Gine, Dean Karlan, Jonathan Zinman – Put your money where your butt is: A commitment contract for smoking cessation – American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 2(4):1-26 (2010)

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