Change the World by Changing Behaviors

If you have an understanding of types of behavior change, you can design more effective software.

Software is a powerful way to change the world.

You can change the world with software, a behavior at a time.

Think of all the little addictive loops, that shape our habits and thoughts on a daily basis. We’re gradually being automated and programmed by the apps we use.

I’ve seen some people spiral down, a click, a status update, a notification, or a reminder at a time. I’ve seen others spiral up by using apps that teach them new habits, reinforce their good behaviors, and bring out their best.

To bottom line is, whether you are shaping software or using software on a regular basis, it helps to have a deep understanding of behavior change. You can use this know-how to change your personal habits, lead change management efforts, or build software that changes the world.

We know change is tough, and it’s a complicated topic, so where do you start?

A great place to start is to learn the 15 types of behavior change, thanks to Dr. BJ Fogg and his Fogg Behavior Grid.   No worries.  15 sounds like a lot, but it’s actually easy once you understand the model behind it.  It’s simple and intuitive.

The basic frame works like this.   You figure out whether the behavior change is to do a new behavior, a familiar behavior, increase the behavior, decrease the behavior, or stop dong the behavior.   Within that, you figure out the duration, as in, is this a one-time deal, or is it for a specific time period, or is it something you want to do permanently.

Here are some examples from Dr. BJ Fogg’s Behavior Grid:

Do New Behavior

  • Install solar panels on house.
  • Carpool to work for three weeks.
  • Start growing own vegetables.

Do Familiar Behavior

  • Tell a friend about eco-friendly soap.
  • Bike to work for two months.
  • Turn off lights when leaving room.

Increase Behavior

  • Plant more trees and local plants.
  • Take public bus for one month.
  • Purchase more local produce.

Decrease Behavior

  • Buy fewer boxes of bottled water.
  • Take shorter showers this week.
  • Eat less meat from now on.

Stop Doing a Behavior

  • Turn off space heater for tonight.
  • Don't water lawn during Summer.
  • Never litter again.

When you know the type of behavior change you’re trying to make, you can design more effective change strategies.

If you want to change the world, focus on changing behaviors.  If you want to change your world, focus on changing your behaviors. (And, remember, thoughts are behaviors, too.)

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