Oxytocin Organisation

Using behavioural change

All of the psychology and behavioural economics learnings have led to a generalised model to enable change:

Behaviour change cycle

Illustration – Behaviour cycle


The cue – something telling us to act now, anticipating the reward by acting

Which triggers

The action – completes the routine, easy, familiar, beautiful and obvious

May provide

The reward – sometimes

And is associated with the cue


By listing the specific organisation objective alongside the customer objective it can help bridge any gap in expected outcomes by looking at the actions required. There should be equal value derived to both the organisation and customer by offering something they care about.

Over time the habit is formed and becomes hard wired. It sounds simple but in reality, is very hard to achieve. One line of thinking states it will take 27 consecutive loops of the habit cycle with no more the five days between actions. Just think about that ask you’re making of the employee or customer, it’s a monster. Then even if they start, they drop out of the process as the cue loses its efficacy. Making it so easy to complete the action is key as well as removing distractions.

There may be a desire to be massively innovative, creating something new, but designing for how the brain works can lead to the change platform having a chance. Ultimately we all have limited brain cycles, attention, and willpower. Keeping thing very familiar at least provides an opportunity for habits to be formed:

  • Complete simplicity – requiring least effort as possible
  • Feeling good – a beautiful interface that feels nice every time to use
  • Personal reward – a thing that makes us want to come back
  • Already known – doesn’t require a large amount of new learning
  • Success by design – avoiding failure by not being overly challenging

External cues are important especially at the beginning of habit formation. For example, eating a better breakfast – place the cereal on the side the night before. Over time, the action becomes routine and an internal cue – in this case feeling hungry in the morning. One challenge is sustaining interest to avoid fatigue especially when the cue is consistent eg same event or time of the day.

There are a number of mechanics that can be used for design patterns. Without a test and learn approach it’s difficult to know what is the perfect combination. A useful starting list is:

  • Choice architecture: understanding required parameters so the service can draw up a shortlist eg car models that meet a range of needs
  • Gamification: using competition mechanics to challenge the customer against others eg cycling distance monitoring
  • Diary events: planning what should happen and reminding the customer when action is required eg tax payments
  • Public commitments: by socially sharing what the customer will do to the network, they are more likely to follow up and make that action eg Facebook poll
  • Tracking: reporting through forms or automated through wearables or IoT hardware can create a picture over time of performance, deploying interventions when not meeting expectation eg fitness watch

The Oxytocin Organisation is now available in Kindle and Paperback formats from Amazon

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