Importance of Natural Resources

Tweak The Environment – Ep. 43


In today’s episode, we’ll look at an example
of how tweaking the environment improved donation rates even among the least likely to donate. Lee Ross, who we met in last week’s episode,
and his co-author Richard Nisbett, in their book “The Person And The Situation”, tell
a story of tweaking the environment to change behavior. They described research into why college students
donate canned-food to charity and why they don’t. Researchers interviewed students at Stanford and
asked them to categorize their dorm-mates into most likely to donate, a.k.a. the “saints”,
and least likely to donate, a.k.a. the “jerks”. The research question was, “Can we alter
the situation so that the jerks donate too?” They provided the students with one of two
different letters. In the control group, the letter was simply
asking them to bring canned food to a booth on Tresidder Plaza. The other letter provided a map to the booth,
a precise request for a can of beans, and a suggestion to think about a time when they
would be near Tresidder Plaza, so that they wouldn’t have to go out of their way. The letters were randomly sent to “saints”
and “jerks”. When they tallied up who had given and who
hadn’t, only 8% of the “saints” who received the control letter gave and 0% of
the “jerks” did. Among those who received the detailed letter,
42% of “saints” donated and 25% of “jerks” donated. In other words, a “jerk” with a map was
3 times more likely to donate than a “saint” without one. As you go about your day, notice how your
path has been tweaked. Traffic engineers affect your driving behavior. Grocery store managers want to keep you in
the store longer so they put essentials like milk at the back. Office managers create open floor plans to
encourage collaboration. Many ATMs force you to remove your card before
dispensing the cash so that you don’t forget to take your card. Environmental tweaks are all around. Now think about the changes you are trying
to create for your team. Are you trying to encourage more collaboration? What subtle environmental tweaks can you make
so that collaboration becomes easier? Are you trying to create greater flow by limiting
work-in-progress? What ways can you shape the path so that people
aren’t tempted to pick up a second task before completing the first one? When trying to change behavior, we often reach
for carrots and sticks, but we need to realize that we actually have access to more tools
than that. If you change the path, you can change behavior. If you’re watching this on YouTube, don’t forget to hit the Subscribe button so you don’t miss an episode. On LinkedIn, click the Follow button next to my name. On IGTV, you can just click the person icon with the plus next to it.


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