Influencing people to change their behaviour

I love the way that some people have the capacity to make the complex seem simple and easier to grasp. Behavioural economist and author Bri Williams is one of those people.

She uses a challenging car emissions issue in the Norwegian capital, Oslo to explain her 4 part model. I’ve included the diagram and a brief explanation of the 4 parts. It will have far more meaning if you click on 4 behaviour change strategies and read her well set out case study.

I’m sure it is something you can adapt to help you get a handle on how to influence your customers.behaviour change strategies quadrant


1. Increase motivation to change

Motivation is someone’s desire to change. This is an attitudinal state that comes from how they feel about what you are suggesting.  If you want them to change their behaviour, you can increase their motivation to change and/or decrease their motivation to stay the same.

To increase motivation you would point out the advantages of the change, such as lower emissions, a better environment and being able to relax while on public transport. This relies on using a rational approach to persuade them to act differently.

2. Decrease motivation to stay the same

Decreasing motivation to stay the same means pointing out the disadvantages of sticking with the status quo, for example, the cost of owning and operating a car. Your task is to hone in on the downsides of what they do currently.

Bri Williams explains that while stimulating motivation using either strategy 1 or 2 can ignite the desire to change in some people, just because someone is charged up about the change one day doesn’t mean they will be in a week’s time (New Year’s resolutions are testament to this). Motivation is not stable. This means we can burn a lot of energy and resources trying to get people motivated to change, only to see their motivation fall away as soon as our efforts are withdrawn.

3. Make it easy to change

Thankfully we don’t need to rely on motivation. Instead we can focus on someone’s capacity to act – their ability. This is about what they actually do rather than how they feel about it.

In this case, by making it easier to commute by public transport or bike, people will be more inclined to do so.

 4. Make it difficult to stay the same

The fourth approach was used in the Oslo strategy. They removed the car parks. By taking away the utility of driving – i.e. that you can park your car – they made the option to stay the same unpalatable. It’s difficult to do what you’ve always done if that no longer provides any benefit.

Bri Williams finishes off by saying, “It may feel natural to try to motivate with rationale, but… focussing on how you can adjust the behavioural context may be much more effective.”

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Jurek Leon is a storyteller, speaker and trainer. Subscribe to Jurek's FREE monthly 'Terrific Tips' e-newsletter at Alternatively, email