28 October 2014

Smart Heuristics: When to Change your Summer Tyres with the Winter Ones

A few years ago, in my country of birth – Romania – a new regulation was introduced regarding the use of winter-tyres. The initial regulation stated that it was mandatory to use winter-tyres starting with November 1st each year.

From a purely meteorological point of view, the November 1st date was not accurate. Non-Romanians should know that the weather is quite tricky in the sense that in some years the first snow comes as early as October, while, in other years the weather can be fine till January. In addition, Romania is a rather large country and with a diverse landscape – mountains, fields, hills and seaside. Naturally the weather is very different across the country.

So, our legislators wanted to make a more efficient and accurate regulation. Thus, the new regulation says that winter-tyres are mandatory whenever there is snow or ice on the roads.

From a rational point of view, the new regulation is very accurate and makes perfect sense. If there is snow / ice, use winter-tyres regardless of the season, area etc.

However, a lot of people remember that they have to change the summer-tyres with the winter ones shortly before November 1st.  The police, however, applies the law and not seldom people get fined for not having winter-tyres whenever it snows before November 1st.

Although the existing regulation – use winter-tyres whenever there is snow or ice – is correct, it has the downside of being difficult to understand and, most importantly, it is difficult to conform to. The old regulation with a clear deadline (November 1st) was much more “user friendly”. People simply could plan for the behaviour (going to the car-shop).

My proposition is to create a smart heuristic (at least in my view) by associating the change from summer tyres to winter ones with the change of time – from summer time to winter time.

In most of Europe, we change the time on the last weekend of October. On that magical 25 hours Sunday we can sleep more. The regulators (legislators) can use this event as a reference date for changing the summer with the winter tyres.

In the public’s mind, this event is already associated with change – we have to change the time on our clocks and watches – and it is associated with the change from summer to winter.

Change the time – change the tyres.

24 October 2014

Two Metaphors on Applied Behavioural Science

Metaphor 1:

Behavioural Science is for Practice (business, public 
service etc.) like a Gold Mine!

However, do not expect to find in a (gold) mine gold bullions (i.e. gold bars).

What you will find is Gold Ore, which needs to be extracted, cleaned, and refined. This is not as easy as picking up a gold bar.

Metaphor 2:

Applying Behavioural Science in Practice is like
(having) Sex.

It’s fun, It’s jolly and it’s amazing.

This is true even if you are working without any specific (customer) insight on the issue that you’re aiming to improve.  

At the same time, if you have the customer insight,

Applying Behavioural Science is  

Like (having) Sex with Another Person.

8 October 2014

Paving the Cow-Paths for Public Urination

Without any doubt public urination is nasty. It’s icky, it stinks and, when taken to a large scale, it’s a health hazard. Yet, so many, usually men, still do it. I guess, the main “engine” of public urination is beer or other alcoholic drinks that mess with the part of the brain which controls urination.

In old city centres (though not only) there is another hazard of public urination, namely the damage brought to the historical buildings. Urine is corrosive and when thousands of litters are “poured” on 400 year old bricks, there is a slow, but sure erosion of the bricks.

Inventive, as always when it comes to managing vices, the Dutch came up with the “open air urinal”. Not particularly elegant and with very little privacy – but who cares about privacy after 20 beers – they do the job.

Open air urinal in The Hague (Den Haag) city center. Most interestingly, during the day these urinals are hidden underground and risen at night.

Open air urinal in The Hague (Den Haag) city center while hidden during the day.

Open air urinal in Scheveningen (beach near The Hague).

1 October 2014

Paving the Cow Paths for Smokers

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on Paving the Cow Paths - helping people do what they want while minimizing the damage. Paving the Cow-Paths: The Demise of Idealism and the Pathway to Pragmatism 

Here are some nice examples of Paving the Cow Paths for smokers while minimizing the litter and keeping smoking in one place. 

These pictures were taken outside an office building in Rotterdam The Netherlands

These pictures were taken at the Train Station in Utrecht The Netherlands.