Remember the sales contest from the movie, Glengarry Glen Ross?

“First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado….Third prize is you’re fired.”

We seem to think that, in order to motivate people, we need both a carrot and stick. Reward or punishment.  And yet, if we want people to change behaviors on a sustained basis, there’s only one method that works: the carrot.

One core concept I learned while applying behavior-design practices to cyber security awareness programming was that, if you want sustained behavior change (such as reducing phish susceptibility), you need to design behaviors that make people feel positive about themselves.

The importance of positive reinforcement is one of the main components of the model developed by BJ Fogg, the founder and director of Stanford’s Behavior Design Lab. Fogg discovered that behavior happens when three elements – motivation, ability, and a prompt – come together at the same moment. If any element is missing, behavior won’t occur.

I worked in collaboration with one of Fogg’s behavior-design consulting groups to bring these principles to cyber security awareness. We found that, in order to change digital behaviors and enhance a healthy cyber security posture, you need to help people feel successful. And you need the behavior to be easy to do, because you cannot assume the employee’s motivation is high.

Our program is therefore based on positive reinforcement when a user correctly reports a phish and is combined with daily exposure to cyber security awareness concepts through interactive lessons that only take 4 minutes a day.

To learn more about our work, you can read Stanford’s Peace Innovation Lab article about the project.

The upshot is behavior-design concepts like these will not only help drive change for better cyber security awareness; they can drive change for all of your other risk management programs too.

There are many facets to the behavior design process, but if you focus on these two things (BJ Fogg’s Maxims) your risk management program stands to be in a better position to drive the type of change you’re looking for:

1) help people feel good about themselves and their work

2) promote behaviors that they’ll actually want to do

After all, I want you to feel successful, too.

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