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James Clear

How the Atomic Habits 4 Laws of Behaviour Change can Apply in your Business

Bestselling author James Clear on boosting your business with better habits

James Clear



“Business, like all pursuits of continuous improvement, is a never-ending cycle of revisiting the four laws of behavior change: make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, make it satisfying.” - James Clear



In his Atomic Habits bonus chapter “How to Apply These Ideas to Business” James Clear tells a story of the continuous improvement at Amazon. Curiously, the online retailer promises customers they can “Read while your book ships.” Incredible as it sounds, Amazon lets you have a Kindle copy to read while you wait for your hard copy.


James Clear lays out Amazon’s journey of continual, incremental improvements:

·       Get it shipped.

·       Get it shipped free.

·       Get it shipped free in 2 days.

·       Get it right now while you wait for us to ship it to you free in two days (read the supplied Kindle version while you wait for your book).


This constant iteration of Amazon’s buying process is a great example of a business applying at least one of James Clear’s 4 Laws of Behaviour Change, based on the human habit loop:


1. Cue: Make it obvious.

2. Craving: Make it attractive.

3. Response: Make it easy.

4. Reward: Make it satisfying.


These laws are adopted by millions of people around the world for personal improvement. James says that in business, the same principles can be used to create more effective products and to help employees establish more effective habits.


Following our exclusive Atomic Habits - James Clear LIVE events in 2023, let’s see how these laws can help businesses thrive, as well as helping individuals change their own habits. 





MAKE IT OBVIOUS


Have you ever gone to the supermarket for just one thing and returned loaded with items? It’s likely you were influenced by James Clear’s 1st Law of Behaviour Change: “MAKE IT OBVIOUS.”


End caps (display shelves at the end of aisles) are moneymaking machines for retailers, James says in Atomic Habits.


“They are moneymaking machines for retailers because they are obvious locations that encounter a lot of foot traffic.”


He says the more obviously available a product or service is, the more likely you are to try it. We go for the most obvious option.


Here’s how James suggests you apply this to your business: 


·       Put your most profitable product in the front of the store or in the most visible locations.

·       Ask employees to remove distracting applications from the homescreen of their phone so they are likely to see them and click mindlessly.

·       Design the office workflow so the most important tasks are in the most obvious locations.

·       Include instructions with each product that prompt users to display your product in a prominent place in their home or on the homescreen of their device.


Lesson: The most obvious cue is often the one that captures your attention. And the cue that gets your attention is one that can initiate a habit.


MAKE IT ATTRACTIVE


Humans love attractive objects. According to the New York Times, brain scan studies reveal that the sight of an attractive product can trigger the part of the brain that governs hand movement. Instinctively, we reach out for attractive things. 


So, it’s no surprise James Clear’s 2nd Law of Behaviour Change is “MAKE IT ATTRACTIVE.” He indeed says this is connected to the craving for something (the second step of the habit loop).


Crucially, he says that every purchase is preceded by a prediction. 


“The customer does not buy your product; they buy the prediction it creates in their mind.”


As a result, your goal is to make your product or service more enticing. James Clear suggests these ways:


·       Reviews. People look at reviews and predict which will be the most satisfying experience.

·       Be clear. Explain the benefits in a clear and compelling way. Choosing the right words makes the message “beautiful” in the customer’s mind.

·       Personalise it. Products are more attractive if relevant to the customer. James says the subject line “Exactly how to double your income as a writer” is more appealing than “How to double your income.” Even better is “Olivia, here’s exactly how to double your income…”.

·       Pair up. You can personalise by pairing a product with a strong identity (i.e. a Patagonia jacket with being environmentally friendly). People can signal their identity to others with your product.

·       Use social proof. Show that “others like you” use the product (social norms) to make it more attractive to a customer group. “The more you can use social proof to show potential customers that “people like you use our product,” the greater likelihood you have in altering someone’s behavior.” (Read also THE SCIENCE OF INFLUENCE: APPLYING CIALDINI'S PRINCIPLES TO BUSINESS STRATEGY)

·       Make it more attractive by applying 3rd law (make it cheap (easy, immediate payoffs)) and 4th law (make it satisfying), both explained below. 


Lesson: Humans find attractive messaging and imagery more enticing, which can lead to them craving the object or service.


MAKE IT EASY


If you’ve used videoconferencing tools, you’ve seen in action James’s 3rd Law of Behaviour Change: “MAKE IT EASY.”

Here's what we mean:

·       Zoom has a quick setup with intuitive interface and a simple Zoom link for attendees to join.

·       Google Workspace offers multiple scheduling channels, like Gmail and Google Calendar, with joining links for attendees.

·       And Microsoft Teams has a simple setup and joining links. (Source: Acceleration Economy)


These companies know behaviours are more likely to be performed if they are easy and accomplished without much effort.


Do this in your own business, suggests James:


·       Map out the chain of behaviours that a customer must perform before they purchase your product or use your service. Then search where you can reduce the friction.


“Business is a never-ending quest to deliver the same result in an easier fashion.”


Lesson: We reject the complex and are drawn to the simple because it’s easier on our brain. Humans prefer not to have to work hard to understand something.


MAKE IT SATISFYING


Koala mattresses are an Australian success story. They’re also a story of James Clear’s 4th law of behaviour change: “MAKE IT SATISFYING.”


Koala company founders Danny Milham and Mitch Taylor told SBS Small Business Secrets they don’t just ensure mattresses are delivered within four hours of an online sale with a 120 day return policy.

As well, for each mattress sold the buyer sponsors a koala in the wild and receives a miniature, plush toy koala.


James Clear says a reward associated with a behaviour gives us a satisfying ending, and we have a reason to repeat it in the future.


Making something OBVIOUS, ATTRACTIVE and EASY increases the odds that a behaviour will be performed this time.

Making it SATISFYING increases the odds the behaviour will be repeated.


James’s tips to “Make it satisfying”:


·       The speed of the reward is a crucial factor. Customers need to feel immediately successful.

·       At a minimum, the product should solve the problem.

·       If possible, it should surprise and delight as well. Don’t overpromise as too “attractive” as you may disappoint – reducing the satisfaction.

·       Drop in little bits of satisfaction throughout the experience.

·       You can also reinforce employee behaviour by offering small bits of praise and encouragement throughout the workday.


Lesson: When a reward comes, we get a dopamine spike. As James says in Atomic Habits: “It’s as if the brain is saying “See! I knew I was right. Don’t forget to repeat this action next time.”


SUMMARY


Millions of people use James Clear’s quotes from, and methods set out in, his book Atomic Habits to form meaningful habits that elevate motivationattitude and goal-setting through simple, everyday tasks. 


Businesses can also use the principles in Atomic Habits to influence the behaviours of their customers and employees.  


It’s just a case of revisiting the four laws of behavior change: make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, make it satisfying.


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