As human beings, we make decisions in the most peculiar ways. Decisions are influenced from a variety of sources and internal mechanisms. It is my theory that decisions form the basis for sustainable consumer engagement in healthcare so if we wish to achieve sustainable engagement, we must understand what makes us tick – what makes us decide to do things. I always thought of the mind as a balance of analytic and emotion components with emotional components having the greatest influencing power. But I have learned there is much more to it and this increases the complexity of decision-making and makes engagement more difficult to understand. It is interesting to explore the need for decision mapping so we may understand what influences and engages people.
Decision mapping will be a key to understanding how we influence and engage people.
Most of us understand that many decisions we make are based on emotion, such as buying a car or clothes. Many companies use the coolness factor to influence a decision. Advertising plays off of this premise so we buy products based on emotional context instead of actual product content. With regard to health, not many of us actually read the contents of food products we buy at the supermarket so packaging and brand influences most of our purchase decisions. Consumerism plays a huge role in decision making so we look for products that are convenient and easy to prepare. These products satisfy an emotional need for comfort and simplicity even if the decision is … I made my life easier.
At the recent Next Edge Health Experience Summit in Philadelphia, I talked with a fellow speaker, Philip Graves, about his point of view that healthcare needs to consider the unconscious mind for engagement. He also said we cannot understand what it takes to make each one of us engage since we are so unique. The unconscious mind is an important part of the decision-making process and, like snowflakes, our unconscious minds are unique to each of us. Philip says influences come from habits, rewards, associations and social proof. We make decisions in this area before they even get to the conscious mind for emotional or analytic review. We tend to do what is expected by others and conform to an acceptable norm.
Another major influence on decision-making is our physical bodies. In a chat with Dennis Robbins during the Next Edge event, we were walking along the waterfront and talking about health and the importance of person-centric care. I mentioned that our bodies seemed to know what to eat when we need essential minerals or compounds. We get a craving that fires off an action to consume spinach for its iron or bananas for their potassium. I believed craving stimulates the mind to make a decision, but Dennis said the physical body bypasses the analytic and emotional decision part of our brain and we go from physical body right to action … we immediately decide to eat something to satisfy a physical need. The physical body is a real time trigger for decisions.
Now to make matters more complex, I see us as making multiple decisions every second. I call them micro-decisions and the 5 plus decisions made every second makes up a decision stream. Micro-decisions may be thought of as seeing a color and deciding on whether you like it, seeing something and deciding to view it more closely, or seeing a person and deciding whether to talk to them and then another decision fires immediately about the topic to talk about. You get the basic idea. In reality, we make a lot of decisions all the time and most of them are small micro-decisions. As discussed earlier, decision influencers are the mind (conscious analytic, conscious emotional, unconscious), physical body, and soon to come … IoT. There is only so much bandwidth available in the mind-body to accommodate decisions so if we are to engage someone is a healthy behavior, we need influencers to be inserted into the decision stream as a priority over something else already in the stream. Whether that means squeezing out micro-decisions to make room for substantial important health decisions or raise the priority of health decisions in the stream. I could say that micro-decisions add clutter and impedes our ability to prioritize and focus on what is important so losing a few may make us saner in the long run.
When we add connected devices, IoT, to the mix, we will probably see more decisions made through devices … yes, decisions made for us as we enter a new digital evolution wave of Controlled Living. The connected devices feed off of our body’s data and these semi-intelligent devices will trigger a response or decision to do something. This can simplify a saturated decision-stream by routing micro-data to devices for decision-making so we don’t have to think about it. This certainly fits into the key tenets of consumerism – convenience and easy. The implications cause some concern. While I like the idea of reducing errors through rules-based connected devices, I want important health or personal decisions to be made by my emotional, unconscious, crazy mind. Oh, maybe it is better to have devices make micro-decisions. I am not shedding the 10 pounds I need to lose by my present method of decision-making. I need a kick in the butt by a digital coach. In the years to come, IoT will play a larger role in decision-making so my question is, what will drop out of the decision stream to accommodate it? Scary question.
Five Decision Influencers
DECISION EXPERIENCE AND MAPPING
As people, it is our habit to focus more on our health after something goes terribly wrong. The analytic and emotional parts of the mind start to play a larger role in decision-making. We start to eat more healthy foods after a heart attack or stop eating so much sugar after being diagnosed with diabetes. We need other influencers in the early stages of potential health conditions that are not as drastic as a major health event. If we want to influence decisions and engage people in better health habits, we need to understand their decision streams and what influences their decisions to engage people in healthy behaviors. Customer experience and user experience does not cover this. I think I created a new term … Decision Experience (DX). Decision mapping may be the next big thing and I cover some of this as the 4 key steps to decision-making in my book, Commercializing Consumer Engagement. Decision mapping identifies triggers and influencers along the path of engagement for people.