The science of human behavior is a river of with exclamations, curiosities, prevarications and humble confusion. But among the currents and eddies often there are useful insights that help us navigate daily life.
One such notion was introduced by Jason Hreha, a Stanford graduate and one-time co-author with Dan Ariely. Hreha is now Global Head of Behavioral Sciences at Walmart, the world’s largest employer.
About a year and a half ago, Hreha was talking with a former member of President Obama’s Social and Behavioral Sciences Team.
According to Hreha in a recent email, the small group became a roaming behavioral economics consultancy during the final three years of Obama’s presidency. They worked on various projects, big and small, across various agencies.
After a few different case studies, says Hreha, it became clear — the Social and Behavioral Sciences Group was all about simplification.
Every single project the person described to Hreha, involved taking some bloated government process or solution — and making it smaller, quicker, easier.
An example. Pretend the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) wants to increase the health insurance application rate, but it just so happens the application process is 45 minutes long and requires people to fill out a health-status questionnaire.
The behavioral sciences SWAT team would want to cut down the application length as much as possible (from 45 minutes to 10) by eliminating or shortening steps. In this case, the team might ask DHHS to re-design the form so that healthy applicants can fill out the health-status portion with a couple of clicks (“I am a healthy person”, etc.).
Since healthy applicants are the ones least likely to use health insurance, a tweak like this could increase the application rate for this group — important because this group pays for health care they rarely use.
Bureaucrat-designed processes tend to be longer than necessary, so a behavior-change strategy focused on shortening and simplifying government forms makes a lot of sense.
Which brings us to the three types of behavioral interventions.
Simplification is all about making a behavior easier.
Motivation is all about making a behavior more enjoyable or exciting.
Instigation is all about making a behavior salient or top-of-mind. It’s about reminding people to do a behavior.
The White House behavioral team was focused on simplification, which made sense for the types of problems faced in government.
But in our personal lives and the business world, points 2 and 3 are equally important.
Whenever you’re facing a behavior problem related to brand or business, it’s useful to think about these three categories.
Ask yourself: Is there a way to make this behavior simpler? Is there a way to make this behavior more intentional, enjoyable or exciting? Is there a way we can make sure this behavior is memorable and repeated?
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Patrick Hanlon, Author of Primal Branding
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History Buff has now been working his full time job for a month now. But his “adult” obligations have not increased at all. He continues to pay his cell phone and auto insurance bill through me as he’s on my accounts. But otherwise, he manages his own monies and does not contribute to the household.
Sea Cadet was sent home early from his “year with Americorp” due to the virus and has been seeking employment of any kind. But he is hoping to stay in his trained profession of EMS or emergency management. Meanwhile, he has resumed his duties as volunteer firefighter is now taking the Fire I course to become a firefighter. I have been covering his cell phone and car insurance bill while he has been serving with Americorp after his savings ran out and am continuing to do so while he finds work. He gets a bi-weekly stipend from Americorp and he uses it for his living – gas for his car, oil changes, etc for now.
The Next Phase Towards Adulthood
After much research and speaking with trusted advisors, I have decided it is time for the twins to take the next step into adulthood. And frankly, this has probably caused me more sleepless nights and questioning of my parenting than most decisions I have made…so I am certainly not sure I am right. But this is what we are doing.
The twins will now pay $250 per month in rent. This will help cover the household bills, the groceries and such. All of which they contribute to. They will still be expected to do weekly chores as we all do to maintain our living environment. And they will continue to pay their own cell phone and auto insurance bills through me.
When their phone contracts end, they are to evaluate moving onto their own plan. It will be their decision if they want to stay under my account or move out onto their own. But either way, they will begin paying the service provider rather than me. And if they do remain under me, they understand that it is a 2 year commitment.
They must both begin preparing and researching moving out. At this time, the goal for that is next Spring. This time period was chosen to 1) give them plenty of time and 2) free me to make a move of my own after Princess graduates and heads off to college (assuming Gymnast chooses to remain with his dad.)
One more caveat, if either of them decides to return to school full time, they are always welcome to live at home, wherever that may be, I will do my best to help support them. But at this point, neither of them is planning to pursue additional schooling at this time.
These changes kick in for History Buff beginning in May. And for Sea Cadet in June. (If Sea Cadet does go to Virginia to work at the summer camp, he will not have to pay rent while he is away, but he will resume paying his other bills as soon as he has a full time job which we anticipate will be any day now.)
What do you think? Have you had to “phase” your adult children into adulthood and out of the house and your financial care? It’s a foreign concept for me and my siblings as we were all anxious to move out. And when we did live with our parents in adulthood, there was a specific purpose and time period already in place. Again, I don’t know if this is the right move, but it’s what I’ve come up with.
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