What can grocery-shopping carts teach us about building security awareness that works to influence behavior change?
Turns out perhaps more than imagined.
During a recent hotel stay, I took a trip to a local grocery store to buy some snacks. I pulled into the lot, parked and headed to the store. Since I only needed a few items, I walked past the carts toward the entrance.
At the entrance a rather LARGE sign explained, “change machine for the carts inside store.”
Something about the sign encouraged me to stop; I needed to understand the need for change for a cart.
Turns out that the carts had a strapping mechanism that essentially tethered them together when stacked properly. Unlocking the cart required a quarter. When the cart was properly returned, the quarter was released and returned.
But a quarter is only $0.25
At first, this struck me as silly. Even in this economy, a quarter isn’t much and I thought it lacked the value to influence cart behavior. And it seemed like an inconvenience.
In the thick humid dusk of the evening, I took a few moments to look out and scan the parking lot. Not a loose cart in sight. So I looked harder and longer for a loose cart to prove someone bucked the trend and â€œjust didnâ€™t care.â€ Yet all of the carts were either in use or put away.
The token is engagement
Then it hit me: the quarter was only a token, a gesture. The money, in all reality, meant nothing. People put a quarter in, but they got it back. They werenâ€™t renting the cart. At play was the physical act â€“ the token â€“ to connect individuals to the cart.
The token (the quarter) engaged people, connected them to the use of the cart and essentially redefined normal.
The use of a quarter to unlock and use the cart connected people to the process. Awareness of the condition to use the cart ensured people carried a quarter, sought change from the machine (inside the store) and served as subtle reminder to return the cart â€“ if only to get their quarter back.
So how does this apply to security awareness and influencing behaviors?
With a different perspective, these carts taught me a lot about the value of engagement and commitment. By asking for a small value â€“ which will be promptly returned, in full â€“ the interaction changes.
The key here is the token.
It was more than symbolic â€“ and it required some thought or action, but it was not onerous. I suspect shoppers at the store routinely had a quarter or two in their pockets, purses or carsâ€¦ without complaint.
The low economic value of the token is important to the function. Engaging people in this way does require a shift in behavior (and the first shift is sometimes the hardest), but make it too complex or otherwise costly, and it will be summarily ignored or revolted against.
In the coming weeks and months, we will continue to explore parallels, amplify the good and advance our ability to address the human paradox, shift thinking and inspire behavior change through security awareness that works.
How are you using â€œtokensâ€ in your efforts?Â More importantly – how did you figure it out, how is it working and how is it evolving?