Start at the End: How to Build Products That Create Change

Start at the End: How to Build Products That Create Change

by Matt Wallaert


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Nudge meets Hooked in a practical approach to designing products and services that change behavior, from what we buy to how we work.

Deciding what to create at modern companies often looks like an episode of Mad Men: people throw ideas around until one sounds sexy enough to execute and then they scale it to everyone. The result? Companies overspend on marketing to drive engagement with products and services that people don't want and won't help them be happier and healthier.

Start at the End offers a new framework for design, grounded in behavioral science. Technology executive and behavioral scientist Matt Wallaert argues that the purpose of everything is behavior change. By starting with outcomes instead of processes, the most effective companies understand what people want to do and why they aren't already doing it, then build products and services to bridge the gap.

Wallaert is a behavioral psychologist who has led product design at organizations ranging from startups like Clover Health to industry leaders such as Microsoft. Whether dissecting the success behind Uber's ridesharing service or Flamin' Hot Cheetos, he underscores with clarity and humor how this approach can improve the way we work and live.

This is an essential roadmap for building products that matter—and changing behavior for the better.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525534426
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/11/2019
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 782,629
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Matt Wallaert is a behavioral scientist and entrepreneur working at the intersection of technology and human behavior, designing products and programs that help people live happier, healthier lives. After leaving academia to build and sell several successful startups, he became Microsoft's Behavioral Scientist and a director at Microsoft Ventures. He is now the Chief Behavioral Officer at Clover Health, a Medicare Advantage plan changing the model of insurance by bending the risk curve with behavioral change. He speaks frequently on the intersection of science and product design and continues to build side projects designed to change behaviors around social inequities.

Read an Excerpt

Humans are born behavioral scientists. From our very first cry, we begin to shape what others do by exerting pressure— bawl and they feed us, coo and they snuggle us. And we are similarly shaped by the pressures of others. We’re taught how to speak, dress, and act both explicitly and implicitly, through millions of subtle interactions with people and our environment. We change the behavior of others nat­urally and constantly, simply by being alive and part of a larger population.
This natural tendency toward behavior change manifests as our creative drive. Because we’re wired to influence what others do, we’re constantly creating to get what we want. As a consequence, nearly everything we come in contact with is constructed to shape behavior. Sidewalks tell us to walk here and not there. Movies tell us to laugh or to cry. Wearing a tie says, “Call me Mr. Tibbs!” while a Hawaiian shirt elicits a first name.

Yet we rarely connect our desire to create with the goal of behavior change. At most companies, the decision- aking process behind what we build still looks like an episode of Mad Men: people, generally white and male and lacking any expertise other than privilege, throw ideas out until one of them sounds sexy enough, and that’s what gets built. The rationalization is entirely post hoc, created simply to support an idea that a decision maker has already fallen in love with.

Hence the modern “why we make what we make” vision statement. No mention of behavior, no acceptance of the goal of creation, just a mélange of high- ef puff pieces designed to appeal to our need to both stand out and fit in. Even at com­panies that ought to know better, we have fetishized the pro­cess over its outcome and a stylish product over its intended behavior change. Then we attempt to make up for it by shout­ing as loudly as possible about how cool our products are, hoping to create a motivation where none previously existed. What an awful waste.
Advertising accounts for more than 1 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product: $220 billion of spend to compensate for a process that doesn’t consider behavior change its central aim. Instead of basic psychology, we use brute force to fuel a massive competition for attention, and our world is worse off because of it. Instead of starting at the end— clearly de­scribed behavior that is the explicit goal of creation— ur method of design has come to embrace the sexy sell and the need to sound good instead of be good. We have so deeply internalized product marketing that we make products with the advertisements in mind.

If that sounds great and you still want to live in a Mad Men world, it’s not too late to turn a blind eye. No one is forcing you to read this book and start changing behavior. Amazon has a very generous return policy. I encourage regifting— t is the ultimate environmentalism.

But if you believe this system is unsustainable and want to get busy doing something different, good news: you’ve come to the right place. Here we’ll prioritize outcome over process, while recognizing that some processes get you better out­comes. We’ll put behavior change first by starting at the end.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction xv

Part 1 The Basics of Behavior Change

1 The Intervention Design Process 3

2 Potential Insights and Insight Validation 13

3 Behavioral Statement 27

4 Pressure Mapping and Pressure Validation 51

5 Intervention Design and Intervention Selection 69

6 Ethical Check 83

7 Pilot and Pilot Validation, Test and Test Validation, Scale Decision and Continuous Measurement 99

8 The End of the Beginning 123

Part 2 Advanced Behavior Change

9 Priming, Moderation, and Mediation 131

10 Optimum Cognition 145

11 Uniqueness and Belonging 157

12 Special Factors of inhibiting Pressures 179

13 Competing Behaviors 185

14 Eliminating and Replacing Behavior 191

15 Mini Case Studies 197

Notes 219

Index 223

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