Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Check for Unintended Consequences

To reduce paper towel waste, the retailer placed a recycling bin under the dispenser. The result: People did make use of the bin, but the average daily use of paper towels increased. Apparently, store shoppers figured it did no harm to use more.
     Researchers at Washington State University-Tri-Cities and China’s Tsinghua University saw the same phenomenon in their studies. In another example, the researchers asked participants to evaluate the quality of a pair of scissors. Some of the participants were told the paper they used in their scissor testing would be recycled. The other participants were not told this. Those given the recycling option used more paper.
     A method to reduce paper waste ended up increasing paper consumption.
     Researchers at University of Pennsylvania, University of Florida, and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill saw other possibilities of unintended consequences in remedy marketing. The availability of smoking cessation programs can lead to people smoking more, since the people get the impression they can stop anytime they choose to. Once a consumer has gone through a debt consolidation program, that consumer may become more likely to spend irresponsibly, since the consumer figures he can go through a debt consolidation program again.
     The people most likely to be damaged by the ready availability of the remedies are those who are most strongly attracted to the risky behavior. The habitual smokers or those who fight temptations to spend money even when they’re having trouble paying bills.
     Psychologists at University of Minnesota and Texas A&M University point out your monitoring for unintended consequences may not be as straightforward as it seems. First is the matter of maintaining rapport with your past customers in ways which will allow you to check on them. Another difficulty is that monitoring requires focusing on the here-and-now, and the here-and-now includes all the incoming demands on the retailer’s resources. Getting the shelves stocked now, paying the pressing bills before the mail pickup, resolving the argument before things get really ugly. This pulls our thinking away from the longer-term perspective.
     And there’s even one more wrinkle: The psychological research says that when retailers carefully monitor results toward achieving long-term goals they’ve set, one consequence is that time seems to pass more slowly for the retailers. That, in turn, makes the goal seem more distant. Ironically, then, monitoring our achievements so far can actually interfere with what gets measured ending up getting done.

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Monitor Your Progress Toward Objectives

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