Some forms of simplicity are pure genius. Therein lies the lesson for all you travel managers who wrestle with travel policy issues. After all, it’s not changing the words in the policy that matters – it’s changing people’s behavior. Let’s learn from Starbucks how a simple chalkboard can be the centerpiece of a massive campaign to change people’s behavior.
Starbucks knew it had a sustainability problem created by the tons of paper cups it sold. A year ago it opened the problem to the public by creating the Betacup challenge. It’s goal was to reduce the number of paper cups consumed.
Suggestions poured in from all over the world. Many focused on a narrow version of the problem – making the paper cup more eco-friendly. The 3rd-place winner suggested making cups from rice husks.
The second-place winner re-framed the problem as a consumer behavior issue. It called for customers to use elastic bands with a barcodes that could be placed around your re-usable coffee mug. Each time you brought your mug into Starbucks, you’d get your band scanned, earn rewards and some social recognition. Better, because it promotes the desired behavior of using re-usable mugs, but difficult to implement.
The first-place winner went amazingly low-tech. The solution requires each store to put a “Karma” chalkboard near the register. Every customer who buys coffee in their re-usable mug gets to put a mark on the chalkboard. After every tenth mark, Starbucks give the next customer in line a freebie.
Why is this solution so powerful? It engages the customers (think travelers) in a very positive way. They get some immediate public recognition from other customers for doing good. Even better, it reinforces the desired behavior to the customers around the do-gooders when they see someone mark the chalkboard. Perhaps best, it creates a sense of shared involvement by rewarding a customer lucky enough to be in line right after the tenth mark was made on the chalkboard.
So how can you apply the lesson of simplicity to your travel behavior problems? The Starbucks challenge teaches us a few things:
- Keep it really simple
- Solve the behavior problem, not the container problem
- Make it easy for people to do the right thing
- Make good behavior easy to recognize
- Reward good behavior, but not necessarily the good-behaving person
- Create a sense of a shared solution
- You can solve big problems with a technology budget of zero
So back to the world of travel policy and change management. The biggest challenge most travel managers face is getting travelers to do the right thing. Who out there can translate some of these Starbucks lessons into an innovative solution for improving policy compliance?
Grab a cup of coffee, give it some thought, and post your ideas. I’ll send a $15 Starbucks gift card to each author of three most interesting ideas. Deadline is July 7th. The contest is open to anyone, anywhere. Send this link to your friends and colleagues. Post your ideas here.
Come on, give it a shot!
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