The Small Big

small bigThis book builds on much of the reading I’ve done around behavioural economics and the psychology of behaviour changes. I’ve discussed a bunch of my favourites in the two posts on Decision Making Trickery and Shaping the Path. Once you’ve read a few of these books you start to notice that many use the same controlled experiments as examples. The point of this book is to take 52 of the best examples of ‘small changes that spark big influence’ and explain them in short sharp chapters.

I decided to keep a record of them all but in hindsight you’ll probably find the list a bit too cryptic. I also need to spend some time thinking about categorising them around different uses. Nevertheless here goes:

  1. social proof – if I can claim that many people, or a growing number of people are adopting my energy strategies it will help spur others – especially if they are people like you, ie same postcode, same community, same name etc.
  2. social antiproof – for stimulating people to go against the trend, make sure ‘the trendies’ are portrayed as a group you don’t want to be associated with ie your parents.
  3. framing – whether people are persuaded most by the advantages of solar or the disadvantages of not having solar will depend mostly on whether they think the norm is to have solar or not. Focus on the message which highlights the deviation from the norm.
  4. visible norms – seeing evidence of wasted energy will make it more acceptable for others to leave lights on etc.
  5. Using someone’s name. Apparently Dave is more likely to donate to the hurricane Dave appeal, so showing Dave a case study of another Dave installing solar might be more successful.
  6. Finding uncommon commonalities with others helps you bond.
  7. Sometimes someone who is unfamiliar with your customer has better insights into that person than you do.
  8. where possible get people to write down their own commitments and its much more likely to stick. at the very least getting confirmation of the paraphrased commitment.
  9. however the ownership of the commitment really has to be with the person making it.
  10. and when you make change easy for people make sure you don’t create licence to be wasteful in another way.
  11. recognise folks efforts – especially if you can give pertinent examples that remind us about why, to make the effort meaningful.
  12. Look at ways to introduce perspective into decision making because overconfidence and personal connections can skew your own decisions.
  13. commitments and intentions are easier to carry out if people imagine exact details of how and when they will carry them out. ie they script their own actions.
  14. sometimes its easier to lock people in to the longer future. For example save-more-tomorrow got people to commit to putting some of every payrise into their savings plan.
  15. Asking people to imagine their future self can be a powerful mechanism to get them to honour obligations to that future self.
  16. Make goals challenging and attainable. 4-6 rather than 5.
  17. a good default option reminds people what they lose if they don’t stick with the default.
  18. shorter expiry dates force people to imagine when they would use something – and they actually use it.
  19. distract/engage people while they are waiting for results
  20. people prefer messages about the potential of something rather than the reality.
  21. Effective meetings – contribute beforehand, leader speaks last, check for the right ingredients, round tables = inclusiveness. angular tables = individuality.
  22. Dress for authority or similarity, whichever will be the most persuasive.
  23. People respond to credentials
  24. ..and experts that are honest about uncertainties build trust.
  25. people subconsciously think the option given centre stage is the most important.
  26. A freer space (eg high ceilings) leads to more creative, ‘freer’ thinking.
  27. You will negotiate more confidently in your space than when you meet on neutral turf or meet at your colleague’s office.
  28. Writing about feeling powerful and/or adopting an expansive, powerful pose immediately before an interview can help with how you perform – by a substantial amount.
  29. People respond to love. Using the word in promotions, drawing hearts etc triggers a subconscious response, more so than the word ‘helping’, for example.
  30. Don’t overestimate your gift giving skill. People appreciate a gift from their own wish list more than ‘thoughtful’ gifts on average.
  31. Givers who benefit most are not those who give the most but rather those involved in the most exchanges. Giving first confers a benefit, as does setting an expectation of reciprocity when you are thanked.
  32. Expressing gratefulness to givers not only makes them feel a sense of social value, it makes them twice? as likely to continue to do favours to you or others.
  33. Giving unexpectedly can be especially effective, even something simple like a handwritten acknowledgement can  help.
  34. Asking for help occurs less than it should because askers underestimate someone’s willingness to help and givers underestimate the awkwardness of asking. “there are no silly questions” can help.
  35. First bid on a negotiation sets the frame.
  36. If you use precise numbers people think you are more accurate or well thought through
  37. we all know why 9.99 works better than 10
  38. an expensive item on a menu helps anchor all the other items high and when things are hard to calculate, an item then price approach creates the best focus.
  39. adding more benefits seems to make an offer less valuable
  40. unit asking helps if there aren’t too many units (10,000 gets classified as ‘a lot’)
  41. help people understand the individual impact of their contribution
  42. each cost / bonus has an opportunity associated with it. imagining this can make it more attractive.
  43. focus on how much you’ve achieved already up to halfway and then focus on how much you’ve got left – the small area effect.
  44. structuring the process can lead to better compliance, even structuring the rewards
  45. two rewards led to three times more motivation – i guess in the gaming sense this is like achieving each level.
  46. complex product choices appear to get a little easier when viewed from a distance, physically.
  47. it’s worth keeping a list of mistakes to avoid, especially if they are others’ mistakes
  48. a culture of fixing errors and learning from them is more effective than trying to avoid them always. error management rather than error free.
  49. reviews that reference time, ‘i just finished reading this book’ are trusted more.
  50. a cartoon, joke, sense of humour can help smooth negotiations
  51. touching items, or imagining touching them makes customers more likely to buy
  52. peak end effect – a surprising or nice thank you, a small gift a note etc.
  53. three charms and four alarms. going overboard undermines your claims – stick to three descriptors for example.



About Heather

I am an energy and climate change specialist with a background in industrial energy efficiency and climate change policy.
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