I finally bit the bullet on the weekend and replanted a garden that I had largely left undisturbed for 10 years.
Reflecting on my fear of changing the landscape reminded me a lot of the behavioural challenges we all face in business every day, and here’s why.
Desire to change the status quo
My front garden was inoffensive: hedges, a perimeter of small shrubs, patchy grass and paving stones. I was used to it and it looked fine. It was my status quo.
Figure 1 Bri’s garden before
But recently some unsettling thoughts had started to nag at me. Was I really maximising this precious space? Could the garden better suit my needs? Could I imagine a more rewarding outcome?
And yet whenever I started to entertain the notion of change, even more powerful thoughts flooded in. What if I got it wrong? Would I compromise resale value? What if it looked terrible – it would take forever to regrow grass!
Anxiety kills desire to change
Regular readers will spot what was happening here as a classic case of anxiety, or more particularly “loss aversion”, where I was more fearful of what I had to lose than gain.
Your customers are grappling with loss aversion all the time. Is it worth them ditching what they are used to – the comfort and familiarity of what is known – to try something new with you? Is their time, effort and money worth whatever benefit you are offering? The scary thing is that if you don’t overcome their loss aversion it will kill any desire they have to do business with you.
And you are probably grappling with loss aversion too. It’s that sense of tension you might feel when reading an article like this that is provoking you to make a change. Should you try something new like applying behavioural science to your business, or should you stick with the same familiar yet unsatisfactory ways you’ve been trying to influence your customers, stakeholders, suppliers and staff?
And so finally on Sunday I dug up the pavers, ripped up the grass and recreated my garden. I decided that I had nothing to lose and was frankly tired of how things were. I followed my instinct that I could do better, and that buying some new plants and making some design changes was a small investment in something that could have a significant and lasting benefit to my life.
Figure 2 Bri’s garden after
So that’s what I offer to you. Use behavioural science to replant the way you do business – rip up the grass and use every precious opportunity to engage your customer to best advantage. By knowing how to overcome loss aversion in yourself and in your customers I promise you can make your business what you want it to be.
Bri Williams runs People Patterns, a consultancy specialising in the application of behavioural economics to everyday business issues.