The Last Mile: Implementing Your Wonderful Strategy

Dilip Soman’s The Last Mile is an excellent book. It reiterates a number of the fascinating points that are contained in many behavioral (economics) books. The thing that sets the book apart is the effective structure put to the insights. There are plenty of classifications and tables to help us better understand the vast number of behavioural insights that the book contains.

Other interesting points are when he talks about the need for organizations to become “experimental organizations”. That is “…one that is committed to the use of controlled trials to test the effectiveness of potential interventions”. (Soman, 2015, page 223). Critically it isn’t good enough to just have lots of cool ideas — you need to test them and see what actually works in the real world.

He talks about the idea of decision points. These are where the consumer (or other decision maker) is confronted by the need to make a decision. A useful example he gives is partitioning popcorn into smaller bags. Have one big bag and you might just mindlessly eat the lot. When partitioned into smaller bags the consumer is more likely to be confronted by a choice; do they open a new bag? There is a decision point. Of course a consumer can just eat on through but they are more likely to be able to exercise self-control if they are confronted with a decision point which presents them with an active choice — do they really want to open a new bag and eat more?

Soman’s theme is that The Last Mile matters. This is his analogy of behavioral interventions to the critical problem of delivering services, i.e. cable, to the consumer’s house. He suggests that businesses typically spend a lot of time thinking about the beginning of a process — the grand business strategy. Soman suggests that we need to think a bit more about the end of the process — where we actually impact someone’s behavior. It is here where he gives excellent advice and here where subtle changes can make a big difference.

Read: Dilip Soman, (2015) The Last Mile: Creating Social and Economic Value from Behavioral Insights, Rotman-UTP Publishing