Four questions to answer any behavioural challenge

Four questions to answer any behavioural challenge

Life’s never dull in my line of work. I get to meet new people all the time and find out about the challenges and frustrations they are grappling with in their business.

The interesting thing has been that no matter what the project, the path to the answers is the same. It starts with these four questions:

  1. What is the current behaviour?
  2. What is the desired behaviour?
  3. What are the behavioural barriers impeding action?
  4. What are the behavioural enablers to encourage action?

In visual form the model I use is…

The beauty of boiling things down to these four questions is that it can help tackle any issue you might have.

I’ve used this model (either in my planning or directly with clients) for issues as seemingly diverse as getting people to:

  • Buy prescription eyewear online
  • Subscribe to a new diet plan
  • Choose a new domestic cleaner
  • Visit a new home display
  • Try Nordic Walking
  • Actively engage in their superannuation
  • Attend a succession planning session
  • Have their stars done
  • Buy shoes
  • Take out life insurance
  • Book accommodation
  • Join a blog
  • Not renegotiate an offer
  • And of course, attract and retain clients

So when next you find yourself hitting the wall, having your attempts to get people to do stuff rebuffed, start with the four questions because it will force you to think in a new way about the situation. The structure removes emotion and distraction and concentrates your energy on the problem at hand.

Oh and by the way, the most important of the four questions? “What is the desired behaviour?” I find this is the one that most trips people up because it forces you to (a) clarify what you need to happen and (b) define your objective as a behaviour rather than an attitude – what you need them to do, not think or feel.

P.S. What on earth do I mean by behavioural enablers and blockers? Get started with this glossary of things that you need to overcome or use to get people to act, but remember I’m here to show you how, so get in touch.

Bri Williams runs People Patterns, a consultancy specialising in the application of behavioural economics to everyday business issues.


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