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Overriding the main frame

Leveraging behavioural biases to our advantage
Overriding the main frame

All too often great insight fails to unlock opportunity. We are our own worst enemies, hardwired to block potentially brilliant ideas. Perhaps we struggle to buy in to a new idea, maybe investing in a different kind of campaign is too much effort or we simply aren't confident in the strategy. Our knowledge of human behaviour tells us that our brains can often hold us back. That said, by using behavioural biases to our advantage, we can 'beat ourselves at our own game'.

There are a number of barriers that can inhibit the success of an idea, but the ones that are the hardest to overcome stem from our predictably irrational behaviours. Daniel Kahneman's way of framing behaviour involves system 1 (unconscious, quick reactions using biases and mental short cuts) and system 2 thinking (conscious, laboured and slower). System 1 thinking can dominate decision-making and make it hard for us to deviate from the norm.

Stepping out of our comfort zone, however, can lead to success in many arenas. One area of particular focus across the industry at the moment (and what we will use as an example to highlight both the barriers and solutions to successful implementation of ideas) is inciting change via patient initiatives. Patient-centricity, although a hot topic, is less well defined than traditional outreach and marketing to HCPs. This means that we need to be even more aware of the system 1 mental shortcuts shaping our approach to patient initiatives.

Barriers to success
Three barriers we see repeatedly rearing their heads are: lack of buy-in, too much effort, and little or no belief.

Lack of buy-in: This can be the first pitfall leading to good ideas being lost or overlooked. Often there is a lack of buy-in across the collection, collation and action planning of patient insight. Without feeling emotionally connected to the insight, a tactical intervention will struggle to succeed. At a basic cognitive level this can be easily explained in terms of the effect of positive priming. Building early experience between a positive emotion and an arbitrary symbol forms an incredibly strong bond in the brain of the observer. In real life, this means that if you don't involve stakeholders early and systematically throughout the process, they won't have that critical positive connection (affect bias) that helps to build alignment on next steps.

Too much effort: Even if we buy into an idea conceptually, the steps to activation need to be simple and fit with our expertise, otherwise an idea can lose traction. Neuroscientific research has shown that experience of life and our environment develops our expertise in terms of forming instinctive reactions. Translated to the real world this means that we unconsciously do what we know and this acts as a feedback loop, reinforcing our default preferred behaviours (default bias). When it comes to patient initiatives, a default tactic is often to use disease education leaflets. These of course have a role, but to truly create change and impact, patient support initiatives need to go further.

No belief: If we don't buy into a concept and we have no mental map of experience in this area, this can feed directly into a lack of belief (self-efficacy bias). The whole team needs to believe in the idea for tactics to be executed at full throttle. If leadership is weak and there are few experiences within the team to draw on, cementing the belief can pose a real challenge. As Bandura explains: “People with high assurance in their capabilities approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered rather than as threats to be avoided… In contrast, people who doubt their capabilities shy away from difficult tasks which they view as personal threats.” When it comes to implementing a new patient strategy, if the team doesn't believe it can turn vision into reality, tactics don't stand a chance.

There are five steps that can help address our cognitive and behavioural biases

Working towards a solution
Despite being hardwired to 'act inside the box', from our experience there are five steps that can help address our cognitive and behavioural biases. Whether as part of a small-scale meeting or a collection of workshops, these top tips look at leveraging behavioural biases to our advantage, ensuring new opportunities are unlocked and embedded within the business.

1. Don't work in isolation: Holding collaborative workshops is the best way to foster alignment and ensure better outcomes. Workshops are important before you even embark on a project to ensure that everyone is bought into the objective, process and anticipated outcomes. Starting a patient support project with a synthesis of the market landscape that includes relevant input from key internal stakeholders will help align the team from the outset. Collaboration helps to build an emotional connection (leveraging effect) as well as cement the belief in a specific route (leveraging self-efficacy).

2. Create the right environment for effective ideation: Encouraging blue-sky thinking is key to successful ideation. Fostering a 'yes' instead of a 'no' environment helps us to break out of default behaviours that can hold back brilliance. It is better to have a plethora of great ideas to whittle down and prioritise later vs. focusing on what feels 'safe'. When developing new patient initiatives, providing examples from other sectors, therapy areas and different brands will help to spark game-changing ideas.

3. Be strict and clear about ownership: In addition to simplifying the process, people need to feel responsible for their piece of the puzzle. Workshop sessions should be used to identify 'owners' which will help to reinforce a connection (affect bias) with the tactical intervention.

4. Make it as simple as possible: To remove any stress around the effort involved in planning, a simple pro-forma/template can help to streamline the process and ensure there are clear actions, timings and owners.

5. Enlist an inspiring messenger: We know that most people are influenced by the person who delivers the 'message' which is why it is so important to ensure that the right senior people are endorsing these activities. Whether it is internal strategy or an external campaign, correct delivery will ensure that it lives and breathes its intended aim.

The most successful patient initiatives rarely come from a spur-of-the-moment idea. They are thought through, grounded in real market insight and built on a cohesive brand strategy with evidence that they will disrupt current behaviours.

The five steps outlined above are relevant to all new tactics and interventions. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, to go beyond the standard and achieve greatness means out-of-the-box thinking. Planning, organisation and collaboration are key. Knowing what makes people tick and leveraging this can make all the difference between a run-of-the-mill marketing campaign and a showstopper.

Dr Pamela Walker, head of health at Incite; Lizzie Eckardt, principal at Incite

25th October 2016

From: Marketing

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