Behavioral change by Corona

If you had read this headline in 2019, your first reaction would probably have been: “Have you drunk too much Mexican beer and done weird things?” It can go so quickly that the association we now have with the word Corona completely has changed. What else will change in the post-Corona era? An exploration.

The question that has preoccupied me since the beginning of the Corona crisis is our behavioral change. How can we influence people’s behavior so that we do the “right thing”? In the short term, an entire population will have to adjust its habits and step into the governmental guidelines. Voluntarily. In the medium term, a population must feel comfortable with the guidelines and adhere to the ‘social contract’ that the government wants to conclude with its population. And the most important question for me is about the long term: “Is the Corona crisis going to change the behavior of the population?”.

A number of conditions must be met in order to achieve behavioral change. There must be high motivation. Positive like fun, hope and acceptance of others. Or negative motivation such as pain, fear or (social) rejection. Besides motivation is the ability to change an important second factor. Think of money, time, the degree of routine and the mental and physical effort that we take to show a certain behavior.

And there must be an incentive that, so to speak, drives motivation and the ability to change. For example, a crisis, but also simple incentives such as an e-mail at the right time, an action by a company that you can join or someone who stimulates you at the right time. The above comes from one of the most interesting behavioral models of the moment, widely used by tech companies. The Fogg Behavior Model (FBM) shows that the best chance of changing behavior in the top right quadrant is “successful triggers.”

An application of this model to 4 frequently mentioned Post-Corona behaviors and effects:

  • Finally accepting tech solutions for working from home and schools;
  • Out of traffic, working @home
  • Local production chains
  • Personal health
  1. Acceptance of tech solutions. We now see that it is technically possible to work from home, only not with children arround. So there is a high ability. But what is the motivation to work at home more often, in the post-corona era? Positive or negative motivation? Schools are finally going digital. The masters and teachers are getting rid of their ICT fear and are going completely crazy. The ability is there. But what would be the motivation? And perhaps more importantly, the trigger? What is urgency over a few months?
  2. We are saving so much time. We don’t travel, are therefore are more effective and of course environmentally friendly. We have to keep that up! A positive motivation to travel less. The ability is also high due to the time saving and due to the degree of routine. So what we need to find in the post-Corona are the right incentives to make the behavior permanent. Here is a role for the employers.
  3. Wanting to tender more locally because we have a too vulnerable supply chain. Let’s assume that local is often just a bit more expensive but better in quality. A nice thought, motivating too. We enjoy purchasing local products and also want to belong to that group that consciously does so. But a recession has been predicted, money is running out and fear also plays a role. And what trigger can we use to turn this intention into actual behavior?
  4. If the Corona has taught us one thing, it is that personal health is very important. The virus apparently attaches itself to fat, so overweighed people are at greater risk. Are we going to become much healthier very quickly in the post-corona era? Healthy living is a trend that has been around for a long time, specific among the highly educated. You can expect that the motivation for a healthy life is now even higher. The ability also there. Now the incentive: what incentives are needed to take action? For example, stimulating the bicycle as a means of transport for commuting if we do not work from home? I expect that limited access to care for unhealthy people would have much more effect than any incentive. This is of course not socially acceptable.

Never waste a good crisis, therefore especially questions and fewer answers in the above. It is attractive to think beyond. How can we use the lessons of this time in shaping the society of the future? Which behavior of a civilian, government and company fits in with this? And how do we create lasting change? My next 2 blogs will be scenarios of what a post-corona era looks like from 2 different perspectives.

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