Chapter 16. Conclusion

Four Lessons

We can design products that help people take action. We’ve seen it done—in exercise, in energy usage, in personal finance, and in many other domains. It requires four things:

  1. An understanding of how the mind works

  2. Clarity about the intended outcomes of product, and about its users

  3. A detailed plan for how the product will help the user act

  4. The willingness to accept that the product won’t be perfect, and needs to be tested and refined over time

Each of these maps onto one of the major processes of designing for behavior change, and the corresponding parts of the book: understand, discover, design, and refine. Throughout this book, I’ve tried to provide the background information and the practical tools needed to make this happen in your own business, government agency, or NGO.

Here’s a quick recap.

Understand: How the Mind Makes Decisions

When we’re awake, we’re always doing something—whether it’s reading, running, or resting. We tend to think that the things we do are intentional: I run at 7 p.m. each day because I really want to; I read the newspaper every morning because I want be informed about world news. We believe that our conscious minds think carefully about what to do and decide on a course of action. But the reality is a little more complex:

  • Most of the time our behavior is on autopilot, driven by the automatic, reactive part of our brain. Habits are a key type of autopilot behaviors and work in predictable ways, with cues, routines, and, sometimes, ...

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