As my favorite economist says, it’s all about incentives. If you want people to change their behavior, you have to give them a good reason to make the painful switch from the status quo.
You do that by providing a benefit exchange – a reward for taking action. A strong benefit exchange delivers immediately and reflects people’s values.
My colleague Tanya sent me this great example of getting people to take the stairs for their health. Instead of putting a health message next to the stairs (which wouldn’t work that well because people already know it’s healthier to take the stairs and it’s not changing their choices!), they made it totally fun.
It is tempting to assume that if people have information, they will act on it. But sadly, information alone does not prompt action. People know they are supposed to do all kinds of things – read to their children, change their diets, help others. And take the stairs. The problem is, it is usually more difficult to change behaviors than to stick to the status quo. Good causes are forever in conflict with the status quo.
That means we have to do two things, always:
1. Create a reason for action (not just offer information) that is personally more compelling to our audience than the rewards of sticking to the status quo.
2. Make it easier to take action than to do nothing. People will do something if it looks easier than what they’re doing now.
Musical stairs are a great example of beating the status quo.