Today's guest is BJ Fogg, Founder & Director, Behavior Design Lab at Stanford, with an appearance by William Shan, one of his students who is project managing the launch of his new Behavior Design for Climate Action online training program.
BJ teaches good people how behavior works so they can create products & services that benefit everyday people around the world. He is a behavior scientist, with deep experience in innovation and teaching. At Stanford University he runs the Behavior Design Lab. He also teaches his models and methods in graduate seminars with students from various majors.
On the industry side, BJ trains innovators to use his work so they can create solutions that influence behavior. The focus areas include health, financial wellbeing, learning, productivity, and more.
BJ wrote a seminal book, Persuasive Technology, about how computers can be designed to influence attitudes and behaviors. That book, together with his early innovations, inspired an annual global conference on the topic. His Stanford students have gone on to co-found Instagram, as well as launch a global movement focusing on “time well spent” and the Center for Humane Technology. Starting in 2010, BJ’s Stanford lab started shifting focus away from Persuasive Technology toward a new domain they named “Behavior Design,” a set of models and methods about human behavior (with nothing to do with technology.)
BJ’s new book Tiny Habits will be published in over 15 languages.
Fortune Magazine named BJ a “New Guru You Should Know” for his insights about mobile and social networks.
In today’s episode, we cover:
Links to topics discussed in this episode:
You can find me on twitter @jjacobs22 or @mcjpod and email at email@example.com, where I encourage you to share your feedback on episodes and suggestions for future topics or guests.
Enjoy the show!
Jason Jacobs: Hello everyone. This is Jason Jacobs and welcome to My Climate Journey. This show follows my journey to interview a wide range of guests to better understand and make sense of the formidable problem of climate change, and try to figure out how people like you and I can help.
Jason Jacobs: Today's guest is BJ Fogg, a behavior scientist and author. At Stanford University, BJ runs the Behavior Design lab. He also teaches his models and methods and graduate seminars. On the industry side, BJ trains innovators to use his work so they can create solutions that influence behavior.
Jason Jacobs: His focus areas have included health, financial wellbeing, learning and productivity. But BJ has been increasingly concerned about climate change and wanted to help. So, with his new book, Tiny Habits finished, and now in production, he finally has the bandwidth to start a training series focused on climate action.
Jason Jacobs: He's making this training completely free to people focused on climate change, and applying behavior change to further the course. And he's also got his colleague with him, Will Shan, who's an undergrad at Stanford, and has been project managing this training effort. BJ and Will, welcome to the show.
William Shan: Jason, thanks for having me.
Jason Jacobs: So, this is a first on My Climate Journey, which is trying to do a podcast with more than one guest at once.
William Shan: Well that's great.
Jason Jacobs: So, we'll see how this goes. You guys need anything?
William Shan: We're ready. I like being a Guinea pig. Let's go.
Jason Jacobs: Yeah, I don't know what it says about me, but this is the most exciting thing that's happened to me in a long time.
BJ Fogg: I'm sure that's not true.
Jason Jacobs: So, I was super excited to hear from you Will when you reached out and told me a bit about what you and BJ are doing. I think consumer's role or our role as people in the climate fight is a subject of much debate, but for this episode, given that you guys are relative newcomers to the climate space, but BJ, you're one of the world's foremost experts in human behavior change, who now is concerned about climate and I was figuring out how to apply that to helping people change their behavior to help the problem.
Jason Jacobs: I think we're going to assume for purposes of this discussion that human behavior change does matter, which I believe that it does. And really focus on how to change that behavior if that works for you guys. What's good? We did that prep call so we could tease out that little disclaimer upfront.
BJ Fogg: Yeah, it was so fun. I mean, Jason is so great to be talking to you. Will and I at Stanford's really, I think all about creating leaders of the future who will make the world a better place and Will is such a great example of a young person just to stand out person who wants to do good. And in my work, I've always been, how do I play what I've learned and what I know to help people be happier and healthier.
BJ Fogg: And the whole climate change, climate action is just, we've got to put our talents and our energies there and that's why we're here. And thank you for inviting us onto your podcast.
Jason Jacobs: Well, I think as I told you a little bit before we started recording, you're also a good example of, you know what I'm seeing increasingly happen, which is people that have reached the pinnacle of their craft, whatever it may be, who are concerned about this problem and figuring out how to mobilize themselves based on their unique expertise to help in the climate fight.
Jason Jacobs: And I know you're just on the front end of that journey, but I also think that, I mean much like me who's been kind of learning in public, and that's been building a following of people that are on a similar journey as me. I think there'll be many people, especially the listeners to this podcast, that are on the same journey as you. So your stories are really relevant and well-timed one.
BJ Fogg: Yeah, I don't think anybody has all the pieces of the puzzle, but we all need to bring the pieces that we have, and put it together to try to solve this. It's super important.
Jason Jacobs: So before we talk about climate change, why don't we talk about your piece of the puzzle. Maybe talk a bit about your work, and how you got to be doing the work that you're doing now.
BJ Fogg: Yeah, really fast version. So, it was in the 1990s that I had the insight that technology would be used to influence people's attitudes and behaviors. And so, as a doctoral student, I ran true experiments to understand how this might happen, how it might play out. And indeed the experiments show that computers could influence people to think in new ways and behave in new ways.
BJ Fogg: And at the time people thought the research was crazy and people really, well, not everybody, but it's like, "Wow, this is weird." And some people didn't believe their results. Fast forward to today. That's pretty clear. We're influenced by technology. And so, I created a lab at Stanford and directed that lab. It's called the Persuasive Technology Lab until till about 2010.
BJ Fogg: And that included doing a project that was about world peace. So, as we were discovering, "Wow, you can influence people's behaviors, let's apply it to the most important problem." This would be early 2008, and we took on world peace and that work continues in a new lab called the Peace Innovation Lab. It headquartered in the Hague.
BJ Fogg: So, I do think in my lab and the people working with me, we've long thought, "Well, how do we use what we're learning for the most important problems in the world." Fast forward to today, the lab is now called the Behavior Design lab cause we don't really look at technology so much.
BJ Fogg: It's just how do we help people change behavior for the better and that the time has come that we need to apply what we're doing and what we know in our research toward looking at the climate change issues and doing everything we can there.
Jason Jacobs: And maybe talk a bit about that transition from the persuasive technology to more just looking at how to drive behavior change in a holistic way. And actually maybe talk a bit about the work around that persuasive technology that... so both talk about that, but then also what led to the transition and what that transition means practically.
BJ Fogg: That's a really good question.
Jason Jacobs: It's like five questions, I have a bad habit of doing that. One question at a time, Jason.
BJ Fogg: Well, so as it turns out-
Jason Jacobs: I need behavior change, help on that. A single questions at a time, as a podcaster-
BJ Fogg: Now, you're really offering me a menu, and I'm just wondering which question to go for first. I'll just answer it this way. I wrote a book called Persuasive Technology in 2002. And when I released that book, well first of all, back to my dissertation, when my dissertation came out in 1997, in the back of it, I have 10 pages of a storyboard.
BJ Fogg: They allowed me to do cartoons and like create a storyboard in the back saying, "Here's how we can use the power of Persuasive Technology. And the story I tell for 10 pages is this character named Sue, who had this device that she would carry around or wear and it would coach her how to be healthier. And there was a virtual coach that was an AI figure, and there was a real doctor and there was a friend and all these things would happen to help Sue get healthier and I called it team fit.
BJ Fogg: And I thought by sharing that vision that people would immediately start implementing it. Well, they didn't. That was actually 1996 when I sketched out that storyboard. And that vision recently is now reality, but 20+ years later. Then when I published my book, Persuasive Technology, same kind of story. So I put together, I laid out the like, here's what technology can do, including here are the downsides, here's the ethical issues and so on.
BJ Fogg: And I thought policymakers would start regulating as soon as they saw the potential pitfalls, and I thought companies and health and other areas including climate, climate's a category in the book would start leveraging that. And the response to the book in 2002, 2003 it was like crickets. Like nobody really cared. And it was just a different era.
BJ Fogg: Everybody was concerned about usability and user friendliness. Big lesson to me is you can be too far ahead of things. It had the book come out 10 years later. It would have been right when the wave was cresting them. If people were really concerned about technology's impact on behavior. But at the time nothing much. So my work continued and the labs work, continue with look at web credibility and other things.
BJ Fogg: And then one year at Stanford I taught, this is where the transition happened I think. I taught a class about health and health habits, and I just got really interested in that. It really had nothing to do with technology or persuasive technology. How do we understand habits and how do we help people design these habits? And then that led to some new work in our lab called The Behavior Wizard, which you can still find at behaviorwizard.org and at that point in 2010 we were like, "Man, we're not doing persuasive technology anymore."
BJ Fogg: And we renamed the lab in 2011 to be the Behavior Design Lab cause we didn't see technology as the lens through which our research would be focused. And yes, technology can deliver products and programs that influence behavior, but now it's really the lab's work is really about how do you help people change behavior so they can be happier and healthier.
BJ Fogg: And that includes how do you create products and services to help people do that. And Will, was one of my students in the most recent class. Every year I teach a different class on a different topic on something that I think really matters. So, I get it's always has to do with human behavior in some form, but I get to pick the topic. Will join my class in 2019, and Will, with that, I'm going to introduce you so you can explain about you and the class we did. Then we'll talk about the upcoming class I guess.
William Shan: Yeah, so I'm a Stanford student and I have the privilege of being BJ's Behavior Design lab. I took the class last spring when their focus was all about screen time reduction. How can we match people with different solutions and strategies to help them get off their screens and kids to the world more often?
Jason Jacobs: Yes, please.
BJ Fogg: I know right?
William Shan: It's so important, especially for people my age in college. But we ended up producing the tool called screen-time Jeannie that you can find online at screen-time.stanford.edu and in the lab. We've done a lot of other work on skin harm reduction, on financial wellness.
William Shan: But I mean the reason that you're on this podcast is there's, because one of the projects that we're most focusing on, the one that speaks to me the most personally is climate action. And how can we give climate professionals the behavioral psychology tools to make real impact.
Jason Jacobs: And that was a topic in the last class or that's one that's coming up in the next one?
BJ Fogg: That's coming up. So the one in 2019 was about screen time, and then we ran a pilot this summer and Will lead the pilot on teaching professionals who are working in climate change and climate action training them in a Behavior Design. And we learned a lot from that, including the need to do that. And so, I'd already planned out a different topic from my class, but then I changed my mind for 2020, and the class is going to be all about climate action and developing a way to teach and train professionals like Will you said it in a great way.
BJ Fogg: How do you help people that are professionals in this space understand how human behavior works? So their efforts in creating products and programs and however you want to talk about the solutions will actually be impactful rather than useless. For example, what does not work is just giving people information. "Oh, we just give them information, data, projections and visualization, then people will change their behavior.
BJ Fogg: That's an assumption. And I call it the information action fallacy. That does not work. So what we're all about is, explaining and teaching how you can help people change their behavior and it's not information alone.
Jason Jacobs: And so when you're looking at an area, whether it's climate change or screen time or health or any number of other categories, how much of the tenants of the behavior change philosophy that you ascribe to, and teach is transferable from area to area? Is it like a certain percentage carries over and another percentage changes or is it a totally different recipe or is it totally the same recipe every time?
BJ Fogg: Pretty much all of the steps and models and Behavior Design apply in every area. The way it differs depends on only on the behavior type. If you're trying to get people to do a behavior one time, that's different than trying to get people to create a new habit and do it from now on. But still you would use models and methods from Behavior Design, but designing for a onetime that action is different than designing for a habit, which is different than designing to get people to stop a habit.
BJ Fogg: There's actually 15 ways behaviors can change, but those three ways are, it's a tidy summary of those. One time action, ongoing behavior habit and stopping behavior, stopping a habit. And the way you design for each of those is different.
Jason Jacobs: And so you talked a bit about how climate is going to be a topic in your upcoming class. I guess what is the state of your effort and ambition towards climate? And then maybe walk me a bit through either Will, or BJ, whoever makes sense of the approach that you're taking to applying these methodologies to climate action.
BJ Fogg: Will, why don't you give a summary of the pilot we ran in the summer, and I'll chime in from time to time and I'll talk about what's next for us.
William Shan: Yeah. So this past summer, summer of 2019, we took 14 individuals who are working full time in climate. So people from the nonprofit world and like the nature Conservancy, also municipalities like the city of Antwerp in Belgium and Providence, Rhode Island, and even people from education, like Princeton university, just people, all sorts of backgrounds. But the commonality was that they were all working full time on climate action.
William Shan: And what we did is we met with them every two weeks, virtually online for about three months and trained them in Behavior Design, tools and methods, and basically guided them to how do you get real behavior change results in the programs and products that you're developing. And so, you know that it was like which methods can you use to get really specific in finding the behavior you're changing or how do you know which segment of your audience, your target audience to start with.
William Shan: So there's some of the things that we covered with Behavior Design and that he was just a really amplify their impact as best as we could.
Jason Jacobs: And so how long did the program go on for?
William Shan: So it was a pilot, five sessions with one session every other week for a total of about three months.
Jason Jacobs: And what'd you learn?
William Shan: Oh, so many learnings. I'll share my learnings. BJ maybe shift some-
BJ Fogg: Let's make it a bit of a game Will. You share a learning, I share a learning, you share learning until we run out. And like ping pong very fast.
William Shan: Okay, number one.
Jason Jacobs: My eyes are just going to follow the bottom.
William Shan: I mean, number one for me is one hour is not a lot of time to cover material. One hour per session.
BJ Fogg: The biggest learning for me was these professionals are wonderful people, but they had no systematic training in human behavior change. And so the need to help them and others like them just massive.
William Shan: Another one is, it's so much more powerful when somebody is going into the training with a project, like we had some people who are working on new programs at Princeton university to reduce... to make the campus more sustainable. Having that as a container with which they could apply Behavior Design way better.
BJ Fogg: Another learning was that teaching people virtually through video conferencing works really well. It's not as good as an in person, but all things considered. It's a great way to teach this.
William Shan: One surprise for me I'll say is the end of politics. We had some people who were working on climate campaigns and we're kind of trying to lobby their government officials and I think that was a new tricky, thorny, interesting area to apply behaviors on to.
BJ Fogg: One of my surprises was about at the end of class three I was like, "Oh no, I'm doing a bad job. They're not getting it. Oh no, what don't we do?" And then on class four, they are awesome. So they were learning more than I expected. I mean, I'm really particular about how I teach and just always trying to assess is this working? And if not, you change your approach. But even though I felt like, Will, do you remember this where I was like, "Oh I don't think they're really getting it."
BJ Fogg: And then they came back in the next class and they were applying out well and they got it. So, I don't know how to internalize that. It's just, it was probably you Will, working between sessions and looking at their homework and responding is that you filled in all the gaps that I left empty. Back to you Will.
William Shan: I'll shoot on this one a little bit, but this was my first time seeing BJ teach virtually. Wow, I've learned so much just about teaching virtually. That was totally surprising, and took me kind of by surprise by how effective online trainings could be.
BJ Fogg: One of my surprises was nobody. So we had people apply. Will we had how many people apply to join us?
William Shan: Close to 50.
BJ Fogg: Yeah, and then we went through that and we picked the people that we thought we could help them the most, and ended up with 14 or 12 or something like that. And the surprise was nobody who applied was about changing policymakers behavior. And I think that's part of the puzzle is, how do we get our elected officials, some of those people.
BJ Fogg: It was more about, you know, how do we get students at Princeton to change and so on. And I kind of wanted somebody in the training that would be about how do we change policymakers or how do we change policy? And I think that's coming. But that was a surprise. We didn't get angle among the people we worked with.
Jason Jacobs: Do you guys feel like, I mean, could I just come to you with like a laundry list of things I would like to change behaviors on in the climate world, me or a group of people or an organization or whoever, the government or whoever. Is there anything that would throw you guys where you say, "Oh, we're not really equipped to do that?" Or is it like whatever you got we can do?
BJ Fogg: It's kind of the second. Yeah. Any type of aspiration or outcome or strategy, Behavior Design. The systematic thing that we do that we call Behavior Design is set up, to take that abstraction and then figure out what are the behaviors and what are the best behaviors, and then how do you make those a reality. So, what we don't do is set strategy because that's beyond the scope of Behavior Design.
BJ Fogg: And we're not climate scientists. So, we're not like the ones saying, "Oh, we need to reduce carbon footprint of 13%," that's not the things we come up with. But if you come to us and say, "Hey, we're going to reduce the carbon footprint of Princeton by 20% by 2022, bam." That's where we pick up and there's methods where we can take that and move it all the way towards implementation. Yeah.
Jason Jacobs: So, if it's all right, it'd be great to just talk about one or two specific examples from the pilot if you're allowed and if you have to generalize it or anything to protect anonymity, that's fine. But just something to be illustrative of the kinds of problems and then maybe the tactics and then it'd be great after that. I've got a laundry list of things I'd love to just kind of throw at you guys and get some insight from you in terms of if you were to tackle it in one of these trainings, how you'd go about it.
BJ Fogg: Great. Well, I will give a very unsatisfactory answer to your first question, and then Will, you might be able to supplement and make it better.
Jason Jacobs: You just changed my behavior because now my whole mood, maybe it's my mood, it's like I'm already dejected and you didn't even give your answer yet.
BJ Fogg: I don't know I'm setting your expectations low, so I can exceed your expectations. You know, in training people from these different organizations, we basically taught them how to use the methods and apply them. We didn't take like one organization and solve for that. There's times when I've done that outside of climate action, so for... Well, I just went to Australia two weeks ago, worked with the financial arm of the Australian government, and trained 22 people just within that area specifically on what they're doing and there are outcomes and specific things.
BJ Fogg: So we worked on their projects. With this kind of training where people are coming from even different countries and working on different parts of the puzzle. We teach them how to use the methods, but I don't have a really good like, "Here's what happened in the now suddenly Princeton students are all aligned drying their laundry, and they're not using... I don't remember getting that granular in terms of having them report back to us, but they did do homework that maybe you read more carefully than I did Will, so do you remember any specific cases or outcomes from the summer training?
William Shan: Yeah, well I think a great study, a great case study of where behaviors and comes into play with climate action, might actually even predate this training with the work that you do with California state parks a few years back BJ. I think that's really illustrative because we've had the time since new went in and helped them with that implementation to actually measure results and see the year over year returns. Maybe you want to share that story?
BJ Fogg: Yeah, of course I'm a huge fan of parks and open spaces. And this was during a time in California, I think it was 2008 where budgets were being cut, and parks were being closed. And as a training for some people I was working with, I had the park, the people that oversee regional parks and Sonoma County. We went in to offer free training to them.
BJ Fogg: And we shared Behavior Design. We walked them through these methods, applied to the problem if they needed to generate more revenue. So, I didn't tell them they needed more revenue. I just said, "Hey, what are the problems we can solve here?" And they said, "We need more revenue or we have to close parks." So that was that big aspiration we worked on. It was a three hour session and they assumed at the time that the leader assumed, she thought, Oh, it's an app.
BJ Fogg: An app is going to be our answer. And I was like, "No, I didn't say this," but it's like, "No, I don't think in the app is going to save the parks." And her team didn't believe that either. But she was on. Well, as we went through the system, as we went systematically through the process, what we learned is, and everyone agreed on, including the director is like, "Nope, it's not an app."
BJ Fogg: What we need to do is sell more annual passes to the parks. So everybody, so through the systematic process of Behavior Design that ended up being the behavior they were going to design for and everybody aligned and agreed. And then when session was up and I went away. It was a few years later when they lost an election to get some funding on a ballot initiative and I got back in touch with the director.
BJ Fogg: I said, look, "I can help you in the next election." And she says, "Oh by the way, what you did for us years ago was so impactful. We were able to triple our sales of the annual park passes, which meant $1 million of revenue extra a year for the last seven years since we did this or whatever it was." And that meant we didn't have to close a single park.
BJ Fogg: In fact, we acquired new land and we didn't lay anybody off. And boom, now we're looking at the next election. And fast forward they did pass the ballot initiative. So, it was a very three hour training, but it helped them figure out what is the right behavior to design for them, which then led to an outcome that I'm pretty happy proud of because I live in Sonoma County part of the year, and I loved the park system and the fact that they could keep all the parks open and new lands, amazing. So, that can be the impact of Behavior Design. Thanks for bringing up the example. Will.
Jason Jacobs: So, is there a heavy overlap then between Behavior Design and strategic business consulting? It may seems like that analogy, I mean I could see McKinsey or a McKinsey like entity maybe with more affordable rates going in, and advising the park systems on that kind of issue.
BJ Fogg: Oh, that's a hard question. I'll just say this. There is a difference in that everyday people can learn how to do Behavior Design and learn how to apply it. Okay? And I teach a two day training that I call a boot camp, and at the end of boot camp, people do not need my help anymore. They are independent and they can do it on their own. That's the purpose of the class at Stanford.
BJ Fogg: That's what we're hoping with the climate action training. We're really, what we're working on right now is, can we do this in four one hour sessions? I know the two day program works but that's 16 hours of training, so what Will and I and others in the lab are working on and we'll work on, and we'll pilot and pilot again until we figured out is what's the minimal time of training that then makes these climate change professionals so they can do it on their own and they don't need my help and they don't need McKinsey. They can do it on their own.
Jason Jacobs: If the methodologies carry over from problem to problem to problem and vertical to vertical to vertical, then why does climate needs its own separate one and what's different about the climate one then the health one or the business model one or any of the others?
BJ Fogg: Well, I'll just give you the answer. I'm part time at Stanford, and I run the lab and I teach once a year and then I have a foot in the industry. In industry, that's how I make money is teaching Behavior Design. And so, people from companies you've heard of and startups you haven't pay me to teach them. When it comes to climate action, and basically I'm giving my IP and my methods and all of this and putting it together it's what I need to do, and sure I could charge people for this, but that's not the right thing to do.
BJ Fogg: The right thing to do is make this as freely available to these professionals as I can. So, that's really the answer, right? I mean it's a valuable method. I've taken 20+ years to create models, and I love teaching it and it's the best professional training. Most people, 95% plus people who come to my boot camp say, it's the best professional training they've ever had.
BJ Fogg: That's great. I'm not eager to package it up and give it out to free to these multi-billion dollar companies. Right? But I am eager to package it up and share it with climate change professionals. It's just the right thing to do.
Jason Jacobs: So climate change professionals. So, the answer then is that it's not actually a climate specific thing, but you're calling it climate because the only people that can access it for free, they have to prove that they're working in climate. There's some like approval process to unlock the materials, is that right?
William Shan: Yes.
BJ Fogg: Yeah. More or less. I mean essentially they get a scholarship.
Jason Jacobs: Other than name. It's more like, a climate access key versus a climate program.
BJ Fogg: Yeah, or a scholarship or whatever. Yeah. So you guys are comped, you're comped, you're in. Let us help you. Yes, it's valuable training, but it's free for you.
Jason Jacobs: If it's okay, can I throw out some scenarios off the top of my head of different climate behavior change and get some insight from, from you guys on how we might tackle them.
William Shan: Yeah, lets play this like a game.
BJ Fogg: Yeah. Let's go.
Jason Jacobs: Yeah, exactly. I'm digging the three people here. It's like changes everything. Just one little change and it's like a whole different show.
BJ Fogg: Yeah, three relationships.
Jason Jacobs: But let's see, so I am from whatever, let's say I'm from like... maybe it doesn't matter where I'm from, but I'm tasked with with reducing aviation emissions by 80% in the next 15 years. I'm just making up these numbers and I think that there's these electric jets that might be coming, but gosh, like they're so far away and who knows if they'll be ready for prime time, even when they are, they're going to be cost competitive, et cetera. And it seems like the thing I can control the most is just getting people to fly less. So, how can we get their BJ and Will?
BJ Fogg: The first step in Behavior Design is to get clear on that aspiration. So Jason, I'd say, "Hey, let's get clear. Is it reducing the aviation emissions or is it getting people to fly less?" Those are related but different aspirations.
Jason Jacobs: Well, my charter is to reduce emissions. But I'm telling you that I believe that getting people to fight us is the thing most in my control. And then I can bank on and therefore, I feel like it's got to be a meaningful piece of the portfolio. Exactly what percentage, I don't know. Because some of these engineering breakthroughs are hard to predict and how quickly batteries are going to... the price is going to fall and what kind of range they're going to get for some of the long haul flights.
Jason Jacobs: But I know if I can just get people off the planes, then it's going to lead to less emission. So, I don't know how much of it we'll need to do, but I think it's a lot.
BJ Fogg: Okay, great. And now there's two directors we could go here. And if it's a longer session I have with you, I'd say, "Great, well let's back up to the bigger aspiration of reducing aviation emissions." And because getting people to fly less is jumping to a one conclusion. There could be other things too. So, let's stay with the broader one and let's do this method we call magic wanding.
BJ Fogg: So if we could wave a magic wand, so this is step two in Behavior Design. Step one is get clear on the aspiration. And in this case I said no, this backup, we can take the more specific one on later, but let's back up and just decrease aviation emissions. If we could wave a magic wand and get anyone to do anything that would lead to a decrease in aviation emissions, what would we wish for?
BJ Fogg: Who would do what? And we would use that kind of thinking, this magic wand thinking to come up with a whole bunch of different behaviors. What could airline regulators do? What could the president of the United States do? What could people who make planes do? What could passengers do? What could conference organizers do? So we would come up with a whole bunch of different things and different actors, including leaders in companies and governments.
BJ Fogg: And we would explore and pretending we have magical powers. We can get people who make plans to do anything and we would come up with behaviors that we would want them to do. And then, we would prioritize those behaviors along two dimensions. So say we come up with 50 or 60 options, and one of those would be to get airline passengers to fly less.
BJ Fogg: That would be one of the 60 options, right? And then we would sort those... And Will, I'm going to hand off to you to explain the focus mapping dimensions. But then we prioritize those 60 different behavior options in a method in Behavior Design. Will, do you want to outline how the focus mapping works and what the dimensions are?
William Shan: Focus mapping essentially takes into account two key questions. One is how effective is this particular behavior at helping us reach our outcome and aspiration? And so what you would do is you would take these 60 behaviors, you'd align them up in a vertical access, from highly effective, the top two not highly effective at helping us reduce emissions, and you'd line them all up in that axis first.
William Shan: And once you have that done, you then take into account the other end is how likely or how able are we to get people or ourselves to do this behavior? And you actually adjust the different behaviors, right? Or left horizontally, until you have them all in places that you think they belong. And what naturally surfaces is that the behaviors in the top right corner that are both high impact and you have high feasibility, you have a high likelihood that you can get people to do them are the ones that you should naturally gravitate towards, and will have the impact you want and you'll be able to implement them.
BJ Fogg: So, in the early part of Behavior Design, we explored a wide range of who could do what including passengers, and then we sort them like Will explained, and then we pick the behaviors in the upper right hand corner are called Golden Behaviors. They're the ones that have the most impact in reducing aviation admission and they're the ones that are the most feasible.
BJ Fogg: So those are the ones we focus on. Say those three of them, and then we forget all the rest. Let's say one of those three is to get passengers to fly less. So that would be an example of using Behavior Design even at the highest, most abstract level. And then when you're like, "Oh, we're going to get people to fly less." That wasn't a guess, and that wasn't a McKinsey $5 million research project.
BJ Fogg: It was a process of exploration widely and behavior, prioritizing the items and then picking the high impact items that we can actually get done.
Jason Jacobs: So one question that comes to mind then is that impact is, I guess some things are more clear cut, but in many cases it's subjective, and feasibility is also in some cases clear cut and in many cases subjective. And so, if you're just sitting in front of a whiteboard, how can you have any confidence that you're eyeballing those correctly?
BJ Fogg: Good. Well do you want to talk about the group version of focus mapping?
William Shan: Yeah, it's a great question and there's no perfect answer, but there is a way to bring the power of groups and many minds to this. And so with group focus mapping, we're really leveraging the wisdom of the crowds. What you do is you get your entire team or everyone who's a stakeholder in the same room, and you go through the focus mapping exercise where you're collectively trying to decide on the Y-axis where do things fall impact wise.
William Shan: So you have the research scientist in the room, you have the decision business person in the room, you have the people on the ground implementing it. And you rank them that way, both in the Y and X axis. And at the end we even like to do a little bit of a bonus round where people who feel like something is out of place can actually use like a wildcard. Play wild card switch or adjust the position of a particular behavior.
William Shan: And what that generally does is it leverages the wisdom of the group. Everyone's individual expertise in a way that surfaces those golden behaviors with higher confidence that those are actually the behaviors that our team has bought into, that our team is convinced will be impactful, and is now going to put our energy towards implementing.
Jason Jacobs: Another question that comes to mind is that if I were, let's say the ALS foundation or the organization that's responsible... you know, a nonprofit that's focused on fighting ALS, the ice bucket challenge was this viral sensation that raised a ton of money for ALS. The reason I bring it up is that no matter how many people you had in that room looking at that impact and feasibility and the golden behaviors, I don't think you would have put that as... you might've put it high impact if this viral thing takes off, but you're certainly not going to put it high feasibility.
Jason Jacobs: So, I don't think it would have made the list. I mean it seems like the outliers can be the ones that like carry the day almost like venture capital returns. And so, to the outliers make the list in this model?
BJ Fogg: Yeah, they do. The step is step number two in Behavior Design. The magic wanding step. And the reason I call it magic wanding is you want to let go of all constraints and it's like we can get anybody to do anything including boring buckets of ice over the head and recording it. So, the best magic wanding sessions will be very creative and very out there and kind of crazy.
BJ Fogg: Now the totally impossible ideas, we'll sort out in the focus mapping like, "Oh no, we're not going to be able to get people not be able to get students to commit the future income of all their children to climate crisis." That's not going to happen. So that will drop out. But the creative ideas can emerge. And he's like, sure that might be possible. There's a few steps later in Behavior Design.
BJ Fogg: There's a testing method called Snap testing, and in Snap testing you test an idea in four hours or faster. So, even though an idea might feel a little bit crazy, the fact that it only takes four hours or less to test it really lowers the bar. So you wouldn't reject a crazy idea like that. You'd say, "Hey, let's test it. Let's see if anybody's willing to do this. Shared on social media and see who reacts."
BJ Fogg: And in fact, in the work I did with the Australian government, we specifically worked on a project of how do we get millennials to talk about our website? And they have a website called Money Smart, which is the guidance from the Australian government. How do we get millennials to post about that online? And they came up with some really crazy ideas and then we prioritize them, and I'm hoping they're testing some of them in this snap testing way.
BJ Fogg: So, it's not investing a ton of resources. If you do snap testing according to how we outline it, you'll have a signal whether you go or no go on that idea. And so you can't test these crazy things quickly. Now that said, viral is a crazy thing. I mean it's very hard to design for viral, but you can come up with pretty odd ideas and you can test them quickly.
BJ Fogg: And if nobody responds, then you give it up and you go to the next one. If you get some signal that it might work, then you try it again and try it in different ways.
Jason Jacobs: I mean you mentioned, I think you said that when you do this for corporate, there are two days, is that correct?
BJ Fogg: Yeah.
Jason Jacobs: Yeah. So two days in the new year deliverable, but a lot of times what happens is that once the rubber meets the road and you start doing like the equivalent of what you guys did for a pilot before you roll something out at wider scale, these corporates, they'll do pilots and then they'll learn and then they'll retrench and then they'll pick the next experiment and they'll like experiment and experiment, experiment. But if you just do the static two days and then hand them a deliverable, like wouldn't this process need to keep running after the next batch of learning? And then like the realities and the constraints change?
BJ Fogg: Which is exactly why the Australian government teaching 22 people there. I mean that's a long flight, but I'm happy to do it because the whole team has a shared set of models around how behavior works. They're all thinking about it in the same way and the whole team has a shared set of methods around behavior work. So, there's critical mass within the team and then they have me do a keynote that reached 450 different financial stakeholders across Australia that allowed me to share some of the most fundamental stuff of Behavior Design.
BJ Fogg: So by teaching not just one person in an organization but a number of people and in this case the whole 22 people, then there that are able to continue to use the methods and the models and not just revert back to the old of doing things.
Jason Jacobs: Okay, so you're more about teaching people this way of thinking in this framework and process than you are about getting to an answer at any one point in time.
BJ Fogg: Yeah. Teach a method, teach a system and then let people apply the method and system. This is why working with climate change professionals and doing it at scale seems so important to me and to us, is if we can help train them in Behavior Design and models about behavior that actually work and methods they can implement on their own and build that within this community of climate change professionals. Like that's just how they think about things and do things.
BJ Fogg: Then we feel like we can move the needle not just for Princeton or the city of Toronto or whatever, but within that whole community of people who care about this. And it will become the de facto method of how to think about climate change and how to design for behavior change within that domain.
Jason Jacobs: So is there a big leap from learning the skills to actually driving sustained and widespread implementation within these organizations? And I guess a followup since I tend to ask things in two, is does the success rate from an implementation and deployment standpoint vary widely across your clients, or is it pretty consistent? And what does that look like?
BJ Fogg: Well, there are two overriding guidelines, or I called them maxims. Will do you want to talk about this or should I, the maxims?
William Shan: Yeah.
BJ Fogg: Okay. And if you map to these maxims, you have a good chance of succeeding. If you don't, you won't. Will, why didn't you pick up and you hand back to me whenever you want.
Jason Jacobs: You guys have taken the show on the road before. You're too coordinated here. I don't buy it. It's suspect, the scenes well-prepared, well rehearsed.
William Shan: It was the climate training.
BJ Fogg: Will's just incredibly capable. So, I just handle all of the hard questions to him. Go Will.
William Shan: Yeah. There are two guiding principles and behaviors, we consider the maxims. Number one, help people do what they already want to do. And this is why the information action fallacy is kind of a thing is because just informing somebody does not necessarily mean that they'll want to do the Behavior Designing course. So, help people do what they already want to do and not everybody will already want to do thing you're designing for, but there will be a population that will be a segment of that population that needs that extra push.
William Shan: They already have the motivation. They just need to get there. And the second Maxim is to help people feel successful, is to create emotions, to create positive psychology around whatever action they're doing that is going to help sustain the behavior change in the way that you're referencing, the way that's sustainable and the way that is longterm. And I'll hand that back to you, BJ.
BJ Fogg: So for example, I don't know why we're picking on Princeton. The woman that worked us from Princeton, she was amazing. That's probably why. So, let's say Princeton goes through the process, magic wanding focus mapping, and it's like, "Oh my gosh, one of the most impactful and feasible things we can do is get students to dry their laundry on the line, and not put it in the dryer."
BJ Fogg: So, like will said, not every student is going to want to do that, but there's going to be a segment. So, they could create a program saying, "Hey, put your life on the line, or whatever they say." And they say, "Here's how." So, they put up a bunch of clothes drying places that students can use and so on. The students who want to do this are their customers. The students that don't want to do it, don't try to convince them they're not your customers.
BJ Fogg: So you get good at finding the students that want to do it and make it really easy. And then as they do it, help them feel successful. That's what wires in the habit, that feeling of success is what would wire in the habit, what would make them want to do it again? And it also causes them to advocate. So, let's say Susan's out there, she's hanging her laundry up in Princeton, and she sits down and reads while it's drying, and she sees something that says, "Oh, you've, you've done X, Y, and Z to help save the planet."
BJ Fogg: So she's feeling successful. She does that week after week. She's going to start talking that up and possibly persuading her colleagues who didn't want to do that. They just want to throw it in the regular electric dryer. "Hey, come to the laundry drying lines with me and hang out." So, those maxims, they really characterize every product or service in any domain that has gone big.
BJ Fogg: You can look at everything that's gone big. It helps people do what they already want to do and it helps them feel successful. And so, after kind of being in denial on those principles for at least 10 years, I finally said, "Yep, those are the things. There we go. Let's call it maximum one, maximum two." And that's what you're designing for. If you don't do that, you will not succeed.
BJ Fogg: If you do that, at least you have a chance. It doesn't guarantee you'll succeed, but you have a chance. So, to your larger question of how do you get this to be institutionalized? Well, you've got to make sure that you are within that organization or that community. You're helping people do what they already want to do.
BJ Fogg: And now there's going to be a segment that doesn't want to forget about them. Come up with another product or program for those people to help them do what they want to do and then help people feel successful. And those are the overriding principles.
Jason Jacobs: But BJ, we've spent two days together and it sounds so easy when you're talking about it and I can visualize so clearly how it can have an impact. But now that I'm leaving, I already feel like all this information is leaving my head. What advice do you have for me? I don't want to get back to the office on Monday and feel like, "Oh, this great ground that recovered is lost."
BJ Fogg: Yeah, well you've come with teammates and we have you mark your books in a certain way. Like what's my action items? What are my insights? There's a way in the training I worked for years, teaching is really, really important to me and doing a great job is important. So, I've created these ways to make what they've learned very actionable and so then go back and hit the ground running.
BJ Fogg: But, for listeners of this, the bootcamp, not everybody can come to the boot camp. And I'm not saying come to the boot camp. I'm really, really happy that my book Tiny Habits is hitting the shelves on January 1st, 2020, and even though that's written for everyday people, it has the same methods and models in the book. So, anybody could get the book and read through it and then apply it in this way.
BJ Fogg: But I think what we really want, Will and I, is that you stay tuned to the climate action training out of Stanford and you join us for that and then we'll create and that's free. You don't have to pay anything for that. And then we will have resources where you can connect with others in the community, help each other, support each other. And we'll probably do refresher trainings along the way. That's probably part of it.
BJ Fogg: So, we're in process figuring this out, but learning how many one hour sessions do we need to do, what exactly do we do? What are the worksheets and tools that we provide? And then there's probably a community of practice that we point people to, and we do a refresh training or we add new stuff as needed.
William Shan: And BJ and I have put up a simple landing page for anyone who's interested and might be listening @behaviordesign.info/climateaction and that's where we'll be putting up all of our updates and materials and how you can get involved in the next training.
Jason Jacobs: In terms of the climate problem, I don't know how, I know you guys are just turning your attention to it, but do you have any view as you sit today as it relates to what areas can most stand to benefit from this behavior training?
William Shan: I think so. Jason, are you familiar with project draw down?
Jason Jacobs: I am actually. Dr. Jonathan Foley did an episode that we'll be publishing soon on my kind of journey.
William Shan: Yeah, so I was looking at... I'm new to the climate space, so I was doing some research just this past week, and project draw down is this research project that produced this objectively ranked list of solutions for the climate crisis. Right? And they applied a lot of research to it. And something I found really interesting is that of the top five solutions of the dozens and dozens that they investigated, numbers three and four I thought were behavior change, behaviors I would really shine.
William Shan: Number three is reduced food waste, which is yes an industry and restaurant problem, but also a household problem and a lifestyle problem. And number four is increasing plant rich diets, which is again behavior change, lifestyle change that comes from the individual level, from the grassroots up. And so I think in those areas in particular, I feel like behavioral design could have a huge, huge impact.
Jason Jacobs: And does motivation matter? And what I mean by that is if you're trying to drive an outcome for the climate, let's say, does it matter, for example, whether Tesla's motivation is to make a lot of money or people buying Teslas, does it make a difference whether their motivation is to keep the planet livable by humans and other life forms or if it's just to drive a really nice fast, sporty, awesome car?
BJ Fogg: That is such a great question. I think it's more of a question about ethics. And let me, let me give an example. So, let's say back to Princeton university, you decided, "Hey, we're going to get students, never use plastic water bottles. You're always going to use a reusable one and we're going to do that in mass." Oh and by the way, in Australia, they have this thing called keep cup they use for coffee.
BJ Fogg: Like it's apparently really uncool to use the disposal coffee cup. So now let's say a student doesn't really care about the environment, but because of social pressure, he or she gets a glass water bottle and doesn't have a plastic one. Well great. So that's fine. You've got some impact. Then it's kind of more a philosophical debate about does that matter? Well you, you got her to change behavior and maybe with time she will start thinking of herself.
BJ Fogg: "I'm the kind of person who cares about the environment cause look, I'm carrying around this glass water bottle. I'm not using the plastic ones. I'm watching my own actions and my actions are about sustainability. So therefore when I'm doing something else, I need to behave consistently with my identity." Now, I know that dynamic works. Your question is broader than that, but the dynamic that works is if somebody does it behavior and feels successful, even a tiny one, they start seeing themselves in a new way with a new identity.
BJ Fogg: And so maybe one thing to consider is what's the smallest, most beneficial thing somebody can do and feel successful about it to change their identity from somebody who's like, "No, life's short. I'm going to live just for myself," to know I'm somebody who cares about the planet and about humans and not just humans, all life on planet earth in the future and new, you'll shift their identity.
BJ Fogg: Now, I know that happened to me as a vegetarian like years ago. I became a vegetarian in the 1980s for selfish reasons. I was studying. I want it to be more alert in my chemistry classes, and I shifted to vegetarianism and I did better in school, but with time I'm talking just a few months. I met other vegetarians. They became my friends. I started going to events about animal rights and so on, and I started thinking differently about that.
BJ Fogg: So, my reasons for being vegetarian shifted, but it started with something that was kind of selfish and then it became broader over time. So, change leads to change. And the thing that I see in my Tiny Habits research I've seen over since 2011 researching that is when somebody does a behavior and feel successful, that shifts their identity, it re crafts their identity. And then you have these ripple effects and they start doing other behaviors to be consistent with that new identity.
Jason Jacobs: And where does the tragedy of the commons fit into all of this? And the reason I ask is that if you're trying to lose weight, that directly affects you. If you're trying to get up your financial health, that directly affects you. Most problems, it's like you're putting in front and center because it matters to you. But with climate change, it's like in the Tesla example, you're putting in front and center because it's a cool car.
BJ Fogg: And their looking called the people.
Jason Jacobs: Yeah. But actually with climate change, like some of those, some of the areas that we need to decarbonize will fit nicely into that paradigm, but a lot of them won't. And so, we need to get people caring about the public good and doing things and maybe may even making sacrifices at their own level. And again, this is a debatable point, but there's a lot of people that think this. So for those people, how do you do that? And are there other problems that have been solved in this way?
BJ Fogg: Well, you start where you can start with the people who want to do what you're advocating. So, you help people do what they want to do and you don't grieve too much and don't waste time on the people that aren't on board with this. Let's start where we can start. And there are millions of people out there that want to live in a more sustainable way.
BJ Fogg: Millions and millions that don't know how yet. And if you say, "Here's what you can do," and we've made it easy, you don't have to motivate them to do it. You just have to match them with the right behavior, golden behaviors and make an easy to do. Let me give a personal kind of... I'm probably not going to do a class on this, but one of the things I'm a huge fan of is getting people to work from home.
BJ Fogg: So, rather than getting in the car and commuting and all the stress and the traffic and the emissions, let's find ways to help more people work from home. And not everybody wants to do that, but those who can, I mean it's a specific thing that some people would love to do, and there's probably millions of people out there that would love to work from home and not commute.
BJ Fogg: It's just not available to them yet or they don't know how to ask their boss or the company doesn't know how to manage those people. So, let's start where we can and help people who want to do the right thing, and not wring our hands or get distracted by trying to solve everything at once.
Jason Jacobs: Anything that I didn't ask that I should have or any parting words for our listeners?
BJ Fogg: Well, the most basic question, can we change human behavior? And the answer is, yes. Can we change everybody's behavior? No. But I just think we are bringing a piece of the puzzle to the table with behavior change and methods for doing that. And other people need to look and see what they can bring other pieces of the puzzle. And we just got to do what we can do. There's just, I think for many of us, it's probably true for you Jason and probably everybody listening to this or most people listening to this to turn away from this problem and not do what we can, that would be morally wrong.
BJ Fogg: And it would be hard for me to sleep at night, to be teaching a class on eCommerce or trying to get people to buy more stuff and not do something like this. I mean, I think we should stop buying stuff and I think we should instead take our talents and the limited time we have on this planet to do the most good we can.
BJ Fogg: And so Jason, thank you for inviting me and us. Thank you for being on a climate journey and sharing it so openly and bringing a community together. Will, what do you think? What question or topic should we talk about?
William Shan: Well, in terms of parting words, I just wanted to say, yeah, thank you Jason. And if there are things, projects, programs that you're working on or any of your viewers, listeners are working on that you think our Behavior Design tools can be helpful to. This is why we're doing that work because we want to help people at work full time working on climate, spending their precious hours working on this and we want to help you become more effective.
William Shan: So, hopefully keep our eye out for more work coming out of our lab. Keep an eye out for our training. And, the climate problem is huge and I'm so glad that we have people working on it in this way.
Jason Jacobs: When should listeners be on the lookout for that training and where might they go to find it?
William Shan: So, the next training will probably start in the first quarter of 2020, sometime in January. People can sign up to hear news about that @behaviordesign.info/climateaction and if for whatever reason that doesn't work out. Our goal is by this summer, summer of 2020 we want to have an ad scale, no cost to anybody version of our training available for any full time climate professional to participate in. So, keep yours eyes out for that as well.
BJ Fogg: And you can sign up now. I mean just go to that page that we'll talked about. Share your name and email address and we'll keep you posted.
Jason Jacobs: I think it's awesome guys. For what it's worth, I think you are the masters of this craft and you're actively racking your brain and running experiments and trying to mobilize to take the things that you do and make them help on this important problem. And so, I think if we do nothing else other than to get more people that are the masters of their craft, to think the same way that you guys are, then we'll be in a much better.
BJ Fogg: Right on. Thank you so much. Thanks Jason, and thanks Will. Now back to work. Back to your homework.
Jason Jacobs: Thanks guys.
William Shan: Thanks, Jason. Thanks BJ.
Jason Jacobs: Hey everyone. Jason here. Thanks again for joining me on My Climate Journey. If you'd like to learn more about the journey, you can visit us @myclimatejourney.co. Note, that is .co not .com. Someday, we'll get to .com, but right now, .co. You can also find me on Twitter @JJacobs22 where I would encourage you to share your feedback on the episode, or suggestions for future guests you'd like to hear. And before I let you go, if you enjoyed the show, please share an episode with a friend or consider leaving a review on iTunes. The lawyers made me say that. Thank you.