What Behavior Changes Will Stick?


In a recent Forbes Article authored by Stephen Wunker, he uses the principles of innovation adoption to test the stickiness of behavioral changes driven by COVID-19. He applies six tests of a new behavior to see what will last. He states that not all six factors need to be met for a behavior change to persist, but the mutually reinforcing nature of the factors create a stronger impact as more get involved. He applies this framework to assess potential commercial change for the Life Science industry.

The first factor is the shift in core motivations. Using Life Sciences as an example, the author focuses on the severe financial pressures on healthcare facilities driven by the pandemic. An important motivation shift is reflected by the increased power of the finance department. The second factor is the appeal of new approaches. Mr. Wunker describes how change can force us to evaluate the hidden pleasures and detriments of new approaches that theoretical consideration could never illuminate. In the case of Life Sciences, remote selling and support are forced upon companies, but begin to look more appealing post-pandemic.

The third factor is a catalyst that breaks inertia – which COVID-19 has been to this point.  Old patterns may be broken, as we’ve had to adopt new ones so rapidly. For Life Science companies in the past, market share erosion driven by a shift away from in-person visits made it a non-starter. With the virus serving as a forcing function, the oberved cost savings from the new ways of working may be too great to move away from. The fourth factor is the resumption of old behaviors. The power of inertia is strong, will hospitals allow representatives to resume their sales calls post-pandemic?

The fifth factor is achieving critical mass. The author describes the tendency of people to change in groups – behavior shifts are often a social phenomenon. The experience with Zoom is used as an example. If a critical mass is reached on the changing behavior side – using Zoom instead of face-to-face interaction – changing back would require a critical mass to accumulate on the other side, and that’s a tall order. The sixth and final factor is the notion that infrastructure locks in change. Much as people may have invested in home infrastructure to support working and working out from home, Life Science companies have now invested in training their reps and their customers to deal effectively with remote sales and support.

The author concludes that taken together, these six factors explain how behavior change occurs, and what changes will stay vs. become fleeting. He believes that we should expect many of our new COVID behaviors to stick. The great Inertia Breaker will have an enduring impact.

For additional thoughts on the pandemic, see my previous posts.

FEATUREDA Post Pandemic Society

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