Last month the American Journal of Preventive Medicine published the results of an interesting study. After posting a sign stating "Burn Calories, not Electricity" near elevators in buildings at New York, the use of the stairs increased in 25%, and this percentage was kept in that level during the 9 months of following observations.
What does this mean? It means that putting people in front of the right information, at the right place and at the right time can help them when they are taking decisions at the last responsible moment.
My feeling says that when this happens, we are remembered of the long term effects of our current decision point, helping us to consider those long term effects in our pros and cons analysis.
Few years ago I wrote something about Donella Meadows' leverage points. Leverage points are special places to intervene that can generate a big impact on the whole of general systems . One of these points is: "The structure of the information flow".
Information flow is a loop. A loop that delivers new information recurrently.
If the system depends on the effectiveness of people's decisions, the whole system can be improved if you put the right information at the right place and at the right time for them. Donella describes, for example, one experiment where after the installation of devices showing energy measurements near the door of houses, their residents increased energy savings in 30%.
In both experiments we have very similar results in terms of changes in people behavior when they are confronted to the effect of their current actions in the long term.
I think this is really relevant knowledge that we could use when trying to improve our lives or work places. Create information radiators in the form of kanban boards or any other signalization mechanism, including electronic ones, will be probably a good way to make big changes with a small intervention.
The art on this lies on figuring out how, where and when making them observable.