Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Designing Sustainable Behavior-Change with Habit Design (Michael Kim) #ASTD2014

These are my live blogged notes from a concurrent session at the ASTD International Conference & Expo, this week in Washington, D.C. Forgive any typos or incoherencies.

Michael Kim is the CEO of Karios Labs.
Twitter: @michaelbkim

More research in last 10 years on neuroscience and habit formation (almost 1500 studies this year) – in a golden age of neuroscience. FMRI and more insight into the brain. But just because it’s published will mean it will work in the wild.

At Kairos Labs they partner with 100+ behavioral scientists.

So what do we know?

You can’t just say, you need more willpower.  What we now know: willpower is a muscle. It must be exercised often. It’s expendable. It goes up and down.

The fallacy is that willpower is every increasing.

In Switch – Behavioral Economics – motivation and willpower is like riding the elephant. Willpower is like an elephant that we’re trying to ride and steer.

But now we know even more than that – we don’t have just one elephant. We have many motivations.

Instead of an elephant, think of it as a pack of wolves. Each wolf is a different willpower/motivation.

We ride motivation waves. Motivation has a tide that comes in and out. You have to think about where someone is on that wave when you introduce training or behavior change. Can’t assume everyone comes with the same motivation.

“MOTIVATION is what gets you started. HABIT is what keeps you going.”

Habit = unconscious behaviors. How does your brain form unconscious behaviors?

Habits can be good or bad. But it’s the same neuroscience.

The habit loop
Cue > Routine > Reward…repeated over and over again.
(operant conditioning)

Cue = door to the maze opens; Routine = mouse scurries through the maze; Reward = mouse finds the cheese!

Repeated practice of this loops makes the habit.

“neurons that fire together wire together” (when we do things in close sequence, those neurons start to wire together)

Sequencing.  Small baby steps. You want to teach a series of small steps. “The science of small wins.” ~ John Wooden

If you put on your socks properly, you won’t get blisters and so you won’t get pulled out of the game. He also had a play for properly tying your shoes.

#1 Trigger:
You have to have a cue to start the habit.  A “hot” trigger. Something you can do right now – an ACT NOW button.

The hot trigger has to occur in the context for the user.

It must be an observable marker – audio of visual. Thoughts or emotions don’t make for hot triggers. “Every time I feel sad, I will write in my journal” is not a hot trigger. It won’t create a behavior change.

If you make the cue something that the person already does – e.g., put your toothbrush down in the sink will be your cue to floss. So the cue fits in easily.

Think about the context of the hot trigger.

#2 Babystep the routine:
First mistake people make – they make the routine TOO BIG.

Instead, babystep it. Communicate it in 5 words or less – like a bumper sticker.

It has to come right after the cue. You have to do it immediately.

Don’t ask people to keep track of time; don’t attach a time unit. Tracking time is a second cognitive process.

Use proximal and not distal goals. Distal = long term. Rewards are more quickly retained if they have a nearer return.

Make it too small to fail. “After I put on my running shoes, I will run around the block.”

#3 Conditioned Reinforcement = the reward:
You have to present the reward IMMEDIATELY after the routine.

If you give an annual reward, performance actually goes down. Give the reward right after the success.

It only means YES. The reward needs to be a clear indicator.

Make the routine its own reward. (After you run you get high – the brain rewards you with dopamine. The running creates its own reward. Some runners start to feel that rush when they put on their shoes. Neurons that fire together, wire together).

Making it social. If you practice your habits in a social context (and not just online, but in the real world) – do a high five and physically touch each other to release oxytocin to further reinforce the habits. Teams that high-five feel better.
Endowment effect.  People who pick their own numbers believe they have a better chance of winning. When you STORE YOUR EFFORT (you fill out your own #s on the powerball form) you endow it.

We have conflated views of our expertise. As we invest in an activity or behavior, we seek to be consistent with past behavior. And we think we are better than we are.

Example: In Sweden, traffic speed monitor -- every time you go through the intersection BELOW the speed limit, you get a thumbs up on the sign in the square AND a lottery ticket. At the end of the month, the winner gets the money from all the fines that people who sped through the intersection had to pay.

At Starbucks, they aim to get customers in and out in three minutes. The cue = after the customer gives me their order and name, I announce their order and name out loud. The reward = they send in mystery shoppers who check how stores are doing with their three minute goal. If the store does well, they get a store bonus.  Baristas who do well get a black apron. That's their customer snapshot score. They saw astounding improvements when they implemented this.  (Kim's not enamored of the mystery shopping reward because it's often too delayed. Starbucks is working on improving this.)

Getting Russians to exercise. They created a habit loop in most people's daily routines. Ticket booths that you get your ticket for free by doing exercise! (a series of small tag points)

"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." 

Creating a meditation habit -- "after we turn off the tv, I will take three deep breaths." The reward (for the parents) is that they get some quiet time. The routine has become its own reward. Every week, we do three more.

A training program and a technology platform at habit
what is the ideal habit loop for a walking habit? for a meditation practice? what really works in habits?

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