Resolutions for revolutions – Behaviour change

It’s that time of the year again when we make resolutions for newer and better things. While some of us vouch to take the route of a healthier lifestyle, some others may opt to being more productive at work. New year resolutions are indeed a nice trigger for behaviour change. At an individual level, people themselves initiate changes in their behaviours, being driven by their own goals.  However, businesses also attempt to change the behaviours of their customers and users. In this post, let us look at what behaviour change really is and how to define correctly the target behaviours.

What is behaviour change

Behaviour change can be defined as acquiring new behavours, increasing or decreasing or stopping altogether the existing behaviours. It can result from the motivation to change and the simplicity in adopting the new or changed behaviours. Sometimes these behaviours, over a longer term, can result in the formation of new habits or cutting down on the current habits.

 

Habits and behaviours

Behaviour change can happen when you attempt one of the following:

  1. Do new
  2. Do different or do more of the existing
  3. Stop or do less of the existing

For instance, a change in the existing behaviour can be to wake up from bed 30 minutes earlier. Whereas a new behaviour can be to learn ice-skating, a decrease in existing behaviour can be a resolution to cut down on eating high-fat food every Thursday.

What are behaviours

It is important to understand what target behaviours are and how we can make use of them to our advantage. First, let us look at the common misconceptions and myths about behaviours. Please note that behaviours are not

  • About tasks or processes alone
  • Those that effect people in a short term
  • Always linked to the attitudes and personalities

BehaviourChange_Texavi

This brings us to the question as to what behaviours actually are. I would like to highlight the key aspects of a behaviour in the following points:

  • Can be about actions and their outcomes – personal, professional or both
  • Spread over a longer period, potentially leading to habits
  • Involve creating new ones, changing or stopping the existing ways
  • Are purely about the actions or behaviours

Defining the target behaviours – the right way!

Before you attempt to change the behaviours, an important step is defining the target behaviours and defining them correctly. When defining the behaviours ask the following questions:

  • Am I defining a behaviour, in the first place?
  • How crisp is the behaviour definition?
  • Can I make it any crispier?
  • Who are the target people for this behaviour?

An example of a good behaviour definition that I recently came across is the “Get London Reading” campaign. Launched by the Evening Standard newspaper, this campaign is aimed at increasing the literacy levels in schools. With a crisp definition of the objective, this campaign  is an example of defining the target behaviours well.

Here is how to define behaviours

After defining target behaviours, let us look at what makes a good behaviour definition. I give below a few simple rules that you might want to keep as a reference checklist:

  • Start the behavior definition with an action word/verb
  • Use simple words and terms. Eg., get, make, do etc.
  • Be brief and specific. Verbose statements don’t help anybody
  • Focus only on behaviour – leave out attitude and personality
  • Ignore the process or implementation. Aim at the end result

As they say, “Well begun is half done”, by now you have completed the most important thing in behaviour change.  After this step, we need to identify the ways and means of how we are going to achieve the target behaviours. Let us look at this topic in the upcoming post. Hope the new year 2013 brings in joy, peace and success to all of you.

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