Start at the End | Matt Wallaert

Summary of: Start at the End: How to Build Products That Create Change
By: Matt Wallaert


In ‘Start at the End: How to Build Products that Create Change’, Matt Wallaert dives into the heart of the Intervention Design Process (IDP) to help organizations identify gaps between the ideal and real worlds and create effective products. IDP guides the reader through assessment, insight-validation, pressure mapping, and constructing behavioral statements, before diving into ethical checks and pilot studies. Learn how the author applied these techniques while working with Microsoft on Bing, and get inspired to apply them to your own ventures.

The Intervention Design Process

The book introduces the Intervention Design Process (IDP) as a way of modifying potential consumers’ behavior. The IDP starts with a potential insight that is a perception of a gap between the real world and the ideal world. To validate the insight, quantitative or qualitative data is required. The book illustrates this through the example of Bing’s search engine for schools. The team suspected a gap between the real world and the ideal world because children were using the search engine less than expected. The team validated their insight by collecting quantitative and qualitative data, which proved the gap’s existence. Validation of the insight allows a team to proceed to the next step of the IDP.

Writing a Behavioral Statement

Creating a formal description for an ideal world you want to create involves crafting a behavioral statement with five components: the behavior being promoted, the target population, motivation, preconditions, and metrics for measuring progress.

Creating a vision of an ideal world requires an articulate description of the intended behaviors. This is referred to as a behavioral statement, which includes five critical components. Initially, you will need to identify the intended behavior, which usually revolves around the use or purchase of your product or service. For instance, Uber’s behavioral goal upon launching was to encourage people to take an Uber. The second component is the target population’s identification, which may be specific age groups or broad demographics. The third component is the motivation driving the desired behavior. In Uber’s case, it was the desire to get from one place to another.

However, it is essential to remain realistic when developing the behavioral statement. There are specific preconditions that must be in place before the intended behavior can occur. For instance, during Uber’s initial launch, people needed smartphones with internet connectivity and an electronic form of payment to make use of their ride services. The final step is to define the metrics for measuring whether the intended behavior is taking place. In Uber’s case, that was the number of rides people took with their service.

To synthesize the five components of the behavioral statement, you could turn it into a single sentence. For Uber, the behavioral statement looked like this: “When people want to get from Point A to Point B, and they have a smartphone with connectivity and an electronic form of payment and live in San Francisco, they will take an Uber (as measured by rides).” In summary, crafting a behavioral statement involves identifying target behaviors, populations, motivations, preconditions, and metrics for gauging progress towards an ideal world.

Pressure Mapping: An Example with M&Ms

This book excerpt explains the concept of pressure mapping, a process that involves identifying promoting and inhibiting factors that affect people’s behavior. The author uses M&M candies as an example to illustrate the power of irrational promoting pressures, such as colors, and the impact of inhibiting pressures, including availability and nutritional content. This passage sets the stage for the next part, where the complex relationship between calories and behavior is explored, showing the importance of careful pressure mapping to achieve desired behavioral outcomes.

The Contextual Complexity of Promoting and Inhibiting Pressures

The branding, cost, and other contextual factors impact the promoting and inhibiting pressures of products like M&Ms. These pressures can also be counter-rational and are always context-dependent. To adequately map out these pressures, empirical research and evidence-based validation are necessary, as relying on intuitions or assumptions may lead to inaccurate conclusions.

Mapping Behavior Pressures

To promote or inhibit a behavior, we must understand the pressures behind it. Mapping out these pressures helps to see the balance of forces. By taking the example of low black community flu shot rates, the author explains how promoting and inhibiting pressures affect behavior. While promoting pressures were weak, strong inhibiting pressures from past medical injustices increased distrust in the flu shot. Understanding these pressures is crucial to changing behavior.

Shifting the Balance of Power

In order to promote a target behavior, it is important to alter the balance of power between the inhibiting and promoting pressures. This can be achieved by decreasing the inhibiting pressures or increasing the promoting pressures. To accomplish this, one must intervene in the existing reality by coming up with ideas for possible interventions. The best way to do this is to combine interventions to create win-win solutions. In the example of Clover Health, the author and his team came up with 20 possible interventions, later narrowed down to five by combining ideas. Their successful intervention involved reaching out to church leaders to talk to their congregations about the benefits of flu shots. The key takeaway is to identify combinatory solutions to shift the balance of power in favor of the desired behavior.

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