MY: Hello, this is Mete Yurtsever. Today, the formula for creating value reaches out to Melbourne, Australia. And my special guest is Bri Williams. Thank you Bri for being with me today.
BW: Oh, it’s a pleasure.
MY: Bri is a behavioural specialist and I watched Bri’s presentation on Nudgestock the world’s leading festival of behavioural science and creativity organized by Ogilvy. You had a brilliant presentation Bri “the Sticky Date Problem”, I won’t spoil the surprise. I urge everyone to go and watch it. I’ll post the link and the show notes. But you know I also have a memory of a sticky date pudding. I was living and working in Belgrade Serbia, back in 2006. And there was an Australian couple. Half Serbian half Australian actually. And they had a family restaurant. They had quite unusual menu. I don’t recall other dishes but first time we were there, they highly recommended the taste of their dessert. But the name wasn’t even disclosed. We loved it and we said “what is it?”, I mean, “can you give us recipe?” the guy said “sure, I can, but then I have to kill you”. And he didn’t , he didn’t let us know what is it inside. And we sort of guessed what is it inside. Whatever. So you’re not as greedy as this matter. People can find a lot of free resources on your website. So I’ll also share that one.
BW: Yes, thank you. I had probably the most props in the Nudgestock. So I was wearing a lot different hats, quite literally and yes, I entertained myself with no one else.
MY: No , definitely it was very catchy and very to the point. It was very condensed. I mean, like 9 or 10 minutes. But it does a lot of your stories which we will talk about shortly.
BW: My session was recorded, pre-recorded. Because I made it its was a live presentations. I think pre-recorded sessions was advantage because I can edit four times and 10 minutes was a constraint and I think one of the thing about behaviour is options are constraint we can actually become sharper in how we deliver it. I think it worked really well.
MY: Yeah. Always works the constraints. So, you have the degrees in applied psychology , accounting . And accounting, I mean this is, I must say, unique, right? This was back in 1990’s when behavioural economics wasn’t so loud. So what inspired you for such a double major.
BW: Yes. So I started at the same time. I think I studied finance and accounting because my parents were teachers and I had no easy access to the business world and accounting is a skill that you can take into any organization. So that was a great fundamental. But I also knew that accounting wasn’t really going to be my heart desire. So I thought, I was always drown to psychology me and doing a combination. It was actually not my dreams in psychology with a minor in Japanese so that sort of gave me, it really rounded out my studies. I had only the art degree or the only business degree. I really wouldn’t have felt that my education was with some comprehensive think but you pointed out it being a unique combination is true, because I was the only one stopping that that combination at the time I think it’s possibly become more popular now to do double degrees but certainly I enjoyed having both strenghts.
MY: Literally quite right brain and left brain stuff. Combined.
BW: Even down to, I member the enrolment day, I went through the business faculty and they were very efficient and they treated this is numbers in everything was organized but they really didn’t care who you were. But then I went to the psychology faculty and it was chaotic but they were all very interested in who we were and so that enrolment I really got a sense from how to faculties approached education a little bit differently.
MY: Well, then, your first job in Coca Cola, Amatil, right? the bottlers. In accounting.
BW: That’s right. I started in finance, that’s right. Yeah, really. That was a bit of fork in the road actually. Because at the same time as getting the job out of university, Coca Cola was actually, I qualified for a post graduate in psychology. So that was the first jumped route which I had to sort of choose which part up to the time to enter the workforce and then interesting how my career is swung back into psychology anyway so I think it I think it’s interesting whenever you have an interest you end up getting there. It’s just the pop might be a little bit more. Yeah. … one the path, we ultimately can end up where we would like to be.
MY:And HR learning and development. I was also attracted also knowing that the workforce is the human resource is the really focus for the companies.
BW: Yes, interesting one. So I moved from finance into human resources. And I would say the hardest year in my working life. Was working in HR which I know we call people and culture or something else these days. But I think the HR department is fundamental I think it’s got its own issues. I think it has perception issues. I don’t think it holding the highest aim and that there are many reasons to that. But I think if you have a well functioning HR or people culture team, its vital for a workplace. So yes. I moved from finance into HR and then I moved to Thompson Reuters and Thomson Reuters as I was a product manager or publisher of human resources books, so developing in ultimately selling books for HR professionals to educate them about employment law and all of the bits and pieces around how to engage with the workforce which I really loved.
MY: And , where I guess where you met behavioral consumer insights at Sensis white pages.
BW: Yeah, and from there, again a product management role TR I moved to Sensis to are the publisher yellow pages and white pages, phone directories. And when I was there find directories who were actually popular, very successful. So the white pages in Australia was one of the only find directories in the world to make money. Because of the way we did things. So that was really interesting out there when the time when Google was really just asserting itself and my role was in consumer usage roles, so I was very much interested in how people were engaging with content and all the behavior was changing and the same time, I commissioned a lot of research on that. We did a lot of focus groups and product design. What would make the use of the phone book more. And I had so much data, so many information points but I couldn’t get answers on how to change people’s behaviour. And that’s when I happened come across a book called Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely and that was the crystalization of I suppose their shared interest in behavioral economics
MY: Great. So what was, can you give us an example of what you did differently in white pages. What made it like so different than all its peers in industry.
BW: White pages. Its seems strange now but the phone directory for instance, to stand out the address listing if you’re a business, you could pay to be bolded or you could pay to have a highlight. So advertises even though there were alphabetically listed, they would pay money to stand out from the competition.
MY: Pretty much like what you do on google. Now just you to pay to be on some SEO sort of thing.
BW: Yes, yes, that’s interesting but because the moral was under a lot of pressure in yellow pages. particularly with Google coming in and search moving digital. And it was a case study, easy case study, I think on how an industry can be disrupted. And how leaders can get, can start to protect the legacy, I suppose, really disrupt themselves and invite take a hit and repurpose themselves. I always, Netflix is a classic example for business. It not only disrupted block buster which of course everyone knows but it disrupted itself when Netflix could see the market for DVDs on and streaming and forward. And they opted to go back backwards before they would go forwards. Many businesses don’t and I think its yeah, its worth those case studies to really as a study of how humans can or perhaps refuse to make the right decisions.
MY: So before move on to your practice, and I wish to learn your perspective on a broader issue. Actually, in a moment we discuss about how to change behaviour, but before that, what creates behaviour in the first place?
BW: What a good question. What creates behaviour? Well, to a degree, behaviour is default. So we behave naturally. There is a lot of socialization, there is a lot of taking cues for instance. When we’re babies for instance, we learn how to behave. And that, I’ve never been asked that question before. … a lot of it is, I would imagine, not only …
MY: Maybe I can help you with what I have in my mind. What I was trying to lead you to. So, you need to provide a motivation to people, right? And so, you also say reward must be greater than the effort, right? And one of the most know theory is the Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. And how do you see the role of needs in behaviour, let’s say?
BW: I think the coronavirus is really , and I know Maslow’s hierarchy has detractors but I found it useful structured sort of understand where/ how if a base needs are not taking care of , we do, if you luck regress and we can’t move forward, if those basic need, the security and shelter what have you taking care of. As soon as they’re under threat, our higher, self actualizing needs to be forgotten. Yes, so, sorry what was your question?
MY: I mean, how do you marry the two approaches if you believe in the Maslow’s Hierarchy of need. How do you marry that with behavioural economics, cognitive biases I mean. The way how we perceive the world. Actually, there is also base, and there is something that sort of manipulates it. So, I see the biases are like manipulations. But there is also base. So, I am also trying to come up with what makes the base. And that was my question? And what is the behaviour?
BW: When you say “the base”, I think, I see the cognitive bias sort of been baked in to us. So that is a human wiring, how do we acquire cognitive biases, I think that’s a lot to do with the neurological development. And how we conserve our energy and I think again, socialization and cues from our environment and all sort of things that tend to strengthen our cognitive biases so, if you take a back from a physiological perspective, I think humans are wired for the path of least resistance often and we’re trying to, and that’s how are cognitive biases are developed or reinforced is that we are trying to make the best of any sort of decision making situation. You know, given the time, given our energy, given our emotions and so the connection point with the emotions, for instance, is the research the motive of about, for instance, with hot state, levels of arousal, for instance, making different decisions if they highly aroused or if they are not. So the I guess it is swirl of a lot of activity it goes on below the surface and behavioural economics for me is really the explanation of what is below the surface. So what is happening unconsciously, and I think its correcting, what has been locked of assumptions around the rational model, the rational decision maker. How people do there has been an expectation, what people way decisions in a way that we proven that have not been the case. So an example when I was at white pages, we were in focus groups asking people what make them use the phone directory more . And people told us, if you had a schedule of which weeks my recycling bin had to go out and to collection that would be helpful. Cause the book is on the counter. I can flip to it or I can say well it’s this week or next week. So that is rationalized behaviour. When we observe what people do, when it comes to decision about to put my rubbish bin out, what people naturally do is look and see what their neighbours have done. So, people walk out on, their driveways and they look ok, bins out, it must be green waste this way. And so, that may the frustration of my work in corporate sector was, we were building our products and business on the basis of intended behaviour. Natural behaviour was quite different. And there was no research model. At the time, that bridge that gap. And so here I came across behavioural economics. So, I said that is it. That is the exploration how everything people don’t say. And so, one of the thing I know, Adam Ferrier is also talking about, at Nudgestock, for a long time, I’ve written about people don’t listen to customer, don’t listen to customer, because it can really mislead you. Because it’s not they’re lying to you, what they given you were their rationalized response in intension, I don’t even what they say themselves would do. And so, behavioural economics really, I think fills out a missing link within customer insight.
MY: I remember also , When I first time I read “Thinking fast and slow” and all this cognitive biases and you say “wow”, I mean, so true so lots of “a ha” moments and what is difficult to digest and all and make it useful. It’s like a great Lego set without instructions. So don’t know what to do it. And so you wrote “22 minutes to a Better Business” in back in 2011 same year Kahneman wrote his book so and then great tips there for tackling 18 common business issues, right?
BW: I really, I wrote “22 minutes to a Better Business” when I still in my job it Sensis, White pages. I again come across behavioral economics and I needed to prove to myself how it could be applied to business issues because while there are great books like Nudge, Predictably Irrational, Thinking fast and slow. It’s very hard for business people to then say that how do I apply to my invoicing how do I apply to a customer call, if I’m changing from a face-to-face meeting and giving them a different level of service how do I have that discussion with the with the client about it. So that’s why I wrote “22 minutes to a better business”. I wanted to prove to myself what behavioral economics could do. And also keep it a pretty short and sharp, so that’s why only 22 minutes. And from there I’ve written some other books because I wanted to then advance my knowledge and alter share some new ideas about how you could apply behavioral economics to work but also to habits and personal effectiveness.
MY: So and then the latest what you presented in Nudgestock also, you distill this approach to the breeze triangle.
BW: Yes original idea you’re calling of the Williams behavior change model.
MY: Can you tell us a little bit about that?
BW: Sure so it’s pretty dedicated on the basis that and there are other behavioral frameworks but a lot of behavioral frameworks are either acronyms or they’re not grounded in the reality of what are you trying to achieve. So it starts, if you draw a triangle, that’s the pretty much the shape of the model. Down on the bottom left we got a little A , and bottom right we’ve got the little B , because ultimately to change we stop with the question of what do I wanna get people to do. So how do I get them to move from A to B? That it comes a very important question because oftentimes in business we leap to warning to know what we want them to do. So I want Click, to buy we should get to ask ourselves but what are they doing now. Because then he find knowing what they’re currently doing do we know the magnitude of the ask the magnitude of what we’re asking them to do. So we start with that exploration. And then it’s about, I tend to find and addressing three likely barriers. So what standing between you getting people from point A to point B? The three barriers are that they are lazy, they are overwhelmed and they are scared. So by lazy, what I mean there is, we talked about cognitive biases, where is it just that we make decisions on the fly, we make things that are automatic and habitual, so for instance if in the days that we could actually drive to work we would drive to work without actually thinking about how we drove there. Of course when we start to the new job, we’d have to think about it but most of the time we’re making most of the decisions pretty automatically. So that’s Kahneman’s concept of system one thinking. So that’s lazy thinking. So it’s a business we made to work, stop from the proposition that people aren’t going to be thinking much about what we want them to do and so we need with strategies to engage them in order to do that. So the second, once we’ve conquered that issue and it might not be an issue for some like there already on board but then it’s about all maybe this stopping for different reason so the second barrier is that they might be overwhelmed.
So this is when it’s the paradox of choice. It means that they might be interested in what we’re suggesting but we’re overwhelming them and so, for motivation to act is being drowned out by the complexity of the action. So if we give them too many buttons to choose, so, for instance if with sending them an e-mail marketing letter ADM (Addressed Direct Mail) and we have multiple calls to action in that correspondence, now with suddenly burden them with too many decisions rather than just having, for instance, a single call to action. So the sense of overwhelm is something we need to clarify. So that’s the second barrier. For third barrier, assuming now they’re interested, so that apathy or laziness isn’t a problem, they know what they need to do so they’re not overwhelmed. That’s not a problem. But third barrier in the ones usually unstated, is that this scared of committing so this is blocked aversion, so perhaps something more that there’s something at stake for them to lose now. Even if they are clicking a button on your website they might be nervous about clicking that button because if they if they don’t know where the button is taking them, they might not commit to that. If they don’t know where your payment page is going to take them or whether it’s a secure transaction, they are not going to click. And so, our proposition there is that we need to give them nothing to fear if they do take the action, it’s something to fear of they don’t. So that’s hey you know they’ll miss out on the special offer if they don’t act now. So the because always what we need to do to overcome to get people from point A to point B, is overcome their natural inertia. So naturally it’s the status quo bias we tend to stick with what we know, even if we don’t like it. And so we need to be driven in order to change our behavior, so that’s the model, I mean. I’m sure in the show notes you put links to where they can find what I mention. But yeah conceptually, so this is when I’m talking to clients, this is what I want them to do. Before they tackle any business challenge, whether it’s I’m gonna name out, I’m going to do a presentation or I’m going to do design proposal or design website. I have to draw themselves a triangle, write down what are they currently doing what do I want them to do and then almost audit the process. How do I overcome laziness , how do I overcome overwhelm and how do I overcome any fear that people are holding. And that tends flush out any reasons that people who will resist what you’re asking them to do.
MY: Actually you kind of answered my question but not all these 3 barriers are valid for everything, for every category whatever. But and I understand that this is if it’s a bigger term investment or bigger investment lesson that you have to make, you take more you get from each of all of this this step. But what if you sell a chocolate, a chocolate bar of $1. So what do you suggest for your clients, who are – who wants to go through your model. Because you know, $1 is not like a big deal like why would I..
BW: Sure, so , I guess there are a few things so think about laziness. Laziness is the chocolate bar at the line of sight, is it easy to access because for instance, it is a research it was done on ice cream but if the ice cream was in an opaque fridge, people didn’t go buy it. So that’s why in supermarkets if they have it right in the near the cash register, people are more likely to do it. So there is also when it comes to laziness of perception of value, so you might think a dollar is inexpensive but if there’s a 90 cent chocolate next to it, then you’ve got an issue. So it’s about relative value when it comes to overwhelm, well, that you are risk of that so that’s how do you get it’s a whole array on the shelves. So mean, that’s way branding and labeling and marketing and all those sorts of things comes out on how you arange your product. And fear, people being scared pull this whole lot of that can be a whole lot of baggage and guilt associated with consuming chocolate , so how do we give people the sense that they deserve it. You know, a little treat it’s not that you gonna break you diet if you have a chocolate. So just point that one example and you can see how you can work through each of those barriers and come up, stop to think about what solutions you need in order to shift more product.
MY: Great answer, thank you. So and chocolate being a common threat for both of us, as I understand.
BW: Exactly right, I mean you raised a good point, because you’re right, most the three barriers will or won’t happen in some situations so the discipline is to think each of those barriers through, in even if your answer is “I don’t think a sense of overwhelm is a problem” at least you have knocked that out as an issue. That’s one point. The second point is, as you are thinking about the sales process or the process that your customer is going through, different barries might play out at different times. So naturally, for instance, trying to attract people to business in the 1st place that might be more a laziness issue, once did new or engaged in you, maybe it’s then not confusing them with too many of your services or too many of your products. that win overwhelm might sort of start to present. then if they go down the purchase funnel, they might be really getting nervous about committing to that sale. so you might find also that the different barriers dial up and down according to the where the person that you’re influencing is in the purchase cycle or that the behavioral change cycle. And I’ll also say that the model can be used with being talking about individuals, you can also use it on groups or a small issue are big issues so you can use it on something like clicking a button which is a small issue or you can use the same thinking when it comes to a large issue. So, for instance, working with finance clients in terms of trying to get people to enroll in superannuation, so a large scale issue. So it’s very scalable according to whatever behavioral issue you’re facing.
MY: And actually coming towards to the end, I have one more question before the last one. I believe Eastern world has a wisdom, right? I mean like and Turkey is quite can be considered as an Eastern country. I work, I worked at a company for many years and we had a dealer in the East of Turkey. I was told that he was, when you visit him, he first takes to lunch or dinner whatever time of the day. I mean without asking if you’re hungry or whatever , because you didn’t want to discuss business matters when you’re hungry. So he knew all this, you know the judge famous judge example whatever from the book. And I don’t know if you have been to Istanbul, but so in in the grand Bazaar, let’s say, right they when you visit there, it’s a whole ritual. I mean, they serve you the tea, they serve the Turkish delight and whatever all this sunk costs related stuff. So all these, some of these biases, let’s say, they’re all well known to the world for many years now. But I still feel companies are not adapting to this right mindset. Why do you think so?
BW: Well, the most obvious response I suppose is that people are lazy. And so, we’re not immune ourselves too close to this lots of things. When I said lazy, certainly don’t mean ah stupider anything like that. I really mean that again path of least resistance, we tend to once we habituated into a process we tend to stick with that. So if we, if behavioral science is seen as something new, that can be a difficult thing to sell. So we need to realize that if we’re trying to get people to adopt an new behavior which for instance is taking on behavioral science integrating behavioral science into their business we need to overcome laziness, overwhelm and fear around that. So why is it not being adopted? I think it’s really for the full of the cognitive biases.
MY: True, true. My signature question, my final question, what is your formula for creating value?
BW: Oh well, the model of described is really or I believe the path for creating value ultimately it’s realizing that in business, our success relies on getting other people to do stuff. So other people meaning, our stuff, our stakeholders, our investors and of course our customers. and so if we can do that more effectively, our business results are going to flow from that.
MY: Well, thank you Bri so much! And how people can reach you? You have also online courses, right?
BW: I occasionally run webinars. What you have an idea of online courses, which of course with Corona I may accelerate. But, look I have books and lots of resources on my website. So it’s briwilliams.com.au and people can do things like a behavioral order to their business for free, they can do an intelligence tests, that can do an inventory of their habits. So there is plenty of stuff to getting in.
MY: Yes, I’ll post all the links including the “22 minutes to Better Business”, the book. thank you very much Bri for your time. it was a great pleasure to have you in the show.
BW: Thank you for having me along.
I’d like to thank Nazlı Ruken Çelebi for taking her valuable time to transcript this episode. MY