Tiny Habits

2 minutes estimated reading time

Tiny Habits is an accessible book by behaviour change expert and academic BJ Fogg. Unlike like his first work Persuasive Technology, Fogg’s Tiny Habits is an easier read for the everyman.

About BJ Fogg

I was introduced to the work of BJ Fogg by my colleague Ray Short, who had gone on one of his courses in behaviour change for healthcare that he had run in the US. Fogg is a social scientist who started his research career focusing on ‘Captology’ – short hand for computers as persuasive technology. His courses on captology launched the careers of many of the most successful software product managers and UX designers – including a co-founder of Instagram.

If you dislike ‘swipe right’, you can blame Fogg and his book Persuasive Technology. Fogg’s interests changed to focus on human behaviour change in general. Research at Stanford looks at how behaviour change can help climate change, health, mental health and reducing screen time.

Tiny Habits

Tiny Habits explains BJ Fogg’s lens for designing behaviour change. Rather than thinking about bias’ and how to counteract them, Fogg takes a different approach.

He focuses on small, concrete change. The change is based on three elements:

  • Motivation
  • Ability
  • Prompt

He captures this in a formula

B (behaviour) = MAP

Motivation is contextual and varies in intensity, so can’t be necessarily relied upon

Having a ‘tiny habit change’ reduces the required ability required. In the same way that a project manager would break a project down into much simpler customer elements

Prompt is about timing the change into an existing habit. For example having your multi-vitamins in your bathroom cabinet, to reduce the difficulty of taking the tablet. And then taking the tablet each day after brushing your teeth in the morning.

Tiny Habits breaks this process down so that customers and marketers can apply the process, and, also teach it to family members, colleagues or customers. In this respect, it’s much easier to manage than a counter-bias based approach.

I could see this being particularly powerful wen combined with Phil Graves AFECT consumer research approach:

A – Analysis of behavioural data. Does the research look at consumer behaviour or not? If it doesn’t look at some aspect of consumer behaviour, it isn’t valuable.
F – Where the consumers in the right frame of mind? Where they observed whilst in a retail experience, making a purchase?
E – Environment. What is the context of the content. Research that isn’t observational / behavioural in nature should at least be done where retail decisions happen. Environment is bound together with frame of mind. 
C – Covert study. Being aware of being observed affects behaviour. Think about the use of close circuit TV and fisheye mirrors to try and prevent casual shoplifting. 
T – Timeframe. Did the timeframe of the study match the timeframe that consumers would typically use themselves?

More on Tiny Habits here; and more book reviews here.