The purpose of strategy

“The value is in what gets used, not in what gets built.”

Kris Gale

Digital tools only create potential

One of the key indicators that strategy is working is a change in the behaviour of our customers. Strategy influences products, and products can influence people, however if the products don’t result in a change of behaviour then we haven’t made a meaningful difference.  Well crafted digital products create a potential to produce better outcomes, yet ultimately its up to the person who might wield the tool to determine if that potential is realised.  Getting people to change their behaviour is difficult because when a person meets a product it is the person who has the work to do around adapting to the product, and not vice versa. It is therefore essential that we incorporate behavioural design into our products.

Behaviour has 4 influences

Behaviour is simply the way person acts, and it’s determined by a constellation of largely psychological factors.  There are 4 key factors that influence behaviour.  The opportunity in this is if we can understand how these factors catalyse a person into action then we can play a proactive role in influencing behaviour.

These factors are;

  1. Attention
  2. Motivation
  3. Decision making
  4. Actionability

1. Attention

The first factor influencing behaviour is attention.  Our behaviour is largely determined by inattention and inertia.  This means that all other things being equal, we are likely to carry on doing what we have been always been doing.  Human beings are creatures of habit, so for a significant portion of our life we are on auto-pilot.  If you want to change someone’s behaviour the first thing you need to do is grab their attention.  One of the most common examples of this is the (over-)use of app notifications.  Facebook anyone?

2. Motivation

The second factor influencing behaviour is motivation. Motivation is the catalyst that arouses people to action and it arises when a person faces their own unmet needs.  As human beings we share common drives, so we can call on these across all of our customers.  Meaning, self-expression, mastery and connectedness are some of the motivations we all share.  Motivation is also specific to different group of people.  For instance Māori and Pasikifa tend to place greater value on whānau and larger communal groups.  And motivation is of course specific to the individual.  

When designing our products we should keep in mind the motivations of our customers and consider how we can leverage these to drive behaviour.

3. Decision making

The third factor influencing behaviour is decision-making.  If we pass the gateways of attention and motivation, then the next thing that is faced is a decision.  The wiring of our brains means that there are a number of different, so-called cognitive biases, that affect the way we make decisions.  As an example, we tend to value the present much more than the future.  This means we often make decisions that provide pleasure to our “present-self” at the expense of pain to our “future-self”.  Consumer finance companies leverage this cognitive bias mercilessly.  So does that muffin shop that pumps its aroma into the streets.

Our brains also look for shortcuts when making decisions.  For instance we will look at what other people think about something, and sometimes value that over the effort of coming to our own decision. The use of celebrities to endorse a product, or the use of customer testimonials are examples of this.  There are numerous other influences on our decision making and understanding what these can help with influencing behaviour.

4. Actionability

The fourth and final factor influencing behaviour is actionability.  Having our attention caught, our motivation piqued, and a decision made is a great start, but nothing happens until the decision is acted on.  What stands in the way of this is the question of how easy it is to take action.  This includes questions like;

  • will it cost much money?
  • will it involve much physical effort?
  • will it take much time?
  • will it take a lot of thought?

The growing emphasis on User Experience design is one of the most obvious examples of work being down to improve actionability of products.

Incorporating Behavioural intelligence into the solution

The perspective of Behaviour goes hand in hand with the perspective on Relationship.  People don’t come to products that they don’t know about or haven’t enticed them with a relevant offer.  That’s why the marketing budget for many types of products is as large as the product development budget.  The perspective of Relationship tells us that we need to proactively manage all of the stages of our relationship with the career seeker. This in turn requires us to influence their behaviour.

There’s a line from the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” which goes “If you build it they will come”.  Its a wonderfully romantic idea and one that has inspired too many product designers who might have promising products but no customers. 

By making use of the proven techniques of attention management, gamification, behavioural economics and user experience design, we can make real the less romantic but much more truthful line – “If you can build it, and then influence them, they will come, and stay”

When attention, motivation, decision making and actionability all come together then new behaviours can emerge.  The intersection of behavioural science and technology is called Persuasive Technology or Behavioural Intelligence and this area is creating new opportunities to influence behaviour at scale. 

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