In their book, Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein talk about how people are likely to continue a course of action simply because it is the one they are already doing. This status quo bias is not a surprise to anyone trying to influence organizational change! However, when designing change initiatives, we can tap into this phenomenon by setting the default to the behavior we want to see.
For example, is the change something that people need to opt into or opt out of? If the default is that people do not participate and need to sign up (opt in), then research shows that fewer people will participate than when the default is that people are signed up and need to take action to not participate (opt out). People will generally stick with the automatic status they are given.
How might this look in organizational change?
- Scheduling people to attend education or training sessions about the change
- Including every department in the report measuring participation
- Automatically enrolling new employees in the program
- Setting system defaults on the company intranet or other software
When designing your change initiative, consider what the unstated default might be. Then, assess whether that default is the new status quo you would like to create. Set the default to the automatic decision you would like people to make.
To what might you set the default?
Read more of the 99 Ways to Influence Change.