If you haven’t already, check out yesterday’s post how we can vs. why we can’t. Today’s post is a spin off of the influence ideas, and we’ll be looking at how to structure options to get people to choose what you want.

There’s a brilliant guy out there called Dan Ariely. He once did an informal study about options, and I still love referring back to the results. A magazine was offering three options to subscribers.

  • Option A provided online only access for $80.
  • Option B provided paper copies for $150.
  • Option C provided paper copies and online access for $150.

He wanted to study how people responded to those choices, so he offered A, B, and C to his students. They were split between Option A and Option C, with more people choosing the higher price option. Nobody chose option B.

Then he took out option B (less benefits than Option C but at the same price). When he resurveyed on what people would purchase, more people chose option A than option C, reversing the results from the original survey.

The basic premise is offering a third choice that is comparable (both B and C offer paper copies) but somewhat inferior (Option B did not offer online access) will drive people to pay more for the bundled option since it looks like a better deal.

Making it work (at work)

We could take that to the workplace by offering at least three solutions. Option A will solve some of the problems and will be the easiest/cheapest to implement. Option B will solve different problems and will be more costly. Option C will solve both sets of problems but will cost about the same as Option B. If you can structure your choices like that, you’re statistically going to have more people selecting Option C than either other choice.

Here’s an example. We need to fix our health insurance. The vendor is not giving us what we need and we are trying to give our employees the best benefits we can. Our options:

  • A: Add some voluntary coverages to our benefits. This improves our range of benefit offerings with little to no expenditure.
  • B: Change providers to get access to new benefits at an increased cost. This allows us to meet our employees’ benefit needs but doesn’t provide the voluntary coverage.
  • C: Change providers to get access to new benefits at an increased cost and roll the voluntary coverages into the deal. We pay more but are able to meet our employees’ benefits needs and offer a wider range of options as a recruiting and retention tool.

That’s a quick and dirty example, but it’s pretty obvious that if you really want progress, options A and C are the only ones people will want when compared with B. However, if you took B out of the mix, many companies would settle only for offering A since it is the lowest cost.

In other words, you can influence people at work if you structure the options properly. Pretty cool, eh? 

I absolutely love that quote (and the idea behind it). Instead of focusing on excuses or reasons you can’t make something happen, keep searching for ways to do it. Look for opportunities, not limitations. There are already enough people in the world who are ready and willing to tell you how something can’t be accomplished. Let’s work on cultivating more people that look for ways you can be successful. I have a recent example that touches on this to help hammer it home.

None of the above

(By the way, I’ll go ahead and admit that I’m sometimes guilty of this, so I’m preaching to the choir with this one!)

Often times someone will bring two options to their manager to make a decision.

  • Option A will be their own idea. Their pride and joy. And they will spin it to sound like it is the most brilliant idea ever concocted, even if it has some number of negative side effects.
  • Option B will be a terrible idea that nobody would agree with.

As an example: we can either change to this new insurance provider (my idea!) or we can stop providing insurance to our employees and let them all die of horrible diseases before the week is over with (terrible idea).

Make sense? Good.

The point is the employee knows that offering one really great option and one really poor option is going to force the manager to choose. However, the good manager will turn it back on the employee with a response of “none of the above.”

Managers, if you want to do it right, here’s the game plan: Instead of settling for two less-than-ideal options, ask for more. Push them to give you three, four, or five options; ask for at least one more viable idea to level the playing field. Ask why they settled on offering just two. Don’t let them get away with trying to push their own agenda if there is a better option still available.

Again, this illustration is centered around asking your staff to do more than the bare minimum. Don’t let them assume something can’t be done. Don’t let them get away with listing reasons/excuses for why something isn’t possible. Ask them to go further and look at “how we can” options, even if they are a bit far-fetched. You never know when one of those ideas could fit perfectly.

So, confession time. Anyone else out there guilty of either jumping onto the “why we can’t” bandwagon? Or maybe some of you need to challenge your people with more “none of the above” choices? I’d love to hear some stories!

sticking togetherI have been writing the RocketHR blog for almost 18 months now, and at times it’s an interesting existence. I try to write with a little less opinion and silliness that pervades my other blog, because I am not only representing myself but my chapter as well. Recently that got a lot easier as several other SHRM chapters and state councils have started using blogs to reach out to their members and share information. Today we’re going to kick off a rotating series to promote other SHRM blogs and help others to learn more about the best chapter blog in north Alabama. Let’s dig into the good stuff that others have shared!

Greater Cincinnati HR Association

It’s a big question, and we all would love to know: who is the most influential person for 2011? I think you will be surprised by who has the opportunity to make the top of this list in this great post by Steve Browne.

Illinois State Council

We hear a lot about communication these days, but this neat story about communicating up and down the line by Dave Ryan takes us back to a time when tools for sharing were much simpler. While he talks about a method that is old-fashioned, I still love telling people that the best way to be “social” is to pick up the phone!

HR Mouth of the South (HR Florida)

My current employer is really focused on a few things, and one of them is communication. We try to make it more difficult than it really is, but doing it consistently and in a timely manner is the basis for simple communication. This piece by Joyce Chastain will make you stop and think about how you are doing in this area.

Birmingham SHRM

My friends in the Birmingham SHRM chapter have been busy of late, but this post from their archives is one that I really enjoy. Often when we think of relocation, it’s in hard numbers and how things will work for the company. We rarely think about the effect on employees and any potential culture shock from the change.

And there you have it! Four great SHRM blogs that you should check into. Thanks for supporting these other chapters and state councils and for keeping RocketHR going strong!

I signed up for this webinar a few days back and was quite surprised at one of the questions on the attendee survey. Check out the video below for more.

(Subscribers may have to click through to see the video)

Now that you’ve watched the video, take a moment and turn it over in your head. Give it some thought and hit me in the comments. I want to know if you think you are a decision maker or an influencer and why!