A Format Governments Can Use to Make Change Last.

Author:Reitano, Vincent
Position:The Bookshelf - Stick with It: A Scientifically Proven Process for Changing Your Life - Book review

Stick with It: A Scientifically Proven Process for Changing Your Life--for Good Sean Young Harper 2017, 304 pages $26.99

The need for change is a constant in our lives, from adapting our organizations to facing new circumstances to making personal changes like following a new diet. In Stick with It, author Sean Young, the director of the UCLA Center for Digital Behavior and the UC Institute for Prediction Technology, tackles the problem of making lasting change.

Young's advice is based on the latest scientific research into what factors are necessary to make a lasting change. He notes three general types of behavior that someone might be interested in changing, with change approaches that vary depending on the behavior in question. The types of behavior are:

* Automatic. Automatic behaviors happen largely unconsciously. Many personal habits fall into this category, such as nail biting or automatically reaching for a mobile phone during pauses in a meeting.

* Burning. Burning behaviors are irresistible urges to do something. Burning behaviors could include addictions, but also other behaviors we feel compelled to engage in. For example, feeling compelled to check Facebook or other social media too often may not rise to the level of addiction, but it might be something we feel compelled to do.

* Common Behaviors. These are the behaviors people most often try to change, and include behaviors that require forethought and follow-through. Common behaviors require more conscious thought than the other two behavior types. Common behaviors include most of the behaviors public managers might be interested in changing in their organizations.

The first step to making a successful change is to identify which of the three categories the behavior you want to change falls into. Young stresses the need to be specific about the change you want to make, so you can be precise about how to make the change.


The author identifies seven levers of change, which are summed up by the acronym SCIENCE: stepladders, community, important, easy, neurohacks, captivating rewards, and engrained. (The terms are explained below.) Not all levers apply to each behavior category equally. Exhibit 1 shows how much weight each lever has for each behavior category.

A check mark doesn't mean you have to apply a given lever to make that behavioral change, but the more relevant levers applied, the better the chances for successful change. Levers with more checks are more important, so common behaviors can be positively effected by all seven levers. This means that public managers have many opportunities to facilitate change. It also shows why it is so difficult to change common behaviors--one must pursue the change along more than one dimension. For example, only four levers affect automatic behaviors, and only two are critical.


"Stepladders" refers to taking small steps toward a larger goal. While this idea is not revelatory, the author's insight is that the...

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