Marketing Thought

Laziness Is A Sustainable Resource

People can be lazy. We often don’t find out all information relevant to the decision we are making. It is hard work to find information. Our decisions based upon limited information can lead to personally or environmentally destructive outcomes. People wouldn’t make these decisions if they thought a little harder. This is a problem. What can you do? Still, there is a positive way to look at this. Take the perspective that laziness is a sustainable resource. Harness people’s laziness to help them be better.

A Negative View of Humans

That we are lazy can be used to indict human beings. Aren’t people terrible? I don’t see it that way. Some laziness is, literally, the only way you can possibly cope. Imagine treating every little decision you make as essential to get “absolutely right”. You would be a wreck before breakfast.

Better to do as we all do and take shortcuts. This is the only reasonable way to behave in the real world. Luckily our shortcuts (heuristics) are often pretty effective.

Even when ineffective our shortcuts may be predictable. When people take predictable shortcuts we can help structure decisions to improve outcomes. This is popularly known as Nudging. People’s laziness, a quite sensible reaction to a complex world, can be employed to help the decision-maker and society. If you want people to behave in a socially desirable way make it easy for them to do so and they will. They will probably even feel good about themselves.

Structuring Decisions To Benefit From The Fact That Laziness Is A Sustainable Resource

Some people think structuring decisions is seedy. You are after all influencing people to make a specific choice. I don’t accept this. Human beings influence each other every day in various ways. Influence will happen anyhow. So why not influence with a positive purpose? Marketers influence people to pick personally and environmentally destructive options all the time. Given that we do this why not help them make decisions that make the world a better place. The good news is that when you design a decision to work for lazy people it keeps on working. Human laziness is a sustainable resource. It isn’t going away anytime soon.

Harness Laziness To Make The World Better

If you want to know more there are a good few guides to helping people make sustainable decisions. This is an old note from the Ivey Network for Business Sustainability’s “Systematic Review: Decision Making”. As the authors say: “Ultimately, the recognition that behavioural nudges … are an effective and acceptable means of facilitating sustainable behavioural change will, we hope, translate to a proliferation of intervention techniques” to improve decision making.

For more on sustainability see here, nudging see here, and on behavioral economics/public policy see here.

Read: Joseph Arvai, Victoria Campbell-Arvai, and Piers Steel (2012), Systematic Review: Decision Making, Network for Business Sustainability, for more see here.

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