Ethical behavior change
Can we change any behavior? Should we?
In response to yesterday's post about outcomes and behavior change, I was glad to receive this this question (paraphrased—and please keep them coming!):
Do you find that you can't change some behaviors? I find it helpful to start by deeply understanding the current behavior before offering a prototype that nudges behavior change.
I have two responses to this:
First, some behavior won't change. Behavior change is notoriously hard. This is the reality underneath the outcomes over outputs maxim: it is very hard to predict what will work.
"Work," in this context, means deliver the results or impact we seek. As the Logic Model covered yesterday shows us, impact results from changed behavior. So this reduces to: it's hard to predict what outputs will drive the behavior changes we seek (and in turn, the impact/results).
Second, one of the big rules of ethical behavior design is to help people do the beneficial things they already want to do. Said another way, use the powerful toolkit of behavior design for good.
I wrote recently that one of the defining aspects of products is that they are goal-directed, this is what I mean: we should be helping people make the progress they want to make in a given context (which is the heart of value).
This has burst into public consciousness in the last few years, with major concerns around privacy and consumer manipulation (e.g. The Social Dilemma).
To go deeper on the concepts of ethical behavior design, I recommend checking out the following books:
• Hooked, by Nir Eyal
Punchline: behavioral design is powerful. It needs to be ethical. That's a leadership concern.