Nudging People’s Behavior

Accountability Communication Teamwork


Key Point: How can you and I change people’s behavior? Well it’s a trick question, because of course; we can’t change people’s behavior. We can only change our own behavior. However, we can help people make better choices and act in ways that lead them toward their desired outcomes.

Victoria Fener is a co-founder of, a firm dedicated to applying behavioral economics and related tools for better outcomes. She recently spent some time with our team and shared some important insights.  

Fener notes how research shows that people behave in irrationally, but somewhat predictable ways. The following are a few examples: 

  1. Default choices, like “opting out” work better than “opting in.” For example, if you wanted permission from people to allow for organ donations, the results are much better if people can intentionally opt out versus intentionally opting in. We are kind of lazy.
  1. Loss aversion is more powerful than the equivalent gain. Most us would take stronger action to avoid losing an already awarded free plane ticket than do something to earn an equivalent new one.
  1. People are less patient as time decreases. Most of us would rather have one sure thing immediately, than more of the same if we waited. This is the “bird in the hand versus two in the bush” idea.
  1. Most of us are more attracted to winning experiences than cash. Research shows more of us would rather buy lotto tickets to win a dream home or safari, than tickets for the cash equivalent. 
  1. Framing is a vital component when helping people make choices. For example, if we knew there was a possibility that 600 people would die and we were given two options. A: Saves 200 people, or B: 400 people die. Most of us would choose A. Of course, 400 people die either way, but framing the positive “saving” option is more appealing.
  1. We do better with a head start even when the distance is the same. If we had one of those stamp cards where we get a free drink after buying 10, we would be more likely to use a card requiring 12 drinks but with two free stamps already on it, than one with 10 and no free stamps. Of course, in either case, one has to buy 10 to get a free drink, but we do better with a little success already built in.
  1. We are biased by what we’ve recently seen or heard. If a 20 percent tip option is put in front of us, we are likely to choose that versus tipping at our own discretion. Our mind tricks our body a little when the sub-conscience is influenced, hence subliminal messaging. 

All of us design things, and therefore we become architects in impacting choices people make. We are recognizing more and more that information and knowledge alone do not necessarily help us change. Nutrition knowledge and obesity trends validate that. We often know what we should or would like to do, AND still need a nudge. If not, we’d all be skinny with six pack abs.

Character Moves:

  1. Really dig into understanding “what’s really in it for ourselves and the other person” to help us better understand how to help and encourage a desired outcome. Remember, we need to be humble enough to appreciate that knowledge and information does not automatically lead people to better outcomes. Of course understanding “why” is vital, but not necessarily sufficient.
  1. Invest in understanding behavioral economics and recognize the importance of design and choice architecture. Learn how to give people a positive nudge. When we combine knowledge with experience and choice design, then people will be more motivated to change… Including developing new habits. Design intentionality and choice architecture are going to get a lot more attention than they have before. Get ahead of the curve. 

Nudging in The Triangle, 

One Millennial View: As a Millennial, I’m aware it’s my generation that would be the first to challenge this… “How dare you challenge my behaviors? Where’s my safe space?” Blah blah blah. But really, we all know a million ways we’d like to improve ourselves. It just comes down to whether we’re willing to curb our laziness, selfishness, fears, comfort, routines, etc. in order to walk toward what we know will be a tough, uneasy, unpredictable journey. It’s scary, but this is where that whole “no one told you it would be easy” comes to play. And we could all benefit from a positive nudge.

– Garrett

All of Us on Highway 63

Abundance Community


Key Point: Alberta Provincial Highway No. 63 is a north and southbound highway running through northern Alberta, Canada. Much of Highway 63 passes through boreal forest, farmland and aspen parkland as far as Wandering River. The highway passes through the Athabasca Oil Sands between Fort McMurray and Fort MacKay. Over the years, extensive folklore has emerged surrounding Highway 63.

Most of the lore is based on crazy, often tragic driving experiences because vehicles of every shape and size perpetually hurl to and fro on 63, regardless of road conditions. While the peaks and valleys associated with a commodity like oil have had an impact on underlying stories related to the millions of road trips, in most cases, 63’s asphalt has been an “opportunity driven” route. The rides have been related to the fortunes associated with the world famous (or infamous depending on your viewpoint) oil sands. 

However, during the last few days, Highway 63 has become a hellish one-way escape route from Fort Mac, as more than 80,000 people have had to literally run for their lives, from one of the most devastating fires in Canadian history. There are too many incredible stories connected to the mass evacuation to replay here. But, one common theme has emerged from this disaster. 

Rising well beyond the despair and thick smoke, is the overwhelming generosity and compassion that the majority of people have displayed under the most unimaginably difficult of circumstances. While we all have a selfish “survival first” instinct, I believe a crises that threatens people and property can serve up moments of truth that also brings out our very best individual and collective behavior. The examples of people giving and sharing during this terrifying exodus are remarkable and awe inspiring. People who have lost everything, watched their homes burn in the rear view mirror, still share the little they have left with neighbors and strangers. People reaching out for each other in a loving, helping way will re-make Ft. McMurray. It will become richer in a more profound way. 

Over the last three years I’ve watched Albertans respond to both devastating floods, and now fires that have just crushed communities. The one thing that has been constant is exceptional human care and generosity. Though nature’s wrath has made “things” disappear, it has also ignited a spirit of abundance. The price of oil and gas may dramatically fluctuate, but the spirit of generosity and abundance is priceless.  It makes me proud to be an Albertan. 

Character Moves:

  1. While a crisis brings us together and makes the agenda of what’s “really important” so very clear, I wonder how we might make that spirit a more regular part our daily “normal lives.” I believe we all want a sense of abundance to define our workplaces and communities, and wish we didn’t need disasters to be awakened to that simple idea.
  1. Highway 63 is perhaps a metaphor. Our seemingly “clear road to prosperity,” can also one day serve as an escape route, as we leave the things we feel compelled to collect, abruptly behind. A humbling “fire or flood” is always lurking. The one redeeming outcome seems to be a spirit of generosity and abundance that helps us get back on the road and simply keep driving.

The abundant people of Fort Mac in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Thanks to the U.S. media’s main focus on the political climate in the United States, I barely saw footage of this crisis till today. But after seeing the clips, I was in awe of the apocalyptic-like inferno. Through the smoke, you could still see the courage, abundance and strong will of those that escaped. Literally no one has been hurt? That’s incredible. It’s reported that the fire is thankfully dying down, but thoughts and prayers to the folks in Fort McMurray are quickly spreading far and wide.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Intimacy at Work

Accountability Community Organizational culture


Key Point: People mostly appreciate when I’m authentic and vulnerable as a leader. In some ways, I find that surprising and counterintuitive to the mythical “strong, silent” leader type. And I recognize that we all want to be loved and experience intimacy, including at work. Hmm. I realize I might be causing some discomfort for some of you. However, as work and life becomes fully integrated, it is logical that love and intimacy are fair game topics.

If we’re honest, we accept and recognize that we as humans all want to feel close and connected to others. (For obvious reasons, I’m excluding physical intimacy at work as part of this blog). I’m talking about the emotional connections and required vulnerability that is part of deepening relationships. 

Most of us think about what is defined as “other-validated intimacy,” – the kind where we feel close or connected with someone else through shared experiences, beliefs, ideas or feelings. There are inherent flaws with relying exclusively on “other-validated intimacy” though.  At work, like in different parts of our lives, we are going to run into people or moments where we just don’t “get” each other. If other-validated intimacy is the only kind we know, then we are likely going to end to up feeling disconnected. Therefore, relationships can become shallower instead of deeper. 

So some psychologists are encouraging us to be aware of and apply another type of intimacy: Self Directed. Jodie Milton is an intimacy coach, writer, speaker and Co-Founder of Your Primal Essence. She has published a thought provoking article on the matter. The following are her key points:

“Self-validated intimacy is created when you reveal yourself to someone. It’s the very act of revealing that creates the intimacy. The response of others, whether they agree or disagree or are completely ambivalent, is not what matters. It’s that you’re choosing to share yourself, warts, beauty spots and all, with another. It’s your vulnerability, your courage and your openness that creates the intimacy…

Self-validated intimacy requires you to validate yourself. To know that regardless of whether or not your experiences, thoughts, feelings or ideas are shared, that they are indeed still valid. That you are valid. It means holding onto yourself as you strip down and bare it all, so that you may be more fully and completely known. And then continuing to hold onto yourself no matter what the response… We must reveal ourselves as a powerful statement of self-appreciation, whilst also opening ourselves to the possibility of truly being known.”

The reason I’m putting this on the table is that the thirst for authenticity in the work place is higher than ever. I’m not talking about everyone running around bleating out all kinds of personal, “crazy” things that may be best left unsaid. However, there are those moments when in order to deepen the relationship we need to take our own self directed step towards intimacy with teammates and others.  

Character Moves:

  1. Intimacy and authenticity as the path to deepening relationships deserves some personal reflection. Think about how, and when you might reveal a little more of your authentic self at work.
  1. Milton provides examples of topics to practice to get you started:

The thing I’m most scared of right now is…

What I most want you to know about me is…

The biggest challenge I’m facing in my life right now is…

The point as Milton emphases is, “If you want to go deeper in your relationship, this is the perfect place to start. Feel into an area of your life where you want to be seen, and then go ahead and reveal yourself.”

  1. Be aware: If you’re going to take a step in the self-directed area, do not necessarily expect reciprocation. This is being self-accountable and self-accepting of you and how you feel.

Self-Directed Intimacy in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Haha, y’know it’s tough enough for me to find someone at work I’d like to go to Happy Hour with, let alone dispense a bunch of personal information to. However, I’m certainly envious of those who do work in more tightly knit environments with co-workers they can also refer to as friends. Sometimes I long for a bonding work trip, or required retreat, but that’s not a reality where I work. One day in the future, I hope that changes for me. And I don’t mean that as a “boo-hoo” story, my team is just very small and we all lead extremely different lives. That’s ok too! But, if you can work with a band of buddies, I can only imagine that is ideal. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis