Design Beats Discipline

Too often in our attempts to drive change in our organisations, our selves or our communities, or in an attempt to lift the performance of our teams, we tend to resort to things like discipline and motivation.

The problem is, both discipline and motivation, whilst useful, are only ever meant to be used in short bursts to effect short term change.

As a result, when these short term measures fail to create the kind of long lasting change we want, we blame the human beings involved (even ourselves) rather than the strategies we’ve chosen.

In the long term, to drive real change and engagement, Design beats Discipline!

Consider this example – Dan has been trying to spend more time at home – he does a lot of hours at the office. But no matter how motivated Dan is to get home, or how disciplined he was in turning off his computer and hitting the road, it never seems to make a difference.

So we decided to do the math:

Here’s the issue: Dan has a 1 hour commute to work and an hour drive home at the end of the day. That’s an extra 10 hours a week – or one long work day a week.

This equates to 52 of those days a year which, with weekends factored in, creates an annual total of an extra 2 months a year away from home!!!

Motivation won’t solve that problem.

Discipline can’t solve that problem.

It’s a design failure.

If Dan applied no further motivation or discipline to his day and simply moved the office half an hour closer to his home, or moved where he lived a half an hour closer to where he worked, he would automatically and virtually effortlessly get an extra month a year at home.

So consider where you’re applying discipline where design would be more appropriate. The key is in how long you need the change to remain in effect. In the long run, design always trumps discipline.

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