CHAPTER 12 Make it hard not to

Scuttle the ships.

Hernán Cortés

For most of the modern era of behavioural research and strategy, activities such as advertising, staff training, public-service announcements and information-based campaigning have relied almost exclusively on appealing to our logical or emotional intelligence in order to achieve the desired change. This is as true of sales scripts as it is of habit rehabilitation programs, public awareness campaigns and the communication of occupational health and safety standards. In other words, in an effort to change behaviour, the tools of choice have principally been influence and persuasion.

Changing opinions versus changing behaviour

However, more recently there has been an increasing push to change behaviour by changing behaviour (which sounds exceedingly obvious when you say it out loud but it really is quite new in its popularity). However, this process is a bit less intuitive, or indeed culturally favoured, than you may at first expect. This is partially because our previous experiences of such strategies have been with systems that were less than democratic, and have even involved force, violence and otherwise unethical coercion.

This rather challenging history of ‘change-driven change’ aside, whenever we do try to correct a habit, shift a business process or even change the behaviour of large parts of the community for their own benefit, it’s worth remembering that simply offering information, or even a persuasive ...

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