My Musings

August 24, 2011

BJ Fogg and the science of Behaviour Design

Fogg explains the Behavior Model

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a workshop facilitated by Dr BJ Fogg around how to make people do whatever it is that you want them to do.

No, this wasn’t some weird “unleashing the monster within” Anthony Robbins style session. Instead, Fogg preaches the use of behaviour design methodologies to understand the psychology behind why people perform certain actions, and then by applying these principles, persuading people to take the path of action required to reach whatever your preferred outcome may be.

BJ Fogg

Fogg runs the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford university. He devotes 50% of his time to Stanford and 50% to industry innovation.

For me, working in both worlds makes sense: My Stanford work makes me better in industry. And what I learn in industry improves my Stanford research. Because of this blend, I’m able to blaze new trails and discover new things (and that’s fun).

Aside from pioneering behaviour design Fogg is probably best known for a class he taught at Stanford in 2007. His class concept was pretty simple; all the two dozen students needed to do was a design and deliver a new application for Facebook, and push it out to the market within weeks, not months as usually befits more traditional businesses. This lack of time and resources gave way to a new concept in the tech entrepreneurial world – the idea of the Lean Start-up.

This approach to development; building on a shoe string budget, releasing something – anything – and then perfecting later is now the norm for any small team attempting to get a new web app released and online.

The Behavior Model

The BJ Fogg Behavior Model (used with permission)

But back to behavior design… Fogg has developed a way to measure whether someone will do what you would like them to do. The Fogg Behavior Model show that for a person to be persuaded to perform an action they need to motivated to do so, or else the action needs to be very simple. To break it down, the elements of Motivation, (ease of) Ability, and a Trigger must converge at the exact same moment. If one of these elements is missing the action will not occur.

Consider the example of donating money to charity. Imagine you are stopped on the street and asked to sign-up for to a monthly ongoing donation. Even if this was a cause you were passionate about (highly motivated), the ability required to fill out multiple forms and provide bank debit details would probably be enough to ensure you keep on walking.

Now what would happen if instead of being asked to complete multiple pages of documentation, you were asked to donate 50cents. Even if the charity was a cause you didn’t really care about (low motivation) the ease of ability in performing the behavior (donating 50 cents) is so high most people will comply regardless.

In both scenarios we can see the required behaviour (B) is the donation of money. The trigger (T) also remains constant; the request for a donation. Only the levels of motivation and ease of ability change.

Putting hot triggers in the path of motivated people

It’s a simple model, but this simplicity is what allows it to be applied to a huge range of everyday situations.

Waiting on someone to sign-off a document? Consider what their motivation might be for doing this. If motivation is low you’ll have to find a way to make it super easy for them to complete the task at hand. Perhaps instead of emailing it across you will get a better result by sitting the person down and walking them through the document.

Check out the video below for a further overview explaining how motivation, ability and trigger can be used to design behaviour change, using Facebook as an example:

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  1. Reply


    August 25, 2011

    Great summary, sir!

    I find the psychology behind intrinsic and extrinsic motivation absolutely fascinating. Excuse me while I whore out a ranty post from a little while ago

  2. Reply

    Annalie Killian

    August 30, 2011

    Wonderful to see BJ's participation in #Amplifyfest in 2009 now amplified through greater reach to diverse Australian communities, and to train 38 AMP innovators!

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