BJ Fogg’s Behavior Design Bootcamp: Day 2

Day two of BJ Fogg’s behavior design bootcamp was just as good as day one. I’ve got a lot to share with you, and I’ll do my best to present it in a logical sequence that supports the broader discipline. I’ve organized my learnings as follows:

  • The Psychology Landscape
  • Basic Behavior Design Troubleshooting
  • The Motivation Wave
  • Seven Key Takeaways

The Psychology Landscape

BJ took us through a survey of psychology’s academic landscape to illustrate the provenance of behavior design and its related lines of thought. Here are the high notes:

1. Rhetoric

  • Study of discourse as a mechanism to influence, persuade, and motivate. Aristotle created the first taxonomy of influence.
  • Noteworthy: The Sophists to Cicero, Kenneth Burke, Marshall McLuhan

2. Social Cognitive Theory / Self Efficacy

  • A learning theory based on the idea people learn by watching what others do and will not do.
  • Noteworthy: Alfred Bandura, Carol Dweck

3. Transtheoretical Model

  • People’s readiness to act on new behavior based on the Stages of Change model.
  • Noteworthy: James Prochaska

4. Behavioral Economics

  • How people make choices and/or decisions
  • Noteworthy: Daniel Kahneman, Robert Thaler

5. Persuasion & Influence Techniques

  • The rules that govern decisions we make.
  • Noteworthy: Robert Cialdini, Kelton Rhoads

6. Behaviorism / Operant Conditioning

  • Behavior modified by consequences.
  • Noteworthy: B.F. Skinner, Karen Pryor

 7. Behavior Design

  • Understanding human behavior as a product of motivation, ability, and triggers.
  • Noteworthy: BJ Fogg, Dan Lockton

We did a number of exercises both individually and in group settings that called on the Behavior Design Model we learned the day before as our guide. BJ taught us how we might design a behavior to be easier to induce by introducing the six factors of simplicity. We moved on to motivation by exploring a framework for understanding motivation and its core facets. Then, we conducted a final review of the eight-step behavior design approach. When you take on this approach, however, you may sometimes need to troubleshoot.

Basic Behavior Design Troubleshooting

Maybe its not even worth saying this: things don’t always turn out as planned. Remember, as mentioned in my Day One bootcamp notes, behavior happens when three things converge in the same moment. If a behavior does not happen, at least one of the following elements is missing:


Examine which of the three elements is missing by asking the questions below. Then, change the elements that need to be adjusted in order to elicit the desired behavior.


  • Is the trigger clear?
  • Is the trigger functionally effective?
  • Is the trigger arriving at the right time?


  • Is it doable?
  • Is it perceived to be easy?
  • Can it be perceived to be easier?


  • Can the “side” of the core motivator be changed?
  • Should you change the core motivator altogether?
  • Can you recast the narrative and the messaging “selling” the motivation?

The Motivation Wave

We spent a portion of the afternoon tackling the intriguing concept of “motivation wave”. As you have undoubtedly experienced, motivation comes and goes in waves. Sometimes, you simply feel really motivated –  but other days, you feel no motivation at all. Lucky for us (behavior designers), BJ believes that motivation matters – but that our role as user experience designers is about facilitating behavior change, not taking responsibility for people’s motivation levels.

Here’s how the motivation wave works: When motivation peaks, we’re temporality able to do hard things. When we naturally hit motivation troughs, we find it much more difficult to do hard things or sustain hard behaviors.

It sounds quite obvious. But simple as it sounds, many experiences, interfaces, initiatives, and products have been designed with the assumption that motivation is always up or that we (behavior designers) can easily spike motivation. A better approach is to harness motivation waves and recognize that personal life events shape and drive motivation wave peaks and troughs. Take motivation for personal health and wellness, for example. As a society, we typically hover closer to the bottom of the trough in overall motivation for those types of behaviors. They’re not urgent and they typically don’t produce immediate outcomes, so motivation overall is typically low.

Armed with this insight, our job as behavior designers (as one function of what we do) is to help people succeed on the most desirable behavior (i.e. health, purchasing, etc.) that matches their current motivation level. Again, let’s use health as an example. This concept means that when motivation to be healthy is high, people have three priorities:

  • Priority 1: Do hard things that structure future behavior. Behavior “A” creates the structure for what will be coming next (“B”).
  • Priority 2: Do something hard that makes future behaviors easier. It should be work to avoid the behavior. To get out of the behavior, you have to put in work – structured behaviors make it easier for the next time by setting a default.
  • Priority 3: Do hard things that increase capability. Train the user to become more willing and capable to take on more difficult behaviors.

So, say I’m training for a marathon and I’m experiencing a peak in my motivation. During that motivation peak, I should do things like: sign up with a trainer, commit to a class schedule, pay for my gym membership in advance, get in the gym and test drive some workouts, and lay out my workout schedule for the coming weeks. When motivation is high, the idea is to focus on activities that lay the tracks for structured future behaviors. If I’m struggling through a motivation trough, on the other hand, attempting those behaviors will be futile. Instead, I should facilitate baby steps to build tiny habits that create structured behaviors.

Seven Key Takeaways

Harnessing the motivation wave has a handful of important and useful implications, particularly for experience and interface designers:

  1. Harness whatever motivation exists at the moment. Don’t rely on artificially amping motivation (it rarely works).
  2. Guide people in creating structured behaviors – they will rarely know what to do or how to do it without help.
  3. Focus on baby steps for long term change. Big steps almost always fail.
  4. Trust that tiny habits will grow naturally. Success leads to success – and other good things.
  5. Induce the feeling of success in others. It gives them additional capacity to make more improvements or have continued success.
  6. Be wary of using the phrase “motivate behavior change”. This makes a huge assumption, and it’s usually wrong.
  7. Failing in your user interface makes people less capable of future success. Make sure you design for user success.

There’s still more I want to share with you, but I’ll wrap things up for now. My final post on BJ Fogg’s Behavior Design Bootcamp tomorrow will cover a few more things that I think you’ll find really helpful. I hope the notes thus far will spark a new angle, vantage point, or line of thinking about how you do what you do.

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