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Replacing FUD with business continuity nudges

When looking to raise awareness of business continuity within organizations and obtain business and senior management support for business continuity programs it is tempting to fall back on the shock tactics of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) but this approach is at best ineffective, at worst counter-productive. Instead, using nudge theory is more likely to pay dividends. David Honour explores…

The issues with FUD

British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli is credited with the adage "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." Disraeli died in 1881 but his quote lives on and has entered the popular psyche, exacerbated by the statistics fatigue created by the numerous vox-pop surveys which we are exposed to every day. If you are trying to raise awareness for business continuity and to obtain buy-in from senior management, be aware that your target audience will probably be sceptical of a statistics based FUD approach. Using Golden-Oldie myths such as “80% of businesses affected by a major incident close within 18 months” will not get you very far. As well as statistics fatigue resulting in people being unphased by such statistics, FUD is directly opposed by the ‘It won’t happen to me’ feeling that many people use as a mental deterrent to the many threats of modern life that they are exposed to at all times.

In the unlikely situation that a FUD approach works, it is not likely to engender the results that you are looking for. Support gained for negative reasons (‘We’re all going to lose our jobs unless we act now…’) is probably going to be grudging, limited and short-lived. To achieve long-lasting results your target audience needs to understand the real positive benefits that business continuity brings to their day-to-day job and to the organization as a whole. Rather than attempting to intimidate the organization into taking business continuity seriously, try discussing the following potential benefits that business continuity brings and see if that opens more doors:

  • Business continuity maintains continuity of operations and service delivery
  • Business continuity helps to build customer confidence
  • Business continuity helps to build confidence within the organization / business
  • Business continuity is potentially life saving
  • Business continuity provides competitive advantage
  • Business continuity provides compliance benefits
  • Business continuity helps mitigate business risks and financial exposures
  • Business continuity helps preserve brand value and company reputation
  • Business continuity ensures supply chain security and order fulfilment
  • Business continuity can help enhance or develop an appropriate organizational culture
  • Business continuity can help enhance health and safety
  • Business continuity helps the organization / business to be more resilient
  • Business continuity gathers information that is useful to the whole organization / business.

Making use of nudges

Nudge Theory has been around for a while but has recently gained more prominence with some successful nudges becoming well known.

In a nutshell:

Nudge Theory is an idea grounded in behavioural science and both economic and political theory. It suggests that positive reinforcement and indirect suggestion can influence peoples' decisions and actions - without them even realising. (1)

A nudge… is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people's behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not. (2)

Perhaps one of the most famous examples of a successful nudge started at  Amsterdam airport, where an image of a fly was etched on the porcelain surface of gents’ urinals to encourage users to aim near the centre of the urinal. This simple nudge, based on the male propensity to aim at items whilst urinating, proved to be very effective and the concept was copied around the world.

Nudges work because they either provide a positive pay-back for the person being nudged, or they subtly suggest to the person that they make the decision that you want them to make.

How you use nudges to achieve your business continuity goals is open to your own creative imagination. A successful first step might be to approach your marketing department. Marketeers work with nudges much of the time, even if they may not always be aware they are doing so! A brainstorming session with your marketing team could be very productive.

Look at examples of successful nudges and consider how they could be adapted for your use. For example, what would the business continuity equivalent of putting fruit at eye level be? What behaviour do you want to achieve or alter? What indirect methods of suggestion could you use to influence people to behave in the manner that you are looking for? What can you do to provide positive reinforcement for people who actualise this behaviour?

An example of a nudged behaviour could be as follows: you are a business continuity manager who has to conduct a policy review and a BIA. For the BIA you want to conduct a workshop attended by as many heads of department as possible. You are happy to conduct the policy review yourself; some input from heads of department would be helpful but is not necessary. It can be seen from this that the priority is to get heads of department to attend the BIA workshop. Pulling a few strings, you obtain senior management agreement to mandate that heads of department must attend a business continuity activity in the next quarter. Here comes the nudge: you let each head of department know that there are two business continuity activities this quarter and they can choose which they attend:

  • An interactive BIA workshop between 12.00-2.00pm on 10th April  including a working buffet lunch
  • A business continuity policy review between 9am and 11.30pm on 11th April.

The majority of busy heads of department are going to choose your favoured option, the BIA workshop; given that it will take less time out of their working day and will save them buying lunch. Being ‘interactive’ rather than a ‘review’ also gives a much more positive feel to the activity. And if you cement the nudge by making the workshop genuinely interesting and useful to participants you will encourage even more attendance at the next workshop.

Another advantage of nudged activities is that the outcomes can be more positive than purely mandated ones. For example, a middle manager who is ordered by a senior manager to attend a BIA interview despite already being snowed-under with their day job is likely to attend the interview grudgingly and will probably only give lip-service to the process in order to get out of the interview as quickly as possible. Another middle manager who perceives that they are attending a BIA interview out of their own choice because they have been nudged into attendance is much more likely to provide thoughtful and useful input.

Collecting nudge examples

If you have been using nudges for business continuity purposes, it would be useful to get your examples of successful nudges, which will then be shared on Continuity Central for the benefit of other readers. To offer your examples and nudge stories simply email editor@continuitycentral.com

The author

David Honour is editor of Continuity Central.

References

(1) 10 Examples of Nudge Theory: https://www.skipprichard.com/10-examples-of-nudge-theory/
(2) Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness: Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein.



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