For the most part, people do not do things unless they are motivated to do so. Actually, motivation on its own is not enough. People must also be able to do what is required of them, and they must receive some kind of trigger to spur them into action. This is the basis of the Fogg behaviour model. Although originally focused on UX design, in my view, its application is much broader, and it can be nicely integrated with a number of other models that I will be introducing below.

© solerf / 123RF Stock Photo

© solerf / 123RF Stock Photo

When it comes to driving particular behaviours, there are a number of change management models that can help us develop an environment for success. One such model has been developed by Prosci. The first two steps of this model are to build awareness and foster a desire. These are well-recognised mainstays of marketing and the broad applicability of these models should be readily apparent. In many ways, these first two steps relate directly to the trigger and motivation parts of the Fogg model. Moreover, the stages that follow go on to include both knowledge and ability-building steps that should ultimately result in the capability to do what is required. Clearly, the easier and more desirable it is to do something, the more likely it will happen.

In my opinion, the most damaging cause of disengagement or unwanted behaviour is to ignore the importance of these first two steps. It should be fairly obvious that nothing will happen unless there is an awareness of the need or opportunity. What is missing from this simple statement is the need for a persistence of awareness. With our limited attention spans and robust mental filters, we need continuous reminders for the subject to stay front-of-mind. If something is not re-stated regularly, it will just get supplanted by the next You-Tube clip of someone having a nasty accident on their mountain bike. People need regular reminders or triggers. Advertising agencies know this, and therein lie two keys of their art: achieving both cut-through and relevance.

When we think about relevance we are really looking at motivation — at desire. In Kaufman’s “the Personal MBA” he nicely summarises five core human desires that drive people to take action. These are: to acquire, to defend, to learn, to bond, and to feel. We are driven to acquire both tangible things and intangibles; like status, power and influence. We are driven to defend both our physical selves and those things we value most. We are driven to bond with others to feel both valued as individuals, and connected to our tribe. We are driven to learn to satisfy our curiosity, and also to increase our capability and subsequent value. Finally, we are driven to seek exciting or pleasurable experiences — in fact, it has been shown that we even get measurable psychological benefits just from the anticipation of them.

What I found interesting is that there is a very good correlation between Kaufman's summary and that developed by David Rock in his investigations of the neuroscience of leadership. Rock’s model also describes five core human drives: status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness. Status is clearly associated with the drive to acquire. Maintaining certainty about the future has a strong connection with the drive to defend. Autonomy can be linked with the drive to learn; increasing capability and decreasing dependence. Relatedness is connected with the ability to see the relevance of one’s own contributions, and also how one relates to the tribe, thus tying in directly with the drive to bond. Finally, and I admit that this is not quite as tidy, a sensitivity to fair play can be associated with internal emotional states and, thereby, Kaufman’s drive to feel.

One important note — we are more likely to react to a perceived threat than a perceived opportunity. This is our reptilian brain in action. From a survival standpoint, it is more useful to treat the unknown as though it were a threat than a boon. This response is hardwired and serves to underline the importance of clearly, and repeatedly, communicating the benefits associated with any change.

It has been instructive for me to see how these different viewpoints converge, and I hope you have found something useful in this discussion. I believe that it is important to carefully consider these underlying principles when you are developing any kind of platform for engagement that seeks specific behavioural outcomes. That could include anything from a marketing strategy to a coaching session to an enterprise change program. Business depends on people and people have some interesting behavioural biases. Don't forget to build awareness. Don't forget the regular pulse of triggers. And, especially, do not overlook their level of desire and what might cause it to change.

“Desire is the starting point of all achievement. Not a hope, not a wish but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything.” – Napoleon Hill

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AuthorTrevor Lindars