Choice, the driving force behind the embodiment of transformations

Let us begin by reminding ourselves that the notion of choice is fundamental when we are interested in human behaviour. Indeed, when we act, we choose to carry out one behaviour rather than another, and this happens so quickly that we are, most often, completely unaware of it. For example, when we choose to cross the street here rather than there, or when we pick up the phone instead of continuing reading, we always select one option (to the detriment of another). Thus, effective change management must necessarily take into account the notion of choice.

This choice is influenced by the environment in which the options are presented, as well as by the options themselves. This is what Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein call "the architecture of choice". According to these two Nudge specialists, it is possible to encourage individuals to adopt a certain behaviour by changing the context of the choice, for example by changing the number of options that are presented. Obviously the modifications made must be beneficial to the individual, i.e. encourage him/her to choose a behaviour that he/she initially intended to perform. In a context of transformation, how can we create an effective architecture of choice?

No options result in a passive choice (default)

As mentioned above, we spend our time deciding (i.e. choosing between several options to determine behaviour) in both the private and professional spheres. It is therefore quite true that your employees lack the time, and above all the mental space, to make choices related to their professional development. And since they are too often subject to operational pressure and the urgency of situations, you want to help them by presenting only one option, such as a list of behaviours to adopt as part of the ongoing transformation. But this amounts to a passive choice: yes or no, often with a strong dose of no, influenced by the status quo or aversion to change.

Complexity of options leads to partial (simplified) choice

We must keep in mind that our cognitive resources are limited. If there are too many options to choose from, or if they are too complex, the brain will have too many things to process simultaneously, resulting in cognitive overload. In fact, the more complex the choice, the less likely we are to think about it. This is what happens when we are faced with an extended training catalogue or an overload of calls for volunteers for this or that program. We will then have a tendency to simplify things, by deciding to choose "nothing".

The presentation of a few relevant options leads to an active (engaging) choice

In both of the above cases, the probability that behaviours will not change as a result of your transformations is high. Indeed, only 34% of organizational transformation projects are successful according to a Gartner study conducted in 2018.

The ideal architecture of choice, the one that leads to active choice, is one in which the options presented are few and simple to understand. In everyday life, this would be like asking a friend to go to the movies or to a restaurant: both options should work for him or her in theory, since you were planning to go out. However, presenting your friend with two clear and appropriate options will help to motivate him or her to take action. In the same way in an organisational context, when the employee establishes the reasons for his or her choice, he or she acts of will and positions himself or herself as an actor in his or her own development, provided that the options of the choice are adapted to his or her operational reality.
This is why the options are ideally personalised to the individual. This will avoid the step of having to make the link between the option and one's own situation. At scale, this is made possible by learning algorithms that allow a large number of different situations to be taken into account.

The eDoing Fifty solution uses this principle to solve the problem of taking action in trainings and transformations. It recommends a personalised selection of micro-actions to each employee and then guides them in their implementation. The transformations thus go from top-down communication to an incarnation by each and every one.

You know how important it is to achieve organizational transformation. And to be successful, it must be embodied by your people, who actually change their behaviour. To encourage this behavioural change, some modifications to the architecture of choice can be very effective. As described above, avoid encouraging employees to make a passive choice (by offering no choice, or too many options for choice) and focus on active, simple, and personalized choice.