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Fun Theory

This week, I came across the following link from Volkswagen:

The fun theory says that people’s behaviour can be changed by offering positive incentives:  make it fun to do the right thing, and folks will do it more often. So they sponsored a contest with a 2500 prize to see what ideas people could come up with themselves. The winner, along with many entries, sought a fun way to get people to obey the speed limit. {The winner’s version has obedient drivers eligible to win a lottery gleaned from the speeding fines of the violators.} Another idea (I think it was done by the Volkswagen engineers as an example) was to encourage people leaving the subway to take the stairs rather than the escalator up to street level. This was accomplished by turning the stairs into large piano keys, so they played a note as each was stepped on. The video of the change in behaviour is amazing.

This has really captured my imagination. Not only did VW come up with a great idea, they sought input on making it happen from the very people they want to influence. Why try to guess what motivates people if you can get them to tell you themselves by unleashing their imagination on a problem?

I plan to incorporate this somehow in my labs. At next week’s staff meeting, I will show them the site and get them working on it, and then expand it to include the students. I’m thinking about offering a gift card or something to the student with the best idea.

We have a number of areas where improvement would be great: wearing their safety goggles in lab, properly disposing of their chemical waste, reading the texts, and so on. The key to fun theory is that it must be automatic in determining when the behaviour is done and then in giving the reward.

I have to admit one struggle I have with the concept. I’m old-fashioned enough that I tend to believe that we should not reward people for doing what is expected, rather when they exceed expectations. However, when training someone to follow the expectations, it is appropriate to reward steps toward building the habit of the expected behaviour. The trick is to not make them dependent on the reward in order to meet the expectation.

I’ll keep you posted on how it ‘plays’ out.

Admin note:  the Twitter feed is working, so you can follow me on Twitter @ScholRed, and receive tweets when new material is posted. Also, the Feedburner email subscription is working. I appreciate all of you taking the time to check in here. We are approaching 2000 hits to the blog, and several other blogs link to this site. I’ll be returning the favor this weekend!


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