What’s more powerful as a motivation for changing: recognizing the consequences of our actions on ourselves or the consequences our actions may have on others? Adam Grant, in Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World, suggests the latter may be more important.
As you probably know from prior research (e.g., The Checklist Manifesto), hospitals have discovered that they can substantially decrease the incidence of patient’s negative health consequences with one simple action: getting doctors and nurses to wash their hands In a study he and David Hoffman conducted, they wanted to know which of two signs (displayed near soap and gel dispensers), would encourage the health care providers to wash more often:
- “Hand hygiene presents you from catching diseases”
- “Hand hygiene prevents patients from catching diseases.
The first focused on consequences for the provider; the second for the people that the provider serves.
The first sign had no effect. The second increased medical professionals washing 10% and led to 45% more use of soap and gel. Why? Understand the logic of the consequences. In the first, the doctor/nurse thinks about their situation: “I spend a lot of time in the hospital, I don’t always wash and rarely get sick, so they doesn’t affect me.” In other words, we know ourselves, tend to overestimate our invulnerability. In the second case, the question is what should a person like me do in a situation like this?’ The cost-benefit equation isn’t only about one’s probability of getting sick, but what’s right and wrong: do I have a professional and moral obligation to care for patients, especially those I can’t monitor as often as myself.
What’s the implication for you? When you’re presenting a message to the audience – whether in an ad or a presentation – you need to think not just about the immediate message but what else your audience cares about how the message may trigger additional considerations. We saw this phenomenon recently in an ad that Pepsi produced starring Kylie Jenner that upset many people and led them to pull it immediately (see). It’s critical that you go through a two-step process: figure out what you want to say – and be prepared to deliver an authentic message, and then consider the “mental setting” of your audience (be audience-driven) before designing the actual pitch.
Have you gone through similar experiences? Are you concerned about one in the future? Share with us so we can help you deal with your audience’s sensitives.