A lot of life has to do with changing behaviors. Maybe we’ve done something a certain way for a while, and now we need to do it differently. Or we’re responsible for leading a change initiative, and we’ve got to get others on board.
We’re reasonable human beings, right? If we focus on what’s rational and logical, we should be able to change our own and others’ thinking. Yet if that’s the case, then why do so many change initiatives fail, even when they’re our own?
That’s a question government policy makers in the UK asked themselves several years ago, as they took stock of how little impact their policies were having in helping UK citizens lead safer and healthier lives.
And that led them to assemble a team of researchers in the fields of behavioral economics, government, health, and medicine to see what they could learn. Working with this team, they discovered that a rational, analytic approach needed to take a back seat to the power of context and circumstance for influencing and, ultimately, changing behavior.
Huh? What does context have to do with anything? Well, it turns out, quite a bit. The following two research studies capture this finding:
In both cases, people’s behaviors change as a result of context. If we understand that, then we can use context to influence behavior. Better yet, we can create the physical, emotional, mental, and intellectual spaces to support healthy and wise behavioral changes, whether at the individual, team, or organizational level.
And that’s where MINDSPACE comes in. MINDSPACE is the acronym for a set of specific influences on human behavior for change. They’re the list of factors the UK team compiled and then incorporated into game changing (and award winning) policy work in the UK, work that’s influenced policy making approaches in the U.S.
I’ve listed the factors below. I encourage you to read the “practical guide” the research team put together to accompany it. They provide more in-depth explanations of each factor and examples of how they work.
As you read through this list, you may have found yourself nodding your head in agreement. There are probably at least a few factors you know to be true for yourself or others.
Now think about the changes in behavior you want to make – either in yourself or someone else – how can you use one or more of these factors to create the context for change? How can you tap into human tendencies we all have rather than working against them and frustrating everyone in the process?
If you put any of these factors into practice – for yourself or others – let me know how it goes. By tapping into the power of influence through context, rather than thought, you may find the change process goes more smoothly than you expected.