mLearnCon 2012 - BJ Fogg A Methodology for Designing Behavior Change

Dr. BJ Fogg, director of Stanford's Persuasive Tech Lab, presented a compelling keynote at mLearnCon 2012 centered around a fascinating question: Can computers be designed to change people’s beliefs and behaviors?

The Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab creates insight into how computing products — from websites to mobile phone software — can be designed to change what people believe and what they do.

Unlike a lot of pop culture behavior gurus, Dr. Fogg takes a systematic, iterative approach to designing methods for changing behavior. He states "The prize will go to those who can think clearly about behavior change and iterate the fastest--create experiments that let you test and iterate four hours or faster."

Behavior Change Design Process

According to Dr. Fogg five key steps for designing a process for behavior change are:

  1. Identify the specific behavior you want from your users: It is critical to identify the specific behavior that you want people to do. Also, be careful not to confuse outcomes with behavior. For example, getting healthier is an outcome, exercising more is a behavior. However, "exercise more" is not adequate--Dr. Fogg would call it not "crispy" enough. Restate it as "Go for a 10 minute walk." If you have a complex process--break it down to multiple specific behavior steps--identify what are the most critical behaviors in the process.
  2. Identify the type of behavior: Like any good academic Dr. Fogg has created a framework for the different types of behavior. (Fogg Behavior Grid) Is the new behavior familiar or unfamiliar? Is it an existing behavior where you need to increase the intensity? Do you need to decrease or stop a behavior.

    Dr. Fogg also subdivides the behavior change according to the time span of the change. Is it a one time behavior? Is it a behavior that you want done for a span of time or forever?

    Another differentiator - is the behavior cued based on a trigger or a cycle habit--a regular daily habit such as brushing teeth. If you can get a desired behavior to become a cycle habit you can achieve powerful results.

    By the way, Dr. Bogg's research indicates that Purple Path (a behavior that you want to increase from now on) is the dominant change need. Greater than 50% Do more of what we are already doing. However, if you design systems for purple path you are designing wrong system. They way to get to purple path is through purple spans. We are much better at achieving spans and repeating the spans.

    Placing a behavior in Dr. Fogg's framework of course makes it easier to label and discuss the behavior. Dr. Fogg contends that each behavior type has its own psychology. Once you know how to achieve a behavior for a particular behavior type (e.g. Purple Path) then you can can apply that recipe to a wide variety of similar behaviors.
  3. Think about triggers for behavior: Dr. Fogg's mantra is "Put Hot Triggers in the path of motivated people". Hot Triggers are a prompt to take action. In social networks the triggers are coming from your friends. Ever had a friend tag you in a photo on Facebook? Do you pop in to Facebook to just check the photo out and spend fifteen minutes looking around? Dr. Fogg had that experience and he wondered why he wasted that fifteen minutes. Facebook tagging is a compelling trigger: friends tagging you in photos to make you come back to their site (and display ads). When designing for behavior change if you want to encourage the behavior change add hot triggers, obviously to reduce behaviors take away triggers.
  4. Trigger the right sequence of baby steps: Another key point is that to cause behavior change you take people along a path of small behavior changes by using a series of sequential triggers. Groupon, for example, puts out attractive offers to drive people to install their app, then the customer agrees to share their location, then agrees to push notifications…at each step in the process the customer gets more vested. Groupon achieves the holy grail for a modern company:

    They are on the customer's phone
    They know who the customer is--at least their email
    They are abile to send push notifications.
  5. Go from habits to habits plus: Once you have someone triggering to a particular behavior you can grow that behavior. For example, once you trigger someone to floss one tooth after brushing their teeth you can get them to floss all their teeth. Google taught people to come use their website for search, then for email, then for maps. Growing from Habits to Habits+ is where there is tremendous ROI.

Dr. Fogg's Behavior Model shows that for a behavior to occur three elements must converge at the same moment:

  • Motivation
  • Ability
  • Trigger

After you have clearly identified the behavior change that you want, focus on designing hot triggers (triggers where the person can act immediately).

Ability to act and Motivation were saved for another speech.


Post by Sanjay Nasta

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