Pick a card, any card (Influence Part 2)

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? 

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