Let’s look at the third step of Professors Beshears’ and Gino’s change management model: understanding the underlying causes of the defined problem. Two questions are critical here: is the problem mainly due to people failing to act (i.e. insufficient motivation), or is it due to people taking the wrong actions?
Beshears described some work he did with a US retailer that was trying to cut health care costs: the company wanted employees to stop picking up their maintenance prescriptions (routine prescriptions for chronic conditions) in person from the pharmacy and switch to mailed, home-delivery prescriptions instead. This saved money for the company and the employee, and yet employees weren’t getting around to signing up for it. They simply didn’t feel sufficiently motivated.
This led Beshears to step 4: design the solution. With Beshears’ help, the company decided to engage System 2 thinking by encouraging employees to make an active choice: they were asked to actively indicate, with a phone call or by going online, whether they wanted to stick with in-person pick-up or switch to home delivery. The task was by no means onerous, but it caused them to pause and think. The result? A six-fold increase in home-delivery prescriptions.
Step 5 is testing. Professor Gino gives the example of a call centre that wanted to reduce its high levels of staff turnover. She proposed two conditions for the first day of onboarding: giving employees in condition 1 (the proposed solution) time to think about their strengths and how they could apply them to their jobs, and in condition 2 (the control) omitting such reflection. The company could then see that the reflection time, measured against outcomes from the control group, substantially increased the emotional bond between employees and the company (a System 1 phenomenon) and dramatically cut turnover.
Just because an intervention is simple doesn’t make it ineffective. Beshears’ and Gino’s model testifies eloquently to that.