behavior change, life in general, strategy

Inspirations favour the prepared mind (part 2)

Few weeks ago, I received an email inviting me to give a short talk on “the process of creating ideas, campaigns, or innovations”. I’m a bit baffled because I don’t see myself as an “idea creator”. I see myself more as a problem solver.

I’m elaborating the content of my talk in three posts. This is the second post, and it is about a new habit that gets us better at changing behaviour.

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Most of marketing problems are about changing the way people behave. Nevertheless, when it comes to advertising, most of my clients focus on changing people’s beliefs or perceptions.

Why is this so? The saying “what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done” explains it. Measuring changes in perceptions is easy. Measuring changes in consumers’ buying behaviour is much more difficult —and it’s not the same with measuring fluctuations in sales.

It is hard to measure consumers’ actual buying behaviour in Indonesia. This is because to properly do so, marketers will need data from a longitudinal research that involves making consumers unfailingly register whatever stuff they buy within a period of time (at least for half a year). This is a complicated and expensive. There are not many marketing research agencies in Indonesia that offer this study to manufacturers; and there are not many manufacturers who subscribe to this service.

Enough with the digression. Let’s get back on the habit that gets us better at changing behaviour.

Second habit: remember the elephant

Like the previous post, this new habit will force us to leave the old habit that has been deeply ingrained. Let’s start with revisiting that old habit before we kick it off.

Most of us still believe that to change behaviour (e.g. buying Brand X more often instead of Brand A), we have to firstly change the relevant perceptions (Brand X cleans better with less effort than the cheaper Brand A), and then change the relevant feelings (from indifferent to reassured with Brand X).

This is evidenced by clients insisting on making ads “to educate the consumers” or “highlight the functional benefits” or to “include the logical persuasions”. But then again we still see plenty of people who smoke, or live sedentarily, or text while driving, or have astronomical credit card debt with no savings. Knowledge rarely turns into behaviour.

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Let’s discard the old habit of thinking the linear link of “belief→ feeling → behaviour” . Instead, let’s start the new habit of remembering the elephant.

This habit comes from the framework written in the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Difficult by Dan and Chip Heath. What’s genius about this framework is the writers explain it clearly through a powerful metaphor: the rider and the elephant.

The rider represents deliberate thinking that is deep, extensive, elaborate, effortful, and thus exhausting (for example, deciding which mortgage to take). Yes, the rider represents the rational human with its advanced frontal cortex.

But the rider is tiny and weak compared to the huge and stark elephant. The elephant represents all the subconscious processes that are shallow, spontaneous, slapdash, effortless, and a default mode of how we all behave.

The old habit of thinking “belief→ feeling → behaviour” ignores the forceful existence of the elephant. This picture illustrates the rider and the elephant metaphor to understand human behaviour.

The rider and the elephant metaphor for changing behaviour. From Switch by Dan and Chip Heath.

The rider and the elephant metaphor for changing behaviour.
From Switch by Dan and Chip Heath.

 

Direct the Rider

Directing the rider successfully is to come up with a map that makes the rider feels it’s an easy to get to an clearly-defined place. It is about breaking down a long and abstract journey (“eat healthily”) into sets of short trips, each with a very clear destination that’s easy to visualise (“change full cream milk into 2% milk”).

There is a good example of a successful effort to change people’s behaviour from Indonesia. For the longest time, wen have been bombarded with propaganda to “preserve batik as our cultural heritage”. This poster aptly illustrates the point:

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By aforlife from DevianArt.

 

Yet the significant change only took place when somebody or some institution started with a very clear and simple direction of “please wear batik to work on Fridays”. The lofty but unclear agenda of *preserving our cultural heritage” was turned into an attainable small request most people could follow easily.

A poster from Keluarga Mahasiswa ITB.

A poster from Keluarga Mahasiswa ITB.

 

Move The Elephant

Moving the elephant is about using emotions and social identity as the forces that compel the primal side in each of us.

Below is a video about using fanaticism towards a soccer club to boost the participation rate of organ donation. In Brazil, families of the deceased often will not authorise organ donations without written wills. This program overcame this barrier by practically offering an instant way to record the donor’s wish. This program managed to increase organ donation participation rate by 54% in a year.

 

Another example is a video to use how emotions are used to solve a real and dire problem: preventing children with cancers from quitting the painful chemotherapy process. I’m eagerly waiting for the report on the success rate of this program.

 

Shape The Path

Shaping the path is about tweaking the environment. We have the tendency to underestimate the importance of environment, while at the same time overestimate the personality factor, in influencing the way other people behave. It’s human, and it’s called fundamental attribution error.

Previously I have shown examples on ideas that tweak the environment, so it’s much easier to follow the prescribed behaviour, like registering oneself to be a bone marrow donor with a kit included in bandage pack (here), or creating an app that makes it impossible to print out a file (“save as .WWF, here).

Another famous example is how schools in New York City tried to improve the grade of students by giving them rewards in terms of talk-time and other content for mobile phones. The initial results were encouraging, unfortunately this program was discontinued due to lack of funding in 2008. This is the video.

 

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On the next instalment I will talk about other little habits that prepare my mind, so I believe I am in a better position to catch inspirations. So stay in touch.

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life in general, strategy

Inspirations favour the prepared mind (part 1)

Few weeks ago, I received an email inviting me to give a short talk on “the process of creating ideas, campaigns, or innovations”. I’m a bit baffled because I don’t see myself as an “idea creator”. I see myself more as a problem solver. 

I decided to talk about habits that help us get better at solving problems. I will elaborate the content of my talk in this blog, in three consecutive posts. The first one is about the habit of staying longer with the problem.

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Photo: iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

I want to correct the thinking that creative problem solvers and innovators have the magical ability getting profound insights and magical inspirations all the time. Nobody who works in any creative commercial enterprises can can afford to hold on to this myth. Every project has schedules and deadlines, and nobody is allowed to take their own sweet time to wait for inspirations to strike.

Someone wise once said, “Chances favour the prepared mind” (it was actually Louis Pasteur, who discovered bacterial fermentation and vaccination). I want to steal from him. I posit that inspirations favour the prepared mind.

I’m not saying that insights and inspirations are not necessary in creative thinking. Obviously we need inspirations, from big eureka moments or little revelations that widen our views. But we can hike up our chance to catch inspirations by preparing our mind. We have to turn those preparations into habits. This is how we can be creative at any given time.

I want to share with you my habits when I work to solve problems. I hope you want to try adopting them. Those habits are not so difficult because I will show you the techniques an methods. What’s going to be harder is you must stop your old habits that have been deeply ingrained inside you.

First habit: stay longer with the problem

I have written before why this habit is important (here). To start this habit, we have to kick off those reflexes to immediately seek for solutions. Believe me, jumping into solutions is a hard habit to break. I still have to remind my colleagues to not do it.

Some people are reluctant to stay longer with the problem because they think it will paralyse them. They expect they will be overwhelmed by too many questions. Worry not: there are techniques that are easy to learn. These techniques or methods make staying longer with the problem a painless and fruitful effort.

The methods I use come from this short but very useful book, Problem Solving 101: A Small Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe. I have written before on why I highly recommend it here. In a very accessible way, the book explains the steps and the methods via simple stories and clear examples.

For example, Ken outlines the steps we take when solving a problem. Please notice that it’s only on step three that we start thinking of solutions, in the form of action plans. See below: 

Steps in solving problems.
From Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe.

 

Watanabe proposes many useful and practical tools that help us along the process. For example, here’s a yes-no diagram that helps us identify the root cause of the problem. In this example, the one who has a the problem is a school band who has held free rock concerts in their school on Saturdays. They want to have more people coming to their free concerts. See below.

A yes-no diagram to help us identify why there are not many people coming to see free rock concerts.   From Problem Solving 101: A Small Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe.


A yes-no diagram to help us identify the root cause of a problem.
From Problem Solving 101: A Small Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe.

 

Another tool is logic tree. This is useful to help us understand the situation, or to broaden our view to see possible solutions. Here’s an example of a logic tree used by a company that produces bottled spice, like bottled ground pepper.

A logic-tree to help us think about ways to increase the number of pepper that comes out of the bottle in one shake. From Problem Solving 101: A Small Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe.

A logic-tree to help us think about solutions.
From Problem Solving 101: A Small Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe.

 

I’ve mentioned before that some people fear they will be paralysed by so many questions. Watanabe gives us another tool that helps us to manage those questions and take us closer to the root cause. The tool is a simple table with columns of

  • “Issues /questions”
  • “Hypothesis : our guessed answer to each question
  • “Rationale”: we come up with that hypothesis
  • “Analysis/actions: what we will do to test our hypothesis
  • “Source of information”: where we will get that data or info to test our hypothesis.

See below for the example related to the low attendance in free rock concert problem.

Problem-solving design plan. From Problem Solving 101: A Small Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe.

Problem-solving design plan.
From Problem Solving 101: A Small Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe.

There are many more tools and techniques you can read in this invaluable book (go get this book, it’s truly worth the money and effort). But I hope you get the gist. With the right tools and techniques, staying longer with the problem is not going to be painful. So start the habit and use the tools and techniques.

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That’s the first habit that prepares our mind to catch inspirations, and not just wait for them to strike. On the next post, I will talk about preparing our mind to solve problems related to changing the way people feel and behave. Watch this space. Yes, I really push myself to write in this blog more often.

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