‘start by designing the behaviour you want to change’

Here are two opposing viewpoints on user behaviour and its malleability:

all great software is based on already occurring human behaviour…software is really bad at changing behaviour –

it pays to start by designing the behaviour you want to change, or by designing the choice you want someone to make… and then to work backwards from there. If you get this last point wrong, nothing else you do, however clever, will make any difference. On the other hand, if you get this part right, the effects can be spectacular.

The first quote is by Jason Schwartz, product manager and UX designer and founder of Matchbook.

The second quote comes from Rory Sutherland, vice-chairman of UK advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather.

For Schwartz, trying to bend user behaviour to your will is generally going to prove an exercise in futility – unless, that is, you are creating an entire new class of user behaviour (as an example of the latter, consider life before Amazon and Facebook).

But for Sutherland, the very definition of marketing is that it changes user behaviour toward a specified end. This sounds an awful lot like the thinking behind Nudge and other works about behavioural economics – not least because so much marketing draws heavily upon basic principles of that canon.

So it’s perhaps not all that surprising that Ogilvy & Mather in February launched #ogilvychange, a “behavioral sciences practice…to create behavioral interventions in the real world”.

Better manipulation through marketing, then.

And speaking of marketing, here’s Rory Sutherland at TED in 2009. The talk is witty, erudite and, indeed, insightful – even if you feel slightly dirty for having laughed at his jokes.

Listen to creative people: Q&A with Rory Sutherland – TED Blog
Rory Sutherland: Sweat the small stuff – TEDSalon London 2010


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