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  • Writer's pictureOli Shawyer

It's easy as 12...3..?


I have a lot of conversations surrounding disruption. It's a natural fit for anyone working in my space. And they always ladder back to organisations like Uber, AirBNB, Amazon, bla bla bla - you know the list (more or less).

As part of these conversations, out of curiosity more than anything, I try and squeeze in the 'what do you think makes them disruptive?' Responses vary but often include technology, efficiency, access, simplicity, design, ease of use, price, the feeling of using it... etc.

And whilst I 100% agree that often all of these can be seen to be the reason for disruption (in either isolation or combined), for me, disruption comes by doing one thing...

Creating the path of least resistance.

The brands I've just touched on, plus many many more, are disrupting their industries because they're making things easier than they've ever been. And not just in one part of the process, but across the entire experience - from start (precontemplation) to finish (action + maintenance) - including, most importantly, cognitively:

  • Uber - getting from A to B.

  • AirBNB - booking accommodation.

  • Amazon - purchasing products.

  • Google - answering questions.

  • Facebook - connecting with people.

Understanding behaviour.

When I was first introduced to behaviour change theory and modelling when we set out to start Behaviour Change Partners, I came across the Fogg Behaviour Model which changed the entire way I look at everything. Now I appreciate the specific model has it's own skeptics, but as opposed to diving into the science of it, I borrow from the underpinning theory:

Behaviour change is made up of two elements: motivation (is it worth it) and ability (can I do it).

For instance, three scenarios to help paint that picture:

  1. If an individual has enough motivation and their equipped to do so easily, they'll be successful in changing their behaviour (or, enacting the behaviour you want them to).

  2. If their equipped to do so easily, but they don't believe it's worth it, they'll likely be unsuccessful in changing their behaviour (or doing what you're asking them to do).

  3. If there's a load of motivation, but they're not equipped to do so easily, they're likely to be unsuccessful in changing their behaviour (or doing what you're asking them to do).

Scenario 1 is nirvana. The desired behaviour has more or less become habit. For instance, when I need to go somewhere now and I'm not driving, I don't even think about options for travel - I immediately open my Uber App (this is my habit, not everyone's).

Scenario 2 is historically how we've always approached getting people to do things. Overload them with information and reasons to believe (that they of course want and will always read, listen to), drive up the belief that 'it'll be worth it' and their attitudes and intentions to follow through will align and be bursting with desire for action.

Scenario 3 is where we land when someone believes the required action is worth it, but low and behold, the path ahead is full of restraints, hurdles, complexities. The motivation to keep going eventually diminishes and they're not coming back.

Make. It. Easy

The last of the three scenarios (hence the isolation of it in the headline), is where creating the path of least resistance comes in.

I believe majority of us need to start thinking about approaching problems in a different way.

And Father of behavioural economics Daniel Kahneman (well, one of), tends to agree (if I could be so bold).

Adhering to the belief that people's behaviour is strongly delivered by two main external factors - driving forces (that drive you in a particular direction), and restraining forces (those that prevent you from getting there), Kahneman posits that the good way to change behaviour is by diminishing the restraining forces, not increasing the driving forces.

Which turns out, by case of history, to be profoundly non-intuitive. 'Driving' people seems to be the natural thing to do - when you want to move an object, you move it, so when you want to move someone, you try move them. The idea of looking at the situation from that individual's point of view, which is the only way to truly uncover the restraining forces, is not very natural. Although I say that as modern initiatives and disciplines like Design Thinking and user-centred design becomes more mainstream.

We can encourage people, inform people, impress on them the reasons why they should do something, and at the same time show them the way, but if that's all you're going to do, you'll never move the pin. Instead of asking 'how can we get him or her to do it', perhaps consider starting with the question of 'why isn't he or she doing it already?' It's a very different question. Once you've got a better understanding of why, as yourself:

What can I do to make it easier for that person to 'move'?

Final thoughts.

We complicate everything. Coupled with very little real understanding of human behaviour, we waste so much opportunity and we continue to deliver failed products, services, businesses.

Those asking the wrong questions and investing in the wrong things will only continue to be wiped out of the market because others will eventually find ways of making life easier for your audiences.

Content development, design, tech innovation, accessibility, development agility... the list goes on... if the fundamentals of your product, your service, your business are attuned efficiently to your audiences with a real understanding of their behaviour and the barriers in front of them (for their real problems), then you're finding a damn good reason to exist within their lives.

The next time your talking about disruption, begin contemplating how you can create the path of least resistance.


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