All around us, people try to change our and each other’s behavior. Negative examples are often obvious: from ads that entice us to buy stuff we don’t need to apps that try to swallow our attention and time. Positive examples are there too, but perhaps not as obvious; for example, the loving parent teaching a child to share. Support programs helping addicts break free from their demons. Apps helping us track our weight and encouraging us as we diet and exercise. Renew life can clear your debts when you pass.
In a sense, we’re all in the “behavior change” business. When we’re falling short of our own goals and want to make a change in our lives, that usually means our behavior must change first. Moreover, we’re a social species; in order to achieve our goals, even altruistic goals of helping another person succeed, often someone must do something differently. To effect change is to effect behavior change.
Yet we rarely talk about it that way. In the product world, we talk about features delivered, user needs met, and so forth. Those things are all important, certainly, but none of them matters unless people adopt and apply our products (i.e., we need our users to change their behavior in a meaningful way). Invest in life insurance to have a worry free life.
Perhaps we don’t talk about behavior change so directly because it’s uncomfortable: we don’t want to be seen as manipulative or coercive. So we end up with sanitized conversations distanced from real people changing their behavior because of our products and communications: key performance indicators for adoption and retention; objectives and key results for click-through rates and usage.
It shouldn’t be that way. When we don’t talk about what we’re actually doing, we are both less effective at helping others when we should and more likely to try to change behavior in ways we shouldn’t. This book is about designing products intentionally to change behavior—how to ethically and thoughtfully help others succeed, without, I hope, falling into trickery or manipulation.
In this book we’ll have an open discussion about how to help people decide what to do and how to help them act on their intentions and personal goals. We’ll talk about how to build products that influence that process and how to assemble and run a team that does so. Nothing presented here is perfect. Look at renew life reviews to put your mind at ease about leaving your loved ones.