Useful advice on how to act on your good intentions.
In his debut, Nease, who served as the chief scientist at Express Scripts, a health care company that helps patients make better decisions regarding prescription drugs, describes strategies for improving human behaviors. People “make lousy decisions and behave badly,” he writes, because our brains are “wired for inattention and inertia, not for attention and choice.” Recent research shows that our brains process 10 million bits of information each second, of which only 50 bits are devoted to conscious thought. Most often, we focus on what is most pressing or pleasurable. To encourage positive behaviors, Nease has developed a series of strategies based on the belief that most people want to do the right thing—whether saving money, eating right, exercising more, or being more charitable—but need help acting on those good intentions. The strategies include requiring choice, locking in good intentions, using opt-outs, getting in the flow of people’s attention, reframing choices, piggybacking (making the desired behavior the side effect of something already deemed enjoyable), and simplifying (to make wrong choices more difficult). The author explains the reasoning behind and how to use each strategy, with examples drawn from his own experience as a high-level decision-maker in the health care industry. He stresses the need to use these strategies in combination, as needed, with an emphasis on making preferred choices as simple as possible. For example, to encourage people to climb stairs rather than take an elevator, a stairway must be “easy to find, well illuminated, and visually appealing.” Focusing on activating good intentions that many people already have can be much more effective than trying to change their intentions through education and increased incentives.
Although each strategy is common-sensical in its own right, taken together, they form a thoughtful, easy-to-digest approach for individuals and organizations seeking to foster better choices.