Two groups of moviegoers were given free popcorn and a soft drink to a free Mel Gibson movie. They were asked to stick around after the move and answer a few questions. What they didn't know was they were part of a study on irrational eating behavior. The popcorn they received was terrible. It was engineered not to be tasty, had been popped 5 days earlier and it squeaked when you ate it, (like styrafoam). Two moviegoers, forgetting they had not paid for it, asked for their money back. Half the group received a large bucket, the other half a medium sized bucket.
The question was, would the group with the bigger buckets eat more than the group with smaller buckets? Both buckets were so large, nobody finished them. The question then became, would someone with a large inexhaustible supply eat more than someone with a medium inexhaustible supply?
The survey results, here’s what happened. People with the large buckets ate 53% more than the people with the medium sized bucket. Other studies have consistently shown that people eat more when you give them bigger containers.
What’s the management lesson? Context, environment, path, situation, influences behavior, - a lot. We as managers shape the "bucket," and that's why different managers will have different results with the same group of people.
Some other life examples of how "buckets" influence behavior.
Bigger dishes, bigger portions, cause people to eat more.
Vietnam soldiers, 40% took drugs, 20% were drug addicted. Back in USA only 1% stayed rug addicted. Reason? Environment.
In Europe public alcohol consumption in public places doesn't start a riot. In Vancouver, we think it will.
When the work day begins at 8:29 am, more people show up on time than when it begins at 8:30 am.
Problem people in the workplace allowed to prevail, gets worse and attracts a following. When you remove the problem person, the followers revert to their previous compliant behaviors. Changing one person, can change a department.
When you publicly post attendance figures, attendance improves.
If you struggle with arrogance, your first European luxury car won't help you overcome it. A "bad" bucket.
Even if your dog has a really good camera, the pictures will not be very good.
If you want better pictures, change who's holding the camera. It's always about the bucket. Change the situation, change the performance. The right manager can change everything. Hire better buckets.
Wolf Partner Metrik Management Inc. Dir: 604-474-1804
Source: I featured this piece in a management seminar I gave in 2013. I don't know the exact source but assume is was Dan Ariely, either from his books on Irrational Behavior or his website. He's a professor at Duke University and a researcher on the subject of behavioral economics. If you haven't yet, you should buy his books.
p.s. Five candidates, five different futures for the role you are trying to fill. Problems don't start until after you hire.
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