Top 9 Sunday Reads – #11

It’s been a while, but here’s a few stories, ideas and links that have grabbed my attention over the last little while

1. A great little nudge that could help change behaviour by changing habits. Called Car Mode, it’s a brilliantly simple concept that I hope Apple will embrace and make happen.

2. A lovely idea from Ikea and their agency (SMFB) in Oslo. The “Built to Last” campaign helps to overcome the perception that their furniture is tasteful but cheap, while also communicating a positive sustainability message.

3. A bit of fun from Ellen in honour of The Great American Smokeout.

4. A new series of  blog posts from The Guardian on the science behind behaviour change. Via the Guardian Sustainable Business division

5. A beautifully illustrated version of the Terry Gross interview with Maurice Sendak not long before his death.


6. This is a short but wonderful article again from The Guardian about the importance of harnessing passion and emotion, and driving it toward action. Life will always get in the way, so we must always help people navigate through the day to day challenges they face, and make the desired behaviour as easy as possible. We must shrink the change at all costs.

7. Wonderful video by GoldieBlox that is popping up on news feeds everywhere. They make engineering toys for girls.


8. A random bit of brilliance from Banksy that packs a punch – Sirens of the Lambs


9. More great storytelling from Google – as always, a reminder of the irresistible power of a good story.


Bursting the bubble

One thing I often focus on when thinking about behaviour change is the bubble. So much of our behaviour is driven by the people and things that surround us – our physical environment and culture, our friends and colleagues, and the wider community. All of this contributes to a type of bubble that informs our world. We each have a bubble, and it creates a special type of social norm that drives and reinforces much of our behaviour. So unless we find ways to crack open this bubble and reveal other, often larger bubbles, people will continue to feel supported in their behaviour – whether, for example, we’re talking about smoking, binge drinking, mob riots, or immunization.

One project I worked on in 2011 was the 15andfalling anti-smoking campaign. The bubble we focused on cracking was the one that told kids that smoking was popular – in fact, they believed that 50% of young people smoked. The actual smoking rate was far different – 15%, so we set about breaking this bubble, and building a greater sense of resiliency for young kids to resist.

Top 11 Sunday reads – #6

Here’s my summary of behaviour change stuff that has inspired me this past week.

1. Via the RSA, Transforming Behaviour Change – beyond Nudge and Neuromania. I’m yet to read this, but at first glance, looks well worth a look over my Sunday morning coffee.

2. Interesting Behavioural Insights toolkit from the Social Research and Evaluation Division, Department of Transport (London).

3. Great little interview (via the BBC) with Aza Raskin as he proposes a design renaissance in healthcare by making it easier and more enjoyable to use. Hat Tip @dickstar

4. Great graph showcasing the growth and reach of “Prospect Theory”. Hat tip @mhallsworth

5. Presentations available for download from last week’s Social Marketing Conference in the UK.

6. Great post here on the opportunities and differences of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations in gaming.

7. RSA keynote with Mark Earls and Alex Bentley launching their new book “I’ll have what she’s having“.

8. Does this change your mind about Afghanistan? Beautiful!

9. The Holstee Manifesto: Lifecycle Video. Lovely. Just makes me want to hop on my bike and ride. Making change fun and desirable.

10. An update on the growing movement (fueled by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution) in the US away from flavoured milk in schools.

11. If you haven’t seen this already, the below is a great list from BJ Fogg on the top 10 mistakes in Behaviour Change.

View more presentations from Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford

Top 7 Sunday reads – #5

Here’s a few of my favourite bits and pieces from the past week, mostly around the theme of behaviour change and health promotion. I hope they’re helpful. Also, don’t forget to join in the growing community at #behaviourchange and #behaviorchange for a constant source of inspiration and fresh thinking.

1. A great interview on BBC – Radio 4 this past week on Nudging and behavioural economics (including a discussion with Nudge author Richard Thaler). It’s a nice intro to the overall theory as well as an update on various initiatives being launched by the Cabinet Office Behavioural Insight Team. Hat Tip @DivaCreative

2. A handy chart on 8 potential ways of applying Behavioural Economics theory for behaviour change. Rather than a silver bullet, it does start to shift us more toward a direction that goes with the grain of how people think.  And that’s a big step up from older models. Hat tip @mhallsworth and thoughts from Mark Earls here

3. This article via the LA Times focuses on the positive behaviour change impacts that can come from harnessing pride. For anyone (like me) who believes in shrinking the change by focusing where possible on the positive impact of change, rather than the negative, it’s a great reminder. For others, it may provoke some discussion or alternate views – via @aaronsklar

4. Lovely thoughts as always from Russell Davies in Wired. Here he talks about secondary thinking, and how designers are creating tools for stuff that gets half our attention. Also check out his inspired post on the Internet of Things.

5. For pure inspiration and beauty, this is incredible. Sophie Windsor Clive and Liberty Smith were canoeing along the River Shannon in Ireland, when they were treated to a mind-blowing show by a flock of starlings (or murmuration). Talk about right place, right time. Just stunning!

6. It seems appropriate after the above video to post this article in Psychology Today, focused on debunking the myth of human exceptionalism.

Of course we are exceptional in various arenas as are other animals. Perhaps we should replace the notion of human exceptionalism with species exceptionalism, a move that will force us to appreciate other animals for who they are, not who or what we want them to be.

Animals are not only a source of inspiration, but I think their interactions provide us with much to learn when it comes to helping us better understand our own behaviour.


7. And finally, a little something from Lady Gaga. Last year I did a talk at the agency on what she can teach us about branding. And this week, she’s again demonstrated what can come from having a singular point of view and passion, and backing it up. She’s always embraced her fans and helped them celebrate their uniqueness – her “Little Monsters” as she calls them. Her Born This Way Foundation is a further demonstration of this focus – as it works to empower youth and drive change around issues such as bullying and abandonment.  You can read more here.

White-coat syndrome and why environment matters

It’s great to see the growing appreciation of why context and environment matters in driving behaviour change.

And perhaps one of the better demonstrations of how our environment affects us in big and emotional ways is through what’s known as white-coat syndrome. This is a tendency for people’s blood pressure to rise when in a doctor’s office. It can affect about 20 to 25 per cent of patients (me included). What’s worse, if the doctor doesn’t consider this phenomenon, it can lead to incorrect diagnosis and unnecessary treatment for hypertension. But if the doctor is aware, steps can be taken to either take the elevated readings into consideration, or adopt different approaches that seek to relax the patient.

The lesson here is that without taking the impact of the environment into account, the wrong conclusion – and solution – can be adopted. If we don’t see the bigger picture when it comes to changing behaviour, millions of dollars can be wasted around the world trying to get people to adopt healthier activities. As argued by Philip Graves in Consumer.ology and Faris Yakob in his Uncovering Hidden Persuaders paper, we give too much weight to the power of attitudes. The evidence suggests that while attitudes might help indicate our intentions, they don’t always reflect what we do. This is because so much of our behaviour depends on the context – the who or what that surrounds us.

When we start to walk in the shoes of our audience, and understand how the things around them impact how they feel and what they do, we start asking the right questions, observe more deeply and challenge how we use research. This leads to inspired thinking, insights and ideas that have the potential to make a tangible difference. The positive examples are endless, but here’s a few that grabbed my attention recently.

  • A shopping cart nudge that understands the shopping environment and powers of social norms to give us a little bump.
  • A solution in healthcare that I wrote about a few weeks back
  • An approach out of Kenya aimed at getting bus drivers to reduce their reckless driving
  • A workplace safety solution highlighted in Switch by the Heath Brothers. It encouraged more workers to wear safety glasses – not by hammering away with an awareness message – but by replacing the glasses with designs that were  less embarrassing and almost cool
  • Malcolm Gladwell’s presentation on how the wearing of seatbelts were finally normalized in the US.

Understanding our environment, how we interact with it, and how it changes what we think, feel and do can lead to powerful solutions. It can serve us well as we tackle some of the biggest behavioural challenges of our society today – from obesity, smoking rates, binge drinking and much more…