With statistics showing that upwards of about 30 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions will abandon them by the end of January, it may seem the odds are against behavior change. But according to Charles Duhigg, in his New York Times Bestseller book, The Power of Habit, the science behind behavior change suggests just the opposite. Duhigg breaks it down to a cycle called ‘The Habit Loop’ and it consists of the following triggers:
The Trigger: the event that starts the action.
The Routine: the action that you take to change the behavior.
The Reward: the benefit that is associated with the behavior.
Likewise, WeSpire’s methodology utilizes triggers to inspire employees to take action. Triggers are embedded in our employee engagement platform and are tailored to employee preferences and habits, which make them even more powerful.
When you create an environment for social networking, and a mechanism to capture online behaviors, triggers become a natural part of changing behavior (or habit change). These applied behavioral science factors work together to encourage people to make positive actions.
Mapping the Behavioral Science to Impact
Triggers can be utilized in many different ways—the trick is knowing which trigger to use based on a user’s likes and dislikes. To increase the potential of the trigger, it’s best to make a personal connection. Seeing a colleague who is taking action, dramatically increases the likelihood of adoption. Add in the scalability of the network effect (multiple users taking action at the same time), and the trigger takes on even more power and influence.
Here are some primary ways that a behavior change can be triggered:
Trigger 1: Overcoming the Mindlessness of Time
Time may be the most common trigger but it’s also the hardest to use. Certain times in the day trigger behaviors that we don’t actually consciously think of when we do them. Or worse, you may repeat certain tasks mindlessly at different points during the day. Time-based triggers delivered via electronic devices can be used to remind a user to take an action via online device. Eventually, the time triggers the change in behavior.
Trigger 2: Location (Being Everywhere)
The power of location is intense. First hand experience and being able to act on strong visuals can be overwhelming and can trigger immediate behavior change. Yet the environment we operate within is also the most powerful driver of mindless habits as we see with our mobile devices.
In many cases, behaviors are simply a response to the environment that surrounds us. However, location-based triggers are not simply things we respond to, they can also be things we create. Multiple research studies by David Neal and Wendy Wood from Duke University have discovered that new actions are actually easier to perform in new locations.
Trigger 3: The Power of Preceding Events
Many habits are a response to triggers such as a phone ringing, an email arriving, or a text message. Behaviors are easily formed around these preceding events because it triggers curiosity and delivers potentially valuable information. The more relevant the content trigger, the more likely the behavior will change.
Trigger 4: Motivational Emotions
Emotions are by far the most powerful of triggers, are harder to control and therefore more difficult to leverage for behavior change. These triggers must elicit both awareness and consciousness at the same time. What we see and hear typically triggers emotion which is why video and photos are the best way to motivate us.
Trigger 5: You Are the People You Associate With
The people you surround yourself with can play an enormous role on your habits and behaviors. One study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that if your friend becomes obese, then your risk of obesity increases by 57 percent. That means that a logical first step in changing behavior is to join a group (or project) that associates you with people who are inspired about things that interest you. Inspiration is infectious…
The Application of Triggers for Behavior Change
We are in the early adoption and application of technology to enable people to achieve healthy habits. Triggers are used to help us increase our awareness and motivate us to find more meaning in what we do and who we do it with. The best triggers are the ones that is very specific to what interests you and has special meaning—and most of all that is immediately actionable.
Check out WeSpire’s methodology to learn more about how WeSpire employee engagement programs use behavioral science to drive positive actions and habits.