We all fall prey to the path of least resistance – doing what is easy and expedient over what is in our long term best interest. We are hungry and pop into a convenience store, where we are overwhelmed by poor choices. Do we seek out the isolated piece of fruit hidden among the chips, candy and donuts? I don’t know about you, but peanut M&M’s win out every time for me.
Smart landscape designers will wait for the path of least resistance to emerge, allowing the paths that people actually take to become where the sidewalk is placed, rather than putting down a hard surface that gets little use while folks wear a path in the grass.
Knowing our human tendency to do what is easy can be a technique you can use anytime you are planning a change effort. While it takes effort to imagine, define, and develop new wellness or productivity or customer service initiatives – the real work is in fostering adoption. People fall prey to habits, both good and bad, and more change initiatives fail due to poor uptake than they ever do to poor design or intent.
Too often we rely on tell (the communication plan), teach (the training strategy) or motivate (extolling the virtues without the specifics). These are all fine, but understanding the human proclivity to take the path of least resistance can help us design ways that “pull” people into the desired behaviors more easily.
That’s why the simple mantra of, “What can we do to make it easy to do the ‘right’ thing?” can make a big difference.
- What if the employee gym was on-site and on the way from the parking lot?
- What if the cafeteria placed the healthier foods in more prominent places and made the less healthy options available, but out of easy reach?
- What if we ordered enough tools to have one at each work station, rather than having people walk to a central place to get them?
- What if we found ways for our customer service team to spend a day on the customer site to better relate to how they use our product or service?
- What if I got a reminder email when I needed to do a new step in the process?
Making it easy to do the right thing requires observing, asking, listening, and a touch of creativity. Time well spent – as nudging behavior in the right direction may be the most powerful change tool at your disposal.
What “nudges” or “making it easy” examples have you used or experienced? Share your examples with us and we’ll all learn!